The approach of the founder of the Persian empire, Cyrus the Great, to the establishment and consolidation of his rule in newly conquered territories was a major departure from that of his predecessors in the ancient Near East, the Neo-Assyrian kings (c. 934–609 bc). The centuries-old model of reinforcing military victory ideologically, with religious triumphalism and the imposition of Assyrian gods into the lives of new subjects, was turned on its head by Cyrus’ unique policy of religious acculturation. Cyrus pioneered an imperial strategy that neither extinguished nor subjugated local belief systems, instead facilitating the acculturation of his own religion and its customs to foster social cohesion and bring about reconciliation to Persian hegemony. In his trailblazing foray into Anatolia about 547 bc we may glimpse the formative period of this approach to peacemaking, later made manifest in the Babylonian ‘Cyrus Cylinder’ and reflected in the Old Testament, which shaped Cyrus the Great’s reputation for religious tolerance in posterity. 1