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Present-day US fears about an Iranian-dominated super-state embracing southern Iraq and the Gulf have a basis in historical fact, according to an exhibition charting the exploits of Cyrus the Great, founder of the Persian empire, which opens at the British Museum on Friday.
Cyrus and his successors, Xerxes and Darius, created the world's first superpower in 550BC, ruling territories from central Asia and the Indus valley to Arabia and north Africa. But the Persian kings appear to have had better luck in Iraq than President George Bush has had.
When Persian forces overran Babylonia in 539BC, the inhabitants surrendered peacefully. According to contemporary accounts, Cyrus was greeted as a liberator because of his just policies - and tough attitude to terrorists.
"When I entered Babylon I did not allow anyone to terrorise the land," a text known as the Cyrus Cylinder quotes him as saying. "I strove for peace in Babylon and all other sacred cities. I put an end to the inhabitants' misfortune."