The Cyrus the Great Cylinder

The Cyrus the Great Cylinder is the first charter of right of nations in the world. It is a baked-clay cyliner 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.

Cyrus the Great Cylinder, The First Charter of Rights of Nations

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; his claim that he entered the city peacefully supports the same statement in the Chronicle of Nabonidus. The last king of Babylon, Nabonidus, is considered a tyrant with odd religious ideas, which causes Marduk, patron deity of the city of Babylon to intervene. Cyrus considers himself chosen by a supreme god, is confirmed by Second Isaiah, the chapters 40-55 of the Biblical book of Isaiah. The Cyrus Cylinder then was placed under the walls of “Esagila” as a foundation deposit, following a Mesopotamian tradition.

Cyrus The Great Cylinder, in the British Museum, London

There were three main premises in the decrees of the Cyrus Cylinder: the political formulization of racial, linguistic, and religious equality, slaves and all deported peoples were to be allowed to return to home; and all destroyed temples were to be restored.[1]

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]

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.[6]

The Cyrus Cylinder is not the only reason that the Cyrus legacy is admired. According to Professor Richard Frye[7]:

“In short, the figure of Cyrus has survived throughout history as more than a great man who founded an empire. He became the epitome of the great qualities expected of a ruler in antiquity, and he assumed heroic features as a conqueror who was tolerant and magnanimous as well as brave and daring. His personality as seen by the Greeks influenced them and Alexander the Great, and, as the tradition was transmitted by the Romans, may be considered to influence our thinking even now.”

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.

(Rogers 1912: 380-84)
(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-ahhi-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-ahhi-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 [. . .]
This translation of Cyrus the Great Cylinder is the courtesy of K. C. Hanson’s HomePage.

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