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Cyrus Charter of Human Rights

From Academic Kids

After his easy victory over Babylonia, described in the Cyrus Cylinder, a masterpiece of diplomatic propaganda mixed with deep political wisdom, the Achaemenid Persian Cyrus the Great presented himself not as a conqueror, but a liberator, a restorer of the right religion (of Marduk) and the legitimate successor to the crown. He took the title of "King of Babylon and King of the Lands". Cyrus had no thought of forcing conquered people into a single mould, and had the sense not to change the institutions of each kingdom, but rather attached them to the Persian crown. In 537 BC he allowed more than 40,000 Jews to leave Babylon and return to Palestine.

He also declared the first Charter of Human Rights known to mankind, which is written on the clay cylinder now at the British Museum.

The following is a translation of part of the cuneiform script on the original cylinder. Although sections of the cylinder have been destroyed through time, the principal message of Cyrus' Declaration is readily apparent.

Source text

I am Cyrus, king of the world, great king, mighty king, king of Babylon, king of the land of Sumer and Akkad, king of the four quarters, son of Cambyses, great king, king of Anshan, grandson of Cyrus, great king, king of Anshan, descendant of Teispes, great king, king of Anshan, progeny of an unending royal line, whose rule Bel and Nabu cherish, whose kingship they desire for their hearts' pleasures.
When I, well-disposed, entered Babylon, I established the seat of government in the royal palace amidst jubilation and rejoicing. Marduk, the great God, caused the big-hearted inhabitants of Babylon to ... me. I sought daily to worship him. My numerous troops moved about undisturbed in the midst of Babylon.
I did not allow any to terrorize the land of Sumer and Akkad. I kept in view the needs of Babylon and all its sanctuaries to promote their well-being. The citizens of Babylon ... I lifted their unbecoming yoke. Their dilapidated dwellings I restored. I put an end to their misfortunes.
At my deeds Marduk, the great Lord, rejoiced, and to me, Cyrus, the king who worshipped, and to Cambyses, my son, the offspring of my loins, and to all my troops, he graciously gave his blessing, and in good spirit is before him we/glorified/exceedingly his high divinity.
All the kings who sat in the throne rooms, throughout the four quarters, from the Upper to the Lower Sea, those who dwelt in ... all the kings of the West Country who dwelt in tents, brought me their heavy tribute and kissed my feet in Babylon. From ... to the cities of Ashur and Susa, Agade, Eshnuna, the cities of Zamban, Meurnu, Der, as far as the region of the land of Gutium, the holy cities beyond the Tigris whose sanctuaries had been in ruins over a long period, the Gods whose abode is in the midst of them. I returned to the places and housed them in lasting abodes. I gathered together all their inhabitants and restored to them their dwellings. The Gods of Sumer and Akkad whom Nabonidus had, to the anger of the Lord of the Gods, brought into Babylon, I at the bidding of Marduk, the great Lord made to dwell in peace in their habitations, delightful abodes.
May all the gods whom I have placed within their sanctuaries address a daily prayer in my favour before Bel and Nabu, that my days may long, and may they say to Marduk my Lord, May Cyrus the King who reveres thee, and Cambyses his son .."

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