June 28, 2011
Zohreh Farajipour & Manoochehr Mohammadi, Persia Magazine, Vol. 1, Issue 2, Summer 2011. pp 60-63
Mr. Reza Moradi Ghiasabadi, an astroarcheologist and researcher in historian articles and 37 books about the ancient Iran’s archeology, and culture. He has authored books and articles about Iranian structures with engraved calendars, astrological calculations and symbols, squared-based arcs or chartaqi, old Avesta, astronomical hypotheses, Naqshe-Rostam Observatory, Aryan migration, and other topics. In recent years, he has mostly concentrated on the ancient Iranian calendrical structures with astronomical inscriptions that show sunrises and sunsets at the beginning of each season. They are in fact solar calendars of their own kind. Besides researches in such fields, he has also writhen articles about other cultural aspect of the ancient epigraphs or Persian inscriptions, ancient myth and feasts with astrological roots. As the world’s first human rights charter, cyrus Cylinder, now in possession of the British Museum, was loaned to and exhibited in Iran during the past seven months, and as Mr. Moradi has published a book on the cylinder, Persia Quarterly took the opportunity to interview him on issues related to the ancient Iranian culture. You will read the text of the interview in the following:
Q: Tell us about Cyrus the Great and how he gained access to power and became a king.
A: Little is known about his early years of lifi and there are only few sources that shed some lights on his childhood, and most of those sources have either been damaged or lost. There are contradictory stories about him. What we know is that about 2.550 years ago, there were four empires or great kingdom in eastern Basam region, namely Median, Babel, Lydian and Egyptian kingdoms. The Achaemenids were local rulers governing southern Iran. They invaded and wiped out three of the four kingdoms under the commandership of Cyrus. The Egyptian empire was later conquered by his son, Cambyses II.
Q: Please tell about several distinctive characters of Cyrus the Great.
A: Good deed, affection and philanthropy were among Cyrus’s distinctive characters. Contrary to the rulers of his time, whenever he invaded alien territories, he avoided killings and bloodshed as far as he could. In contrast, when Assyrians invaded Susa, They issued orders to kill the youth and others, plunder them and destroy their religious sites. It was a general rule among other conquerors to obliterate religious sites, force the conquered people to abandon their religions and impose their own beliefs. Cyrus was exceptional. He never resorted to such bullying and never ordered killings or plundering of the conquered people. He even respected the gods of local people and recognized their religious beliefs. He did not kill defeated rulers, but instead sent them to exile. Even entrusted them with the power to rule over some districts and appointed them to some posts. He acted in a manner characteristically different from that of the rulers of any time. In terms of tolerance with people and their beliefs, he deserves to be praised and is a unique leader of all time.
Q: Do you mean that humanity, religion, and belief has special placing in the eyes of Cyrus the Great?
A: Yes, that’s right. Cyrus did impose neither himself nor his beliefs on people. That was his key to being popular among people. In my book, Achaemenid Cyrus Charter, I have explained that people used to be received by Cyrus the Great, throw green twigs to his feet and embrace him sincerely while being sure he would not interfere in their affairs or beliefs or encroach on their properties.
Q: How do you evaluate Iran’s Cultural Heritage Organization both at national and international levels?
A: Iran’s Cultural Heritage Organization has absolutely no scientific or influential place at the international level. Absolutely not. Neither now nor earlier. Only that it is now in a worse condition. Even in Iran. It has no place. It has turned into a political apparatus. It should be a research and scientific body in nature. But many of the seasoned archeologists and specialists, who used to work for the organization, have been removed. There might br still a few of them there but practically play no role. The work is now entrusted to individuals who only issue announcements, write unworthy articles and present them to non-scientific conferences. They are in fact based on illusions and lies. Look, for example, what a vice-president of an organization has said: this person has asserted that the mummified Cyrus was buried 30 meters deep under the Cyrus mausoleum. He utters some baseless words; some other criticize him or protest against what he says. He repeatedly tries to rephrase and revamp his world but the damage has already been done. He’d brtter talk accurately and check out with knowledgeable people in the first place.
Q: Do you think that the person referred to in the holy book of Quran as Zul-qarnein, is the same as Cyrus the Great?
A: No, I don’t think so. Of course, some researchers believe so. I don’t believe it, because I think what has been described about Zul-qarnein in the holy Quran, has nothing to do with Cyrus. It talks about an individual who travels to the East and West and builds a dam with distinctive characteristics. I even read some texts quoting the late Allameh (Muhammad Hussein) Tabatabaei, (the great contemporary interpreter of Quran), as saying that Zul-qarnein is the same person as Cyru. I personally studied the part about Zul-qarnein in his Tafsir al-Mizan but didn’t find such a view. In my view they are not the same person. Besides, little explanation is given about that person in Quran. I mean this particular person is not like Holy Mary in Quran to whom a whole chapter is devoted. Only 7 or 8 brief verses are devoted to Zul-qarnein with no elaboration. In Quran, in fact, some other person is compared to Zul-qarnein and the issue is not about Cyrus at all.
Q: As you already know, Iran’s rich old culture is well known the world over. How do you think the world looks at the Iranian ancient culture?
A: As far as I know, paying attention to Cyrus has become a trend in Iran in recent years. However, there is no such a trend in other parts of the world at all. Rather, I should say, rarely does anybody know him and those few who recognizen him, may speak about him both positively and negatively, as someone who has invaded and conquered other countries. All in all, he is considered as a character with both wickedness and goodness as is the case with any other ruler.
Q: Having in mind that the civilization that Cyrus the Great introduced to the world has been neglected for a long period of time, what should we do to revive it?
A: I believe that we should try to get know Achaemenids, Cyrus and other historic personalities well and without prejudice. We should also avoid praising or despising them arbitrarily. It’s almost since 2.000 year ago that we have gone too far in extremism, a phenomenon that has devastated us. I believe one of the reasons for our backwardness is that we aggrandize or belittle every issue irrelevantly. In other works, we can’t imagine that a person, a school of thought, or a book may either have some strength or some weaknesses or both.
Q: You have invested your efforts in reviving the Iranian culture. Apart from Iranology, what other fields are you interested in or have studied?
A: I like photography and have done photographical works since childhood, of course not professionally. I read books and follow the news on photography, too.
Q: Apart from the Cyrus Cylinder, is there any other historical artifact remnant of that era our country?
A: Yes, there are. There are many of them. Both epigraphs and artifact.
Q: Where are they kept?
A: Both in Iran and foreign museums.
Q: Would you please explain a little about those historical remnants?
A: The three Darius epigraphs in Naqshe-Rostam, in may view, are much more important than the Cyrus Cylinder in terms of context. Unfortunately, many parts of inscriptions were coated with mortar that made them illegible. Fortunately, the inscriptions and had already been deciphered by devoted Iranologists like Robinson 150 year ago. It is sad that specialized workers are not being engaged in reconstruction of the Darius Epigraph. Instead, some ordinary workers are being employed who are asked to fill every hole with mortar indiscriminately. They would do so carelessly without knowing that they fatally damage the structure.
Q: Which historical site in Iran, your view, is the most attractive one?
A: There are two kinds of them. There are those that you may just like them and I’d say I like the squared-base arcs very much, may be because they are being studied by archeologists for many years now and new hypotheses about them are emerging. But in terms of outward beauty that may attract everybody’s seys, I like Iranian towers such as Akhanjan tower in Mashahd, (northeast of the country), and Mihandoust tower in Damghan, (Semnan province), that belong to the fourth or fifth century. I have written a book about both towers. In those towers, skilled bricklayers meticulously with such accurate calculations that whole verse from the holy book of Quran or an entire epigraph have been imprinted in a full circle round the tower without leaving an inch of extra or less space at the end of the line. Imagine how they have worked and designed the whole thing!
Q: What are your expectations from Iran’s cultural community and authorities in this field? What suggestions do you have in this regard?
A: The Iranian traditional culture is fading away. The dominant culture usually pushes aside the weaker one. In the past, it could take hundreds of years for a dominant culture to obliterate other culture. Nowadays, television channels can wear down culture in matter of several years and even several days. In the same way, it can also revive some cultures. Certain feasts and beliefs are fading away. They are of vital importance and can light up our culture. We shouldn’t let them disappear. Once the aging men and women who have conveyed the Iranian culture to the newer generations die, they would bury all the traditions and customs with themselves. The new generation does not know much about our culture. National television and resourceful independent media can concentrate on revival of dying cultural issue. It’s deplorable that the Iranian culture that has lasted thousands of year and has survived many ups and downs until it has reached us today, be diminished at a time when we talk about it more than ever.
Q: Is that right that sometimes some Iranian historical artifacts are found in foreign countries that have not been heard of in the country at all?
A: Yes, as is the case of the epigraphs that belong to the time of Cambyses. I have replicas of them. Articles have been published about them in Germany a country ago, but have never been translated into Persian and neither their original nor their replicas are in Iran.