The Cyrus Cylinder is an ancient artifact also known as Rarman-e-Kourosh and the 'Cyrus the Great Cylinder' was inscribed in Babylonia upon the capture of the city by Cyrus the Great (559-530 BCE) The inscription is in cuneiform on a clay cylinder about the same size as a football. It was issued by Cyrus the Great and is the first declaration of human rights in the world and was a fundamental influence on our founding father, Thomas Jefferson.
The cylinder has been shipped on loan from the British Museum to the United States for a year long tour of five cities beginning this month at the Smithsonian's Arthur M. Sackler Gallery in Washington, DC. Following the exhibit in Washington, the display will travel to the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; the Asian Art Museum, San Francisco and will conclude at the J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Villa Los Angeles in October
“I am Cyrus, king of the universe, the great king, the powerful king, king of Babylon, king of Sumer and Akkad, king of the four quarters of the world.”The Persian King granted freedom of worship and abolished forced labor. He also encouraged all exiled people to return to their homelands which seems to confirm a story from the Bible's Old Testament Book of Chronicles and Book of Ezra describing how Cyrus released all captives including Jews who returned to Jerusalem to build the second temple.
It is not an exaggeration to state that this is one of the most precious historical records of the world. This ancient document has often been called the world's first universal declaration of human rights. In 1971 the United Nations published a translation of the document in all of the official U.N. languages.
The Greek historian, Xenophon, contemporary of Socrates, wrote his book, "Cyropaedia" about the philosophies of Cyrus who ruled with tolerance over a region of such rich and diverse cultures. A copy of "Cyropaedia" is part of the exhibit on loan from the British Museum. This book, a bilingual Greek and Latin version published in Europe in 1767, is one of the two copies of Cyropaedia belonging to Thomas Jefferson that is currently held at the Library of Congress.
The book became popular during the Enlightenment among political thinkers in Europe and America, including those who drafted the US Constitution in 1787. Accoding to Massumeh Farhad, director of the Freer and Sackler Galleries, Jefferson not only studied the book in detail, but also advised his family to read it. Ms Farhad said Jefferson in a letter had asked his grandson to study Cyropaedia.
"He wrote. 'when you start learning Greek, the first book you should read is Cyropaedia,'" Ms Farhad said.When the cylinder was shown in 2010 and 2011 in Iran, it drew at least half a million visitors. Before this current tour the artifact has only been shown in Tehran, Barcelona and London.