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The Cyrus Cylinder


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Table of Contents

List of Illustrations Preface Intoduction 1. The Cyrus Cylinder: The Babylonian Perspective 2. The Cyrus Cylinder: Discovery 3. The Cyrus Cylinder: Display and Replica 4. The Cyrus Cylinder: the creation of an icon and its loan to Tehran 5. The Cyrus Cylinder: a Persian perspective Afterword Appendix: Transliteration of the Cyrus Cylinder text References Index

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The unearthing in today's Iraq (in 1879) of a clay cylinder-shaped decree from Cyrus the Great, founder of the Achaemenid dynasty of Persia, stands in the same tradition of game-changing discoveries from antiquity as Hammurabi's famous law code or the intact tomb of the boy-king Tutankhamun.

About the Author

I L Finkel is Assistant Keeper of Ancient Mesopotamian Script, Languages and Cultures in the Department of the Middle East at the British Museum. He is co-author (with M J Seymour) of Babylon: Myth and Reality (2008), and editor of Ancient Board Games in Perspective (2007).


The Cyrus Cylinder represents a very significant addition to existing studies of this iconic object, which only seems to grow in stature with the passage of time. With reference to Irving Finkel's observations, it is of great interest to learn that the text existed in more than one format. That is to say that two newly identified fragments from a conventional tablet show that Cyrus' exceptional message was not only written on barrel-shaped cylinders that were intended for interment in the foundations of major structures, but that it was also written on large flat tablets that were very possibly intended for public display. In line with certain statements in the Book of Ezra, this finding could also lend new authority to a supposition that Cyrus issued separate proclamations addressed to separate components of the population of Babylon. David Stronach, OBE, Professor Emeritus of Near Eastern Archaeology, University of California, Berkeley The Cyrus Cylinder is one of the most important records of antiquity, from the greatest of the near eastern empires: the Achaemenid Persian. The Cylinder is fascinating for the story of its discovery, its reconstruction and later history, even its forgery on Chinese bone. This presentation of it by several experts, fully illustrated and in colour, offers a great deal for any reader engaged by how we reconstruct antiquity, as well as for dedicated scholars. Sir John Boardman, FBA, Emeritus Lincoln Professor of Classical Art and Archaeology, University of Oxford Few ancient testimonies have had as fascinating a history or as controversial an interpretation as Cyrus's building inscription from Babylon. The more it is used as a historical source and/or a political tool, the more grateful we are not only to have an edition of the text based on state-of-the-art research but also reliable information on the historical background of Cyrus's message and on the history of the artefact itself. Josef Wiesehofer, Professor of Ancient History, Kiel University

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