| Home | Spenta Productions
Spenta Productions - Work in Progress
In a time of mounting hostility between East and West, few figures of history offer the unifying effect Cyrus The Great does. A factual film about this eastern conqueror, who founded the Persian Empire, will give the West a better understanding of Middle-Eastern history.
Long before the advent of Christianity and Islam, the rift between West and East was first shaped in opposition to the Persian Empire, by Herodotus, the 5th-century BCE Greek author who lived in Persian-occupied Halicarnassus. Despite the apparent conflict of interest, he is still considered the "Father of history."
But Cyrus The Great may be just the figure to dislodge this age-old wedge dividing East and West. Admiration for Cyrus is virtually uncontested. The Hebrew Bible hails him as a "Messiah," Greek Hellenes knew him as the "Law Giver," and the Babylonians welcomed him as Marduk's elect.
The empire he founded ruled the world for over 200 years and the people he conquered enjoyed more freedom and prosperity under Persian supremacy than they ever had under their own, native leadership. In his book, 'History Of The World,' John Roberts writes:
“Large areas knew longer periods of peace under the Persian Empire than for centuries and it was in many ways a beautiful and gentle civilization.”
For many Westerners, this may come as something of a revelation. The Persian Empire has long been vilified by Hollywood in films like Oliver Stone's 'Alexander' and the soon-to-be-released '300' - yet another movie based on Herodotus' "Battle of Thermopylae." But casting ancient Persia as a ruthless villain is a relatively new phenomenon.
Until the mid 19th century, the West knew ancient Persia as the paragon of "benevolent power," not just through the Old Testament but also through the 'Cyropaedia,' written by another Greek author, Xenophon. 'Cyropaedia' literally means, "The Teaching of Cyrus" and was as much a part of the political library as Machiavelli's 'The Prince.' In fact, it was the only alternative to Machiavelli's theory that "It is Better To Be Feared Than Loved."
Praised by the Bible, the Cyropaedia, and John Locke - their three most influential sources - America's founding Fathers broke with tradition and adopted Cyrus's model of 'benevolent government' for their new nation. This is one of Thomas Jefferson's two personal copies of Xenophon's 'Cyropaedia.'
But Cyrus's benevolent rule did not stem from the goodness of his heart but from the values of his culture. Piecing together Cyrus's culture was by far the most difficult part of our research. What emerged was eye-opening.
We know Cyrus was a Persian and that the Persians were one of several Iranian tribes, which inhabited the region known today as Iran. Though little is known about Iran's pre-Islamic culture, scholars have revealed a striking resemblance to the pagan culture of pre-Christian Europe. After all, pre-Christian Europe and pre-Islamic Iran both trace their cultural roots back to the same tribe that once roamed the Caspian steppes.
Gender equality, religious freedom, and equal justice, considered "Western values" today, were protected mainstays of Persian culture. Today, many in the Middle East consider such values meddlesome tools of Western neo-imperialism. But in an age of unspeakable human misery, it was a Middle-Easterner who, for the first time in recorded history, applied such rights to all the people within his vast dominion.
The writing on this baked, clay cylinder gives us a rare snapshot of Cyrus bestowing these very rights on the people of Babylonia after conquering it in October, 539 BCE.
Today this cylinder is considered the world's first universal declaration of human rights and is considered by many as the precursor to the Magna Carta and the U.S. Bill of Rights.
The purpose of this film is two fold. First, it will show the West that Middle Easterners once shared many of the same values we consider "western values" today. Second it will show Middle Easterners that gender equality, religious freedom, and due process are not trappings of western neo-imperialism, but were once celebrated by their own ancestors.
For a preview of, 'In Search Of Cyrus The Great,' please click here.