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To celebrate Vikings Live, we have replaced our Roman alphabet with the runic alphabet used by the Vikings, the Scandinavian ‘Younger Futhark’. The ‘Younger Futhark’ has only 16 letters, so we have used some of the runic letters more than once or combined two runes for one Roman letter.

For an excellent introduction to runes, we recommend Martin Findell’s book published by British Museum Press.

More information about how we have ‘runified’ this site

 
Cyrus Cylinder

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Not currently on display

On loan: The Cyrus Cylinder and Ancient Persia: a new beginning for the Middle East 
9 August – 22 September 2013
Asian Art Museum,
San Francisco, USA

Object details

Length: 22.5 cm
Museum number: ME 90920

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Cyrus Cylinder

From Babylon, southern Iraq. Babylonian, about 539-530 BC

A declaration of good kingship.

This clay cylinder is inscribed in Babylonian cuneiform with an account by Cyrus, king of Persia (559-530 BC) of his conquest of Babylon in 539 BC and capture of Nabonidus, the last Babylonian king.

Cyrus claims to have achieved this with the aid of Marduk, the god of Babylon. He then describes measures of relief he brought to the inhabitants of the city, and tells how he returned a number of images of gods, which Nabonidus had collected in Babylon, to their proper temples throughout Mesopotamia and western Iran. At the same time he arranged for the restoration of these temples, and organized the return to their homelands of a number of people who had been held in Babylonia by the Babylonian kings. Although the Jews are not mentioned in this document, their return to Palestine following their deportation by Nebuchadnezzar II, was part of this policy.

This cylinder has sometimes been described as the 'first charter of human rights', but it in fact reflects a long tradition in Mesopotamia where, from as early as the third millennium BC, kings began their reigns with declarations of reforms.


 

References

P. Michalowski, 'The Cyrus Cylinder' in Historical Sources in Translation (Oxford, Blackwell Publishing, 2006), pp.426-30

T.C. Mitchell, The Bible in the British Museum (London, The British Museum Press, 1988)

J.B. Pritchard, Ancient Near Eastern texts relating to the Old Testament, 3rd ed. (Princeton University Press, 1969)