THE CYRUS CYLINDER is going on display at the Smithsonian next month: Cyrus Cylinder Brings 2,600 Years of World History to Smithsonian in U.S. Debut (/PRNewswire). This press release covers the usual ground, including the rather inflated view of Cyrus as a human rights pioneer, but it also has some interesting information about the artifact’s historical context and its reception history after its discovery in the nineteenth century:
The message of the Cylinder and the larger legacy of Cyrus’ leadership have been appropriated and reinterpreted over millennia, beginning with its creators. The Babylonian scribe who engraved the Cylinder attributed Cyrus’ victory to the Babylonian god Marduk, a stroke of what could be considered royal and religious propaganda. In the fourth century B.C.E., the Greek historian Xenophon wrote Cyropaedia, a text that romanticizes the philosophies and education of Cyrus as the ideal ruler, which greatly influenced both Alexander the Great and, much later, Thomas Jefferson in his creation of the Declaration of Independence.
When the Cylinder was rediscovered in 1879, it immediately entered the fray of public debate as invaluable proof of the historical veracity of events described in biblical scripture. In the early 20th century, supporters of the creation of the state of Israel compared the actions of British King George V to those of Cyrus, allowing Jews to return to Jerusalem. When the Cylinder was loaned to Iran in 2010, it was viewed by more than 1 million people, one of the most visited exhibitions in the country’s history.
Background here, with many links.