The Legacy of Cyrus the Great

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Today was the last day the Cyrus Cylinder was on display at the Freer-Sackler Smithsonian Museum in Washington DC.    On loan from the British Museum, the Cyrus Cylinder will continue its tour visiting various cities in the U.S.  I was honored to see it again for the fourth and final time today.

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For those that don’t know, The Cyrus Cylinder is a clay cylinder heralded as the first known charter of Human Rights, as decreed nearly 2600 years ago by the Shah of Iran/Persia, Cyrus the Great (known to Iranians as Kourosh e Bozorg).

Cyrus was a man who freed captives and abolished slavery instead of enslaving and exploiting human labor.   He is mentioned in the Old Testament 23 times and heralded in it as “God’s Anointed One” for freeing the Jews from Babylonian captivity and allowing them to return to Israel.

Cyrus was a man who established freedom of religion instead of forcing his personal beliefs and customs upon others.

He was a man who established a public healthcare system also giving expecting families bonuses.

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It’s no shock that because of his practices and tolerance,  Cyrus was revered by different peoples of different nations throughout the land.

A complete opposite to the Machiavellian approach where the people are to fear their leader, Cyrus was respected.   Cyrus’s method of governing even played a role with U.S. founding father, Thomas Jefferson as it is known he actually owned two copies of Cyropedia.  Cyrus’ words and a replica of his Cylinder are even found and honored in the U.N. building.

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I would often wonder why I wasn’t ever taught about this person and his historical accomplishments in school at all.    In a quest to find Truth outside the typical  xenophobic/westernized-slanted schooling I was used to, I did some of my own homework.  As I would read/learn more and more about Cyrus the Great and his Good deeds and practices, my fondness and respect grew exponentially for what he accomplished all those thousands of years ago.    And I admit,  I was proud that he was an Iranian representing my peoples.

It also sank in that not only did he accomplish social good for Iran thousands of years ago in the past, but he could also play an immensely crucial role for the future of Iran if his ideals were once again respected, recognized, and remembered by Iranians today.

In 2010 I visited Iran for the first time since I was a baby.  It was an amazing trip and while there, I made it a point to make a pilgrimage to Cyrus’ tomb in Pasargad and pay my proper respects.   I was moved and humbled while there looking up at his tomb, just as I was moved and humbled looking at his Cylinder in recent weeks.

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It warms my heart when I think of Cyrus the Great.  In my living room a bust of Cyrus and a replica of his cylinder are proudly displayed.  It is a constant reminder to me to always strive and attempt to follow the standard he set for me not just as an Iranian but as a Human Being.

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