Posted by: Lister | March 18, 2007

The Cyrus Cylinder

Is the first charter of Human rights (not Greek — but Persian) mentioned in the movie “300”?

Apparently, the movie is about the saviours of democracy fighting for survival against the Barbaric hordes that would destroy civilization. (Now what does that remind me of?)

Far from being uncivilized, the Persian empire had a great history. Xerxes, the bad guy of the movie, was the grandson of Cyrus the Great. One of Cyrus’ legacies is claimed to be the first charter of Human rights:


The Cyrus Cylinder has been described as the world’s first charter of human rights, and it was translated into all official U.N. languages in 1971. 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.

Translation of Cylinder

As to the inhabitants of Babylon who against the will of the gods were enslaved, I abolished the corvee which was against their social standing, I freed all slaves. I brought relief to their dilapidated housing, putting thus an end to their misfortunes and slavery…

As to the region, from …… to the cities of Ashur, Susa (Shoosh), Agade and Eshnuna, the cities of Zamban, Me-Turnu, Der as far as the region of the land of Gutium, the holy cities beyond the Tigris River, whose sanctuaries had been in ruins over a long period, the gods whose abode is in the midst of them, I returned to their places and housed them in lasting abodes. I also gathered all their former inhabitants and returned to them their habitations.

Cyrus speaks of worship to quite a few gods.

May all the gods whom I have placed within their sanctuaries and resettled in their sacred cities, address a daily prayer in my favor before Bel and Nabu, that my days may be long, and may they recommend me to him, to Marduk my lord, they may say: “May Cyrus the King, who worships thee, and Cambysis his son …… all gods I settled in a peaceful place, I sacrificed ducks and doves, I endeavored to repair their dwelling places …… ”

But he is generally regarded as a monotheist — Cyrus the Great is the only gentile desiganted a Messiah in the Old Testament.

[Isaiah 45]

Thus saith the LORD to his anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I have holden, to subdue nations before him; […]

“Messiah”, of course, meaning “anointed one”.



  1. wiki — Abolition of Slavery:

    The Persian Empire was the first civilization to ban slavery from its foundation and used paid labor for all of the empire’s constructions and army. Cyrus the Great banned slavery in his charter of human rights, now kept in the British Museum.

    [Quote of Cyrus] “As long as I am alive, I shall prevent unpaid, forced labor. ”

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