Cyrus Cylinder

The Cyrus Cylinder, sixth century B.C.E. Clay, inscribed with cuneiform, British Museum, London.

The Cyrus Cylinder is a Mesopotamian royal inscription on a 10-inch-long clay barrel. It was discovered by the archaeologist Hormuzd Rassam in the ruins of Babylon in Mesopotamia (modern Iraq) in 1879.

The cylinder is inscribed in Babylonian cuneiform. Cyrus, king of Persia (559-530 BC) tells of his conquest of Babylon in 539 BC and the capture of Nabonidus, the last Babylonian king. Cyrus follows a classic Mesopotamian formula for legitimizing his new reign-he describes how Marduk, the Babylonian god, chose him to come liberate his people from an oppressive ruler. Cyrus goes on to describe the reforms he will establish and how he will improve the lives of the people.


Cyrus Cylinder

Of or relating to ancient lower Mesopotamia and its empire centered in Babylon.

The writing system of ancient Mesopotamia, consisting of wedges pressed into clay.

A Babylonian deity who becomes the chief god of the Babylonian pantheon, as recounted in the Babylonian creation story Enuma Elish.

The last ruler of the Neo-Babylonian Empire, ruled from 555–539 B.C.E. Nabonidus promoted worship of the moon god Sin over the national god of Babylon, Marduk. Nabonidus spent much of his reign at the oasis of Tayma in the Arabian desert, leaving his son Belshazzar in charge of the empire. Nabonidus was defeated by the Persians under Cyrus in 539 B.C.E.

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