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The Cyrus Cylinder

The Cyrus Cylinder is one of the worlds most important written artefacts.

It is remarkable for a number of reasons;

  • It is a clay ovoid cylinder, covered in Babylonian cuneiform writing.
  • Cuneiform writing is probably one of the earliest written languages.
  • It was written 600 years BC
  • It describes an carries an account of how Persian king Cyrus conquered Babylon in 539 B.C. and restored people held captive to their homelands.
  • This is a description of an event that allowed Jews back into Jerusalem and gave them back their right to freedom of worship.
  • The writing on the cylinder has been used to explore the historical content of the Bible and other religious works
  • The writings have political and social resonance in the modern world.
  • It is described as the first bill of human rights.
The Cyrus Cylinder

The Cyrus Cylinder

Cyrus The Great Cyrus was the first Achaemenian Emperor of Persia, who after his victory defeating the Babylonian ruler Nabonidus,  issued a decree on his aims and policies, later hailed as his charter of the rights of nations. He advanced the ideas of multiculturalism.

He recognized that ruling over an Empire made up of many different lands, that religious and cultural tolerance were a prerequisite to stability, growth and well being among people.

  • When he founded Persia, he did so by uniting the two original Iranian Tribes, the Medes and the Persians and formed his first government by including men from both tribes.
  • When he allowed 40,000 Jews to leave Babylon and return to Palestine, they heralded him as  ‘the annointed of the Lord’.

He achieved what few have since, to unite an Empire from a standpoint of tolerance of religion, culture and language and that is why the Cyrus Cylinder is such an important artefact today as it was 2,600 years ago.

Cyrus The Great and the writing on the Cyrus Cylinder has influenced many rulers over time, including Thomas Jefferson, when he created the Declaration of Independence.

The cylinder now resides in the British Museum in London but is currently on tour in America, visiting the  Museum of Fine Arts in Houston, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco and the J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Villa in Los Angeles.



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