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On Cyrus depiction in Civ VI : should gameplay overcome historicity, or the contrary (or balance)

Discussion in 'Civ6 - General Discussions' started by Liufeng, Jul 14, 2017.

  1. Morningcalm

    Morningcalm Chieftain

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    Embedded quotes are the worst. To make things easier, I am splitting my discussion with Arent11 into multiple sections below and embedding quotes manually.

    Bias

    How one states facts is part of bias. What one includes and what one does not include is also part of bias. In this way, the Civilopedia's way of stating facts shows clear bias, as we pointed out earlier in the use of adjectives and phrases, and with the snippeting of positive information about Cyrus that was previously included in Civ IV's Civilopedia entry for the same ruler. Hence, your argument that people are depicted in a "too good" light in Civ VI simply falls flat. These historical figures are heroes to people for a reason, and while that reason isn't because they were *perfect*, it wasn't just because they were demonic, unforgivable and dishonorable murderers either.

    The fact of the matter is that the Civ VI Civilopedia downplays or excludes entirely all the information about Cyrus' exalted status among Jews and Greeks (including his titles), and his reputation as a humanitarian.

    Backstabbing
    To bounce this back to you, I did not say that you said that Cyrus backstabbed Tomyris. I merely pointed out that historically, Cyrus did not backstab Tomyris in any way, and that the game's depiction of Cyrus as such is on very shaky ground. My words exact:
    Cyrus Cylinder
    You did not say the British Museum said the Cylinder was "typical propaganda" etc. You said the Wikipedia article said this, and implied that was the article's central view. Your exact words from post 27 in this thread:
    Your summary of the Cylinder (in this thread's post 27, as quoted above) is misleading. The Wikipedia article merely collected many, many conflicting views (including that of the British Museum) about the Cylinder's significance. If two people disagree about whether Cyrus was good or bad, and such views are both written into an article, is a fair summary of the article that "the article says" Cyrus was bad? No.

    The problem is not necessarily that the Cylinder may *not ever* have been aimed at defaming Cyrus' predecessor and depicting Cyrus in a good light--rather, the problem is you imply the Cylinder is viewed as that and little else. Again, cutting out certain information and using biased adjectives or phrases in your descriptions changes how people view the information you provide. If you say the Cylinder was merely "typical propaganda, aimed at defaming his predecessor & painting him in a good light" you give voice to only one view and thus readers looking at your post will see the Cylinder as just that, and not *potentially* as an ancient declaration of human rights in some form.

    In a similar fashion, Civ VI's Civilopedia, with its biased adjectives, selective cutting of information, and biased phrasings, paints a historical picture of the ruler which simply cuts out a lot of complexity and a lot of information. It creates misinformation in a historical context which is rather unfortunate--because even if the game depiction is ahistorical for gameplay, you'd think that in the Civilopedia at least they would acknowledge Cyrus' high reputation as a kind ruler to minorities.

    That the developers both twisted the Civilopedia history AND portrayed Cyrus as a backstabber in the game together is foolish--it denigrates one of the greatest rulers of ancient history and pigeonholes him into something he most certainly was not.

    Cyrus was not known as a "backstabber". And that Tomyris' agenda is called "Backstab Averse" is simply laughable. She was more averse to marriage than to backstabbing, especially as no story, ever, indicates she was ever backstabbed in her life. Ever.

    And frankly, I will add to this that almost all ancient rulers were "ruthless" on occasion. Saladin was "ruthless" but nevertheless had a reputation as a chivalrous knight because *on some instances where he need not have been*, he was indeed kind and let prisoners go when it was not expedient or even necessary. The same is true of Cyrus. Yes, he killed people, but he also showed uncommon kindness to people, hence his reputation as an "ideal ruler" (Xenophon) or an early proponent of human rights. A simpler solution to all this would have been to incorporate Hammurabi of Babylon in the game as a backstabber (which he was), and to give Cyrus the Great values and bonuses which represent what he is *actually known for*.

    But again, a valuable discussion, and I hope the developers note how quite a few of us *do* care (to some degree) about historical accuracy. Exaggeration is one thing. Untruth is another. (What if Civ VI added Ashoka as India's second leader and portrayed Ashoka was a warmongerer? Would that be entirely untrue? (No, he was known for his devastating war against the Kalinga.) Would it be erroneous? (Given Ashoka's historical reputation as a peacful spreader of Buddhism following the devastating war with Kalinga, which changed his views, likely yes.)
     
    Last edited: Jul 16, 2017
  2. Guandao

    Guandao Rajah of Minyue and Langkasuka

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    Could Cyrus' negative reputation in-game be influenced by the game developers' bias about modern-day Iran?
    Just wondering?
     
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  3. Morningcalm

    Morningcalm Chieftain

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    Hopefully the developers realize modern-day Iran and ancient Persia are two very different things (heck, my native Koreans were conquerors back in the Goguryeo days, but we aren't known as conquerors now so much as peaceful scientific turtlers)

    I think Firaxis just pigeonholed Cyrus because they wanted someone who was the opposite of Tomyris (given the Tomyris story of why she killed Cyrus, etc.). I am unsure how many modern-day Iranians play Civ, but I know of at least one Iranian-American who is upset at Cyrus' portrayal as a scheming backstabber. There's also another guy on YouTube who wrote nasty comments about Firaxis' portrayal of Cyrus, including the following (profane) comment:
     
    Last edited: Jul 17, 2017
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  4. Guandao

    Guandao Rajah of Minyue and Langkasuka

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    There were previous complaints from Iranian or Iranian-descended people about Darius I speaking Aramaic in Civ5. They thought he was speaking Arabic or something similar.
     
  5. magha77

    magha77 Chieftain

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    It’s an inaccurate portrayal that is themed on predominant stereotypes of Iranians in media (much like the 500 movie). It’s not unexpected in any way, speaking as an Iranian-American...just the way it’s been since the Shah left and they stopped being an ally. Overall, it’s a nice bonus that I take advantage of in my games. Just wish that Immortal unit had a ranged first strike and then a melee attack like the civ 5 Zulu unit.
     
  6. Zaarin

    Zaarin Warlord

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    To be fair, though, that was accurate--Imperial Aramaic was the language of the Achaemenid Persian court--whereas depicting Cyrus the Great as a Machiavellian villain is not in any way accurate.
     
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  7. Arent11

    Arent11 Chieftain

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    I would accept it if you argue that Alexander, Cyrus, Caesar etc. were better than other rulers of their time. But you don't do that. You argue that he was "humanitarian", and this I don't accept.
    The strong language you complain about is clearly applied to all leaders in Civ VI. Therefore, it can't be an argument for bias.

    I will not adopt the view of politicans that have a clear agenda. The Shah of Persia claimed that the Cyrus Cylinder was an "early declaration of human rights" to combat islamism & strengthen secular powers. While I admit that this is a well meant, "white lie" it is still rewriting history. And you said you would not like such behavior :p

    As I said earlier, while I do think that Cyrus was ruthless & not humanitarian, I do not think that he deserves to be called much more backstabbing than any other leader. For example, some medici or borgia leader would be much more well fitted for this.

    We are talking of two different articles. The article on Cyrus II clearly has the central view that it is "typical propaganda". But even the article on the Cyrus Cylinder you refer to has that cental view. It's completely obvious, just read the article.
     
    Last edited: Jul 17, 2017
  8. DizzKneeLand33

    DizzKneeLand33 John Curtin is a warmonger

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    This discussion is why I collect encyclopedias. They are *so* cheap anymore and you can collect information from different eras and see what people thought about certain subjects in the context of that era. And, they also cared about accuracy, which is so unlike the world today. No revisionist history there -- what was printed is printed forever.

    So, the more down the rabbit hole the internet becomes, the more I will be picking up old books to read the truth -- or at least the truth as it was seen within an era (one example, it's fascinating to see what a 1920 set says about Prohibition and Women's Suffrage in the U.S., let alone "The Great War"). This is what we did when I was a kid, since that was way too many years before Google. If you wanted to know something, you looked it up in the encyclopedia.

    I encourage those who are like minded to do the same. My last set purchased was from 1959 and cost me $25 (20 volumes) at the used bookstore.
     
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  9. Arent11

    Arent11 Chieftain

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    You are right that you have to be very careful what wikipedia says concerning political/religious topics.

    So, now I would be interested to know what your encyclopedia has to say about Cyrus or the Cyrus Cylinder.
     
  10. DizzKneeLand33

    DizzKneeLand33 John Curtin is a warmonger

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    Without boring you with all the entries (which can't be copied and pasted lol), I will say that of the Civ depictions Civ 4 is the closest to those entries (the encyclopedias were actually kinder). This is regarding Cyrus.

    The latest edition I currently have is a 1994 Britannica set (I'm looking for one that was the last print, someday I'll get it :) ), and the term "Cyrus Cylinder" isn't in that or any of the older ones as a stand alone entry, or even in the indices. During my readings I don't remember anything being said about it, either, but I may have just missed it. Is that a new terminology over the past 20 years or so?

    EDIT: Totally off subject, but I think I just got my coolest find ever. For a mere $50, I purchased a 20 volume set of "Messages and Papers of the Presidents" which was printed in 1928 (and some older years). It contains everything from the Declaration of Independence to the "Text of the Anti-War Treaties Signed on the Summer of 1928 With Most of the Great Countries of the World." My first read will probably be the Treaty of Versailles, followed by the reasons the U.S. Senate never ratified it. I already learned something.... TWENTY VOLUMES!!

    Again, I now can read the *raw* details, without some commentator telling me what to think....
     
    Last edited: Jul 17, 2017
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  11. Zaarin

    Zaarin Warlord

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    @DizzKneeLand33 Well, encyclopedic bias isn't exactly new, but you can at least get around it by reading enough sources. Even on non-political topics, though, Wikipedia frequently gives too much credit to fringe theories. For example, reading the Wikipedia page on Proto-Germanic you'd never know that the substrate hypothesis is still controversial and far from an established fact (and in my experience the linguistics pages tend to be the best of Wikipedia).

    Uh...being equal opportunities unencyclopedic is still unencyclopedic. Also, not all rulers are discussed with the vitriol directed at Cyrus; read Gandhi's Civilopedia entry, or Catherine de Medici's--either of which crosses the line from approving to obsequious.
     
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  12. MIS

    MIS Chieftain

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    I don't have a problem with Cyrus' play style (except that he's OP, but that's a different thread). But I do have a problem with inaccurate/ bias encyclopedia entries. I bought the game for my daughter as an educational tool. Part of that is her reading through the entries and getting a perspective on history.
     
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  13. Arent11

    Arent11 Chieftain

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    Just taking Cyrus/Catherine de Medici:

    "The conquest of Media was only the start of Cyrus's bloodshed. [...] According to Herodotus, Cyrus spared Croesus and made him a trusted advisor—but the 'Nabonidus Chronicle' disagreed, claiming Cyrus double-crossed the fallen king and had him slain."

    "But it wasn’t all fun and games for Catherine [...] Along with the assassinations and blackmail, such insights helped her fend off threats to both France and her position within it."

    Or take this passage:

    "Feeling quite pleased with himself, Cyrus proclaimed himself “King of Babylon [...] The cylinder denounces Nabonidus as impious and depicts Cyrus as “pleasing to Marduk.” It also details how Cyrus improved the lives of the Babylonians, restored temples and cults previously outlawed, and repatriated displaced peoples—such as his 538 BCE decree allowing captive Jews to return to Judah."

    "But she could also be ruthless in defending her son’s position as king; when the Prince of Condé raised an army and attacked Catholic towns, she ordered him to court and then imprisoned him as soon as he arrived. He was only saved from execution by the sudden death of Francis."

    -> In fact, there are a lot of positive statements here. & the assassination/double crossing in the Nabonidus chronicle is only mentioned as one possibility of many.
     
  14. Morningcalm

    Morningcalm Chieftain

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    Definitely agreed on the virtues of printed material. I unfortunately have to rely on online sources primarily (or Google books found through online Google searches) due to the lack of availability of decent English bookstores/libraries here in my corner of France. I think that with careful sifting it is easy to divine what facts scholars generally agree on, and what interpretations (overall reputation of leader, impact of leader, motives of leader, etc) scholars disagree on.

    I do argue that Cyrus, et al. were better than other rulers of their time. I will also now say that Cyrus was at least more humanitarian, i.e. concerned with human welfare, than several rulers of his time. Historical evidence suggests Cyrus *did* care about human welfare, even if he was also a conqueror and waged wars. Note, I do not necessarily claim Cyrus' humanitarian acts were completely motivated by pure motives--it's entirely possible he was nice to minorities within his empire so as to discourage revolts (Cyrus likely knew of how frequently Assyrian subjects revolted, for example).

    I think Zaarin has sufficiently combated your point about bias somehow ceasing to exist if it's equally applied to all Civ VI leaders (and I agree with Zaarin that the bias is *not* equal among all Civ VI leaders).

    The fact that clearly biased people adopt a certain view does not automatically mean the view is wrong. I also wonder how it is you can divine that the Shah of Persia had those specific purposes in mind when speaking of the cylinder. Nothing in the Cyrus Cylinder article bears out his specific aim to "strengthen secular powers". There continues to be debate about the Cylinder's significance and you seem to be much more convinced of one side than the other. I merely point out your summation of the Cylinder as "typical propaganda" is not borne out by facts, nor as certain as you claim. I never said the Cylinder was definitely an early declaration of human rights.

    My words exact before your first post in this thread:
    I frankly think it is irresponsible to simply shrug off the fact that the Cylinder bothers to mention humanitarian efforts for minorities at all. A conqueror unconcerned with human welfare would not write of measures in repatriating minorities in the empire. Likely, he would join a host of Assyrian rulers (see, e.g., Sennacherib) and others in boasting of destruction, and mentioning little if anything about repatriation or any other such measures aiding minorities.

    There's a reason the Medici and Borgia are not common Civilization leaders--they lack the glorious repute and empire-wide success of rulers like Cyrus. Catherine d' Medici, while not entirely unsuccessful, was a controversial choice to lead France.

    I'm glad we at least agree Cyrus was no more backstabby than any other leader.

    "Clearly" and "completely obvious" is biased language. Maybe you would care to elaborate on why you view the article of Cyrus II as a whole concluding the Cylinder was "typical propaganda"?

    You see, the Wikipedia article about Cyrus II which you claim has the central view of the Cylinder as "typical propaganda" speaks of Cyrus' humanitarian reputation nonetheless. So your attacks on the Cylinder notwithstanding, you still have to deal with Cyrus' exalted status among Jews and Greeks. To wit, Wikipedia's article on Cyrus II provides as follows:
     
    Last edited: Jul 17, 2017
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  15. Siptah

    Siptah Eternal Chieftain

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    I'm not an expert on the Cyrus Cylinder, so I won't judge it. But keep in mind that older Mesopotamian codexes seem to have been propaganda only. I mean, this is hard to proof millennia later. But we have thousand of protocols how law was practiced in Babylon for example and the Codex Hammurabi was never used - even for cases during his rule. Quite the contrary actually, we have some cases that could have been ruled like it is said in the codex, but weren't. Afaik not a single case of it being put into practice has survived. It's merely a thing to make a leader 'look good'. It might be different with Cyrus and his cylinder however.
     
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  16. Arent11

    Arent11 Chieftain

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    Now, this makes much more sense & is a much less naive view on Cyrus. He was obviously able to act ruthlessly & employ violence, but he also used compassion when it fit his goals or was simply possible.

    You cannot have a "bias" without favoring someone.

    The example catherine de medici he gave was a very bad one because it proves my point. But I agree that the entry on Ghandi is much more positive.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cyrus_Cylinder#Scholarly_views

    "D. Fairchild Ruggles and Helaine Silverman describe the Shah's aim as being to legitimise the Iranian nation and his own regime, and to counter the growing influence of Islamic fundamentalism by creating an alternative narrative rooted in the ancient Persian past.[112]"

    en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cyrus_Cylinder

    Contents
    [1Discovery
    Interpretations[edit]
    Mesopotamian and Persian tradition and propaganda[edit]
    According to the British Museum, the Cyrus Cylinder reflects a long tradition in Mesopotamia where, from as early as the third millennium BC, kings began their reigns with declarations of reforms.[4] Cyrus's declaration stresses his legitimacy as the king, and is a conspicuous statement of his respect for the religious and political traditions of Babylon. The British Museum and scholars of the period describe it as an instrument of ancient Mesopotamian propaganda.[48][49]
    [...]

    Human rights[edit]
    The Cylinder gained new prominence in the late 1960s when the last Shah of Iran called it "the world's first charter of human rights".[97] The cylinder was a key symbol of the Shah's political ideology and is still regarded by some commentators as a charter of human rights, despite the disagreement of some historians and scholars.[15]
    [...]

    Pahlavi Iranian government's view
    The White Revolution of Iran. The Shah identified Cyrus as a key figure in government ideology and associated his government with the Achaemenids.[99]
    The Shah looked to the Achaemenid period as "a moment from the national past that could best serve as a model and a slogan for the imperial society he hoped to create."[102]

    Scholarly views
    The interpretation of the Cylinder as a "charter of human rights" has been described by some historians as "rather anachronistic" and tendentious.[8][109][110][111] It has been dismissed as a "misunderstanding"[9] and characterized as political propaganda devised by the Pahlavi regime.[91] The German historian Josef Wiesehöfer comments that the portrayal of Cyrus as a champion of human rights is as illusory as the image of the "humane and enlightened Shah of Persia."[99]


     
  17. Zaarin

    Zaarin Warlord

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    @Arent11 Yes, Catherine's is less worshipful than Gandhi's, but the overall tone of her Civilopedia entry is still one of approval and admiration (despite the fact that she was a mediocre leader at best, frequently lacking any power or influence in France, and ultimately failing in her efforts to preserve the House of Valois) while that for Cyrus is transparently hostile.

    You can in fact be biased against someone.
     
  18. Morningcalm

    Morningcalm Chieftain

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    To Arent11: My views were always that Cyrus was a humanitarian in some measure (in the way Saladin, in some measure, was humanitarian). I never once said I thought they did this purely out of the goodness of their hearts. But I don't think they were purely Machiavellian about welfare either (for that would be a rather cynical view).

    Nothing in here supports your earlier claim that the Shah praised the Cylinder to "strengthen secular powers". As I said earlier:
    Re: the use of "typical Mesopotamian propaganda" to describe the Cylinder, I have written already about why I disagree--the use of the word "typical" is objectionable, given the Cylinder's talk of repatriating minorities (which is one of the key reasons the Cylinder is so famous in the first place--if it really was so "typical" as other Mesopotamian propaganda *may* have been, why the Cylinder received such attention would be a puzzle, no?)

    And again, you have yet to discuss how, Cyrus Cylinder aside (as there is disagreement on it which the Civilopedia conveniently washes over), Cyrus is somehow avowedly NOT humanitarian. Evidence suggests otherwise--that he *was* humanitarian to some degree. Civ VI should have borne this out to some degree in Cyrus' abilities, or at least *mentioned* in the Civilopedia that there were dispute over the Cylinder's significance, instead of simply summarizing several of the contrary view as "wishful thinkers".

    But Civ VI's portrayal of Cyrus (well animated though he is) would have us all cynically see Cyrus as a pure manipulator. Hence in his first meeting, the part of his intro line where he says "I'm sure we'll become fast friends, at least for the time being". Such insinuations suggesting Cyrus is a backstabby manipulator can be found in his other reactions too. This is essentially a form of rewriting history, as Cyrus is not *known* for being an opportunistic backstabber, but rather the opposite. Nuke-bearing Gandhi is so ridiculous that people *know* it to be false. Far more damaging are portrayals like this which will have Civ VI players (even those that read the Civilopedia) thinking Cyrus was a Machiavellian prince of sorts.

    And I will add here once again that the Civilopedia could use much work in writing. And on top of that, the leader intros, which were more richly detailed historically in Civ V (and less full of empty platitudes to boot).

    To bring this back to the central question of this thread, gameplay vis a vis history in Civilization VI: a balance between gameplay and historicity can and should be aimed for. I can understand gameplay having greater import, but I cannot understand twisting Cyrus into a backstabber, nor would I understand if Ashoka entered Civ VI as a warmongerer rather than a peaceful spreader of Buddhism. There are other leader portrayals which were at least a bit more historically apt--Cleopatra *did* seek out Caesar and Antony as allies to ensure her survival (and that of her realm), for example. Even the wonky portrayals (Pedro II disliking those who are similarly interested in Great People) are at least just twisted exaggerations of history. But Cyrus' portrayal is arguably the low point in historicity for Civ VI portrayals, and unfortunately I cannot play a game with him as an AI where I do not frown at the cynical lines about backstabbery that he receives.

    It seems even Ed Beach, who *is* interested in history, misread history on Cyrus. Of Cyrus, for example, he recently said:
    Unfortunately, these "quick strikes" Ed Beach describes were not "surprise wars" any more than Alexander's attacks on Persia were "surprise wars" (and I would argue Alexander was better known for "quick strikes" than Cyrus--his whole campaign was a giant quick strike on everyone in his way). Here's to hoping the backstabber of Civ VII is portrayed as Hammurabi instead--a much better historical fit, or Cao Cao (commonly portrayed as a backstabbing villain, at least, even if historically he wasn't quite so), or perhaps even a Japanese daimyo (again, a better historical fit). Civ is a game that draws its cultural relevance in part from portraying leaders from history known for doing certain things, so that the human player can play against them in a "simulation" of sorts. This simulation falls apart when fantasy characters are created (like the Cyrus of Civ VI, who despite appearing realistic in animation, is not so in gameplay).

    It would be interesting to speculate about future DLC leaders and the abilities they *may* receive or *could* receive, and perhaps in so doing we can examine the relationship between gameplay and historical accuracy a bit better, giving Firaxis some helpful suggestions or food for thought in the interim.
     
    Last edited: Jul 17, 2017
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  19. steveg700

    steveg700 Chieftain

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    Well, maybe Cyrus and Alexander both undertook surprise wars. Cyrus just has a specific advantage to them. Then again, I'm not sure if he should receive credit for those silly Babylonians leaving their gate unlocked at night.

    At any rate, many leaders could be considered both dastardly and heroic for the same deeds. One man's cravenly surprise attack is another's clever strategy that spared lives. You will find a lot of statues of Genghis Khan in Mongolia, and none of them are left to accumulate cobwebs. He was a visionary genius who united his people into a modernized empire. That he annihilated millions and razed cities left and right is a footnote at best. A necessary evil perhaps. They had it coming for refusing to surrender. The lesson taught to surrounding cities surely saved lives.

    The thing that bugs is this business of modifying someone's diplomacy penalty, as if AI civ's shouldn't mind Persia going on a conquest tear. "Classic Cyrus! Wotta character!"". Just because your civ has a certain area of strength doesn't mean you shouldn't have to manage the consequences of focusing on it.
     
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  20. Scaramanga

    Scaramanga Chieftain

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    If it doesn't bother the AI that Cyrus can get the jump on them then maybe human players have to assume that he's just going to do it because the bonus is there and only have themselves to blame for not expecting it. His agenda to get him to like you lends itself to the phrase, if you can't beat 'em you might as well join 'em.
     

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