Xenophon, in his Cyropaedia, portrays Cyrus as an ideal ruler (Avery, pp. 529-31; Hirsch, pp. 84-86). Also, Plato considers him a great conqueror and a wise statesman (Laws 3.694A-D.)
Cyrus like his ancestors and kin, was by all Greek accounts a worshiper of Ahûrá Mazdá. According to Xenophon (Cyropaedia 4.5.14), in religious matters Cyrus followed the instruction of the Magis or the Zoroastrian Priests at his court.
Yet, the priests of Babylon recognized him also as the appointed of Marduk.
On the Cyrus cylinder he claimed that the Babylonian god Marduk had ordered him to become ruler of the whole world and to treat the Babylonians with justice; Marduk, satisfied with Cyrus’s “good deeds and his honest mind, ordered him to advance against his city Babyloṇ . . . and went with him as a frienḍ . . . . He made him enter his city Babylon without any battle, without inflicting any damage to the city . . . . All the people of Babyloṇ . . . greeted him with joy . . . with his help they had returned from death to life.”
The fact is that while tolerance for other religions and beliefs, is fundamental to Zoroastrianism and Mazda-Worship; praising alien demons from Susa and the cities of northern Mesopotamia does NOT fall within that accepted category of respect/tolerance from a Zoroastrian point of view.
The Achaemenid Empire (539-333 BCE) was the first Great Indo European empire of the ancient world. And Cyrus as the representative of migrating Indo-European Persians and founder of that Empire deserves much credit.
However, it is Darius the Great that is fondly remembered in the Zoroastrian literature and sacred history. Fact is that there is NO mention of Cyrus in the Zoroastrian literature, nor is there a trace of him in shah-nameh, the great Persian Epic of god-kings.
The Assyrians and Babylonians relationship to their conquered lands was a tyrannical and parasitical one. What is unique about Achaemenids is a harmonious, mutually beneficial alliance between ancient rival civilizations of Anatolia, Mesopotamia, Elam, and the ancient Indo Europeans of the Iranian Plateau.
Darius is called great, not because of his conquests but because of the fact that he perfected this harmonious,mutually beneficial alliance and tolerance without sacrificing his Zoroastrian and ancient Iranian identity or uniqueness.
The Mazda worshipping Great King Darius never forced his Assyrian, Babylonian or other non-Aryan, non Iranian subjects to pray to Ahûrá Mazdá.
Darius gave even state monetary support for the rebuilding and repair of the places of worship such as the sanctuaries in Egypt or the Temple in Jerusalem. However, Darius did so without compromising his own Zoroastrian beliefs and his ancient Iranian ethnicity.
Darius and his successors understood well the important role of religion as a determinant of people’s identity and while respecting others, zealously safeguarded their own.
The king’s law was established to do benevolence to Ahuramazda’s good creation where there would be “happy horses, happy men” no lie and no drought/crop failure.
Darius also upheld the democratic institutions of the Greek inhabited cities on the Ionian coast and did not interfere with their or other local traditions.
Darius showed tolerance and greatly respected diversity. Yet his loyalty was first and foremost to his own faith and blood. The unique ancient Iranian religion and identity had its paramount place for him within the first great empire in the history of man. That is why Darioush the Great is fondly remembered in the Zoroastrian history.
By Contrast, Cyrus is NOT even ONCE mentioned in the Zoroastrian ancient history accounts or literature. He is also ABSENT from shahnameh, the epic of god-kings.
From a Zoroastrian point of view, Cyrus went too far in adopting alien Mesopotamian beliefs and customs. He was simply too pragmatic. Cyrus greatly pushed the limits of the Ancient Iranian identity and noble religion in favor of an alien Mesopotamian melting pot with their demon-gods. That is why he is utterly absent from our records. While he deserves much credit as the founder of the first Indo European world empire, it is his successor, Darioush the Great that is truly worthy of our praise.