The Story of Human Rights


The people of history and today are heirs of Cyrus the Great, one the founding rulers of not only ancient Iran or Persia but a pioneer in respecting the rights of diverse peoples in terms of religious worship, cultures, nations and languages. The late Professor Will Durant has perhaps best summarized the core mission of the Cyrus the Great. According to Durant

The first principle of his [Cyrus the Great] policy was that the various peoples of his empires would be left free in their religious worship and beliefs, for he fully understood the first principle of statesmanship – that religion is stronger than the state. Instead of sacking cities and wrecking temples he showed a courteous respect for the deities of the conquered, and contributed to maintain their shrines…Like Napoleon he accepted indifferently all religions…” (Durant, 1942, pp.353).

As in Cyrus’s time, Iranians not only speak Persian but are also heir to a rich and diverse legacy of languages and traditions spanning the millennia. It is this diversity and the common link of the Persian language that has made Iran unique and perhaps a defining characteristic that has allowed her to endure across the ages.  It is possible that this ouitlook was at least partly an outgrowth of the ancient monotheistic religion of Zoroaster. As duly noted by Graf, Hirsch, Gleason, & Krefter, 1988:

 “Belief in a heavenly afterlife for good people and torment for evildoers may have been partly responsible for the moral treatment that Achaemenid Kings accorded subject nations…”.

The video below has been posted in the most recent edition of the WAALM-School of Cultural Diplomacy Journal which outlines the history and evolution of Human Rights:

It is significant that the above production specifically cites Cyrus the Great as the pioneer of human rights in history.

Cyrus the Great (559-530 BC)


Durant, Will (1942) The Story of Civilization:(Part One): Our Oriental Heritage. New York: Simon & Shuster.

D. F. Graf, S. W. Hirsch, K. Gleason & F. Krefter (1988). A Soaring Spirit. Amsterdam: Time-Life Books.