The Cyrus Cylinder (Persian: استوانه کوروش, translit. Ostovane-ye Kūrosh) or Cyrus Charter (منشور کوروش Manshūre Kūrosh) is an ancient clay cylinder, now broken into several pieces, on which is written a declaration in Akkadian cuneiform script in the name of Persia's Achaemenid king Cyrus the Great. It dates from the 6th century BC and was discovered in the ruins of Babylon in Mesopotamia (modern Iraq) in 1879. It is currently in the possession of the British Museum, which sponsored the expedition that discovered the cylinder. It was created and used as a foundation deposit following the Persian conquest of Babylon in 539 BC, when the Neo-Babylonian Empire was invaded by Cyrus and incorporated into his Persian Empire.
The text on the Cylinder praises Cyrus, sets out his genealogy and portrays him as a king from a line of kings. The Babylonian king Nabonidus, who was defeated and deposed by Cyrus, is denounced as an impious oppressor of the people of Babylonia and his low-born origins are implicitly contrasted to Cyrus' kingly heritage. The victorious Cyrus is portrayed as having been chosen by the chief Babylonian god Marduk to restore peace and order to the Babylonians. The text states that Cyrus was welcomed by the people of Babylon as their new ruler and entered the city in peace. It appeals to Marduk to protect and help Cyrus and his son Cambyses. It extols Cyrus as a benefactor of the citizens of Babylonia who improved their lives, repatriated displaced people and restored temples and cult sanctuaries across Mesopotamia and elsewhere in the region. It concludes with a description of how Cyrus repaired the city wall of Babylon and found a similar inscription placed there by an earlier king.
The Cylinder's text has traditionally been seen by biblical scholars as corroborative evidence of Cyrus' policy of the repatriation of the Jewish people following their Babylonian captivity (an act that the Book of Ezra attributes to Cyrus), as the text refers to the restoration of cult sanctuaries and repatriation of deported peoples. This interpretation has been disputed, as the text identifies only Mesopotamian sanctuaries, and makes no mention of Jews, Jerusalem, or Judea. The Cylinder has also been referred to by Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, the last Shah of Iran as the first declaration of universal human rights, a view rejected by some historians as anachronistic and a misunderstanding of the Cylinder's generic nature as a typical statement made by a new monarch at the beginning of his reign. Neil MacGregor, former Director of the British Museum, has stated that the cylinder was "the first attempt we know about running a society, a state with different nationalities and faiths—a new kind of statecraft". It was adopted as a national symbol of Iran by the Imperial State which put it on display in Tehran in 1971 to commemorate 2,500 year celebration of the Persian Empire. On October 14, the Mohammad Reza Shah's sister, Princess Ashraf Pahlavi, presented the United Nations Secretary General U Thant with a replica of the Cylinder. The princess asserted that "the heritage of Cyrus was the heritage of human understanding, tolerance, courage, compassion and, above all, human liberty".
The Cyrus Cylinder, obverse and reverse sides
|Size||21.9 centimetres (8.6 in) x 10 centimetres (3.9 in) (maximum) x (end A) 7.8 centimetres (3.1 in) x (end B) 7.9 centimetres (3.1 in)|
|Writing||Akkadian cuneiform script|
|Created||About 539–538 BC|
|Period/culture||Achaemenid Empire |
|Discovered||Babylon, Mesopotamia by Hormuzd Rassam in March 1879|
|Present location||Room 52, British Museum, London|
|Identification||BM 90920 |
The Assyro-British archaeologist Hormuzd Rassam discovered the Cyrus Cylinder in March 1879 during a lengthy programme of excavations in Mesopotamia carried out for the British Museum. It had been placed as a foundation deposit in the foundations of the Ésagila, the city's main temple. Rassam's expedition followed on from an earlier dig carried out in 1850 by the British archaeologist Austen Henry Layard, who excavated three mounds in the same area but found little of importance. In 1877, Layard became Britain's ambassador to the Ottoman Empire, which ruled Mesopotamia at the time. He helped Rassam, who had been his assistant in the 1850 dig, to obtain a firman (decree) from the Ottoman Sultan Abdul Hamid II to continue the earlier excavations. The firman was only valid for a year but a second firman, with much more liberal terms, was issued in 1878. It was granted for two years (through to 15 October 1880) with the promise of an extension to 1882 if required. The Sultan's decree authorised Rassam to "pack and dispatch to England any antiquities [he] found … provided, however, there were no duplicates". A representative of the Sultan was instructed to be present at the dig to examine the objects as they were uncovered.
With permission secured, Rassam initiated a large-scale excavation at Babylon and other sites on behalf of the Trustees of the British Museum. He undertook the excavations in four distinct phases. In between each phase, he returned to England to bring back his finds and raise more funds for further work. The Cyrus Cylinder was found on the second of his four expeditions to Mesopotamia, which began with his departure from London on 8 October 1878. He arrived in his home town of Mosul on 16 November and travelled down the Tigris to Baghdad, which he reached on 30 January 1879. During February and March, he supervised excavations on a number of Babylonian sites, including Babylon itself.
He soon uncovered a number of important buildings including the Ésagila temple. This was a major shrine to the chief Babylonian god Marduk, although its identity was not fully confirmed until the German archaeologist Robert Koldewey's excavation of 1900. The excavators found a large number of business documents written on clay tablets buried in the temple's foundations where they discovered the Cyrus Cylinder. Rassam gave conflicting accounts of where his discoveries were made. He wrote in his memoirs, Asshur and the land of Nimrod, that the Cylinder had been found in a mound at the southern end of Babylon near the village of Jumjuma or Jimjima. However, in a letter sent on 20 November 1879 to Samuel Birch, the Keeper of Oriental Antiquities at the British Museum, he wrote, "The Cylinder of Cyrus was found at Omran [Tell Amran-ibn-Ali] with about six hundred pieces of inscribed terracottas before I left Baghdad." He left Baghdad on 2 April, returning to Mosul and departing from there on 2 May for a journey to London which lasted until 19 June.
The discovery was announced to the public by Sir Henry Rawlinson, the President of the Royal Asiatic Society, at a meeting of the Society on 17 November 1879. He described it as "one of the most interesting historical records in the cuneiform character that has yet been brought to light," though he erroneously described it as coming from the ancient city of Borsippa rather than Babylon. Rawlinson's "Notes on a newly-discovered Clay Cylinder of Cyrus the Great" were published in the society's journal the following year, including the first partial translation of the text.
The Cyrus Cylinder is a barrel-shaped cylinder of baked clay measuring 22.5 centimetres (8.9 in) by 10 centimetres (3.9 in) at its maximum diameter. It was created in several stages around a cone-shaped core of clay within which there are large grey stone inclusions. It was built up with extra layers of clay to give it a cylindrical shape before a fine surface slip of clay was added to the outer layer, on which the text is inscribed. It was excavated in several fragments, having apparently broken apart in antiquity. Today it exists in two main fragments, known as "A" and "B", which were reunited in 1972.
The main body of the Cylinder, discovered by Rassam in 1879, is fragment "A". It underwent restoration in 1961, when it was re-fired and plaster filling was added. The smaller fragment, "B", is a section measuring 8.6 centimetres (3.4 in) by 5.6 centimetres (2.2 in). The latter fragment was acquired by J.B. Nies of Yale University from an antiquities dealer. Nies published the text in 1920. The fragment was apparently broken off the main body of the Cylinder during the original excavations in 1879 and was either removed from the excavations or was retrieved from one of Rassam's waste dumps. It was not confirmed as part of the Cylinder until Paul-Richard Berger of the University of Münster definitively identified it in 1970. Yale University lent the fragment to the British Museum temporarily (but, in practice, indefinitely) in exchange for "a suitable cuneiform tablet" from the British Museum collection.
Although the Cylinder clearly post-dates Cyrus the Great's conquest of Babylon in 539 BC, the date of its creation is unclear. It is commonly said to date to the early part of Cyrus's reign over Babylon, some time after 539 BC. The British Museum puts the Cylinder's date of origin at between 539–530 BC.
The surviving inscription on the Cyrus Cylinder consists of 45 lines of text written in Akkadian cuneiform script. The first 35 lines are on fragment "A" and the remainder are on fragment "B". A number of lines at the start and end of the text are too badly damaged for more than a few words to be legible.
The text is written in an extremely formulaic style that can be divided into six distinct parts:
The beginning of the text is partly broken; the surviving content reprimands the character of the deposed Babylonian king Nabonidus. It lists his alleged crimes, charging him with the desecration of the temples of the gods and the imposition of forced labor upon the populace. According to the proclamation, as a result of these offenses, the god Marduk abandoned Babylon and sought a more righteous king. Marduk called forth Cyrus to enter Babylon and become its new ruler.
In [Nabonidus's] mind, reverential fear of Marduk, king of the gods, came to an end. He did yet more evil to his city every day; … his [people ................…], he brought ruin on them all by a yoke without relief … [Marduk] inspected and checked all the countries, seeking for the upright king of his choice. He took the hand of Cyrus, king of the city of Anshan, and called him by his name, proclaiming him aloud for the kingship over all of everything.
Midway through the text, the writer switches to a first-person narrative in the voice of Cyrus, addressing the reader directly. A list of his titles is given (in a Mesopotamian rather than Persian style): "I am Cyrus, king of the world, great king, powerful king, king of Babylon, king of Sumer and Akkad, king of the four quarters [of the earth], son of Cambyses, great king, king of Anshan, descendent of Teispes, great king, king of Anshan, the perpetual seed of kingship, whose reign Bel [Marduk] and Nebo love, and with whose kingship, to their joy, they concern themselves." He describes the pious deeds he performed after his conquest: he restored peace to Babylon and the other cities sacred to Marduk, freeing their inhabitants from their "yoke," and he "brought relief to their dilapidated housing (thus) putting an end to their (main) complaints". He repaired the ruined temples in the cities he conquered, restored their cults, and returned their sacred images as well as their former inhabitants which Nabonidus had taken to Babylon. Near the end of the inscription Cyrus highlights his restoration of Babylon's city wall, saying: "I saw within it an inscription of Ashurbanipal, a king who preceded me." The remainder is missing but presumably describes Cyrus's rededication of the gateway mentioned.
A partial transcription by F. H. Weissbach in 1911 was supplanted by a much more complete transcription after the identification of the "B" fragment; this is now available in German and in English. Several editions of the full text of the Cyrus Cylinder are available online, incorporating both "A" and "B" fragments.
A false translation of the text – affirming, among other things, the abolition of slavery and the right to self-determination, a minimum wage and asylum – has been promoted on the Internet and elsewhere. As well as making claims that are not found on the real cylinder, it refers to the Zoroastrian divinity Ahura Mazda rather than the Mesopotamian god Marduk. The false translation has been widely circulated; alluding to its claim that Cyrus supposedly has stated that "Every country shall decide for itself whether or not it wants my leadership." Iranian Nobel Peace Prize winner Shirin Ebadi in her acceptance speech described Cyrus as "the very emperor who proclaimed at the pinnacle of power 2,500 years ago that … he would not reign over the people if they did not wish it".
The British Museum announced in January 2010 that two inscribed clay fragments, which had been in the Museum's collection since 1881, had been identified as part of a cuneiform tablet that was inscribed with the same text as the Cyrus Cylinder. The fragments had come from the small site of Dailem near Babylon and the identification was made by Professor Wilfred Lambert, formerly of the University of Birmingham, and Irving Finkel, curator in charge of the Museum's Department of the Middle East.
In 1983 two fossilized horse bones inscribed with cuneiform signs surfaced in China which Professor Oliver Gurney at Oxford later identified as coming from the Cyrus Cylinder. The discovery of these objects aroused much discussion about possible connections between ancient Mesopotamia and China, although their authenticity was doubted by many scholars from the beginning and they are now generally regarded as forgeries.
The history of the putative artifact goes back almost a century. The earliest record goes back to a Chinese doctor named Xue Shenwei, who sometime prior to 1928 was shown a photo of a rubbing of one of the bones by an antiquities dealer named Zhang Yi'an. Although not able to view the bones at that time, Xue Shenwei later acquired one of them from another antiquities dealer named Wang Dongting in 1935 and then the second via a personal connection named Ke Yanling around 1940. While Xue did not recognize the script on the bones he guessed at its antiquity and buried the bones for safekeeping during the Cultural Revolution. Then, in 1983 Xue presented the bones to the Palace Museum in Beijing where Liu Jiuan and Wang Nanfang of the State Administration of Cultural Heritage undertook their study. These officials identified the script as cuneiform and asked the Assyriologists Chi Yang and Wu Yuhong to work on the inscriptions. Identification of the source text proceeded slowly until 1985, when Wu Yuhong along with Oxford Assyriologist Stephanie Dalley and Oliver Gurney recognized the text in one bone as coming from the Cyrus Cylinder. One year later Wu Yuhong presented his findings at the 33rd Rencontre Assyriologique and published them in a journal article.
After that the second bone inscription remained undeciphered until 2010, when Irving Finkel worked on it. In that same year the British Museum held a conference dedicated to the artifacts. Based on the serious textual errors in the inscription, including the omission of a large number of signs from the Cyrus Cylinder, Wu Yuhong argued the inscriptions were most likely copied from the cylinder while housed in the British Museum or from an early modern publication based upon it. However he acknowledged the remote possibility it was copied in late antiquity. Irving Finkel disputed this conclusion based on the relative obscurity of the Cyrus Cylinder until recent decades and the mismatch in paleography between the bone inscriptions and the hand copies found in early editions from the 1880's.
Finally, after the workshop concluded, an 1884 edition of the Cyrus Cylinder by E. A. Wallis Budge came to Irving Finkel's attention. This publication used an idiosyncratic typeface and featured a handcopy for only a section of the whole cylinder. However the typeface in that edition matched the paleography on the bone inscriptions and the extract of the cylinder published in the book matched that of the bone as well. This convinced Finkel that the bone inscriptions were early modern forgeries and that has remained the majority opinion since then.
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. 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.
The text is a royal building inscription, a genre which had no equivalent in Old Persian literature. It illustrates how Cyrus co-opted local traditions and symbols to legitimize his conquest and control of Babylon. Many elements of the text were drawn from long-standing Mesopotamian themes of legitimizing rule in Babylonia: the preceding king is reprimanded and he is proclaimed to have been abandoned by the gods for his wickedness; the new king has gained power through the divine will of the gods; the new king rights the wrongs of his predecessor, addressing the welfare of the people; the sanctuaries of the gods are rebuilt or restored, offerings to the gods are made or increased and the blessings of the gods are sought; and repairs are made to the whole city, in the manner of earlier rightful kings.
Both continuity and discontinuity are emphasized in the text of the Cylinder. It asserts the virtue of Cyrus as a gods-fearing king of a traditional Mesopotamian type. On the other hand, it constantly discredits Nabonidus, reviling the deposed king's deeds and even his ancestry and portraying him as an impious destroyer of his own people. As Fowler and Hekster note, this "creates a problem for a monarch who chooses to buttress his claim to legitimacy by appropriating the 'symbolic capital' of his predecessors". The Cylinder's reprimand of Nabonidus also discredits Babylonian royal authority by association. It is perhaps for this reason that the Achaemenid rulers made greater use of Assyrian rather than Babylonian royal iconography and tradition in their declarations; the Cylinder refers to the Assyrian king Ashurbanipal as "my predecessor", rather than any native Babylonian ruler.
The Cylinder itself is part of a continuous Mesopotamian tradition of depositing a wide variety of symbolic items, including animal sacrifices, stone tablets, terracotta cones, cylinders and figures. Newly crowned kings of Babylon would make public declarations of their own righteousness when beginning their reigns, often in the form of declarations that were deposited in the foundations of public buildings. Some contained messages, while others did not, and they had a number of purposes: elaboration of a building's value, commemoration of the ruler or builder and the magical sanctification of the building, through the invocation of divine protection.
The cylinder was not intended to be seen again after its burial, but the text inscribed on it would have been used for public purposes. Archive copies were kept of important inscriptions and the Cylinder's text may likewise have been copied. In January 2010, the British Museum announced that two cuneiform tablets in its collection had been found to be inscribed with the same text as that on the Cyrus Cylinder, which, according to the Museum, "show that the text of the Cylinder was probably a proclamation that was widely distributed across the Persian Empire". A statue of the cylinder is now on exhibit in Los Angeles on avenue of the stars as a gift from the Persian people to the city of Los Angeles
The Cyrus Cylinder bears striking similarities to older Mesopotamian royal inscriptions. Two notable examples are the Cylinder of Marduk-apla-iddina II, who seized the Babylonian throne in 722/1 BC, and the annals of Sargon II of Assyria, who conquered Babylon twelve years later. As a conqueror, Marduk-apla-iddina faced many of the same problems of legitimacy that Cyrus did when he conquered Babylon. He declares himself to have been chosen personally by Marduk, who ensured his victory. When he took power, he performed the sacred rites and restored the sacred shrines. He states that he found a royal inscription placed in the temple foundations by an earlier Babylonian king, which he left undisturbed and honored. All of these claims also appear in Cyrus's Cylinder. Twelve years later, the Assyrian king Sargon II defeated and exiled Marduk-apla-iddina, taking up the kingship of Babylonia. Sargon's annals describe how he took on the duties of a Babylonian sovereign, honouring the gods, maintaining their temples and respecting and upholding the privileges of the urban elite. Again, Cyrus's Cylinder makes exactly the same points. Nabonidus, Cyrus's deposed predecessor as king of Babylon, commissioned foundation texts on clay cylinders – such as the Cylinder of Nabonidus, also in the British Museum – that follows the same basic formula.
The text of the Cylinder thus indicates a strong continuity with centuries of Babylonian tradition, as part of an established rhetoric advanced by conquerors. As Kuhrt puts it:
[The Cylinder] reflects the pressure that Babylonian citizens were able to bring to bear on the new royal claimant … In this context, the reign of the defeated predecessor was automatically described as bad and against the divine will – how else could he have been defeated? By implication, of course, all his acts became, inevitably and retrospectively, tainted.
The familiarity with long-established Babylonian tropes suggests that the Cylinder was authored by the Babylonian priests of Marduk, working at the behest of Cyrus. It can be compared with another work of around the same time, the Verse Account of Nabonidus, in which the former Babylonian ruler is excoriated as the enemy of the priests of Marduk and Cyrus is presented as the liberator of Babylon. Both works make a point of stressing Cyrus's qualifications as a king from a line of kings, in contrast to the non-royal ancestry of Nabonidus, who is described by the Cylinder as merely maţû, "insignificant".
The Verse Account is so similar to the Cyrus Cylinder inscription that the two texts have been dubbed an example of "literary dependence" – not the direct dependence of one upon the other, but mutual dependence upon a common source. This is characterised by the historian Morton Smith as "the propaganda put out in Babylonia by Cyrus's agents, shortly before Cyrus's conquest, to prepare the way of their lord". This viewpoint has been disputed; as Simon J. Sherwin of the University of Cambridge puts it, the Cyrus Cylinder and the Verse Account are "after the event" compositions which reuse existing Mesopotamian literary themes and do not need to be explained as the product of pre-conquest Persian propaganda.
The German historian Hanspeter Schaudig has identified a line on the Cylinder ("He [i.e. Marduk] saved his city Babylon from its oppression") with a line from tablet VI of the Babylonian "Epic of Creation", Enûma Eliš, in which Marduk builds Babylon. Johannes Haubold suggests that reference represents Cyrus's takeover as a moment of ultimate restoration not just of political and religious institutions, but of the cosmic order underpinning the universe.
The Cyrus Cylinder's vilification of Nabonidus is consistent with other Persian propaganda regarding the deposed king's rule. In contrast to the Cylinder's depiction of Nabonidus as an illegitimate ruler who ruined his country, the reign of Nabonidus was largely peaceful, he was recognised as a legitimate king and he undertook a variety of building projects and military campaigns commensurate with his claim to be "the king of Babylon, the universe, and the four corners [of the Earth]".
The Assyriologist Paul-Alain Beaulieu has interpreted Nabonidus's exaltation of the moon god Sin as "an outright usurpation of Marduk's prerogatives by the moon god". Although the Babylonian king continued to make rich offerings to Marduk, his greater devotion to Sin was unacceptable to the Babylonian priestly elite. Nabonidus came from the unfashionable north of Babylonia, introduced foreign gods and went into a lengthy self-imposed exile which was said to have prevented the celebration of the vital New Year festival. Cyrus's conquest of Babylonia was resisted by Nabonidus and his supporters, as the Battle of Opis demonstrated. Iranologist Pierre Briant comments that "it is doubtful that even before the fall of [Babylon] Cyrus was impatiently awaited by a population desperate for a 'liberator'." However, Cyrus's takeover as king does appear to have been welcomed by some of the Babylonian population. The Judaic historian Lisbeth S. Fried says that there is little evidence that the high-ranking priests of Babylonia during the Achaemenid period were Persians and characterises them as Babylonian collaborators.
The inscription goes on to describe Cyrus returning to their original sanctuaries the statues of the gods that Nabonidus had brought to the city before the Persian invasion. This restored the normal cultic order to the satisfaction of the priesthood. It alludes to temples being restored and deported groups being returned to their homelands but does not imply an empire-wide programme of restoration. Instead, it refers to specific areas in the border region between Babylonia and Persia, including sites that had been devastated by earlier Babylonian military campaigns. The Cylinder indicates that Cyrus sought to acquire the loyalty of the ravaged regions by funding reconstruction, the return of temple properties and the repatriation of the displaced populations. However, it is unclear how much actually changed on the ground; there is no archaeological evidence for any rebuilding or repairing of Mesopotamian temples during Cyrus's reign.
The text presents Cyrus as entering Babylon peacefully and being welcomed by the population as a liberator. This presents an implicit contrast with previous conquerors, notably the Assyrian rulers Tukulti-Ninurta I, who invaded and plundered Babylon in the 12th century BC, and Sennacherib, who did the same thing 150 years before Cyrus conquered the region. The massacre and enslavement of conquered people was common practice and was explicitly highlighted by conquerors in victory statements. The Cyrus Cylinder presents a very different message; Johannes Haubold notes that it portrays Cyrus's takeover as a harmonious moment of convergence between Babylonian and Persian history, not a natural disaster but the salvation of Babylonia.
However, the Cylinder's account of Cyrus's conquest clearly does not tell the whole story, as it suppresses any mention of the earlier conflict between the Persians and the Babylonians; Max Mallowan describes it as a "skilled work of tendentious history". The text omits the Battle of Opis, in which Cyrus's forces defeated and apparently massacred Nabonidus's army. Nor does it explain a two-week gap reported by the Nabonidus Chronicle between the Persian entry into Babylon and the surrender of the Esagila temple. Lisbeth S. Fried suggests that there may have been a siege or stand-off between the Persians and the temple's defenders and priests, about whose fate the Cylinder and Chronicle makes no mention. She speculates that they were killed or expelled by the Persians and replaced by more pro-Persian members of the Babylonian priestly elite. As Walton and Hill put it, the claim of a wholly peaceful takeover acclaimed by the people is "standard conqueror's rhetoric and may obscure other facts". Describing the claim of one's own armies being welcomed as liberators as "one of the great imperial fantasies", Bruce Lincoln, Professor of Divinity at the University of Chicago, notes that the Babylonian population repeatedly revolted against Persian rule in 522 BC, 521 BC, 484 BC and 482 BC (though not against Cyrus or his son Cambeses). The rebels sought to restore national independence and the line of native Babylonian kings – perhaps an indication that they were not as favourably disposed towards the Persians as the Cylinder suggests.
The Persians' policy towards their subject people, as described by the Cylinder, was traditionally viewed as an expression of tolerance, moderation and generosity "on a scale previously unknown". The policies of Cyrus toward subjugated nations have been contrasted to those of the Assyrians and Babylonians, who had treated subject peoples harshly; he permitted the resettling of those who had been previously deported and sponsored the reconstruction of religious buildings. Cyrus was often depicted positively in Western tradition by sources such as the Old Testament of the Bible and the Greek writers Herodotus and Xenophon. The Cyropaedia of Xenophon was particularly influential during the Renaissance when Cyrus was romanticised as an exemplary model of a virtuous and successful ruler.
Modern historians argue that while Cyrus's behavior was indeed conciliatory, it was driven by the needs of the Persian Empire, and was not an expression of personal tolerance per se. The empire was too large to be centrally directed; Cyrus followed a policy of using existing territorial units to implement a decentralized system of government. The magnanimity shown by Cyrus won him praise and gratitude from those he spared. The policy of toleration described by the Cylinder was thus, as biblical historian Rainer Albertz puts it, "an expression of conservative support for local regions to serve the political interests of the whole [empire]". Another biblical historian, Alberto Soggin, comments that it was more "a matter of practicality and economy … [as] it was simpler, and indeed cost less, to obtain the spontaneous collaboration of their subjects at a local level than to have to impose their sovereignty by force".
The Bible records that some Jews (who were exiled by the Babylonians), returned to their homeland from Babylon, where they had been settled by Nebuchadnezzar, to rebuild the temple following an edict from Cyrus. The Book of Ezra (1–4:5) provides a narrative account of the rebuilding project. Scholars have linked one particular passage from the Cylinder to the Old Testament account:
From [?] to Aššur and [from] Susa, Agade, Ešnunna, Zabban, Me-Turnu, Der, as far as the region of Gutium, the sacred centers on the other side of the Tigris, whose sanctuaries had been abandoned for a long time, I returned the images of the gods, who had resided there [i.e., in Babylon], to their places and I let them dwell in eternal abodes. I gathered all their inhabitants and returned to them their dwellings.
This passage has often been interpreted as a reference to the benign policy instituted by Cyrus of allowing exiled peoples, such as the Jews, to return to their original homelands. The Cylinder's inscription has been linked with the reproduction in the Book of Ezra of two texts that are claimed to be edicts issued by Cyrus concerning the repatriation of the Jews and the reconstruction of the Temple in Jerusalem. The two edicts (one in Hebrew and one in Aramaic) are substantially different in content and tone, leading some historians to argue that one or both may be a post hoc fabrication. The question of their authenticity remains unresolved, though it is widely believed that they do reflect some sort of Persian royal policy, albeit perhaps not one that was couched in the terms given in the text of the biblical edicts.
The dispute over the authenticity of the biblical edicts has prompted interest in this passage from the Cyrus Cylinder, specifically concerning the question of whether it indicates that Cyrus had a general policy of repatriating subject peoples and restoring their sanctuaries. The text of the Cylinder is very specific, listing places in Mesopotamia and the neighboring regions. It does not describe any general release or return of exiled communities but focuses on the return of Babylonian deities to their own home cities. It emphasises the re-establishment of local religious norms, reversing the alleged neglect of Nabonidus – a theme that Amélie Kuhrt describes as "a literary device used to underline the piety of Cyrus as opposed to the blasphemy of Nabonidus". She suggests that Cyrus had simply adopted a policy used by earlier Assyrian rulers of giving privileges to cities in key strategic or politically sensitive regions and that there was no general policy as such. Lester L. Grabbe, a historian of early Judaism, has written that "the religious policy of the Persians was not that different from the basic practice of the Assyrians and Babylonians before them" in tolerating – but not promoting – local cults, other than their own gods.
Cyrus may have seen Jerusalem, situated in a strategic location between Mesopotamia and Egypt, as worth patronising for political reasons. His Achaemenid successors generally supported indigenous cults in subject territories as an expression of their legitimacy as rulers, thereby currying favour with the cults' devotees. Conversely, the Persian kings could, and did, destroy the shrines of peoples who had rebelled against them, as happened at Miletos in 494 BC following the Ionian Revolt. Historian Ernst Badian has noted regarding the Ionian revolt "[that] Harpagus 'devastated' all of lower Asia (1.177) is obviously an exaggeration, for the Ionians soon returned to their trading activities."  The Persians evidently did give permission for its reconstruction, which would have been required given the circumstances of its destruction. However, the Cylinder's text does not describe any general policy of a return of exiles or mention any sanctuary outside Babylonia; the biblical historian Bob Becking concludes that "it has nothing to do with Judeans, Jews or Jerusalem." Peter Ross Bedford argues that the Cylinder "is thus not a manifesto for a general policy regarding indigenous cults and their worshippers throughout the empire". Kuhrt comments that "the purely Babylonian context of the Cylinder provides no proof" of the historicity of Cyrus's return of the Jewish exiles and the rebuilding of the Temple in Jerusalem, though Becking links this with the lack of any references to the Jews in surviving Achaemenid texts – an indication that the Persians seem not to have regarded them as being of any great importance.
The German scholar Josef Wiesehöfer summarizes the widely held traditional view by noting that "Many scholars have read into […] sentences [from the text of Cylinder] a confirmation of the Old Testament passages about the steps taken by Cyrus towards the erection of the Jerusalem temple and the repatriation of the Judaeans" and this interpretation was, according to Wiesehöfer, for some scholars a strict belief "that the instructions to this effect were actually provided in these very formulations of the Cyrus Cylinder".
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". 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.
The Cyrus Cylinder was dubbed the "first declaration of human rights" by the pre-Revolution Iranian government, a reading prominently advanced by Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi, in a 1967 book, The White Revolution of Iran. The Shah identified Cyrus as a key figure in government ideology and associated his government with the Achaemenids. He wrote that "the history of our empire began with the famous declaration of Cyrus, which, for its advocacy of humane principles, justice and liberty, must be considered one of the most remarkable documents in the history of mankind." The Shah described Cyrus as the first ruler in history to give his subjects "freedom of opinion and other basic rights". In 1968, the Shah opened the first United Nations Conference on Human Rights in Tehran by saying that the Cyrus Cylinder was the precursor to the modern Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
In his 1971 Nowruz (New Year) speech, the Shah declared that 1971 would be Cyrus the Great Year, during which a grand commemoration would be held to celebrate 2,500 years of Persian monarchy. It would serve as a showcase for a modern Iran in which the contributions that Iran had made to world civilization would be recognized. The main theme of the commemoration was the centrality of the monarchy within Iran's political system, associating the Shah of Iran with the famous monarchs of Persia's past, and with Cyrus in particular. 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".
The Cyrus Cylinder was adopted as the symbol for the commemoration, and Iranian magazines and journals published numerous articles about ancient Persian history. The British Museum loaned the original Cylinder to the Iranian government for the duration of the festivities; it was put on display at the Shahyad Monument (now the Azadi Tower) in Tehran. The 2,500 year celebrations commenced on October 12, 1971 and culminated a week later with a spectacular parade at the tomb of Cyrus in Pasargadae. On October 14, the shah's sister, Princess Ashraf Pahlavi, presented the United Nations Secretary General U Thant with a replica of the Cylinder. The princess asserted that "the heritage of Cyrus was the heritage of human understanding, tolerance, courage, compassion and, above all, human liberty". The Secretary General accepted the gift, linking the Cylinder with the efforts of the United Nations General Assembly to address "the question of Respect for Human Rights in Armed Conflict". Since then the replica Cylinder has been kept at the United Nations Headquarters in New York City on the second floor hallway. The United Nations continues to promote the cylinder as "an ancient declaration of human rights".
In September 2010, former Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad officially opened the Cyrus Cylinder exhibition at the National Museum of Iran. After the Pahlavi era, it was the second time the cylinder was brought to Iran. It was also its longest-running exhibition inside the country. Ahmadinejad considers the Cyrus Cylinder as the incarnation of human values and a cultural heritage for all humanity, and called it the "First Charter of Human Rights". The British Museum had loaned the Cyrus Cylinder to the National Museum of Iran for four months.
The Cylinder reads that everyone is entitled to freedom of thought and choice and all individuals should pay respect to one another. The historical charter also underscores the necessity of fighting oppression, defending the oppressed, respecting human dignity, and recognizing human rights. The Cyrus Cylinder bears testimony to the fact that the Iranian nation has always been the flag-bearer of justice, devotion and human values throughout history.
Some Iranian politicians such as MP Ali Motahari criticized Ahmadinejad for bringing the Cyrus Cylinder to Iran, although Tehran daily Kayhan, viewed as an ultra-conservative newspaper, had opined that the Islamic Republic should never have returned the Cyrus Cylinder to Britain:
There is an important question: Doesn't the cylinder belong to Iran? And hasn't the British government stolen ancient artifacts from our country? If the answers to these questions are positive, then why should we return this stolen historical and valuable work to the thieves?
At the time, the Curator of the National Museum of Iran, Azadeh Ardakani, reported approximately 48,000 visitors to the Cylinder exhibition, amongst whom over 2000 were foreigners, including foreign ambassadors.
The interpretation of the Cylinder as a "charter of human rights" has been described by some historians as "rather anachronistic" and tendentious. It has been dismissed as a "misunderstanding" and characterized as political propaganda devised by the Pahlavi regime. 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". 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.
Writing in the immediate aftermath of the Shah's anniversary commemorations, the British Museum's C.B.F. Walker comments that the "essential character of the Cyrus Cylinder [is not] a general declaration of human rights or religious toleration but simply a building inscription, in the Babylonian and Assyrian tradition, commemorating Cyrus's restoration of the city of Babylon and the worship of Marduk previously neglected by Nabonidus". Two professors specialising in the history of the ancient Near East, Bill T. Arnold and Piotr Michalowski, comment: "Generically, it belongs with other foundation deposit inscriptions; it is not an edict of any kind, nor does it provide any unusual human rights declaration as is sometimes claimed." Lloyd Llewellyn-Jones of the University of Edinburgh notes that "there is nothing in the text" that suggests the concept of human rights. Neil MacGregor comments:
Comparison by scholars in the British Museum with other similar texts, however, showed that rulers in ancient Iraq had been making comparable declarations upon succeeding to the [Babylonian] throne for two millennia before Cyrus […] it is one of the museum's tasks to resist the narrowing of the object's meaning and its appropriation to one political agenda.
He cautions that while the Cylinder is "clearly linked with the history of Iran," it is "in no real sense an Iranian document: it is part of a much larger history of the ancient Near East, of Mesopotamian kingship, and of the Jewish diaspora".
Some historians, as well as writers on human rights, have supported the interpretation of the Cyrus Cylinder as a human rights charter. W.J. Talbott, an American philosopher, believes the concept of human rights is a 20th-century concept but describes Cyrus as "perhaps the earliest known advocate of religious tolerance" and suggests that "ideas that led to the development of human rights are not limited to one cultural tradition." The Iranian lawyer Hirad Abtahi argues that viewing the Cylinder as merely "an instrument of legitimizing royal rule" is unjustified, as Cyrus issued the document and granted those rights when he was at the height of his power, with neither popular opposition nor visible external threat to force his hand. A former Iranian prime minister, Hassan Pirnia, writing in the early 20th century, characterizes the Cylinder as "discuss[ing] human rights in a way unique for the era, dealing with ways to protect the honor, prestige, and religious beliefs of all the nations dependent to Iran in those days".
The Cyrus Cylinder has been displayed in the British Museum since its formal acquisition in 1880. It has been loaned four times – twice to Iran, between 7–22 October 1971 in conjunction with the 2,500 year celebration of the Persian Empire and again from September–December 2010, once to Spain from March–June 2006, and once to the United States in a traveling exhibition from March–October 2013. Many replicas have been made. Some were distributed by the Shah following the 1971 commemorations, while the British Museum and National Museum of Iran have sold them commercially.
The British Museum's ownership of the Cyrus Cylinder has been the cause of some controversy in Iran, although the artifact was obtained legally and was not excavated on Iranian soil but on former Ottoman territory (modern Iraq). When it was loaned in 1971, the Iranian press campaigned for its transfer to Iranian ownership. The Cylinder was brought back to London without difficulty, but the British Museum's Board of Trustees subsequently decided that it would be "undesirable to make a further loan of the Cylinder to Iran."
In 2005–2006 the British Museum mounted a major exhibition on the Persian Empire, Forgotten Empire: the World of Ancient Persia. It was held in collaboration with the Iranian government, which loaned the British Museum a number of iconic artefacts in exchange for an undertaking that the Cyrus Cylinder would be loaned to the National Museum of Iran in return.
The planned loan of the Cylinder was postponed in October 2009 following the June 2009 Iranian presidential election so that the British Museum could be "assured that the situation in the country was suitable". In response, the Iranian government threatened to end cooperation with the British Museum if the Cylinder was not loaned within the following two months. This deadline was postponed despite appeals by the Iranian government but the Cylinder did eventually go on display in Tehran in September 2010 for a four-month period. The exhibition was very popular, attracting 48,000 people within the first ten days and about 500,000 people by the time it closed in January 2011. However, at its opening, Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad mingled Islamic Republican and ancient Persian symbology which commentators inside and outside Iran criticised as an overt appeal to religious nationalism.
On November 28, 2012, the BBC announced the first United States tour of the Cylinder. Under the headline “British Museum lends ancient 'bill of rights' cylinder to US”, Museum director Neil MacGregor declared that “The cylinder, often referred to as the first bill of human rights, ‘must be shared as widely as possible’". The British Museum itself announced the news in its press release, saying "First declaration of human rights’ to tour five cities in the United States". According to the British Museum's website for the Cylinder's US exhibition "CyrusCylinder2013.com", the tour started in March 2013 and included Washington DC’s Smithsonian's Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco and culminated at the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles, in October 2013.
The cylinder, along with thirty two other associated objects from the British Museum collection, including a pair of gold armlets from the Oxus Treasure and the Darius Seal, were part of an exhibition titled 'The Cyrus Cylinder and Ancient Persia – A New Beginning' at the Prince of Wales Museum in Mumbai, India, from December 21, 2013 to February 25, 2014. It was organised by the British Museum and the Prince of Wales Museum in partnership with Sir Dorabji Tata Trust, Sir Ratan Tata Trust and Navajbai Ratan Tata Trust, all set up by luminaries from the Parsi community, who are descendants of Persian Zoroastrians, who hold Cyrus in great regard, as many scholars consider him as a follower of Zoroastrianism.
The design of the Freedom Sculpture was created by artist and architect Cecil Balmond. It is themed on the Cyrus Cylinder from 2,500 years ago, which is sometimes considered the first declaration of human rights. It commemorates the declaration of Cyrus the Great, King of ancient Iran, granting individual and religious freedoms to those within his empire.
Iran is demanding that the British Museum pay $300,000 (£197,000) after it refused to hand over the Cyrus Cylinder—a cuneiform tablet regarded as the first declaration of human rights.
'The agreement has been made with our colleagues in Iran that we'll postpone the loan to investigate this exciting discovery with them,' said Hannah Boulton, head of press and marketing at the British Museum. 'That's the reason for the postponement.' […] Boulton said the latest postponement had no link to recent events.
For almost 100 years the Cylinder was regarded as ancient Mesopotamian propaganda. This changed in 1971 when the Shah of Iran used it as a central image in his own propaganda celebrating 2500 years of Iranian monarchy. In Iran, the Cylinder has appeared on coins, banknotes and stamps. Despite being a Babylonian document it has become part of Iran's cultural identity.
The 2,500 year celebration of the Persian Empire (Persian: جشنهای ۲۵۰۰ سالهٔ شاهنشاهی ایران), officially known as The 2,500th year of Foundation of Imperial State of Iran (Persian: دوهزار و پانصدمین سال بنیانگذاری شاهنشاهی ایران), consisted of an elaborate set of festivities that took place on 12–16 October 1971 to celebrate the anniversary of the founding of the Imperial State of Iran and the Achaemenid Empire by Cyrus the Great. The intent of the celebration was to demonstrate Iran's ancient civilization and history and to showcase its contemporary advances under His Imperial Majesty Mohammad Reza Shah, the last Shah of Iran.The extravagance of the celebrations was striking. Some later historians came to think that this excess had contributed to events that resulted in the Iranian Revolution and eventual replacement of the monarchy with an Islamic Republic under the Grand Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the leader of the revolution. He was supported by a wide range of people, including various Islamist and leftist organizations, and student movements.Abdul Majid Arfaei
Abdul Majid Arfaei (Persian: عبدالمجید ارفعی) (September 1, 1939) is an Iranian researcher and Elamitologist. He has finished translating 647 tablets, related to the era of Darius the Great, which were read by Richard Hallock. The works are included in the first volume of the series.
Richard Treadwell Hallock, Elamologist and Assyriologist, was a professor of Chicago University. The late professor, who read the bulk of the Persepolis Elamite tablets, died in 1980. Arfaei, the renowned expert of Elamite, Avestan and Pahlavi languages, is the founder of the Inscriptions Hall of Iran’s National Museum and has written a number of books on Iranian history. The Iranian expert has also translated more than 2,500 Persepolis inscriptions, which are housed at Chicago University. In Iran, the Cyrus Cylinder has been translated into Persian, by Arfaei for the first time.Battle of Opis
The Battle of Opis, fought in September 539 BC, was a major engagement between the armies of Persia under Cyrus the Great and the Neo-Babylonian Empire under Nabonidus during the Persian invasion of Mesopotamia. At the time, Babylonia was the last major power in western Asia that was not yet under Persian control. The battle was fought in or near the strategic riverside city of Opis, north of the capital Babylon. It resulted in a decisive victory for the Persians. A few days later, the city of Sippar surrendered to the Persians and Cyrus's forces entered Babylon apparently without a fight. Cyrus was subsequently proclaimed king of Babylonia and its subject territories, thus ending the independence of Babylon and incorporating the Babylonian Empire into the greater Persian Empire.Cyaxares II
Cyaxares II was said to be a king of the Medes whose reign is described by the Greek historian Xenophon. Some theories have equated this figure with the "Darius the Mede" named in the Book of Daniel. He is not mentioned in the histories of Herodotus or Ctesias, and many scholars doubt that he actually existed. The question of his existence impacts on whether the kingdom of the Medes merged peacefully with that of the Persians in about 537 BC, as narrated by Xenophon (8.6.22, 8.7.1), or was subjugated in the rebellion of the Persians against Cyrus' grandfather in 559 BC, a date derived from Herodotus (1.214) and almost universally accepted by current scholarship.Cyrus the Great
Cyrus II of Persia (Old Persian: 𐎤𐎢𐎽𐎢𐏁 Kūruš; Kourosh; New Persian: کوروش Kuruš; Hebrew: כורש, Modern: Kōréš, Tiberian: Kōréš; c. 600–530 BC), commonly known as Cyrus the Great, and also called Cyrus the Elder by the Greeks, was the founder of the Achaemenid Empire, the first Persian Empire. Under his rule, the empire embraced all the previous civilized states of the ancient Near East, expanded vastly and eventually conquered most of Western Asia and much of Central Asia. From the Mediterranean Sea and Hellespont in the west to the Indus River in the east, Cyrus the Great created the largest empire the world had yet seen. Under his successors, the empire eventually stretched at its maximum extent from parts of the Balkans (Bulgaria-Paeonia and Thrace-Macedonia) and Eastern Europe proper in the west, to the Indus Valley in the east. His regal titles in full were The Great King, King of Persia, King of Anshan, King of Media, King of Babylon, King of Sumer and Akkad, and King of the Four Corners of the World. The Nabonidus Chronicle notes the change in his title from simply "King of Anshan", a city, to "King of Persia". Assyriologist François Vallat wrote that "When Astyages marched against Cyrus, Cyrus is called ‘King of Anshan’, but when Cyrus crosses the Tigris on his way to Lydia, he is ‘King of Persia’. The coup therefore took place between these two events."The reign of Cyrus the Great lasted c. 30 years. Cyrus built his empire by first conquering the Median Empire, then the Lydian Empire, and eventually the Neo-Babylonian Empire. He led an expedition into Central Asia, which resulted in major campaigns that were described as having brought "into subjection every nation without exception". Cyrus did not venture into Egypt, and was alleged to have died in battle, fighting the Massagetae along the Syr Darya in December 530 BC. He was succeeded by his son, Cambyses II, who managed to conquer Egypt, Nubia, and Cyrenaica during his short rule.
Cyrus the Great respected the customs and religions of the lands he conquered. This became a very successful model for centralized administration and establishing a government working to the advantage and profit of its subjects. In fact, the administration of the empire through satraps and the vital principle of forming a government at Pasargadae were the works of Cyrus. What is sometimes referred to as the Edict of Restoration (actually two edicts) described in the Bible as being made by Cyrus the Great left a lasting legacy on the Jewish religion. According to the Jewish Bible (Christian Old Testament) (Isaiah 45:1), God anointed Cyrus for this task, even referring to him as messiah (lit. "His anointed one") and he is the only non-Jewish figure in the Bible to be called so.Cyrus the Great is also well recognized for his achievements in human rights, politics, and military strategy, as well as his influence on both Eastern and Western civilizations. Having originated from Persis, roughly corresponding to the modern Iranian province of Fars, Cyrus has played a crucial role in defining the national identity of modern Iran. The Achaemenid influence in the ancient world eventually would extend as far as Athens, where upper-class Athenians adopted aspects of the culture of the ruling class of Achaemenid Persian as their own.In the 1970s, the last Shah of Iran Mohammad Reza Pahlavi identified his famous proclamation inscribed onto the Cyrus Cylinder as the oldest known declaration of human rights, and the Cylinder has since been popularized as such. This view has been criticized by some historians as a misunderstanding of the Cylinder's generic nature as a traditional statement that new monarchs make at the beginning of their reign.Cyrus the Great in the Bible
Cyrus the Great (c. 600 or 576 – 530 BC) figures in the Hebrew Bible as the patron and deliverer of the Jews. He is mentioned 23 times by name and alluded to several times more. According to the Bible, Cyrus the Great, king of Persia, was the monarch under whom the Babylonian captivity ended. In the first year of his reign he was prompted by God to decree that the Temple in Jerusalem should be rebuilt and that such Jews as cared to might return to their land for this purpose. Moreover, he showed his interest in the project by sending back with them the sacred vessels which had been taken from the First Temple and a considerable sum of money with which to buy building materials. The existence of the decree has been challenged.Fall of Babylon
The Fall of Babylon denotes the end of the Neo-Babylonian Empire after it was conquered by the Achaemenid Empire in 539 BCE.
Nabonidus (Nabû-na'id, 556–539 BCE), son of the Assyrian priestess Adda-Guppi, came to the throne in 556 BCE, after overthrowing the young king Labashi-Marduk. For long periods he entrusted rule to his son, prince and coregent Belshazzar, who was a capable soldier, but a poor politician. All of this left him somewhat unpopular with many of his subjects, particularly the priesthood and the military class. To the east, the Achaemenid Empire had been growing in strength. In 539 BCE, Cyrus the Great invaded Babylonia, turning it into a colony of Achaemenid Persia. Cyrus then claimed to be the legitimate successor of the ancient Babylonian kings. As it turns out, Cyrus was very popular in Babylon itself, in contrast to Nabonidus.Farad Azima
Farad Azima is an Industrialist, technology entrepreneur and philanthropist. His postgraduate studies were at Leeds University until 1972, where he is an active alumnus. He has numerous international Patents in diverse areas of engineering.Foundation deposit
Foundation deposits are the archaeological remains of the ritual burial of materials under the foundations of buildings.
Examples of foundation depositsFreedom Sculpture
The Freedom Sculpture (Persian: تندیس آزادی) is a stainless steel gold and silver monument located on Santa Monica Boulevard in a publicly accessible median at Century City, Los Angeles, California.
The design of the Freedom Sculpture was created by artist and architect Cecil Balmond and commissioned by the Farhang Foundation. It is themed on the Cyrus Cylinder from 2,500 years ago, which is sometimes considered the first declaration of human rights. It commemorates the declaration of Cyrus the Great, King of ancient Iran, which some view as granting individual and religious freedoms to all those within his vast and culturally diverse empire.High Council for Human Rights
High Council for Human rights (Persian: ستاد حقوق بشر) is the governmental national human rights institution of Iran, subdivision to the Judiciary of Iran.King of Sumer and Akkad
King of Sumer and Akkad (Akkadian: šar māt Šumeri u Akkadi) was a royal title used in a succession of empires in ancient Mesopotamia. First introduced by Sargon of Akkad, founder of the Akkadian Empire and combining the title of King of Sumer with that of Sargon's own capital, Akkad, "King of Sumer and Akkad" was used for thousands of years to maintain an illusion of succcession and legitimacy relative to Sargon's empire and was the primary royal title of rulers claiming sovereignty over all of Mesopotamia.
During the Middle Assyrian and Neo-Assyrian period, the title also became a formal assertion of authority over the city of Babylon and its surroundings, whose rulers had used the title for nearly a thousand years since the reign of Hammurabi. Only those Assyrian rulers that actually controlled Babylon used the title and when Assyria lost control of it permanently to the Neo-Babylonian Empire, the rulers of that empire began using it instead. The final king to claim to be the King of Sumer and Akkad was Cyrus the Great of the Achaemenid Empire, who assumed several traditional Mesopotamian titles after his conquest of Babylon in 539 BC.King of the Four Corners
King of the Four Corners of the World (Akkadian: šarru kibrat 'arbaim, šar kibrāti arba'i or šar kibrāt erbetti), often shortened to simply King of the Four Corners, was a title of great prestige claimed by powerful monarchs in ancient Mesopotamia. Though the term "four corners of the world" does refer to specific geographical places within and near Mesopotamia itself, these places were at the time the title was first used thought to represent locations near the actual edges of the world and as such, the title should be interpreted as something equivalent to "King of all the known world", a claim to universal rule over the entire world and everything within it.
The title was first used by Naram-Sin of the Akkadian Empire in the 23rd century BC and was later used by the rulers of the Neo-Sumerian Empire after which it fell into disuse. After this point, the title came to mostly be used by Assyrian rulers, becoming especially prominent during the Neo-Assyrian Empire. The final ruler to claim the title was the first Persian Achaemenid king, Cyrus the Great, after his conquest of Babylon in 539 BC.
It is possible, at least among Assyrian rulers, that the title of King of the Four Corners was not inherited through normal means. As the title isn't attested for all Neo-Assyrian kings and for some only attested several years into their reign it is possible that it might have had to be earned by each king individually, possibly through completing successful military campaigns in all four points of the compass. The similar title of šar kiššatim ("King of Everything" or "King of the Universe"), also with Akkadian origins and attested for some of the Neo-Assyrian kings, may have required seven successful military campaigns. The difference between the exact meaning of the two titles may have been that "King of the Universe" laid claim to the cosmological realm whereas "King of the Four Corners of the World" laid claim to the terrestrial.Nabonidus
Nabonidus (; Akkadian: 𒀭𒀝𒉎𒌇 dNabû-naʾid, "Nabu is praised") was the last king of the Neo-Babylonian Empire, reigning from 556–539 BC. He seized power in a coup, toppling King Labashi-Marduk. He also angered the priests and commoners of Babylon by neglecting the city’s chief god, Marduk, and elevating the moon god, Sin, to the highest status. In fact, Nabonidus left the capital for ten years to build and restore temples – mostly to Sin – leaving his son, Belshazzar, in charge. While leading excavations for the restoration effort, he initiated the world’s first archaeological work.
Meanwhile, the Persian Achaemenid Empire to the east, led by Cyrus the Great, had been gaining strength. King Cyrus had become popular among the residents of Babylon by posing as the one who would restore Marduk to his rightful place in the city. As the Persians advanced to Babylon, Nabonidus returned. He was captured by the Persians in 539 BC and Babylon was occupied, thus ending the Neo-Babylonian Empire. Cyrus was welcomed into the city, where he performed the rites of Marduk. Nabonidus’ fate is uncertain, though it is believed he was exiled to Iran and allowed to occupy a government post.Printing
Printing is a process for reproducing text and images using a master form or template. The earliest non-paper products involving printing include cylinder seals and objects such as the Cyrus Cylinder and the Cylinders of Nabonidus. The earliest known form of printing as applied to paper was woodblock printing, which appeared in China before 220 AD. Later developments in printing technology include the movable type invented by Bi Sheng around 1040 AD and the printing press invented by Johannes Gutenberg in the 15th century. The technology of printing played a key role in the development of the Renaissance and the scientific revolution, and laid the material basis for the modern knowledge-based economy and the spread of learning to the masses.Return to Zion
The return to Zion (Hebrew: שִׁיבָת צִיּוֹן, Shivat Tzion, or שבי ציון, Shavei Tzion, lit. Zion returnees) refers to the event in the biblical books of Ezra-Nehemiah in which the Jews returned to the Land of Israel from the Babylonian exile following the decree by the emperor Cyrus the Great, the conqueror of the Neo-Babylonian Empire in 539 BCE, also known as Cyrus's edict. The term was first coined after the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE.The biblical meaning of the return to Zion, aliyah, was borrowed later from the ancient event and was adopted as the definition of all the immigrations of Jews to the Land of Israel and the State of Israel in modern times. The period between the return to Zion and the modern one consisted of several attempts of small groups to immigrate to the Land of Israel, and this period could be roughly divided into two categories: one for the aliyah during the Middle Ages and during the period of Renaissance, and the other for the Aliyah during the modern era (18th century and at the beginning of the 19th century).
The modern aliyah began in the midst of the 19th century, to Jaffa, of the followers of Yehuda Bibas and Judah Alkalai, known as the "Herald of Zionism" (מבשרי הציונות) pioneers of modern Zionism, and up to the rest of the aliyot (plural of aliyah) made after the establishment of the modern State of Israel.Shahrokh Razmjou
Shahrokh Razmjou is an Iranian archaeologist and historian, specializing in Achaemenid Archaeology and History. He received his Ph.D in Achaemenid Archaeology at the University of London. He established the Inscriptions Hall (1998-9) and the Centre for Achaemenid Studies (2001) at the National Museum of Iran. He was curator of Ancient Iran in the Department of the Middle East, British Museum (2009-2012) and during this time, he produced a new updated translation of the text on the Cyrus Cylinder from Babylonian to Persian. He also excavated the ancient man-made caves of Niyasar, Kashan. He is currently teaching at the Department of Archaeology, University of Tehran.Teispids
Teispids (descendants of Teispes) (ca. mid-7th century BC- 522 BC) were an Iron Age dynasty originally ruling southern Zagros, in ancient Anshan. The dynasty’s realm was later expanded under Cyrus II who conquered a vast area in southwestern Asia, later happened to be known as Achaemenid Empire under Darius I.
The titulary of Teispids is recorded in Cyrus Cylinder, in which Cyrus II identifies himself and his ancestors with the title King of Anshan, as an Elamite tradition. Teispes being the eponymous ancestor and founder, the dynasty furthermore included Cyrus I, Cambyses I, Cyrus II, Cambyses II and Bardiya.Umman Manda
Umman Manda (Akkadian for the horde from who knows where) is a term used in the early second and first millennia BC for a poorly known people in the Ancient Near East. They have been identified in different contexts as Hurrians, Elamites, Medes, Cimmerians, and Scythians. The homeland of Umman Manda seems to be somewhere from Central Anatolia to north or northeastern Babylonia in what later came to be known as Mitanni, Mannae and Media, respectively.
Zaluti, whose name seems to have an Indo-Iranian etymology, is mentioned as a leader of Ummanda Manda. He is even suggested to be identified with Salitis the founder of the Hyksos, the Fifteenth dynasty of Egypt.The principal literary source is the so-called Cuthaean Legend of Naram-Sin, a composition that deals with the third-millennium BC king of Agade (Akkad) Naram-Sin and his struggles against the Umman-manda. As a literary topos, the Umman-manda represent a socio-cultural phenomenon with a strong theological basis: The Umman-manda are created by the gods and called forth from their homeland on the northeastern frontier of Mesopotamia by the chief god, be it Enlil, Marduk, or Aššur, for some particular work of destruction; since this destruction is divinely ordained, human beings are powerless to stop it, and in fact are enjoined against interfering; when the destruction is completed, the gods themselves will destroy the Umman-manda. In the literary topos, the Umman-manda is the enemy of civilization. The question of who the original Umman-manda were remains a mystery. The Cyrus Cylinder however, states that the Umman-manda were subdued by Cyrus the Great, and therefore made part of the Achaemenid Empire just before he captured Babylon in 539 BC. According to the Cyrus Cylinder: "Cyrus, king of Anšan [...] made the land of Gutium and all the Umman-manda bow in submission at his feet."In the first millennium BC, the term denoted Cimmerians and/or Medes.