The Completion of the Cyrus Cylinder Tour of the U.S.

The Cyrus Cylinder Tour of the U.S. was concluded on December 8, 2013 after a one-week extension to the original schedule. The tour, which was organized by the British Museum in partnership with the Iran Heritage Foundation (IHF America) and the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, attracted more than 300,000 visitors as it traveled to five major urban areas within the country.

The Directors

During the final days of the tour, the J. Paul Getty Museum hosted the director of the British Museum at the Getty Villa – where the Cyrus Cylinder exhibition was on display – for a lively on-stage conversation between the two museum directors. In addition to touching upon key aspects of the Persian Empire and the significance of the Cyrus Cylinder, the directors answered to questions from the audience.

The touring exhibition The Cyrus Cylinder and Ancient Persia traveled from Washington DC to Houston, then New York City, then San Francisco, and Finally Los Angeles. The exhibition will next be on display in Mumbai, India before returning to London.

Dr John Curtis Appointed CEO of Iran Heritage Foundation and IHF America

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Iran Heritage Foundation announces the appointment of Dr John Curtis OBE FBA as Chief Executive Officer of IHF and IHF America effective January 1st, 2014. Dr Curtis joins Iran Heritage Foundation from the British Museum where he was Keeper of the Middle East Department until 2011 and is currently Keeper of Special Middle East Projects.

The Trustees welcome Dr. John Curtis in this leadership position with great enthusiasm,” said Alireza Rastegar, Chairman of IHF America and trustee of Iran Heritage Foundation. “In addition to working with IHF on two major exhibitions in the past, John has been working very closely with IHF America over the past two years on organizing the highly successful ‘Cyrus Cylinder and Ancient Persia’ touring exhibition which has been on display in five major U.S. cities, currently in Los Angeles, and visited so far by more than a quarter of a million visitors.

Dr John Curtis is a leading scholar and a pioneering archeologist specializing on the history of Middle East, and particularly ancient Iran with more than 100 published articles and 20 books.

Neil MacGregor, Director of the British Museum said: “I congratulate John on becoming CEO of the Iran Heritage Foundation (IHF). John has made an extraordinary contribution to the work of the British Museum as head of the Department of the Middle East and, over the past decade, through his outstanding engagement with the archaeology and heritage of Iraq, which is now culminating in the opening of a new museum in Basrah. John has also been committed to increasing our understanding of the importance and significance of Iranian culture, most prominently through the creation of a new Iranian Gallery at the Museum and two groundbreaking exhibitions on Ancient Persia and the rule of Shah Abbas (both of which were generously supported by the IHF). I am delighted that he will continue to support the work of the British Museum with ongoing responsibility for special Middle Eastern projects. The British Museum looks forward to continuing to work in collaboration with John and the Trustees of the Iran Heritage Foundation on future projects highlighting the varied and vital cultures of Iran.

Dr John Curtis said: “Over the last 18 years the IHF has done a great deal to promote the cultural heritage of Iran, and it is a great honour to be given the chance to build on that foundation. Together with the Trustees I look forward to initiating and supporting projects about all aspects of Iranian cultural heritage and raising awareness of the great contribution of Iran to world civilization.

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About Dr John Curtis OBE FBA

John Curtis studied Near Eastern archaeology at the Institute of Archaeology in London and joined the British Museum in 1971. From 1989 to 2011 he was Keeper of the Middle East Department and since 2011 he has been Keeper of Special Middle East Projects. He specializes in the archaeology and history of Iran and Iraq from 1000 BC to 330 BC and has travelled and excavated extensively in both countries. He curated the special exhibitions ‘Forgotten Empire: the World of Ancient Persia’ (British Museum 2005–6) and ‘The Cyrus Cylinder and Ancient Persia: a New Beginning for the Middle East’ that was shown in Tehran and is now touring the USA

Dr Curtis has written or edited more than 20 books and more than 100 scholarly articles. Seven of his books have been translated into Persian. He was elected a Fellow of the British Academy (BFA) in 2003 and was awarded an Order of the British Empire (OBE) in 2006. He is a corresponding member of the German Archaeological Institute and the Archaeological Institute of America. He has received special awards from the Iran Heritage Foundation in 2005 and 2013. He is married to Dr Vesta Sarkhosh Curtis, curator of Middle Eastern coins at the British Museum, and they have two grown–up children

About IHF America

IHF America is a nonprofit organization focused on promoting and preserving Persian culture, history, languages, and art, and is the U.S. counterpart of the Iran Heritage Foundation, the leading supporter of Iranian Studies in the U.K.

IHF maintains relationships and institutional partnerships with more than 30 major museums and universities across Europe and North America. Leveraging nearly two decades of cultural work, IHF promotes academic research through establishing Iranian Studies programs, fellowships, grants, scholarships, publications, and digitization efforts.

Through association with leading museums and universities IHF organizes exhibitions and convenes conferences on the history and contemporary culture of Iran. The long-awaited Cyrus Cylinder tour of the U.S., organized through a partnership between the British Museum, IHF, and the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery of the Smithsonian Institution, is among such efforts bringing one of the most iconic objects surviving the ancient world to five major U.S. cities.

IHF America is a US-based registered 501(c)(3) public charity and its mission and programs are non-political and non-religious.

LA Weekly: What the Cyrus Cylinder at the Getty Villa Means to L.A.’s Iranian Community

From the LA Weekly article by Orly Minazadarticle:

As the first king to create a multiethnic and multi-faith society, the Persian King Cyrus the Great made coexisting cool before those “coexist” bumper stickers were plastered on every Prius in Los Angeles.

 In an event the Getty Museum’s new Director Timothy Potts deems as “a once in a lifetime opportunity,” the Cyrus Cylinder is now making the final stop of its U.S. tour at the Getty Villa in Malibu, through Dec. 2. “The Cyrus Cylinder and Ancient Persia: A New Beginning,” the exhibition it’s a part of, is chock-full of pre-Islamic artifacts that reveal the triumph and achievement of the Persian Empire.

Read What the Cyrus Cylinder at the Getty Villa Means to L.A.’s Iranian Community.

Cyrus the Great: Life and Lore – International Conference at UCLA

IHF America is proud to be a co-sponsor of the UCLA International Conference Cyrus the Great: Life and Lore, taking place on Oct 28-29, 2013.

On the occasion of the Cyrus Cylinder being exhibited in Los Angeles, Iranian Studies at UCLA -one of the largest and most comprehensive programs of its kind in Americas – is convening an international symposium “Cyrus the Great: Life and Lore” to discuss the historical figure of Cyrus the Great, his world, and later reception in antiquity and beyond. This gathering of prominent scholars from a wide variety of disciplines shall, as we hope, contribute not only to the important discussion on Cyrus’ new political order and religious policy, but also gauge his impact on posterity.

The conference is organized by UCLA Iranian Studies in collaboration with the Amuzegar Chair in Iranian Studies and the Musa Sabi Chair in Iranian Studies, and is sponsored by Farhang Foundation and IHF America, with additional support of Semnani Family Foundation. Please see below for details and program:

Final Stop of the Tour: Cyrus Cylinder now in Los Angeles

The exhibition The Cyrus Cylinder and Ancient Persia: A New Beginning is now open to the public at the Getty Villa in Los Angeles. The 9-week period (Oct 2nd – Dec 2nd, 2013) is the last chance for people who live in the U.S. to see this iconic object, before it travels to Mumbai, India for another exhibition.

The Cyrus Cylinder at the Getty Villa

Prior to traveling to Los Angeles, the exhibition has been viewed by a quarter of a million visitors:

The Los Angeles display of the exhibition at the Getty Villa is generously sponsored by Farhang Foundation. During the 9 weeks of the Los Angeles stop of the exhibition, a number of events and educational programs are arranged at the Getty Villa:

Symposium

Cyrus the Great and the Persian Empire: Perspectives from Antiquity to Today

Since its discovery in 1879, the Cyrus Cylinder has prompted wide-ranging discussion about the benevolent nature of Cyrus’s rule. At this one-day symposium, experts address a range of perspectives from which the Cylinder—and the Achaemenid Empire generally—have been understood. Speakers will consider Babylonian precursors, the Persian and Jewish traditions, the ancient Greek view, and the representation of Cyrus in modern Iran. Symposium fee $15. Generous support for this program was provided by the J. Paul Getty Museums Villa Council.

Sunday, October 27, 2013; 10:15 a.m.–5:15 p.m., Auditorium

Learn More

Lectures

The Cyrus Cylinder: The Discovery and Creation of an Icon

John Curtis, Keeper of Special Middle Eastern Projects at the British Museum, speaks about the Cyrus Cylinder, an ancient clay cylinder inscribed by the Persian king Cyrus the Great after he conquered Babylon (present-day Iraq) in 539 B.C. Curtis explores the reasons for the cylinder’s historical significance and the importance it has acquired since its discovery in 1879. Free; a ticket is required.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013; 7:30 p.m., Auditorium

Learn More

Empire, Authority, and Autonomy in the Achaemenid Persian Empire

The Achaemenid Persian Empire (about 550–330 B.C.) was enormous and incorporated many different cultures. Before rapid transit or instant communication, how were affairs of governance conducted in a sociopolitical entity of this size? Archaeologist Elspeth Dusinberre examines government archives, food, alcohol, gender relations, and even the original Pony Express to illuminate how the empire founded by Cyrus the Great functioned. Co-presented with the Archaeological Institute of America. Free; a ticket is required. Tickets available beginning Thursday, October 10, 2013.

Saturday, November 2, 2013; 2:00 p.m., Auditorium

Gallery Course

Cyrus to Alexander: Persians, Greeks, and the Invention of History

The Greeks feared, admired, and maligned the Persians from before Cyrus until after Alexander the Great. Explore the Greek view through tales and art with educator Shelby Brown, then compare the Persian perspective and try your hand at cuneiform. The course ends with a tour of the exhibition The Cyrus Cylinder and Ancient Persia: A New Beginning. Course fee $35 (includes refreshments). Complimentary parking.

Saturday, October 19, 2013; 2:00–4:30 p.m., Repeats Sunday, October 20, 2013; 2:00–4:30 p.m, Meeting Rooms

Studio Courses

Proclamations in Clay

Join artist Anna Mayer for a ceramic workshop pairing language and clay. Begin with an exploration of the exhibition The Cyrus Cylinder and Ancient Persia: A New Beginning. In the studio, learn hand-building techniques to create ceramic cylinders and vessels inscribed with your own text dedications. Ceramics will be fired following the course for later pick-up. Course fee $150 (includes materials and lunch). Complimentary parking.

Sunday, October 27, 2013; 10:30 a.m.–5:00 p.m., Repeats Sunday, November 17, 2013; 10:30 a.m.–5:00 p.m., Education Studio and Museum galleries

Culinary Workshop: Ancient Persia

Discover the flavors of the ancient Near East with chef and educator Maite Gomez-Rejón. Tour the exhibition The Cyrus Cylinder and Ancient Persia: A New Beginning and pick herbs in the garden to prepare and enjoy a meal showcasing the multiethnic cuisine of the Persian Empire. Course fee $85. Complimentary parking. Tickets available beginning Tuesday, October 2, 2013.

Thursday, November 14, 2013; 11:00 a.m.–2:30 p.m., Repeats Friday, November 15, 2013; 11:00 a.m.–2:30 p.m., Meeting Rooms and Museum galleries

Performance

Twinklings of Hope: Mahsa and Marjan Vahdat in Concert

The music of Mahsa and Marjan Vahdat reflects the evolution of Persian song. Part of a new generation of musicians who are university educated and devoted to their artistic cause, the Vahdats uphold a waning tradition in today’s Iran. Tickets $25. Generous support for this program was provided by the J. Paul Getty Museums Villa Council.

Saturday, October 19, 2013; 7:30 p.m., Sunday, October 20, 2013; 3:30 p.m., Auditorium

Family Activity

Scribes Wanted!

Drop by with your family to learn how scribes in ancient Persia created documents such as the Cyrus Cylinder. Try your hand at writing your own cuneiform (a type of old script) message! This is a free, drop-in program.

Saturdays, October 5– 26, 2013; 11:00 a.m.–2:30 p.m., Outer Peristyle

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A.J. Cave: Cyrus Cylinder Goes West

From the article by A.J. Cave, published by Peyvand:

Sunday, 22 September, the autumn equinox ending the summer, was the last day of The Cyrus Cylinder and Ancient Persia exhibit in San Francisco. There was a long line of visitors all day long waiting patiently to see the exhibit and at some point according to the museum staff, the line snaked around the block. Inside, the line stretched from the bottom of the steps to the second floor all the way to the doors leading to the exhibit. It must have been like any day the subjects of Cyrus the Great stood in line for an audience with the Great King.

Read the article: Cyrus Cylinder Goes West.

The Cyrus Cylinder, now at the Asian Art Museum San Francisco

The Cyrus Cylinder and Ancient Persia: A New Beginning is now on display at the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco. For photos and details, please see The San Francisco Opening.

The exhibition will be open to the public during the museum’s regular hours (details). Access to the exhibition is included in the price of the general admission ticket.

On August 9th, The exhibition will open with a press preview event, followed by a panel discussion “The Cyrus Cylinder: Uses, Misuses, and Contemporary Iran with some of the well known scholars and figures in the field (tickets), moderated by the director of the Asian Art Museum.

During the opening weekend, PAAIA, the local sponsor of the exhibition, held a number of programs including a gala commemorating Cyrus the Great and a retreat with panels on various topics. In particular, On August 10th (7:00pm) the San Francisco Philharmonic Orchestra performed Loris Tjeknavorian’s “King Cyrus Symphonic Suite” at the Nob Hill Masonic Center (tickets). This was the world premiere of the newly expanded suite which, conducted by the composer himself and presented by PAAIA.

The museum has an array of events, including member-only exhibition tours, during the six-week display of  The Cyrus Cylinder and Ancient Persia: A New Beginning. For a list of museum events around the Cyrus Cylinder exhibition, please click here.

Cyrus Cylinder exhibition at the Asian Art Museum San Francisco (load images to see the pictures).

SF Examiner: Persian Cyrus Cylinder is artifact of human rights

From the SF Examiner article:

The Cyrus Cylinder, named after the founder of the First Persian Empire, goes on view at the Asian Art Museum on Friday in the exhibition “Cyrus Cylinder and Ancient Persia: A New Beginning.”

Along with the younger Rosetta Stone and Magna Carta, the cylinder, on display in the U.S. for the first time, is a treasured historical object and considered the first declaration of what has become known in modern times as human rights.

Full article: Persian Cyrus Cylinder is artifact of human rights

250,000 Visitors in DC, Houston, NYC; Heading to West Coast

The display of the exhibition “Cyrus Cylinder and Ancient Persia” in New York City’s Metropolitan Museum of Art is now concluded, and the exhibition is traveling to the west coast. This touring exhibition, which is organized by the British Museum in partnership with the Iran Heritage Foundation (IHF America), has been on display since March of this year and has been viewed by a whopping 250,000 visitors in three major cities so far — for photos click on the images below.

Here is a recap of some of the key articles and content about the the tour, and the significance of the Cyrus Cylinder itself:

You can find more articles, complete archive of the videos, and the most recent coverage on the official website of the tour (cyruscylinder2013.com) and on the tour’sfacebook page.

The exhibition will now be on display at the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco (Aug 9 – Sep 22, see below for details), followed by the Paul J. Getty Museum, the Getty Villa, in Los Angeles (Oct 2 – Dec 2).

Photos from the New York display of the exhibition, at the Metropolitan Museum of Art:
Photo - Cyrus Cylinder at the Metropolitan Museum NYC (load images to see the pictures).
Photos from the Houston display of the exhibition, Museum of Fine Arts:
Photo - The Cyrus Cylinder exhibition at the MFA Houston (load images to see the pictures).
Photos from the DC display of the exhibition, Smithsonian’s Arthur M. Sackler Gallery:
Photo - Cyrus Cylinder exhibition - Launch of the U.S. tour in DC (load images to see the pictures).
The Special issue of the FEZANA Journal, which was published in celebration of the Cyrus Cylinder Tour of the U.S., includes a series of articles from foundations, scholars, journalists, etc focused on Cyrus and the Cyrus Cylinder. The issue is an invaluable resource to anybody who is interested in the subject:
I AM CYRUS: Fezana Journal Special Cyrus Cylinder Issue (load images to see the pictures).

Cyrus Cylinder Tour of the US: 7 Years in the Making

The following article, published in the FEZANA Journal Summer 2013, provides a good history of how the Cyrus Cylinder Tour of the US came about. The tour, which started in March 2013, is organized through a partnership between the British Museum, the Iran Heritage Foundation (IHF America), and the Smithsonian (Freer|Sackler Galleries), and is hosted by five major museums across the country. The touring exhibition has so far been in Washington DC, Houston, and New York, visited by about 250,000 viewers. It will be traveling to San Francisco and Los Angeles next.

Asia Society: 10 Facts about the Cyrus Cylinder

From the article:

After the 1917 Balfour Declaration, which announced the British government’s support for the Zionist cause, Jewish households across Europe displayed images of Cyrus the Great alongside pictures of King George V. Cyrus the Great is credited with freeing Babylon’s Jewish prisoners, previously captured by Nebuchadnezzar, who then returned to their homeland to reestablish their religious practices and rebuild the temple in Jerusalem.

View the full article: 10 Facts about the Cyrus Cylinder

The Cyrus Cylinder, now at the Metropolitan Museum of Art

The Cyrus Cylinder and its accompanying objects are now on display at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. The exhibition is entitled The Cyrus Cylinder and the Ancient Persia: Charting a New Empire.

A unique aspect of the exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum will be its display within the galleries of Ancient Near Eastern Art, where objects from the permanent collection—including the famous lions from Babylon—will provide a stunning backdrop. Also on display will be works of art from the Metropolitan’s Department of Drawings and Prints and Department of European Sculpture and Decorative Arts that celebrate Cyrus and his legacy as a liberal and enlightened ruler.

The Cyrus Cylinder, now at the Metropolitan Museum of Art

A unique aspect of the exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum will be its display within the galleries of Ancient Near Eastern Art, where objects from the permanent collection—including the famous lions from Babylon—will provide a stunning backdrop. Also on display will be works of art from the Metropolitan’s Department of Drawings and Prints and Department of European Sculpture and Decorative Arts that celebrate Cyrus and his legacy as a liberal and enlightened ruler.

See more at the Met website: The Cyrus Cylinder and Ancient Persia, Charting a New Empire

An Interview with Abolala Soudavar on the Cyrus Cylinder

In time for the arrival of the Cyrus Cylinder in Houston, the Asheghaneh magazine — the Persian publication of the greater Houston area which has been in print for 30 years — has interviewed Abolala Soudavar. Mr. Soudavar is an independent scholar and author, former trustee of MFA Houston, former member of visiting committees at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, and the Freer and Sackler Galleries, the Smithsonian; and a trustee of IHF America.

Mr. Soudavar has been very influential in organizing the US tour of the Cyrys Cylinder, and with the tour in full motion he is now pleased to step back from the logistics of the tour and spend more time on his next book. His recent articles include Cyrus, Ben-Gurion and Ben-Zion on the positive symbolism of the Cyrus Cylinder in 2013, and Astyages, Cyrus and Zoroaster: Solving a Historical Dilemma published by the British Institute of Persian Studies (London), in vol. L, 2012.

 

President Bush Sr. Acknowledges Cyrus Cylinder in Houston

We are honored to receive a letter from the 41st president of the United States, George H.W. Bush on the occasion of the arrival of the Cyrus Cylinder in Houston. The letter was sent to the Museum of Fine Arts Houston and was announced during the opening dinner by Gary Tinterow, Director of the MFAH. In the letter, president Bush and his wife Barbara thank the British Museum and the Iran Heritage Foundation, and send greetings to Ambassador and Mrs. Ansary who were the leading supporters of the Houston exhibition as well the guests of the opening event.

Letter from President George H.W. Bush recognizing the Cyrus Cylinder and its arrival in Houston.

Letter from President George H.W. Bush recognizing the Cyrus Cylinder and its arrival in Houston.

Behind the Scenes: Installing the Cyrus Cylinder

The following photo essay provides a glimpse into the delicate and careful installation of the Cyrus Cylinder into its display box. The installation is done by Wendy Adamson, Senior Museum Assistant at the British Museum, and is supervised by Dr. John Curtis, the curator of the exhibition and the Keeper of the Department of Ancient Near East, and Keeper of Special Projects, at the British Museum.

 

Left to Right: Nasser Manesh (General Manager, IHF America), Chelsea Dacus (Assistant Curator, MFA Houston), Frances Marzio (Chief Curator, MFA Houston), John Curtis (Keeper of the Department of Ancient Near East, British Museum). Photo by Mandana Fard / IHF America

Getting Ready for the installation: Left to Right: Nasser Manesh (General Manager, IHF America), Chelsea Dacus (Assistant Curator, MFA Houston), Frances Marzio (Chief Curator, MFA Houston), John Curtis (Keeper of the Department of Ancient Near East, British Museum). Photo by Mandana Fard / IHF America

 

Installation of the big banner next to the exhibition space. Photo: Mandana Fard / IHF America

Installation of the big banner next to the exhibition space. Photo: Mandana Fard / IHF America

Photo by Mandana Fard / IHF America

Wendy Adamson (British Museum), performing the installation. Photo by Mandana Fard / IHF America

Photo by Mandana Fard / IHF America

Photo by Mandana Fard / IHF America

Photo by Reza Ganji / IHF America

Photo by Reza Ganji / IHF America

Photo by Mandana Fard / IHF America

Photo by Mandana Fard / IHF America

Left to Right: Dr. John Curtis (British Museum), Nasser Manesh (IHF America), Wendy Adamson (British Museum). Photo by Mandana Fard / IHF America

Left to Right: Dr. John Curtis (British Museum), Nasser Manesh (IHF America), Wendy Adamson (British Museum). Photo by Mandana Fard / IHF America

 

Photo by Mandana Fard / IHF America

Photo by Mandana Fard / IHF America

Photo by Mandana Fard / IHF America

Photo by Mandana Fard / IHF America

 

Left to Right: Nasser Manesh (IHF America), Frances Marzio (MFA Houston), John Curtis (British Museum)

Left to Right: Nasser Manesh (IHF America), Frances Marzio (MFA Houston), John Curtis (British Museum)

Left to Right: Frances Marzio, John Curtis. Photo by Mandana Fard / IHF America

Left to Right: Frances Marzio, John Curtis. Photo by Mandana Fard / IHF America

After 155,000 DC Viewers, The Cyrus Cylinder Now in Houston

After being viewed by more than 155,000 visitors in DC, the Cyrus Cylinder has now arrived in Houston and will be on display at the Museum of Fine Arts from May 3rd through June 14. Please visit the Houston Opening page for photos of the opening dinner and reception, and the Behind the Scenes page for a backstage view of the installation of the Cyrus Cylinder.

For more information about the Cyrus Cylinder tour of the US, please see the video of the launch of the tour in DC, the Amanpour / MacGregor interview with full transcript as well as the three opening remarks. You can also view the press coverage.

Banner outside of MFA Houston - Photo: Reza Ganji / IHF America

Banner outside of MFA Houston – Photo: Reza Ganji / IHF America

The Cyrus Cylinder and Ancient Persia: Exhibition at the MFA Houston. Photo: Reza Ganji / IHF America

The Cyrus Cylinder and Ancient Persia: Exhibition at the MFA Houston. Photo: Reza Ganji / IHF America

 

The Cyrus Cylinder - At MFA Houston. Photo: Reza Ganji / IHF America

The Cyrus Cylinder – At MFA Houston. Photo: Reza Ganji / IHF America

Cyrus and Jefferson: Did they Speak the Same Language?

By Wm. Scott Harrop, published in the Spring 2013 Newsletter, Department of Middle Eastern and South Asian Languages and Cultures, University of Virginia:

“What appealed to the founding fathers about Cyrus,” according to MacGregor, was “a model of a state that was equidistant from all religions, rather than either adopting a state religion, or else being anticlerical.” Put differently, “the relic asks the question: can a state be equidistant from all religion?”

Read the article: Cyrus and Jefferson: Did they Speak the Same Language?

The Cyrus Cylinder, Eleanor Roosevelt, and The Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Article written by Angelina Perri Birney and Lawrence Birney:

Now, in a historic tour sponsored by IHF America, the original Cyrus Cylinder is on loan to the United States from the British Museum. Beginning at the Smithsonian in Washington, DC, the Cylinder will be on display in Houston, New York, and San Francisco, concluding its visit in Los Angeles in early December 2013. This historic effort is the culmination of almost twenty years of work by the Iran Heritage Foundation.

In addition to the influence of the Cyropaedia on the US founding fathers, its core principles resonate with those of the United Nations. The high-minded concepts fathered by Cyrus in Persia thousands of years ago have found expression in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Brought to life by John Peters Humphrey and the UN Commission on Human Rights chaired by Eleanor Roosevelt, the Declaration was adopted by the United Nations on December 10, 1948.

Read the article: The Cyrus Cylinder, Eleanor Roosevelt, and The Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Economist: Why is the Cyrus Cylinder important?

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?

Iranian-Jewish Dialog on the Cyrus Cylinder at GMU

Panel co-hosted by NIAC, CRDC, and FEZANA:

On March 28th, the Center for World Religions, Diplomacy, and Conflict Resolution (CRDC), Federation of Zoroastrian Associations of North America (FEZANA), and National Iranian American Council (NIAC) held a shared panel and celebration in honor of the presence in Washington of the Cyrus Cylinder and its significance for the peaceful interaction of civilizations based on universal human rights and human dignity. The video can be viewed here. More information, plus a second video of the Q&A session can be found here. The event was followed by music and festivities. Photos here:

 

 

Photo of the panel – courtesy of the GMU website:

Panelists, left to right: Dr. Marc Gopin, Dr. Ahmad Karimi-Hakkak, Dr. Fatemeh Keshavarz, Dr. Shaul Bakhash, and Dr. Trita Parsi

Left to right: Dr. Marc Gopin, Dr. Ahmad Karimi-Hakkak, Dr. Fatemeh Keshavarz, Dr. Shaul Bakhash, and Dr. Trita Parsi

Destruction of Jerusalem, The Cyrus Cylinder, the Building of the Second Temple

Article by Christopher A. Rollston, Visiting Professor of Northwest Semitic Languages and Literatures, George Washington University:

Cyrus was certainly famous in antiquity (and in the modern period) for his benevolence, even among the Greeks, due in part to Xenophon’s lengthy work entitled “Cyropaidia” (literally, the ‘Education of Cyrus’). But during excavations in Babylon in 1879, the now famous “Cyrus Cylinder” was found, galvanizing further the reputation of Cyrus. Certain salient facts about this cuneiform text are worth mentioning at the outset: (a) In terms of size, it is quite small, about ten inches by four inches, and cylindrical in shape. (b) In terms of language, although Cyrus was a Persian, the Cyrus Cylinder is written in the Akkadian language (i.e., not in Persian, the native language of Cyrus). Of course, this makes sense, as the target audience for this inscription was Babylonian, not Persian. (c) In terms of the amount of textual content, the Cylinder is relatively short, just a few hundred words long, preserved in some forty to fifty lines of cuneiform text. (d) In terms of date, it arguably hails from the very first years of the reign of Cyrus. (e) In terms of archaeological context, it was found as a “foundation deposit” in an ancient Babylonian building.

Read the article: Nebuchadnezzar’s Destruction of Jerusalem, The Cyrus Cylinder, the Building of the Second Temple: A Brief Historical Synopsis of Salient Elements

ABC News: Before Constitution, Magna Carta, the Cyrus Cylinder Was Model of Tolerance

By Christiane Amanpour, Mary-Rose Abraham and Mark Monroy. The video includes portions of Amanpours interview with the Director of the British Museum, Neil MacGregor, during IHF America’s launch event of the Cyrus Cylinder tour at the Smithsonian’s Arthur M. Sackler Gallery:

Britain’s Magna Carta and the U.S. Constitution may spring to mind as great foundations of modern government, but the much older Cyrus Cylinder has been described as the very “first declaration of human rights.”

What it says about a key moment in history provides important lessons in tolerance and justice even today, many millennia later.

“It’s an astonishing statement of how you run a multicultural, multi-faith community,” said Neil MacGregor, the director of the British Museum, where the Cyrus Cylinder is part of the permanent collection.

Read and watch: Before Constitution, Magna Carta, the Cyrus Cylinder Was Model of Tolerance

Washington Life: A 2,600-Year Legacy

Washington Life Magazine publishes a beautiful 4-page special coverage of the IHF America’s launch event of the Cyrus Cylinder US Tour at the Smithsonian’s Arthur M. Sackler Gallery. The report is focused on the interview between CNN’s Christiane Amanpour and the British Museum’s Neil MacGregor (complete footage here):

Long held as the first human rights document, the Cyrus Cylinder is making waves in Washington just in time for “Norooz,” the Persian New Year.

The article includes great photos of the launch event, and is part of the Washington Life Magazine’s extended coverage of Norouz on the Hill and a congressional resolution on the same topic:

Nearly 3,000 Years Later But Right On Time: Cyrus Cylinder Makes U.S. Debut

By Richard Solash:

Iranian-American Massumeh Farhad, the chief curator at the Smithsonian’s Freer and Sackler Galleries, where the cylinder is on display, said that she thinks “the Cyrus Cylinder, and Cyrus, himself, in many ways, has represented this ideal [of overcoming differences].”

“Governments come and go, but I think it’s really important to have these ideals to know [that] ‘this is what we should aspire to.’ One of the reasons the Cyrus Cylinder is so important is because, I think, it’s a reminder that yes, we can do more,” Farhad said.

Read the article: Nearly 3,000 Years Later But Right On Time: Cyrus Cylinder Makes U.S. Debut

Economist: Cyrus Cylinder: Diplomatic whirl, testing the limits of cultural politics

Fiammetta Rocco writes for the Economist:

Under Cyrus the Persian empire became the largest kingdom the world had ever seen, unifying many tribes, languages and cultures, and stretching across vast distances. The cylinder, which had been placed at the base of a building in ancient Babylon (now modern Iraq) proclaimed Cyrus’s ambitions for his rapidly expanding domain: that those people who had been captured and enslaved by his predecessors should be allowed to go back to their homes and the statues of their different gods returned to their original shrines to be freely worshipped. The exiled Jews, who wept by the waters of Babylon when they remembered Zion, the Bible says, could return to Jerusalem and rebuild their temple.

No ruler before Cyrus had done anything like this, and many since have claimed a connection with him. After the 1917 Balfour declaration in favour of a Jewish homeland, Jews displayed photographs of King George V alongside images of Cyrus…

Read the article: Cyrus Cylinder: Diplomatic whirl, a show that tests the limits of cultural politics

Rep. Henry Waxman: House Resolution Honoring Cyrus Cylinder

Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) has sponsored a bipartisan resolution on March 20th, the beginning of the Iranian New Year, “Recognizing the cultural and historical significance of Nowruz and acknowledging the Cyrus Cylinder as a symbol of respect for human rights and religious tolerance.” The proposed resolution has 13 cosponsors from California, Maryland, and New York.

The proposed resolution can be found on CONGRESS.GOV website, and the full text is shown below:

Ethics Daily: Cyrus Cylinder – Pointing Toward Human Rights

By Tony Cartledge, professor of Old Testament at Campbell University Divinity School:

The Cyrus Cylinder stands as an emblem of an innovative king who built a relatively unified empire of disparate peoples by allowing some measure of national and religious freedom beneath the banner of a single ruler.

Cyrus’ governing principles and allowance of religious freedom enabled the Persian Empire to last for 200 years, and was so enduring that Thomas Jefferson was a great admirer.

Can contemporary societies learn something from Cyrus?

Can we as a world, as a nation – or even as Baptists – learn to find greater unity through greater appreciation for each other despite our differences?

Can we forgo the desire to make others over in our image and live together beneath a banner of peace?

Read the article: Cyrus Cylinder – Pointing Toward Human Rights

Images of the Sackler Exhibition

Images of the exhibition “The Cyrus Cylinder and Ancient Persia, A New Beginning” as displayed at the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery in DC are now available. Most of the images cover the Cyrus Cylinder itself, as well as some of the other objects accompanying the Cyrus Cylinder from the British Museum collection, and the Thomas Jefferson’s personal copy of Cyropaedia.

View the images of the exhibition at the Smithsonian’s Sackler Gallery.

Gerald Honigman: The Cyrus Cylinder: A Testimony To What A Human Leader Could Be

Gerald Honigman writes:

Some things change, some don’t. Thus, long before the Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s, Persia and Babylonia were fighting over the same real estate in the 6th century B.C.E. when Cyrus (559-530 B.C.E.) conquered Babylon. And while the Jewish holiday of Passover is fast approaching, with Egypt’s Pharaoh as the primary villain, another Jewish holiday which occurs earlier in springtime, Purim, recorded in the Book of Esther, deals with yet another leader who had genocidal ideas towards Jews–ancient Persia’s Haman.

Unfortunately, Jews have had to deal with many of such Hamans over the course of their long history–including those who now rule the same place where Haman lived.

Unlike the mindset and ruthless machinations of Iran’s intolerant leaders today, please check out, in these following excerpts from the Kurash Prism, how a mighty–but humane and benevolent–Persian ruler dealt with the diverse peoples he encountered some twenty-five centuries ago…

Read the article: The Cyrus Cylinder: A Testimony To What A Human Leader Could Be

US State Department: Cyrus Cylinder: Ancient Persia Foreshadowed Modern Values

By Lea Terhune, US Department of State’s IIP Digital:

Unlike ancient Chinese and Egyptians, who wrote much about what they did and how well they did it, British Museum Director Neil MacGregor said, “The Persians just did it. They don’t write about how they did it. They left no memoirs” about their great lives and times. We know what happened from Greek and Jewish sources.

The Cyrus Cylinder has special significance to Jews, because it alludes to their return to Jerusalem, which is supported by biblical references. In the Book of Isaiah (44:28), God says of Cyrus, “He is my shepherd and will accomplish all that I please; he will say of Jerusalem, Let it be rebuilt, and of the temple, Let its foundations be laid,” and goes on to call Cyrus “anointed” by God. Other references may be found in 2 Chronicles and the Book of Ezra.

Cyrus held sway over the largest known early empire. It eventually encompassed the entire eastern Mediterranean, extending from Libya in the west to Afghanistan in the east. Cyrus had to devise a system to rule this unprecedented diverse, multilingual, multicultural and multireligious empire. Tolerance was the hallmark of this efficient system, which lasted 200 years, until Alexander the Great conquered the region.

Read the article: Cyrus Cylinder: Ancient Persia Foreshadowed Modern Values

Payvand: The Cyrus Cylinder: Its Significance for Today

Professir Farhang Jahanpour, Oxford University, writes for Payvand:

At a time when political relations between Iranians and Israelis are tense and hostile, the Cyrus Cylinder shows that the relations between the two peoples have been long and intimate. A significant number of Jews have lived in Iran since the time of Cyrus right up to the present time. Even now, Iran is home to the largest number of Jews in the Middle East outside Israel. It would be appropriate for both the Iranians and the Jews to look back and reflect upon their long history of friendship and coexistence. They should learn from the message of the Cylinder, which is as valid today as it was 2,500 years ago. It advocates religious tolerance, respect for other faiths and acceptance of diversity. As such, the principles that it embodies should be central to the debates about the relations between various faiths and nations in the Middle East and indeed throughout the world.

Read the article: The Cyrus Cylinder: Its Significance for Today

BBC: Cyrus Cylinder: How a Persian monarch inspired Jefferson

By BBC World News:

People like Thomas Jefferson, who drafted the Declaration of Independence and became the third president of the United States, had to rely on Xenophon’s Cyropaedia as a reference for the life and leadership of the Persian king.

Scripture was the other source for information on Cyrus, as it chronicled the invasion of Babylon and the freedom of Jews.

Mr Raby [Director of the Freer and Sackler Galleries] said “what’s extraordinary about Cyrus, is that he appears as a paragon of princely statesmanship in the two pillars of Western cultures, that is the Greco-Roman tradition and the Bible”.

He added that the copy of Cyropaedia displayed at the Freer and Sackler Galleries is testament to Jefferson’s thorough examination of the book.

Read the article: Cyrus Cylinder: How a Persian monarch inspired Jefferson

Miami Herald: Cyrus Cylinder on Display at DC’s Sackler Gallery

By Tish Wells McClatchy, Miami Herald:

The cylinder’s text shows why he [Cyrus] was regarded so highly. Found in fragments in the ruins of a city in 1879, it proclaims that Cyrus “is going to allow the people deported by the previous kings of Babylon to go home … They will take their gods that were confiscated, the temples that were confiscated, back to their towns and sanctuaries, and they are to rebuild the sanctuaries, and they are to pray to their gods, and, in their temples, to pray for the king (Cyrus).”

This validates what was in Hebrew Scriptures. In Ezra (1:1-4,) and the Chronicles, it’s said that the Jews deported from Jerusalem were “to go home, to take the temples’ vessels, and to rebuild the temples.” The discovery of the cylinder proved that the scriptures were historically correct.

They also said that other copies had been made but there was no proof until, in 2009, the British Museum discovered they had parts of another copy.

 

CNN: Ancient blueprint for Middle East peace touring U.S.

By Tara Kangarlou, CNN:

Rabbi Marc Gopin, director of the Center for World Religions, Diplomacy and Conflict Resolution at George Mason University, suggests a country should be defined by the values of its culture and history rather than the policies of its government.

“Disputes should attack issues, not civilizations,” Gopin said.

An expert on Arab-Israeli diplomacy, Gopin said such an approach creates more “nuanced” relations.

Read the article: Ancient blueprint for Middle East peace touring U.S.