From “The Economist Explains” column:
The key to Cyrus’s broad appeal, and the wider significance of the cylinder, lies in the text inscribed on its surface. Following a thousand-year-old tradition in Mesopotamia, Cyrus began his reign with a declaration that was issued and distributed on clay tablets, cones and cylinders. He took the unusual and unprecedented step of decreeing that people who had been captured and enslaved by his predecessors could go back to their homes and that the statues of their various gods should be returned to their original shrines to be freely worshipped. As the Bible recounts, this meant the exiled Jews could return to Jerusalem and rebuild their temple. Accordingly, the cylinder can be considered as both the earliest declaration of human rights and the oldest articulation of a multifaith, multicultural state—and not in some historical backwater or obscure city-state, but in an empire that was, at the time, the largest the world had ever seen.
Read the article: The Economist explains: Why is the Cyrus Cylinder important?