A royal romance: the cult of Cyrus the Great in modern Iran

A. Ansari*

*Corresponding author for this work

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This article looks at the continuing fascination with the idea of monarchy in Iran, dismissed and condemned after the revolution but gradually rehabilitated through an engagement with the Shahnameh and a reinvigorated interest in ancient Iran. The interest in Sasanian Iran, as the cradle for the development of Islamic civilisation, has in turn enabled a popular re-acquaintance with Achaemenid Iran, previously frowned on for its association with Mohammad Reza Shah but legitimised by the enthusiastic endorsement of the figure of Cyrus the Great by President Ahmadinejad. This political myth of Cyrus the Great reflects the changing political dynamics of the Islamic Republic and the need to appropriate popular nationalist iconography to the state.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)405 - 419
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of the Royal Asiatic Society
Issue number3
Early online date17 May 2021
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2021


  • Achaemenid Iran
  • Cyrus the Great
  • Monarchy
  • Nationalism
  • Political myth
  • Sasanian Iran
  • Shahnameh


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