February 20, 2012 11:53 AM   Subscribe

The ‘Cyrus the Great Cylinder’, is an artifact of the Persian Empire from the 6th century BCE inscribed in Babylonian (Akkadian) cuneiform on a clay cylinder, which has been widely, falsely claimed as the first known recorded declaration of human rights, issued by the emperor Cyrus the Great. (Translation of the text.) A recent TED talk by Neil MacGregor (Director of the British Museum and host of the BBC's History of the World in 100 Objects, previously) discusses the Cylinder, and places it into historical perspective: 2600 Years of History in One Object.

Additional information: (Some of these links still refer to the Cylinder as the first declaration of human rights, although scholars at the British Museum and elsewhere disagree with that assessment.) The Iran Chamber Society. The Circle of Iranian Studies. Network of Iranian American Society. Editorial from 2004 by Neil MacGregor: The whole world in our hands. Wikipedia: Cyrus Cylinder, Robert Neil MacGregor.
posted by zarq (11 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
A false translation of the text – affirming, among other things, the abolition of slavery and the right to self-determination, a minimum wage and asylum – has been promoted on the Internet and elsewhere.

Thus Wikipedia, with no sense of self-irony, sets the record straight.
posted by three blind mice at 12:04 PM on February 20, 2012 [4 favorites]

I have a love/hate relationship with the cylinder. Neil Macgregor does an amazing job here of explaining its fascination to me - but I can add one more area where its story continues to make an impact is wikipedia where it is a source of endless annoyances to me. Iranian nationalists pretty regularly try and stick it into any historical article they can shoehorn it into as "the first declaration of human rights" and it is frustrating to deal with fairly. Objectively, the claim is nonsense of course, but the story of how that story was taken up and promoted in places like the UN is a fascinating story in and of itself. One object can have many meanings indeed.
posted by Another Fine Product From The Nonsense Factory at 12:19 PM on February 20, 2012 [4 favorites]

I had forgotten just how much I enjoy listening to MacGregor expound on things. I'd like to make my desire for a History of the World in 1000 Objects public right now.
posted by Panjandrum at 12:56 PM on February 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

The Cyrus Cylinder has been displayed in the British Museum since its formal acquisition in 1880.

A fitting home for an artifact originally intended to legitimize foreign rule.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 1:01 PM on February 20, 2012 [2 favorites]

"Hypocrisy is the tribute vice pays to virtue."

If Iranian nationalists want to wrap their nation's identity around an affirmation of universal human rights, that's one of those times it might pay to smile and nod.
posted by ocschwar at 2:01 PM on February 20, 2012 [2 favorites]

That's it, my new stage name will be "Cyrus, the Great Cylinder".
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 2:47 PM on February 20, 2012 [2 favorites]

A false translation of the text

A little perspective here? We don't know what really happened 10 years ago. This is 2500 years ago. Modern science itself has to interpret it's very accurate observations - theorums, not "proofs", not "truths".

It's a beautiful object. The rest is magnificently informed speculation, and turning that into a political football is a moot exercise in reality tunneling. - In Nomine Wells
posted by Twang at 3:54 PM on February 20, 2012

"It is, indeed, a great cylinder."
-- President Richard M. Nixon, upon visiting the Great Cylinder of Cyrus.
posted by Herodios at 3:55 PM on February 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

That's it, my new stage name will be "Cyrus, the Great Cylinder".

You mean your porn name, right?
posted by PlusDistance at 4:03 PM on February 20, 2012

"Empress"? Say, that would be news.
posted by Halloween Jack at 4:27 PM on February 20, 2012

Sorry, had the Jailbreak the Patriarchy toggle on inadvertently.
posted by Halloween Jack at 4:30 PM on February 20, 2012

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