Saturday, February 23, 2013

The Cylinder of Cyrus

We don't often refer to specific articles; however, a recent one by Roger Cohen in the New York Times is very much in the spirit of this blog, and a very successful mix of cultural, political and psychological understanding. 

It is about an ancient clay cylinder with Babylonian cuneiform script that was found in Iraq in the 19th century. The text is a series of edicts calling for religious and ethnic tolerance and freedoms by the Persian King Cyrus (or Kurush in his native language). The artifact has had a long history that Roger Cohen describes:

"What is it? A Babylonian artifact written by a Babylonian scribe about a Persian conqueror; prized by Iranians as an emblem of their civilization; valued by many Jews whose Bible gives credit for Cyrus’s acts not to a Babylonian God but to Jehovah; found in modern Iraq by British-sponsored archaeologists who acquired it from the Ottomans; exploited by the shah to underwrite his megalomania; a pre-Islamic text adopted by the Islamic Republic during the Iran-Iraq War as a symbol of past victories; a declaration compared to the U.S. Constitution because of what it says about peoples worshiping freely in a single state..."

The ancient cylinder is a reminder of our constant struggle for tolerance and greater understanding between peoples. The full article can be found here: Find the Missing Word

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