By Olivia Zhu
Rhyne King, a senior from Greensboro, North Carolina, plunges into the depths of history to retrieve remnants of long-past civilizations. Rhyne is currently writing his senior thesis on the religion of the Achaemenid Empire of Persia, which existed in modern day Iran until 330 B.C.E., when Alexander the Great’s army conquered it. Specifically, Rhyne is focusing on what the Achaemenid religion was and how the Achaemenids treated foreign religions. Rhyne says that it is rather difficult to directly compare the Achaemenid religion to any modern religion, but that some imagine it to be similar to Zoroastrianism.
Rhyne’s skill set and dedication to his research are extraordinary in and of themselves. After spending the summer studying with Professor Jacques Bromberg, Rhyne added the skill of reading Old Persian to his repertoire of languages, which includes Latin, Greek, and Persian. He uses Old Persian, the language of the Achaemenid kings, to read inscriptions about their religion. Rhyne has also traveled to the British Museum in London to inspect Achaemenid inscriptions and art.
Rhyne pioneers investigation into the Achaemenid empire by balancing Greek accounts, which currently form a majority of the body of knowledge about the civilization, with Persian sources. He says that up to this point, historians have not reconciled the two sources systematically. Rhyne is particularly fascinated by the Achaemenid empire’s tolerance of religion. He emphasizes, however, that their tolerance, immortalized in the Cyrus inscription from Babylon, was not an ancient declaration of human rights; rather, it was the system that proved most convenient for them.
Throughout his four years at Duke, Rhyne has also served as president of the Round Table selective living group and the Latin Club, and he has played for the marching band. Rhyne plans to continue researching the Achaemenid Empire in graduate school, and to someday become a professor.