In the year 552 BC in the province of Persis in modern day Iran, a local sheepherder started a revolt against his ruler, King Astyages of the Median Empire.
The sheepherder’s name was Cyrus, though he would become known to history as Cyrus the Great.
Cyrus led the rebellion against Astyages for three years, winning the decisive battle in 549 BC; and with Astyages defeated, Cyrus went on to found his own kingdom that would quickly become one of the largest empires in the history of the world.
Cyrus’s new Persian Empire became vast and powerful. And Cyrus himself was revered by his subjects who believed he had been ordained by the god Ahura Mazda to rule over them.
But despite Cyrus’s autocratic power, the Persian Empire still had a very strong ‘rule of law’.
Whatever Cyrus decreed became supreme law of the land. Yet his rules were straightforward, fair, and stable.
He was not whimsical or petty. He did not change the rules at a moment’s notice, and he was very respectful of people’s individual freedoms.
Corruption was a capital offense. Any of Cyrus’s government officials who were found accepting bribes were put to death.
Lying also became a capital offense, which compelled politicians and bureaucrats to always tell the truth.
The court system was also highly revered; the king established the law, but judges settled disputes to ensure fairness across the board.
Anyone who refused to accept the decision of a judge was put to death.
And dishonest judges were flayed alive, with their skin used to upholster courtroom furniture as a warning to the next judge who filled the bench.
His punishments may have been harsh. But Cyrus’s goal was to establish a strong rule of law where everyone could have trust and confidence in the system, and everyone had to follow the rules.
Rule of Law is incredible important; throughout history, societies with a strong rule of law flourished.