Cylinder of Cyrus the
Babylonian, about 539-530 BC
From Babylon, southern Iraq
A declaration of good
This clay cylinder is inscribed in Babylonian cuneiform with
an account by
Cyrus the Great, king of Persia (559-530 BC) of his conquest of
Babylon in 539 BC and capture of Nabonidus, the last Babylonian king.
Cyrus claims to have achieved this with the aid of Marduk,
the god of Babylon. He then describes measures of relief he brought to the
inhabitants of the city, and tells how he returned a number of images of
gods, which Nabonidus had collected in Babylon, to their proper temples
throughout Mesopotamia and western Iran.
At the same time he arranged for the restoration of these temples, and
organized the return to their homelands of a number of people who had been
held in Babylonia by the Babylonian kings.
Although the Jews are not mentioned in this document,
their return to Palestine following their deportation by Nebuchadnezzar
II, was part of this policy.
This cylinder has sometimes been described as the
'first charter of human rights', but it in fact reflects
a long tradition in Mesopotamia where, from as early as the third
millennium BC, kings began their reigns with declarations of reforms.
Length: 22.86 cm