Dr. Mosi Dorbayani: The Cyrus Cylinder

The article below on the Cyrus Cylinder has been written by Dr. Mosi Dorbayani of The World Academy of Arts, Literature and Media – WAALM  which was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize of 2011.

 Dr. Dorbayani’s article first appeared in the Human Rights Evolution website.

Note also that (in what can be termed as a ground-breaking finding), two fossilised horse bones with cuneiform inscriptions have been discovered in China. What makes these finds remarkable is the fact one of these has been carved with elements of the Cyrus the Great Cylinder (Read more…).

For more articl;es and perspectives on this topic, readers may wish to consult: the Cyrus the Great & the Cyrus Cylinder link. 

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The First Human Rights Charter  

The Cyrus Cylinder is the first charter of right of nations in the world. It is a baked-clay cylinder in Akkadian language with cuneiform script. This cylinder was excavated in 1879 by the Assyro-British archaeologist Hormuzd Rassam in the foundations of the Esagila (the Marduk temple of Babylon) and is kept today in the British Museum in London.   On October 12 (Julian calendar; October 7 by the Gregorian calendar) 539 BC, Achaemanid army without any conflict entered the city of Babylon. Cyrus the Great himself, on October 29, entered the city, assuming the titles of “king of Babylon, king of Sumer and Akkad, king of the four corners of the world”. Cyrus The Great, on this cylinder, describes how he conquers the old city of  Babylon and how his mighty army in peace marched into the city and mentions his decrees. 

Cyrus Cylinder housed at the British Museum. 

His decrees cover three main premises:

  • The political formulization of racial, linguistic, and religious equality;
  • Saves and all deported peoples were to be allowed to return to home;
  • All destroyed temples were to be restored. [1]The Cyrus Cylinder then was placed under the walls of Esagila” as a foundation deposit, following a Mesopotamian tradition.  Passages in the text of cylinder have been interpreted as expressing Cyrus’ respect for humanity, and as promoting a form of religious tolerance and freedom; and as result of his generous and humane policies, Cyrus gained the overwhelming support of his subjects. 

Cyrus the Great as portrayed by the late Angus McBride.

In 1971, the Cyrus Cylinder was described as the world’s first charter of human rights, [1, 2, 3, 4] and it was translated into all six official U.N. languages. [4] A replica of the cylinder is kept at the United Nations Headquarters in New York City in the second floor hallway, between the Security Council and the Economic and Social Council chambers. [5]

 The size of Cyrus Cylinder is 23 cm long, 11 cm wide with 40+ lines of writing (although broken) and it is dated 539 BCE.

Translation of Cyrus Cylinder

  Transliteration
(Rogers 1912: 380-84)
Translation
(Adapted from Rogers 1912: 380-84)
1 [. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .]-ni-Šu [. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .] his troops
2 [. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .]-ki-ib-ra-tim [. . . . . . . . . . . . four] quarters of the world
3 [. . .]-ka gal ma tu-û i Š -Šak-na a-na e-nu-tu ma-ti- Šu [. . .] a weakling was established as ruler over his land
4 Ši-[. . . . . . . . . . ta-am]-Ši-li ú- Ša-aŠ-ki-na si-ru-Š u-un and [. . . . .] a similar one he appointed over them,
5 ta-am-Ši-li É-sag-ila i-te-[. . . . . . -ti]m a-na Uriki ù si-it-ta-tim ma-ha-za like Esagila he made [. . .] to Ur and the rest of the cities,
6 pa-ra-as la si-ma-a-ti- Šu-nu ta-[. . . . . l]i û-mi- Šá-am-ma id-di-ni-ib-bu-ub ù ana na-ak-ri-tim a command dishonouring them [. . . . .] he planned daily and in enmity,
7 sat-tuk-ku ù-Šab-ti-li ú-ad-[di . . . . . . ] -tak-ka-an ki-rib ma-ha-zi pa-la-ha iluMarduk Šar ilâni [Šá]-qi- Še a-Šu-uŠ- Šu he caused the daily offering to cease; he appointed [. . .] he established within the city. The worship of Marduk, king of the gods [ . . . ]
8 li-mu-ut-ti ali-Šu [i-te]-ni-ip-pu-uŠ &ucirc-mi- Šá-am-ma na-[. . . . niŠe ] i-na ab-Ša-a-ni la ta-ap-Š ú-úh -tim ú-hal-li-iq kul-lat-si-in he showed hostility toward his city daily
[. . .] his people; he brought all of them to ruin through servitude without rest.
9 a-na ta-zi-im-ti-Ši-na iluEllil lililani iz-zi-iŠ i-gu-ug-ma [. . .] ki-su-úr-Šú-un ilâni a- Ši-ib lib-bi-Š ú-nu i-zi-bu ad-ma-an- Šú-un On account of their complaints, the lords of the gods became furiously angry and left their land; the gods, who dwelt among them, left their homes,
10 i-na ug-ga-ti Šá ú- Še-ri-bi a-na ki-rib Babili ilu Marduk ti-[. . . .] li-sa-ah-ra a-na nap-har da-ád-mi Šá in-na-du-ú Šú-bat-su-un in anger over his bringing into Babylon. Marduk [. . .] to all the dwelling places, which had become ruins,
11 ù niŠe mât Šú-me-ri ù Ak-ka-dikiŠ a i-mu-ú Ša-lam-ta-aŠ ú-sa-ah-hi-ir ka- [. . . .]– Ši ir-ta-Š i ta-a-a-ra kul-lat ma-ta-a-ta ka-li- Ši-na i-h i-it ib-ri-e-Šu and the people of Sumer and Akkad, who were like corpses [. . . .] he turned and granted mercy. In all lands everywhere
12 iŠ-te-’-e-ma ma-al-ki i- Ša-ru bi-bil lib-bi Šá it-ta-ma-a h qa-tu-uŠ-Šú m Ku-ra-aŠŠar ali An- Šá-an it-ta-bi ni-bi-it-su a-na ma-li-ku-tim kul-la-ta nap- h ar iz-zak-ra Šú-[ma- Š u] he searched; he looked through them and sought a righteous prince after his own heart, whom he took by the hand. He called Cyrus, king of Anshan, by name; he appointed him to lordship over the whole world.
13 mâtQu-ti-i gi-mir Um-man Man-da ú-ka-an-ni- Ša a-na Š e-pi-Šu ni Še sal-mat qaqqaduduŠa ú- Š á-ak-Ši-du ka-ta-a-Šu The land of Qutu, all the Umman-manda, he cast down at his feet. The black-headed people, whom he gave his hands to conquer,
14 i-na ki-it-tim ú mi-Š a-ru iŠ-te-ni-’e-Ši-na-a-tim iluMarduk belu rabu ta-ru-ú niŠ e- Šu ip-Še-e-ti Šá dam-qa-a-ta ù lib-ba-Šú i-Šá-ra ha-di-i Š ip-pa-al-li-is he took them in justice and righteousness. Marduk, the great lord, looked joyously on the caring for his people, on his pious works and his righteous heart.
15 a-na ali-Šú Bab-ilani ki a-la-ak-Šú ik-bi ú- Š a-as-bi-it-su-ma har-ra-nu Babili ki-ma ib-ri ú tap-pi-e it-tal-la-ka i-da-a-Šu To his city, Babylon, he caused him to go; he made him take the road to Babylon, going as a friend and companion at his side.
16 um-ma-ni-Šu rap- Ša-a-tim Šá ki-ma me-e nari la &uacute-ta-ad-du-ú ni-ba-Š&uacute-un kakke-Š ú-nu sa-an-du-ma i-Šá-ad-di- ha i-da-a- Šú His numerous troops, in unknown numbers, like the waters of a river, marched armed at his side.
17 ba-lu qab-li ù ta-ha-zi ú- Še-ri-ba-aŠ ki-rib Babili ala- Šú Bab-ilaniki i-ti-ir i-na Š ap-Šá-ki m, iluNabu-na’id Šarru la pa-li-hi-Š ú ú-ma-al-la-a qa-tu-u Š- Šu Without battle and conflict, he permitted him to enter Babylon. He spared his city, Babylon, a calamity. Nabonidus, the king, who did not fear him, he delivered into his hand.
18 niŠe Babili ka-li- Šú-nu nap-har mâtŠ ú-me-ri u Ak-ka-diki ru-bi-e ù Š ak-ka-nak-ka Šá-pal-Š ú ik-mi-sa ú-na-aŠ -Š i-qu Še-pu-u Š- Šú ih-du-ú a-na Š arru-ú-ti- Šú im-mi-ru pa-nu-uŠ – Šú-un All the people of Babylon, Sumer, and Akkad, princes and governors, fell down before him and kissed his feet. They rejoiced in his sovereignty; their faces shone.
19 be-lu Šá i-na tu-kul-ti- Šá ú-bal-li-tu mi-tu-ta-an i-na bu-ta-qu ú pa-ki-e ig-mi-lu kul-la-ta-an ta-bi-iŠ ik-ta-ar-ra-bu- Šu iŠ-tam-ma-ru zi-ki-ir-Š ú The lord, who by his power brings the dead to life, who amid destruction and injury had protected them, they joyously blessed him, honoring his name.
20 a-na-ku mKu-ra-aŠ Šar kiŠ-Š at Šarru rabu Šarru dan-nu Š ar Babili Šar mât Š ú-me-ri ú Ak-ka-di Šar kib-ra-a-ti ir-bit-tim I am Cyrus, king of the world, the great king, the powerful king, king of Babylon, king of Sumer and Akkad, king of the four quarters of the world,
21 mar mKa-am-bu-zi-ia Šarru rabu Šar alu An-Š á-an mar mari mKu-ra-aŠ Šarru rabu Šar alu An-Š á-an ŠA.BAL.BAL m Š i-iŠ-pi-iŠ Š arru rabu Šar alu An-Š a-an son of Cambyses, the great king, king of the city of Anshan, grandson of Cyrus, the great king, king of the city of Anshan; great-grandson of Teispes, the great king, king of the city of Anshan;
22 ziru da-ru-ú Ša Šarru-ú-tu Ša iluBel u ilu Nabu ir-a-mu pa-la-a-Š ú a-na tu-ub lib-bi- Šú-nu i h-Ši-ha Šarru-ut-su e-nu-ma a-na ki-rib Babili e-ru-bu sa-li-mi-i Š eternal seed of royalty whose rule Bel and Nabu love, in whose administration they rejoice in their heart. When I made my triumphal entrance into Babylon,
23 i-na ul-si ù ri- Š á-a-tim i-na ekal ma-al-ki ar-ma-a Š ú-bat be-lu-tim iluMarduk belu rabu lib-bi ri-it-pa- Š ú Šá mare Babili ú . . . an-ni-ma û-mi- Šam a-Š e-’-a pa-la-ah- Šú I took up my lordly residence in the royal palace with joy and rejoicing; Marduk, the great lord, moved the noble heart of the residents of Babylon to me, while I gave daily attention to his worship.
24 um-ma-ni-ia rap-Ša-tim i-na ki-rib Babili i-Šá-ad-di-ha Šú-ul-ma-niŠ nap-har mat [ Šu-me-ri] ù Akkadiki mu-gal-[l]i-tim ul ú- Šar-Ši My numerous troops marched peacefully into Babylon. In all Sumer and Akkad I permitted no enemy to enter.
25 dannat Babili ù kul-lat ma-ha-zi- Šu i-na Šà-li-im-tim a Š -te-’-e mare Babi[li . . .] ki ma-la lib-[. . .]-ma ab- Š a-a-ni la si-ma-ti-Šu-nu Š ú-bat-su-un The needs of Babylon and of all its cities I gladly attended to. The people of Babylon [and . . .], and the shameful yoke was removed from them. Their dwellings,
26 an-hu-ut-su-un ú-pa-a Š -Ši-ha ú-Š á-ap-ti-ir sa-ar-ba- Šu-nu a-na ip- Še-e-ti-[ia] iluMarduk belu rabu ú-ih-di-e-ma which had fallen, I restored. I cleared out their ruins. Marduk, the great lord, rejoiced in my pious deeds, and
27 a-na ia-a-ti mKu-ra-a ŠŠarru pa-li-ih-Š u ù mKa-am-bu-zi-ia mari si-it lib-bi-[ia ù a]-na nap- har um-ma-ni-ia graciously blessed me, Cyrus, the king who worships him, and Cambyses, my own son, and all my troops,
28 da-am-ki-iŠ ik-ru-ub-ma i-na Ša-lim-tim ma-har-Š a ta-bi-iŠ ni-it-ta-[‘-id i-lu-ti- Šu] sir-ti nap-har Šarri a- Ši-ib parakke while we, before him, joyously praised his exalted godhead. All the kings dwelling in palaces,
29 Ša ka-li-i Š kib-ra-a-ta iŠ-tu tam-tim e-li-tim a-di tam-tim Šap-li-tim a-Ši-ib kul-[. . . .] Šar-ra-ni mati A-mur-ri-i a- Ši-ib kuŠ-ta-ri ka-li-Š u-un of all the quarters of the earth, from the Upper to the Lower sea dwelling [. . .] all the kings of the Westland dwelling in tents
30 bi-lat-su-nu ka-bi-it-tim ú-bi-lu-nim-ma ki-ir-ba Babili ú-na-aŠ-Š i-qu Še-pu-ú-a iŠ-tu [. . . .] a-di alu A ŠŠurki ù Šu-Š anki brought me their heavy tribute, and in Babylon kissed my feet. From [. . .] to Asshur and Susa,
31 A-ga-deki mâtu E Š -nu-nak aluZa-am-ba-an aluMe-túr-nu Deriki a-di pa-at mât Qu-ti-i ma-ha-za [ Šá e-bir]-ti nâruDiqlat Š á i Š-tu ap-na-ma na-du-ú Šú-bat-su-un Agade, Eshnunak, Zamban, Meturnu, Deri, with the territory of the land of Qutu, the cities on the other side of the Tigris, whose sites were of ancient foundation—
32 ilâni a-Ši-ib lib-bi- Šu-nu a-na aŠ-ri-Šú-nu ú-tir-ma ú-Šar-ma-a Š ú-bat da-er-a-ta kul-lat niŠe- Šu-nu ú-pa-ah -hi-ra-am-ma ú-te-ir da-ád-mi- Šu-un the gods, who resided in them, I brought back to their places, and caused them to dwell in a residence for all time
33 ù ilâni mât Šú-me-ri ù AkkadikiŠ á m, iluNabu-na’id a-na ug-ga-tim bel ilâni ú- Še-ri-bi a-na ki-rib Babili i-na ki-bi-ti iluMarduk belu rabû i-na Š á-li-im-tim And the gods of Sumer and Akkad—whom Nabonidus, to the anger of the lord of the gods, had brought into Babylon—by the command of Marduk, the great lord,
34 i-na maŠ-ta-ki- Šu-nu ú-Še-Ši-ib Šú-ba-at tu-ub lib-bi kul-la-ta ilâni Š a ú-Še-ri-bi a-na ki-ir-bi ma-ha-zi- Šu-un I caused them to take up their dwelling in residences that gladdened the heart. May all the gods, whom I brought into their cities,
35 û-mi-Ša-am ma- h ar iluBel ù iluNabu Š a a-ra-ku ume-ia li-ta-mu-ú lit-taŠ-ka-ru a-ma-a-ta du-un-ki-ia ù a-na iluMarduk beli-ia li-iq-bu-ú Ša mKu-ra-aŠ Šarri pa-li- hi-ka u mKa-am-bu-zi-ia mari- Šu pray daily before Bêl and Nabû for long life for me, and may they speak a gracious word for me and say to Marduk, my lord, “May Cyrus, the king who worships you, and Cambyses, his son,
36 da [. . .] ib-Šu-nu lu-ú [. . .] ka-li-Ši-na Š ú-ub-ti ni-ih-tim ú-Še- Ši-ib [. . .] paspase u TU.KIR.HU [. . .] their [. . .] I permitted all to dwell in peace [. . .]

The above translation of Cyrus the Great Cylinder is the courtesy of K. C. Hanson’s HomePage.

The West Wall in Jerusalem. After his conquest of Babylon, Cyrus allowed Jewish captives in Babylon to return to Israel and rebuild the Hebrew temple. It is believed that approximately 40,000 Jews permanently returned to Israel.

Below is the latest translation of the text by the British Musuem:

[When …] … [… wor]ld quarters […] … a low person was put in charge of his country, but he set [a (…) counter]feit over them. He ma[de] a counterfeit of Esagil [and …] … for Ur and the rest of the cult-cities. Rites inappropriate to them, [impure] fo[od- offerings …] [dis]respectful […] were daily gabbled, and, intolerably, he brought the daily offerings to a halt; he inter[fered with the rites and] instituted […] within the sanctuaries. In his mind, reverential fear of Marduk, king of the gods, ca[me to an e]nd. He did yet more evil to his city every day; … his [people…], he brought ruin on them all by a yoke without relief.

Enlil-of-the-gods became extremely angry at their complaints, and […] their territory. The gods who lived within them left their shrines, angry that he had made them enter into Babylon (Shuanna). Ex[alted Marduk, Enlil-of-the-Go]ds, relented. He changed his mind about all the settlements whose sanctuaries were in ruins and the population of the land of Sumer and Akkad who had become like corpses, and took pity on them. He inspected and checked all the countries, seeking for the upright king of his choice. He took under his hand Cyrus, king of the city of Anshan, and called him by his name, proclaiming him aloud for the kingship over all of everything. He made the land of the Qutu and all the Medean troops prostrate themselves at his feet, while he looked out in justice and righteousness for the black-headed people whom he had put under his care.

Marduk, the great lord, who nurtures his people, saw with pleasure his fine deeds and true heart and ordered that he should go to his city, Babylon. He had him take the road to Tintir, and, like a friend and companion, he walked at his side. His vast troops whose number, like the water in a river, could not be counted, marched fully-armed at his side. He had him enter without fighting or battle right into Shuanna; he saved his city Babylon from hardship. He handed over to him Nabonidus, the king who did not fear him. All the people of Tintir, of all Sumer and Akkad, nobles and governors, bowed down before him and kissed his feet, rejoicing over his kingship and their faces shone. The lord through whose trust all were rescued from death and who saved them all from distress and hardship, they blessed him sweetly and praised his name.

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, son of Cambyses, the great king,, king of the city of Anshan, grandson of Cyrus, the great king, ki[ng of the ci]ty of Anshan, descendant of Teispes, the great king, king of Anshan, the perpetual seed of kingship, whose reign Bel and Nabu love, and with whose kingship, to their joy, they concern themselves.

When I went as harbinger of peace i[nt]o Babylon I founded my sovereign residence within the royal palace amid celebration and rejoicing. Marduk, the great lord, bestowed on me as my destiny the great magnanimity of one who loves Babylon, and I every day sought him out in awe. My vast troops marched peaceably in Babylon, and the whole of [Sumer] and Akkad had nothing to fear. I sought the welfare of the city of Babylon and all its sanctuaries. As for the population of Babylon […, w]ho as if without div[ine intention] had endured a yoke not decreed for them, I soothed their weariness, I freed them from their bonds(?). Marduk, the great lord, rejoiced at [my good] deeds, and he pronounced a sweet blessing over me, Cyrus, the king who fears him, and over Cambyses, the son [my] issue, [and over] my all my troops, that we might proceed further at his exalted [command]. All kings who sit on thrones, from every quarter, from the Upper Sea to the Lower Sea, those who inhabit [remote distric]ts (and) the kings of the land of Amurru who live in tents, all of them, brought their weighty tribute into Shuanna, and kissed my feet.

From [Shuanna] I sent back to their places to the city of Ashur and Susa, Akkad, the land of Eshnunna, the city of Zamban, the city of Meturnu, Der, as far as the border of the land of Qutu – the sanctuaries across the river Tigris – whose shrines had earlier become dilapidated, the gods who lived therein, and made permanent sanctuaries for them. I collected together all of their people and returned them to their settlements, and the gods of the land of Sumer and Akkad which Nabonidus – to the fury of the lord of the gods – had brought into Shuanna, at the command of Marduk, the great lord, I returned them unharmed to their cells, in the sanctuaries that make them happy.

May all the gods that I returned to their sanctuaries, every day before Marduk and Nabu, ask for a long life for me, and mention my good deeds, and say to Marduk, my lord, this: “Cyrus, the king who fears you, and Cambyses his son, may their … […] […….].” The population of Babylon call blessings on my kingship, and I have enabled all the lands to live in peace. Every day I copiously supplied [… ge]ese, two ducks and ten pigeons more than the geese, ducks and pigeons […]. I sought out to strengthen the guard on the wall Imgur-Enlil, the great wall of Babylon, and […] the quay of baked brick on the bank of the moat which an earlier king had bu[ilt but not com]pleted, [I …] its work. [… which did not surround the city] outside, which no earlier king had built, his troops, the levee from [his land, in/to] Shuanna. [… with bitume]n and baked brick I built anew, and [completed its wor]k. […] great [doors of cedarwood] with copper cladding. [I installed all] their doors, threshold sla[bs and door fittings with copper par]ts. […] I s[aw within it] an inscription of Ashurbanipal, a king who preceded me, […] … […] … [… for] ever.

The above translation of Cyrus the Great Cylinder is the courtesy of Dr.Finkel and the British Museum’s homepage.

On 14 October 1971, Princess Ashraf Pahlavi, sister of Muhammad Reza Pahlavi the Shah (King) of Iran (Persia) (Reign: 26 September 1941 – 11 February 1979) presented the United Nations Secretary General U Thant with a replica of The Cyrus Cylinder. The princess asserted that “the heritage of Cyrus the Great 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 has been kept at the United Nations Headquarters in New York City on the second floor hallway,and the text has been translated into all six official U.N. languages. 

A replica of the Cyrus Cylinder at the United Nations Headquarters in New York City. Translations of the cuneiform text are also displayed in English, Persian and French. The United Nations clearly promotes the Cyrus Cylinder as the “…first human rights document…” (see UN Human Rights Day December 10, 2008).

Notes

Esagila: the temple of Marduk
Marduk: the patron god of Babylon
King of Anshan: a small kingdom in what is now southern Iran
land of Qutu:  a region in the Zagros mountains along what is now the border between Iran and Iraq
Nabonidus: the last Neo-Babylonian king (reigned 556-539 BCE)
Cambyses: Cyrus’s son and successor, who reigned c. 530-523 BCE
Bêl: an epithet of the god Marduk (see Jeremiah 50:2; 51:44)
Nabu: the Babylonian god of writing and wisdom (see Isaiah 46:1)

Footnotes

1. Kaveh Farrokh, Shadows in the Desert: Ancient Persia at War, History, Page 44, 2007.

2. Arthur Henry Robertson and J. G. Merrills, Human Rights in the World: An Introduction to the Study of the International, Political Science, Page 7, 1996.

3. Paul Gordon Lauren, The Evolution of International Human Rights: Visions Seen, Political Science, Page 11, 2003.

4. Xenophon and Larry Hedrick, Xenophon’s Cyrus the Great: The Arts of Leadership and War, History, Page xiii, 2007.

5. United Nations Press Release (SG/SM/1553/HQ263), 14 October 1971.

Discovery of Chinese bones bearing Inscriptions of Cyrus the Great

In what can be termed as a ground-breaking finding, two fossilised horse bones with cuneiform inscriptions have been discovered in China. What makes these finds remarkable is the fact one of these has been carved with elements of the Cyrus the Great Cylinder. These findings were report by London’s  Art Newspaper, Iran’s Tabnak News, and the London-based CAIS (Circle of Ancient Iranian Studies).

                          

The Cyrus Cylinder, dated to 539 BC and written in Akkadian cuneiform script, now in the British Museum. This is considered to be the world’s first Human Rights document, as recognized by the United Nations. The Cyrus Cylinder was first discovered  by Hormuz Rassam (Assyrian-British archaeologist) in the Esagila’s structures (Babylon’s primary temple) in 1879.

Cyrus the Great was the founder of the Achaemenid Empire and issued his proclamation in 539 BC, following his conquest of Babylon. The Cyrus Cylinder tabulated Cyrus the Great’s humanist policies:

(1)  Cyrus’ role in improving the lives and welfare of Babylon’s citizens

(2) Repatriation of forcibly deported peoples to their original homelands

(3) Restoration of temples and places of worship

(4) Denouncement of the former ruler of Babylon, Nabonidus, as wicked, in contrast to Cyrus who is described as favoured by Marduk, the prime god of Babylon. Cyrus in fact, prostrated himself in front of Marduk when he peacefully entered Babylon city.

The Chinese bones were first believed to be fakes, as the probability of such finds showing up in China seemed…fantastic. This view has now been revised by Professor Irving Finkel of the British Museum (BM) who believes that these are indeed authentic.

Original Discovery

In reality, knowledge of the Chinese bones is nothing new. The bones were originally presented by Xue Shenwei to Beijing’s Palace Museum (in the Forbidden City) as far back as 1983. The museum’s specialists told Xue that the script was indeed cuneiform and not ancient Chinese. Xue donated the bones to the Museum in 1985 and died the following year. Dr. Wu Yuhong of the museum discovered in 1987 that the cuneiform inscription of first bone was indeed from the Cyrus Cylinder – the script on the second one was not identified.

                   

A view of the Palace Museum-Forbidden City, in Beijing. The bones with the Cyrus inscriptions were first presented by Xue Shenwei to the Palace Museum’s specialists in as 1983. It has taken decades for these discoveries to surface in mainstream Western and Iranian historiography.

The British Museum

It was in January 2010 when Professor Finkel examined the available photographs from the two Chinese bones, to check to see if these were authentic. Finkel concluded that these were indeed authentic and also discovered that the second bone had cuneiform inscriptions from the Cyrus cylinder. Recall that the Chinese Museum had not discovered this in 1987. Professor Finkel then contacted his Chinese counterparts for more information.

                                                         

Professor Finkel of the British Museum supports the authenticity of the Chinese bones bearing cuneiform inscriptions that parallel the Cyrus Cylinder.

Dr. Yushu Gong, Chinese Assyriologist, closely examined the bones in the Museum. He carefully rubbed black wax on paper upon the inscription for recording purposes. This provides a clearer image of the script than that currently seen in available photographs. Dr. Yushu then bought these to the British Museum in London and provided a workshop on June 23-24, 2010. The findings were generally received positively but there was also lingering scepticism among some experts in the audience.

Professor Finkel, who finds the evidence “completely compelling” has discovered that:

(1) The texts have fewer than one in every 20 of the Cyrus text’s cuneiform signs transcribed, but they are in the correct order.

(2) The Chinese version of the cuneiform is linguistically correct but its “style” of writing is slightly different from the original cuneiform. Finkel has noted that the signs’ wedge-like strokes from the Babylonian version but are similar to the ones used by writers in ancient Iran.  

Finkel also notes that:

 “The text used by the copier on the bones was not the Cyrus Cylinder, but another version, probably originally written in Persia, rather than Babylon…”

Finkel further avers that the Persian version may have been:

(1) Written on leather with ink

(2) Inscribed on a tablet of clay

(3) Inscribed on stone

Iranian Archaeologists: Advising Caution and Further Study

Nevertheless, Dr. Kamyar Abdi, an Iranian archaeologist, has urged caution and more studies before arriving at any definitive conclusions. Dr. Abdi told the Persian service of CHN that:

We should wait patiently for in-depth studies by experts on ancient languages and other laboratory research to confirm the genuineness of the objects…If the objects are proven authentic, the discovery will begin to transform our knowledge about relations between the Near East, especially the Achaemenid Dynastic Empire (550-330 BCE), and China during the first millennium, in particular during the Eastern Zhou Dynasty (770-221 BC)… The Cyrus Cylinder had undoubtedly been important for the people living under the Achaemenid Empire, but, if the objects are proved authentic, the first question would be how the Cyrus the Great’ text had been transferred to China and why the text was important enough for the Chinese to copy it.”

For further information on this perspective consult Payvand news of Iran.

                                             Dr. Kamyar Abdi - CS Fullerton (March 18, 2006)  by QH

Iranian archaeologist Dr. Kamyar Abdi at Fullerton in 2006. Dr. Abdi, editor of the Iranian journal of Archaeology and History, has also looked at the Chinese finds with interest but urges further study by a wider panel of experts. He has affirmed that, should the findings be proven unanimously authentic, then an entire chapter of history would need to be revisited.

Shapur Suren Pahlav of CAIS notes that there are four reasons militating against the possibility of the Chinese finds being forgeries.

First of all a charlatan would have to find fossilized horse bones, which has never before been used in fake artefacts.

Second, the aforementioned Xue Shenwei, who was a traditional Chinese doctor,mentioned that he had known of the bones as far back as 1928. He purchased the first bone in 1935 and the second one five years later in 1940. Xue, who knew the sellers, purchased the bones thinking that they were written in an unknown ancient script, presumably from China. It is very fortunate that Xue hid these from the authorities in 1966, during Mao-ist China’s “Cultural Revolution”. Chinese academics who have investigated the late Xue’s account have verified it as genuine.

Recall that Xue had acquired the bones in 1935 and 1940. How could a Chinese forger have known of the contents of the Cyrus Cylinder at that time? Knowledge of this artefact only became known from the early 1970s

The third problem is why would a Charlatan only carve one in twenty characters? This would identification of the supposed “forgery” even more difficult.  

Fourth, what would be the purpose of the Charlatan selling the bones in China where no lucrative market for such items would have existed at the time?

Why are these findings so Significant?

This discovery is of profound significance.  The common assumption by mainstream historiography has been that the Cyrus Cylinder was:

(1) A unique ceremonial object  

(2) Not widely spread beyond Babylon where it was inscribed

But both of these assumptions are now challenged. In fact, these findings are strongly suggestive that the contents of the Cyrus Cylinder:

(1) Were not simply “ceremonial”

(2) Were widely disseminated and copied, far beyond the borders of the Achaemenid Empire. Most likely the Chinese bones were based on documents that arrived in China during or shortly after the reign of Cyrus the Great. Note that Professor Finkel supports the notion that the bones were copied from an original source from ancient Iran, but it remains unclear as to when the actual copying was done.

These findings certainly push back the known history of Sino-Persian relations to the Achaemenid era. This means that Chinese-Iranian relations go back much earlier than has been generally believed.

Interestingly, these highly significant findings have not been widely publicized in the mainstream media or historiography; these findings were first announced in early August 2010.

President Harry S. Truman: “I am Cyrus”

The article below originally composed on Kavehfarrokh.com on August 17, 2010, has been re-posted on February 14, 2017 due to the contemporary state of tumultuous international politics at the time of writing. This posting endeavors to highlight the 2500 year-old legacy of Cyrus the Great, founder of  the Achaemenid Empire. Cyrus the Great built bridges between peoples and languages, endorsed cultural diversity and valued religious freedom. This resulted in the creation of the world’s first multi-lingual and multi-cultural empire. It is a remarkable fact that the founding fathers of the American Republic in 1776, who would write the US Constitution as we know it today, were fully cognizant of Cyrus’ legacy of benevolent governance 2500 years past. These lessons of history highlight the need to construct bonds of understanding between peoples, cultures and religions.

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Cyrus II the Great (c. 590-530 BC) was the Achaemenid King of ancient Iran who liberated the Jews from their 70-year captivity after he overthrew the Babylonian Empire in 539 B.C. Cyrus ensured that the Jews would be able to return to Jerusalem.

Cyrus subsidized the Jewish revival at Jerusalem from state funds, a process that continued through his Achaemenid successors. The Jerusalem Temple and city walls were rebuilt.

With the fall of the Achaemenids in 333-323 BC came over 2500 years of sufferring for the Jews.  Throughout their trials and tribulations in history, Jews have always looked to Cyrus as the symbol of the righteous gentile ruler who was also their saviour. Cyrus’ legacy would be evoked by name in the twentieth century, shortly after the Second Workd War.

Just months after he left the office of the President of the United States in November 1953, Harry S. Truman made made a remarkable statement to a number of Jewish dignitaries in New York’s Jewish Theological Seminary. Truman’s long-time associate, Eddie Jacobson, introduced Truman to the jewish dignataries stating  “This is the man who helped create the State of Israel” .”Truman then exclaimed:

What do you mean, ‘helped to create’? I am Cyrus. I am Cyrus“. Links: http://www.christianitytoday.com/ch/2008/issue99/7.30.html, http://www.hyperhistory.net/apwh/bios/b4trumanharry.htm#end4

Harry S Truman

Harry S. Truman (1884-1972) who was President of the United States in 1945-1953. Not only did he acknowledge the legacy of Cyrus the Great in liberating the Jews from their Babylonian captivity, he also stood up against Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin, who tried to absorb Iran’s Azarbaijan province into the Soviet Union.

The following quotes  from the 2nd Isaiah (also known as the Deutero-Isaiah) clealry shows how the Jews regard Cyrus (note the consistency with chapters 40-55 of the book of Isaiah). Below are a few quotes:

‘I am the Lord, who makes all things, Who stretches out the heavens all alone, Who spreads abroad the earth by Myself; (44.25)…Who says of Cyrus, “He is My shepherd, And he shall perform all My pleasure, saying to Jerusalem, ‘You shall be built,’ and to the temple, ‘Your foundation shall be laid…(45.1) Thus says the Lord to His anointed [Messiah] to Cyrus -whose right hand I have held…(45.2)…For Jacob My servant’s sake, and Israel My elect, I have even called you by your name; I have named you, though you have not known Me.

 

The West Wall in Jerusalem. After his conquest of Babylon, Cyrus allowed the Jewish captives to return to Israel and rebuild the Hebrew temple. It is believed that approximately 40,000 did permanently return to Israel. President Truman in his support for the Jews in the twentieth century, evoked the name of Cyrus. 

The following quotes are from the Book of Ezra which discuss the Cyrus’ decree supporting the Jews to rebuild their temple:

(1.1) In the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, in order to fulfill the word of the Lord spoken by Jeremiah, the Lord moved the heart of Cyrus king of Persia to make a proclamation throughout his realm and put it in writing:

(1.2) ‘This is what Cyrus king of Persia says: The Lord, the God of Heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth and has appointed me to build a temple for him at Jerusalem in Judah. (1.3) Anyone of his people among you – may his God be with him, and let him go up to Jerusalem in Judah and build the temple of the Lord, the God of Israel, the God who is in Jerusalem. (1.4) … provide them with silver and gold, with goods and livestock, and with freewill offerings for the temple of God in Jerusalem.’

The Greeks, including Alexander (356-323 BC), were very favorable in their citations of Cyrus the Great. The Greeks in fact had written a complete Encyclopedia of Cyrus known as the Cyropedia of Xenophon.

Xenophon (431-355 BC) wrote a compendium of Cyrus, known as the Cyropedia. The Cyropaedia has been consulted as a standard reference of just statesmanship by a number of prominent western leaders in history. 

Cyrus also ordered that sacred objects forcibly taken from the Jerusalem Temple to be handed back to the Jews:

(1.5) Then the family heads of Judah and Benjamin, and the priests and Levites -everyone whose heart God had moved- prepared to go up and build the house of the Lord in Jerusalem. … (1.7) Moreover, king Cyrus brought out the articles belonging to the temple of the Lord, which Nebuchadnezzar had carried away from Jerusalem and had placed in the temple of his god [i.e., Marduk]. (1.8) Cyrus king of Persia had them brought by Mithradates the treasurer, who counted them out to Sheshbazzar the prince of Judah.

The Cyropedia has also endured the test of time and is with us to this day. It was certainly known to the Romans who respected it, including Scipio Africanus (236-183 BC) who always had a copy of the Cyropedia (consult the introduction of Cawkwell, G. L., The Persian Expedition, Penguin Classics, 1972 ) and even history’s most famous Roman, Julius Caesar (100-44 BC).

Many European thinkers, centuries after the fall of Rome, consulted the Cyropedia. One example being the British empiricist philosopher John Locke (1632-1704). Locke who studied the Cyropaedia, had many parallels between his enlightenment philosophies and elements Zoroastrian philosophy.

The Cyropaedia was also known and referenced by the founding fathers of the United States. One example of this is President Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826) who possessed two personal copies of the Cyropedia.

President Thomas Jefferson of the United States of America. Like many of the founding fathers and those who wrote the US Constitution, President Jefferson regularly consulted the Cyropedia – an encyclopedia written by the ancient Greeks about Cyrus the Great. The two personal copies of Thomas Jefferson’s Cyropaedia are in the US Library of Congress in Washington DC.  Thomas Jefferson’s initials “TJ” are seen clearly engraved at the bottom of each page. 

The late Professor A.J. Arberry has summed up the legacy of Cyrus the Great:

The government [of the Achaemenids] was markedly tolerant, and the religions and customs of the many subject peoples were carefully considered and often fostered in their own countries by the kings…”  [A.J. Arberry, The legacy of Persia.  Oxford: The Clarendon Press, 1953, p.8].

Cyrus the Great (c. 590-530 BC) as reconstructed by the late Angus McBride and Tim Newark. Cyrus’ legacy has been praised  in Judaeo-Christian, Mesopotamian, Greco-Roman and European sources.