The Cyrus Cylinder (539 B.C.)
There was a year 539 BC when Cyrus The Great celebrated his victory in the conquest of Babylon, and the fall of the Neo-Babilonian empire. That day Cyrus The Great extended his dominion as the first King of the Ancient Empire of Persia. If his victory was important that year, more important was his first action after taking the power of the new extension of his empire. His action was a remarkable event for the humanity in those days and it continues talking loud today.
There was not his victorious conquering what catapulted him to the top spot of the human history, but the written decrees ordering the liberation of all the slaves under the Babilonian empire. This action was a benchmark for his conquest over the enemies. The end of the Babilonian empire was predicted by the biblical figure and Jewish Prophet Daniel the night when the King Belshazzar was celebrating a feast with the utensils taken from the Jewish Temple and a misterious writing appearance in the wall of the palace. The translation of that writing by Prophet Daniel was; “you have been weighed in the balance, you’ve been found wanting and your kingdom will be given to the Medes and the Persians”. Few days later Cyrus The Great King of Persia was conquering Babylon. That day was the beginning to the end of 70 years of captivity for the Jewish people under the Babylonian regime. Interestingly, that liberation was also predicted almost a century before by another Jewish Prophet Isaiah (Isaiah 44:28) in which the name of Cyrus was pronounced by the prophets decades before.
Discovered in 1879 by a British Museum expedition to Babylon, now in modern Iraq, the Cyrus Cylinder is the most important finding for the history of the Human Rights and the evidence of how the history of different people (humanly enemies) was intermingled and preserved in order to give us an important piece of human right lesson. The King’s decree were written in the Akkadian language on a banked-clay cylinder, that is known as the Cyrus Cylinder. It is the most antiquated piece of evidence of written human rights by a governmental organization. This piece of archeology has been recognized as the first charting of human rights, has been translated to six official languages, and it’s a provisiorial parallel to the first four Articles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Starting in Babylon, the conception of human rights was spread to India, the Hellenistic empire, and later to the Romans.
The Cyrus Cylinder was used as a symbolic monument for the conquest of Babylon, and the written text on it praises Cyrus adventure, his genealogy and portraits him as the leading king from a line of kings, the Achaemenid king Cyrus the Great. But the must important of the Cyrus Cylinder scriptures is the recognition of the rights of people to live free and to pocess their own lands.
This story have a great importance in the establishment of Jews after their liberation from Babylon, the reconstruction of the second temple, the renaissance of the freedom to practice again the cult in Israel. David Ben-Gurion wrote – ‘Cyrus displayed a spirit of charity towards his adversaries, a unique tolerance towards all religions, he Cyrus played a decisive role in the first return to Zion”.
The Cyrus model of governmental approach has been followed throughout generations. Greek historian Xenophon was responsible for the dissemination of Cyrus model and his book Cyropaedia was really about how to run an empire with Cyrus as the model. This book was a popular reference during the Renaissance in Europe and between our founders fathers in United States. There is a general knowledge that Jefferson had a few copies of Xenophon’s ‘Life of Cyrus’ and referred to it regularly, so there’s a very direct link between the Cyrus Cylinder and the making of the United States.
In 2010 the Cyrus Cylinder was exhibited in Tehran and was seen by Muslims, Christians, Zoroastrians, Jews and about half a million people. It was like the influence of it symbolism of unity among the humanity should be possible despite the differences of religious beliefs and conscience.