Cyrus the Great artifact ready for show
By The Associated Press
Published: Thursday, March 7, 2013, 9:48 p.m.
WASHINGTON — A nearly 2,600-year-old clay cylinder described as the world's first human rights declaration is being shown for the first time in the United States.
The Cyrus Cylinder from ancient Babylon will be displayed beginning Saturday at the Smithsonian's Sackler Gallery. It will be in Washington through April 28, on loan from the British Museum. A yearlong U.S. tour will follow, with exhibitions planned in Houston, New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles.
The cylinder carries an account, written in cuneiform, of how Persian King Cyrus conquered Babylon in 539 B.C. and would allow freedom of worship and abolish forced labor. The account also confirms a story from the Bible's Old Testament, describing how Cyrus released people held captive to go back to their homes, including the Jews' return to Jerusalem to build the Temple.
The cylinder was buried under a foundation wall of the city of Babylon. It's long been held as a model of good governance for a vast, multicultural society, and it made Cyrus famous from accounts in the Bible and writings by Greek authors. When the cylinder was discovered on a British expedition in modern-day Iraq in 1879, it was considered the first physical evidence of the biblical account.
“It's the first evidence we have of people reflecting on how you run a society of diversity, without just forcing uniformity,” British Museum Director Neil MacGregor said. “The big question is: How can you manage a state that doesn't have one faith?”
The museum pairs the football-size cylinder with other artifacts from Cyrus' era to show how the Persian empire grew to span many religions, languages and cultures, its borders stretching from China to Egypt and the Balkans. It includes seals showing the king's authority, Persian coins, and religious symbols in gold and silver.
Also on view are two pieces of a flat tablet with matching words from the cylinder, showing it was published as a proclamation. The pieces were discovered in the British Museum's collection in 2009.
The cylinder carries ongoing relevance in the world today, Sackler Gallery Director Julian Raby said. “Here is a document that in its time declared a new way of ruling ... in which diversity was respected within a culture,” he said.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Deputy accused of illegal stops
- California man named as bitcoin creator denies involvement
- Accuser takes stand during court-martial
- ‘Holy grail of guitars’ for sale in April auction
- Kansas public school funding unconstitutional
- Nuke plant safety improving, watchdog says — with cautions
- El Nino could bring relief to U.S.
- Miranda read to sex assault accuser, 14
- Border Patrol ordered to stop shooting at vehicles
- Sex-crimes prosecutor accused in groping
- Tenn. homicide suspect shot mom in 2004