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 The Cyrus Cylinder

The Cyrus Cylinder and Ancient Persia

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The Cyrus Cylinder, discovered in 1879 during a British Museum expedition to Babylon, encapsulates the grandeur and complexities of ancient Persia under the reign of Cyrus the Great. Crafted over two millennia ago, this small barrel-shaped artifact, adorned with cuneiform inscriptions, serves as a tangible link to a pivotal moment in history. 

Cyrus, hailed as the founder of the Persian Empire, rose to prominence through military conquests and diplomatic prowess. His clash with the Babylonian empire culminated in the fall of Babylon in 539 BC., an event prophesied by the Jewish prophet Daniel. The Cylinder itself bears witness to Cyrus' proclamation, written in Babylonian cuneiform, justifying his conquest and extending clemency to Babylonian captives. 

Beyond its historical significance, the Cyrus Cylinder embodies enduring themes of liberation and multiculturalism. Cyrus' decree to release the Jewish captives reverberates through millennia, symbolizing the restoration of Jerusalem and reshaping Jewish identity. Moreover, the Persian Empire's tolerance of diverse cultures and religions laid the foundation for a multicultural society, evident in its administrative practices and artistic achievements. 

Despite being a relic of antiquity, the Cyrus Cylinder remains relevant in contemporary discourse. Its journey from archaeological artifact to political symbol reflects the evolving narratives of identity and power in the Middle East. As debates over history and heritage unfold, the silent eloquence of the Cylinder continues to speak volumes about the shared legacies of humanity. 

Top image:  The Cyrus Cylinder. Source:  Prioryman/CC BY-SA 3.0 

By Robbie Mitchell 

Robbie Mitchell's picture


I’m a graduate of History and Literature from The University of Manchester in England and a total history geek. Since a young age, I’ve been obsessed with history. The weirder the better. I spend my days working as a freelance... Read More

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