Cyrus Cylinder back in Iran

A small clay object with scratches decipherable by only a few people in the world can nevertheless still move nations. Sometimes called “the first charter of human rights,” this text inscribed on a cylinder of clay comes from Cyrus II, founder of the Persian Empire and called “messiah” by the biblical prophet Isaiah. It dates back to the sixth century BCE. Cyrus’ extraordinary power and leadership (characteristis that are not always found together) earned him the moniker “the Great.” And now, his most famous declaration has made its way back to Iran for a four month visit. The journey has not been without controversy, since the turmoil of Iran’s recent elections made the British Museum reluctant to release it. The parties resolved matters, and John Curtis, of the British Museum’s curator of the Middle East collection personally escorted the cylinder to Tehran where it will be proudly displayed, a statement recognizing the integrity and freedom of all kinds of people within a greater national community. Ahmadinejad welcomed it as illustration of the importance Iran has given to fighting oppression and recognizing the dignity and rights of all people. My thanks to Dr. Jamsheed Choksy for bringing this news to my attention!

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