The Circle of Ancient Iranian Studies
Happy International Day of Cyrus the Great, to all humanity and
the lovers, protectors and seekers of freedom, humanity and religious tolerance.
By Faranak Suren-Pahlav for CAIS
LONDON, (CAIS) -- October 29th, is named internationally as the ‘Day of Cyrus’, to celebrate the life and achievement of a man known for his benevolent and humane deeds. History gave him the title of “the Great”; the Hebrews called him “God’s anointed shepherd”; the Greeks “the Law-Giver”; and Iranians “the Father” – that man was Cyrus the Great, the founder of the Achaemenid dynasty, and 'Founding Father of Iranian Nation'.
In the middle of October 539 BCE, Cyrus the Great did something for humanity that was unheard of in the ancient world; religious tolerance, freedom and humanity. His decree was ordered to be incised in a clay cylinder, which today is known as the ‘Cyrus Cylinder’ and the British Museum in London has the honour of being its custodian.
Although the Cylinder was made in the Mesopotamian tradition, its contents were in complete contrast to its predecessors - they are unique and revolutionary.
The contents of the Cylinder tells us the story of one of the greatest events in the history of mankind, the creation of the world’s first superpower, based not on aggression, brutality and imperialism – but founded on the heart and minds of the subject nations. The Cylinder tells the history of the inclusion of Babylon into Cyrus’s Empire, ‘without shedding a drop of blood’; how he’d shown respect to his new subjects’ beliefs and Gods, liberated and returned the slaves and prisoners to their homelands and ordered their temples to be rebuilt – rebuilding worshipping places that were diffident to his own religion.
By pursuing a policy of generosity, instead of repression, Cyrus demonstrated his Greatness. So successful were his policies of conquest, mercifulness and assimilation that the empire continued to thrive for some 200 years after his death.
Cyrus’ compassionate principles continue to resonate today: his religious and cultural tolerance and commitment to the liberation of enslaved peoples remain an aspiration in our troubled modern world.
Cyrus Cylinder is today widely and internationally considered as the world’s
first Charter of Human Rights. Its text was
translated into all the United Nations' official languages in 1971 and a replica
of the Cylinder is kept at the United Nation Headquarters in New York on
the second floor hallway between the Security Council and the Economic and
Social Council chambers.
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