The Cyrus Cylinder is an ancient clay cylinder, from the 6th century BC, on which is written a declaration in cuneiform script in the name of Persia’s King Cyrus the Great. It describes the king’s capture of Babylon in 539 BC and how he restored temples in major cities and returned deported people to their homes. The text on the Cylinder praises Cyrus for his peaceful and just rule, and due to these precepts, this historical object has been claimed to be an early version of ‘charter of human right’.
The text on the Cylinder praises Cyrus by setting out his genealogy and portrays him as a King from a line of Kings. Cyrus is described as having been chosen by the 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 praises Cyrus as a benefactor of the citizens of Babylonia who improved their lives, repatriated displaced people and restored temples and cult sanctuaries across the region.
The Cylinder was discovered in the ruins of Babylon in Mesopotamia (modern Iraq) in 1879. It was created and used for the ritual burial ceremony in which cylinders or foundation nails with texts, were buried under the foundations of an important building at the start of a building project. The building program followed the Persian conquest of Babylon in 539 BC when the Neo-Babylonian Empire was invaded by Cyrus and incorporated into his Persian Empire. The Cylinder’s text has been seen by biblical scholars as evidence of the repatriation of the Jewish people following their Babylonian captivity, a deed that the Book of Ezra attributes to Cyrus.
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