World’s Earliest Charter of Human Rights
World’s Earliest Charter of Human Rights of Cyrus the Great, called the Cyrus Cylinder is a pottery cylinder built in 539 BC by order of Cyrus II, the Achaemenes emperor of Persia.
It is written in Akkadian (Babylonian) cuneiform. Known as the “World’s Earliest Charter of Human Rights” in the world, this cylinder was found in the Temple of Marduk, the great Babylonian god, in the city of Babylon. The charter is currently housed in the British Museum.
Around 1285 A.D. (1879-1882), during archaeological excavations in Babylon in Mesopotamia, Hormozd Rassam, a British Assyrian archaeologist, found a pottery cylinder, which had cuneiform inscriptions.
The material of this cylinder is clay, it is 23 cm long and 11 cm wide, and around it, about 40 lines are written in Akkadian language and Babylonian cuneiform.
Later on, as the deciphered the cuneiform, studies showed that the cylindrical inscriptions were written in 539 BC by the order of Cyrus the Great after the defeat of Nebuchadnezzar and the opening of the city of Babylon, and were placed as a memorial stone in the foundations of the city of Babylon.
Today, this document and proof of how a man was capable of leading by example, is placed in the “Ancient Iran” section of the British Museum.
Cyrus the Great, the founder of the Persian Empire and the initiator of the Achaemenes dynasty, was crowned in Babylon after the conquest of Babylon and announced a general amnesty; Declared indigenous religions free; To win the love of the people of Mesopotamia, he recognized and thanked Marduk, the oldest god of Babylon.
He did not enslave any human group and prevented his troops from encroaching on the property and lives of their subjects. He gathered all those who had been taken captive to Babylon and returned them to their homes. Cyrus also freed the Jewish people from captivity and slavery in Babylon.
Thereby, the document was known as the World’s Earliest Charter of Human Rights1971, the United Nations published it in six official languages of the organization. A copy of the Charter is kept at United Nations Headquarters in New York City.
In this cylindrical tablet, Cyrus, after introducing himself and his dynasty and a brief description of the conquest of Babylon, says that he has accomplished all his achievements with the help and consent of Marduk, the god of Babylon.
He then goes on to describe how he brought peace and tranquillity to the people of Babylon and Sumer and how he returned the bodies of the gods which were taken from various temples to Babylon, as a sign of violating the dignity of one nation, to their main shrines in Mesopotamia and western Iran.
Cyrus then recounts how he rebuilt the destroyed temples and repatriated the captives of the former Babylonian king. There is no direct reference to the liberation of the Jewish people from Babylonian captivity, but a study of historical sources reveals that the liberation of the Jews was part of Cyrus’ action after the conquest of Babylon.
Telling the story of the World’s Earliest Charter of Human Rights is one thing but reading it directly without any comment of a historian or an expert or let’s say a prejudice patriotic, is something else. This charter that shows the general policies of Cyrus, especially towards his companions, is available in other languages as well.
The Parts of the text of the Charter of Cyrus the Great, the famous Cylinder could be extracted out of the following lines:
“… Cyrus ruled the country with truth and justice. Marduk, the great God, was happy with the good deeds and good thoughts of this supporter of the people.
Therefore, He provoked Cyrus to follow a path that would lead him to Babylon. While he walked beside him like a true helper. His large army, which was like the water of innumerable rivers, was adorned with all kinds of weapons.
Marduk destined Cyrus to enter the city of Babylon without war or bloodshed. He protected Babylon from any calamity. Nebuchadnezzar handed over the crown to Cyrus.
The people of Babylon, throughout the land of Sumer and Akkad, and all the local rulers accepted the command of Cyrus. They rejoiced in his kingdom and kissed him with bright faces….”
In these lines, we read Cyrus the Great’s word and not the introduction that the Babylonian scribes wrote about him:
“I am “Cyrus”, the king of the world, the great king, the mighty king, the king of Babylon, the king of Sumer and Akkad, the king of the four corners of the world. Son of “Cambyses”, the great king, the king of Anshan, The great Shah of Anshan, the grandson of “Chish Pish”, the great king, Shah of Anshan.
From a dynasty that has always had kings, who people cherish and want their kingdom with heartfelt joy.
When I entered Babylon without a fight, all the people gladly accepted my steps. I sat on the throne of the kings of Babylon. Marduk appealed to me the pure hearts of the people of Babylon and I was honored and cherished.
My large army entered Babylon peacefully. I did not allow the people of this city and this land to suffer.
The interior of Babylon and its holy places shook my heart … I worked for peace. Nebuchadnezzar had enslaved the helpless people of Babylon, something they did not deserve.
I abolished slavery. I ended their misery. I commanded that all people should be free to worship their God and not need them. I commanded that no one should annihilate the people of the city. Marduk was pleased with my good deeds.
I provided a peaceful society for all the people. I granted peace and tranquillity to all the people.”
After all, the remaining cylinder of Cyrus the Great, World’s Earliest Charter of Human Rights, can be a manifestation of Cyrus’ policies and policies following the social and cultural conditions of the district and of course an effective way to purge previous battles and persuade other peoples to open up and accept Achaemenes monarchy.