First Declaration of Human Rights
Thursday, December 13, 2007, 7:00 p.m.
By: Hossein Badamchi, LLB., LLM.
PhD Candidate, Ancient Law at Johns Hopkins University
Cyrus cylinder is a document from the time of Cyrus, the great Persian king in sixth century BC. Some scholars have described the first declaration of Human Rights; some others call it pure propaganda. He will read the document and discuss its contents in his lecture. The Cyrus cylinder is a fragmentary clay cylinder with an Akkadian inscription of thirty-five lines discovered in a foundation deposit by A. H. Rassam during his excavations at the site of Marduk temple in Babylon in 1879. P. R. Berger identified a second fragment containing lines 36-45, in the Babylonian collection at Yale University. The total inscription, though incomplete at the end, consist of forty-five lines, the first three almost entirely broken away.
The text contains an account of Cyrus’ conquest of Babylon in 539 B.C., beginning with a narrative by the Babylonian god Marduk of the crimes of Nabonidus, the last Chaldean king( lines 4-8). Then follows an account of Marduk’s search for a righteous king; his appointment of Cyrus to rule the entire world, and his causing Babylon to fall without a battle (9-19). Cyrus continues in the first person, giving his titles and genealogy (lines 20-22) and declaring that he has guaranteed the peace of the country (lines 22-26). For this achievement, he and his son Cambyses received the blessing of Marduk (lines 26-30).
He describes his restoration of the cult, which had been neglected during the reign of Nabunidus, and his permission to the exiled people to return to their homeland (lines 30-36). Finally, the king records his restoration of the defenses of Babylon( lines 36- 43) and reports that in the course of the work he saw an inscription of Ashurbanipal ( lines 43-45; cf. Kuhrt 1983, pp. 85-86).
About the Lecturer:
Mr. Badamchi is currently a PhD candidate at Johns Hopkins University. He is studying “Ancient Law” with Professor Raymond Westbrook. He has also graduated from Shahid Beheshti University, Tehran, in law. He has published two books on “Ancient Law” in Iran:
“The Origins of Legislation”, Tarhe No. 2003
“A History of Ancient Near Eastern Criminal Law”, SAMT 2004
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