Collection online

The Cyrus Cylinder

  • Object type

  • Museum number


  • Title (object)

    • The Cyrus Cylinder
  • Description

    The Cyrus cylinder: clay cylinder; a Babylonian account of the conquest of Babylon by Cyrus in 539 BC, of his restoration to various temples of statues removed by Nabonidus, the previous king of Babylon, and of his own work at Babylon. The cylindrical form is typical of royal inscriptions of the Late Babylonian period, and the text shows that the cylinder was written to be buried in the foundations of the city wall of Babylon. It was deposited there after the capture of the city by Cyrus in 539 BC, and presumably written on his orders.

    The text is incomplete. It is written in Babylonian script and language and records that Nabonidus, the last King of Babylon (555-539 BC), had perverted the cults of the Babylonian gods, including Marduk, the city-god of Babylon, and had imposed labour-service on its free population, who complained to the gods. The gods responded by deserting Babylon, but Marduk looked around for a champion to restore the old ways. He chose Cyrus, King of Anshan (Persia), and declared him king of the world. First Cyrus expanded his kingship over the tribes of Iran (described as Gutians and Ummanmanda), ruling them justly. Then Marduk ordered Cyrus to march on Babylon, which he entered without a fight. Nabonidus was delivered into his hands and the people of Babylon joyfully accepted the kingship of Cyrus.

    From this point on, the document is written as if Cyrus himself is speaking: 'I, Cyrus, king of the world ...'.He presents himself as a worshipper of Marduk who strove for peace in Babylon and abolished the labour-service of its population. The people of neighbouring countries brought tribute to Babylon, and Cyrus claims to have restored their temples and religious cults, and to have returned their previously deported gods and people.

    The text ends with a note of additional food offerings in the temples of Babylon and an account of the rebuilding of Imgur-Enlil, the city wall of Babylon, during the course of which an earlier building inscription of Ashurbanipal, King of Assyria (668-627 BC), was found.


  • Authority

  • Culture/period

  • Date

    • 539BC (after)
  • Production place

  • Findspot

  • Materials

  • Technique

  • Dimensions

    • Length: 21.9 centimetres
    • Diameter: 10 centimetres (maximum)
    • Diameter: 7.8 centimetres (end A)
    • Diameter: 7.9 centimetres (end B)
  • Inscriptions

      • Inscription Type

      • Inscription Script

      • Inscription Language

      • Inscription Translation

        New translation by Irving Finkel, Curator of Cuneiform Collections at the British Museum:
        [When …] … [… wor]ld quarters […] … a low person was put in charge of his country, but he set [a (…) counter]feit over them. He ma[de] a counterfeit of Esagil [and …] … for Ur and the rest of the cult-cities. Rites inappropriate to them, [impure] fo[od- offerings …] disrespectful […] were daily gabbled, and, intolerably, he brought the daily offerings to a halt; he inter[fered with the rites and] instituted […] within the sanctuaries. In his mind, reverential fear of Marduk, king of the gods, came to an end. He did yet more evil to his city every day; … his [people…], he brought ruin on them all by a yoke without relief. Enlil-of-the-gods became extremely angry at their complaints, and […] their territory. The gods who lived within them left their shrines, angry that he had made them enter into Babylon (Shuanna). Ex[alted Marduk, Enlil-of-the-Go]ds, relented. He changed his mind about all the settlements whose sanctuaries were in ruins and the population of the land of Sumer and Akkad who had become like corpses, and took pity on them. He inspected and checked all the countries, seeking for the upright king of his choice. He took under his hand Cyrus, king of the city of Anshan, and called him by his name, proclaiming him aloud for the kingship over all of everything. He made the land of the Qutu and all the Medean troops prostrate themselves at his feet, while he looked out in justice and righteousness for the black-headed people whom he had put under his care. Marduk, the great lord, who nurtures his people, saw with pleasure his fine deeds and true heart and ordered that he should go to Babylon He had him take the road to Tintir, and, like a friend and companion, he walked at his side. His vast troops whose number, like the water in a river, could not be counted, marched fully-armed at his side. He had him enter without fighting or battle right into Shuanna; he saved his city Babylon from hardship. He handed over to him Nabonidus, the king who did not fear him. All the people of Tintir, of all Sumer and Akkad, nobles and governors, bowed down before him and kissed his feet, rejoicing over his kingship and their faces shone. The lord through whose trust all were rescued from death and who saved them all from distress and hardship, they blessed him sweetly and praised his name.

        I am Cyrus, king of the universe, the great king, the powerful king, king of Babylon, king of Sumer and Akkad, king of the four quarters of the world, son of Cambyses, the great king,, king of the city of Anshan, grandson of Cyrus, the great king, ki[ng of the ci]ty of Anshan, descendant of Teispes, the great king, king of Anshan, the perpetual seed of kingship, whose reign Bel and Nabu love, and with whose kingship, to their joy, they concern themselves.

        When I went as harbinger of peace i[nt]o Babylon I founded my sovereign residence within the palace amid celebration and rejoicing. Marduk, the great lord, bestowed on me as my destiny the great magnanimity of one who loves Babylon, and I every day sought him out in awe. My vast troops marched peaceably in Babylon, and the whole of [Sumer] and Akkad had nothing to fear. I sought the welfare of the city of Babylon and all its sanctuaries. As for the population of Babylon […, w]ho as if without div[ine intention] had endured a yoke not decreed for them, I soothed their weariness, I freed them from their bonds(?). Marduk, the great lord, rejoiced at [my good] deeds, and he pronounced a sweet blessing over me, Cyrus, the king who fears him, and over Cambyses, the son [my] issue, [and over] my all my troops, that we might proceed further at his exalted command. All kings who sit on thrones, from every quarter, from the Upper Sea to the Lower Sea, those who inhabit [remote distric]ts (and) the kings of the land of Amurru who live in tents, all of them, brought their weighty tribute into Shuanna, and kissed my feet. From [Shuanna] I sent back to their places to the city of Ashur and Susa, Akkad, the land of Eshnunna, the city of Zamban, the city of Meturnu, Der, as far as the border of the land of Qutu - the sanctuaries across the river Tigris - whose shrines had earlier become dilapidated, the gods who lived therein, and made permanent sanctuaries for them. I collected together all of their people and returned them to their settlements, and the gods of the land of Sumer and Akkad which Nabonidus – to the fury of the lord of the gods – had brought into Shuanna, at the command of Marduk, the great lord, I returned them unharmed to their cells, in the sanctuaries that make them happy. May all the gods that I returned to their sanctuaries, every day before Marduk and Nabu, ask for a long life for me, and mention my good deeds, and say to Marduk, my lord, this: “Cyrus, the king who fears you, and Cambyses his son, may their … […] […….].” The population of Babylon call blessings on my kingship, and I have enabled all the lands to live in peace. Every day I copiously supplied [… ge]ese, two ducks and ten pigeons more than the geese, ducks and pigeons […]. I sought out to strengthen the guard on the wall Imgur-Enlil, the great wall of Babylon, and […] the quay of baked brick on the bank of the moat which an earlier king had bu[ilt but not com]pleted, [I …] its work. [… which did not surround the city] outside, which no earlier king had built, his troops, the levee from his land, in/to Shuanna. […] with bitumen and baked brick I built anew, and completed its work. […] great [doors of cedarwood] with copper cladding. I installed all their doors, threshold slabs and door fittings with copper parts. […] I saw within it an inscription of Ashurbanipal, a king who preceded me, […] … […] … [… for] ever.
      • Inscription Comment

        The following translation (by Michalowski) is given by Chavalas (ed.) 2006, and reproduced by permission of the author and publisher. A slightly different English translation was published previously by Pritchard, and repeated by Ghias Abadi on pp. 35-36 with Farsi on pp. 15-22, French on pp. 33-34 and German (after Berger) on pp. 30-31.
        [When ...] his ... [...] the regions ..., an insignificant (candidate) was installed as high priestess (of the Moon) in his land, and [...] he imposed upon them. He made a replica of the Esaggil, [... established] improper rites for Ur and the remaining cult centres as well as [unclean offer]ings; daily he continuously uttered unfaithful (prayers); furthermore he maliciously suspended the regular offerings and upset the rites. He plotted to end the worship of Marduk and continuously perpetuated evil against his city. Daily [he ...] brought all his [people] to ruin by (imposing) toils without rest.
        Hearing their complaints, the Enlil of the Gods was terribly angry [and left] their territory; the gods living amongst them abandoned their abodes. (Nabonidus) brought them into Babylon, to (Marduk’s) fury. Marduk, ex[alted one, the Enlil of the God]s, roamed through all the places that had been abandoned, (and upon seeing this) reconciled his anger and showed mercy to the people of Sumer and Akkad who had become (as) corpses.
        He sought and looked through all the lands, searching for a righteous king whose hand he could grasp. He called to rule Cyrus, king of Anshan, and announced his name as the king of the universe. He made the Guti-land and all the Medes (Ummanmanda) bow in submission at his feet and so (Cyrus) assiduously looked after the justice and well-being of the Black-Headed People over whom he had been made victorious (by Marduk). And Marduk, the great lord, leader of his people, looked happily at the good deeds and steadfast mind of Cyrus and ordered him to march to his own city Babylon, set him on the road to Babylon, and went alongside him like a friend and companion. His teeming army, uncounted like water (flowing) in a river, marched with him fully armed. (Marduk) allowed him to enter Babylon without battle or fight, sparing his own city of Babylon from hardship, and delivered Nabonidus, who had not worshipped him, into his hands.
        All the people of Babylon, the entire land of Sumer and Akkad, rulers and princes, bowed down to him, kissed his feet, and rejoiced at his rule, filled with delight. They happily greeted him as the lord, by means of whose trust those who were as dead were revived and saved from all trial and hardship; they praised his name.
        I am Cyrus, king of the world, great king, mighty king, king of Babylon, king of the lands of Sumer and Akkad, king of the four quarters of the universe, son of Cambyses, great king, king of Anshan, descendant of Teispes, great king, king of Anshan, from an ancient royal lineage, whose reign is beloved by (the gods) Marduk and Nabu, whose kingship they desired to make them glad.
        After entering Babylon in peace, amidst joy and jubilation I made the royal palace the centre of my rule. The great lord Marduk, who loves Babylon, with great magnanimity, established (it) as (my) destiny, and I sought to worship him each day. My teeming army paraded about Babylon in peace, and I did not allow any trouble in all of Sumer and Akkad. I took great care to peacefully (protect) the city of Babylon and its cult places. (And) as for the citizens of Babylon … whom (Nabonidus) had made subservient in a manner (totally) unsuited to them against the will of the gods, I released them from their weariness and loosened their burden. The great lord Marduk rejoiced in my deeds. Kindly he blessed me, Cyrus, the king, his worshipper, Cambyses, the offspring of my loins, and all of my troops, so that we could go about in peace and well-being.
        By his lofty command, all enthroned kings, the whole world, from the Upper Sea to the Lower Sea, inhabitants of distant regions, all the kings of the West, tent dwellers, brought their heavy tribute to me in Babylon and kissed my feet. From [Babylon] to Ashur and Susa, Agade, Eshnunna, the cities of Zamban, Meturnu, Der as far as the borders of the Gutians – I returned to these sanctuaries on the other side of the Tigris, sanctuaries founded in ancient times, the images that had been in them there and I made their dwellings permanent. I also gathered all their people and returned to them their habitations. And then at the command of Marduk, the great lord, I resettled all the gods of Sumer and Akkad whom Nabonidus had brought into Babylon to the anger of the lord of the gods in their shrines, the places which they enjoy. May all the gods whom I have resettled in their sacred cities ask Marduk and Nabu each day for a long life for me and speak well of me to him; may they say to Marduk, my lord that Cyrus, the king who worships you, and Canbyses, his son … their … I settled all the people of Babylon who prayed for my kingship and all their lands in a peaceful place. Daily I supplied (the temple) [with offerings of x gee]se, two ducks, and ten turtledoves above the former (offerings) of geese, ducks, and turtledoves. The wall Imgur-Enlil, the great (city) wall of Babylon, I strove to strengthen its fortifications […] the baked brick quay on the bank of the city moat, constructed by an earlier king, but not completed, its work [I … thus the city had not been completely surrounded], so [to complete] the outside, which no king before me had done, its troops, mustered in all the land, into Babylon […]. I made it anew with bitumen and baked bricks and [finished the work upon it … I istalled doors of] mighty [cedar] clad with bronze, thresholds and door-opening[s cast of copper in all] its [gates … I saw inside it an in]scription of Ashurbanipal, a king who came before [me … for e]ver.

        Translation by Piotr Michalowski, published on pp. 428-29 in 'Historical Sources in Translation: The Ancient Near East', ed. Mark Chavalas (Blackwell, 2006), reproduced with the permission of the authors and publisher.
      • Inscription Type

      • Inscription Script

      • Inscription Language

      • Inscription Translation

        [one line destroyed]
        … [r]ims (of the world) … a weakling has been installed as the enû of his country; [the correct images of the gods he removed from their thrones, imi]tations he ordered to place upon them. A replica of the temple Esagila he has … for Ur and the other sacred cities inappropriate rituals … daily he did blabber [incorrect prayers]. He (furthermore) interrupted in a fiendish way the regular offerings, he did … he established within the sacred cities. The worship of Marduk, the king of the gods, he [chang]ed into abomination, daily he used to do evil against his (i.e. Marduk’s) city … He [tormented] its [inhabitant]s with corvée work without relief, he ruined them all.
        Upon their complaints the lord of the gods became terribly angry and [he departed from] their region, (also) the (other) gods living among them left their mansions, wroth that he had brought (them) into Babylon (Š (But) Marduk [who does care for] … on account of (the fact that) the sanctuaries of all their settlements were in ruins and the inhabitants of Sumer and Akkad had become like (living) dead, turned back (his countenance) [his] an[ger] [abated] and he had mercy (upon them). He scanned and looked (through) all the countries, searching for a righteous ruler willing to lead him (i.e. Marduk) (in the annual procession). (Then) he pronounced the name of Cyrus (Ku-ra-aš), king of Anshan, declared him (literally: pronounced [his] name) to be(come) the ruler of all the world. He made the Guti country and all the Manda-hordes bow in submission to his (i.e. Cyrus’) feet. And he (Cyrus) did always endeavour to treat according to justice the black-headed whom he (Marduk) has made him conquer. Marduk, the great lord, a protector of his people/worshippers, beheld with pleasure his (i.e. Cyrus’) good deeds and his upright mind (literally: heart) (and therefore) ordered him to march against his city Babylon (Ká.dingir.ra). He made him set out on the road to Babylon (DIN.TIR) going at his side like a real friend. His widespread troops – their number, like that of the water of a river, could not be established – strolled along, their weapons packed away. Without any battle, he made him enter his town Babylon (Š, sparing Babylon (Ká.dingir.ra) any calamity. He delivered into his (i.e. Cyrus’) hands Nabonidus, the king who did not worship him (i.e. Marduk). All the inhabitants of Babylon (DIN.TIR) as well as of the entire country of Sumer and Akkad, princes and governors (included), bowed to him (Cyrus) and kissed his feet, jubilant that he (had received) the kingship, and with shining faces. Happily they greeted him as a master through whose help they had come (again) to life from death (and) had all been spared damage and disaster, and they worshipped his (very) name.
        I am Cyrus, king of the world, great king, legitimate king, king of Babylon, king of Sumer and Akkad, king of the four rims (of the earth), son of Cambyses (Ka-am-bu-zi-ia), great king, king of Anshan, grandson of Cyrus, great king, king of Anshan, descendant of Teispes (Si-iš-pi-iš), great king, king of Anshan, of a family (which) always (exercised) kingship; whose rule Bel and Nebo love, whom they want as a king to please their hearts.
        When I entered Babylon (DIN.TIR) as a friend and (when) I established the seat of the government in the palace of the ruler under jubilation and rejoicing, Marduk, the great lord, [induced] the magnaminous inhabitants of Babylon (DIN.TIR) [to love me], and I was daily endeavouring to worship him. My numerous troops walked around in Babylon (DIN.TIR) in peace, I did not allow anybody to terrorise (any place) of [the country of Sumer] and Akkad. I strove for peace in Babylon (Ká.dingir.ra) and in all his (other) sacred cities. As to the inhabitants of Babylon (DIN.TIR), [they saw their] hearts con[tent] (because) [I abolished] the corvée which was against their (social) standing. I brought relief to their dilapidated housing, putting (thus) an end to their (main) complaints. Marduk, the great lord, was well pleased with my deeds and sent friendly blessings to myself, Cyrus, the king who worships him, to Cambyses, my son, the offspring of [my] lions, as well as to all my troops, and we all [praised] his great [godhead] joyously, standing before him in peace.
        All the kings of the entire world from the Upper to the Lower Sea, those who are seated in throne rooms, (those who)live in other [types of buildings as well as] all the kings of the West land living in tents, brought their heavy tributes and kissed my feet in Babylon (Š (As to the region) from … as far as Ashur and Susa, Agade, Eshnunna, the towns Zamban, Me-Turnu, Der as well as the region of the Gutians, I returned to (these) sacred cities on the other side of the Tigris, the sanctuaries of which have been ruins for a long time, the images which (used) to live therein and established for them permanent sanctuaries. I (also) gathered all their (former) inhabitants and returned (to them) their habitations. Furthermore, I resettled upon the command of Marduk, the great lord, all the gods of Sumer and Akkad whom Nabonidus has brought into Babylon (Š to the anger of the lord of the gods, unharmed, in their (former) chapels, the places which make them happy.
        May all the gods whom I have resettled in their sacred cities ask daily Bel and Nebo for a long life for me and may they recommend me (to him); to Marduk, my lord, they may say this: “Cyrus, the king who worships you, and Cambyses, his son, …” … all of them I settled in a peaceful place … ducks and doves, … I endeavoured to fortify (or repair) their dwelling places …
        (Translation given in Pritchard, 'Ancient Near Eastern Texts', pp.315-16)
  • Curator's comments

    Displaying the Cyrus cylinder

    This object has been more or less continually displayed in the British Museum since its discovery in 1879. The style of display has changed according to which gallery or case it was displayed. In 1971 it was loaned for the first time to Iran. This followed an official request by the Iranian Government through the ambassador in London for the temporary loan of this object to Tehran to mark the opening celebrations of the 2,500 anniversary of kingship in Iran. This was reported to the Trustees by R.D. Barnett, then Keeper of the Department of Western Asiatic Antiquities (in which department it was held) to the Trustees on 9 July 1971 (Trustees File, PG 3054). This object was taken to Iran from 7-22 October 1971 by R.D. Barnett at the expense of the Iranian government (recorded in the WAA Transfers book, entry dated 7.x.71). The object was "selected ... in spite of its damaged state and somewhat slight aesthetic appeal, as the national symbol of the entire celebrations and illustrated ... as prominently as possible on every instrument of publicity, including a postage stamp" and placed on temporary display "as the central piece of a select exhibition in a newly built monument, near Mehrabad airport, called the Shahyad Monument, which contains in its basement a small but well laid out museum of selected exhibits" (Trustees File, PG3291, report by Barnett read to the Board of Trustees 30 October 1971, including reference to the considerable press attention in Iran, and the safe return of the object). A photograph purporting to be of this object at Persepolis placed on top of a column base is published in b/w by R.M. Ghias Abadi ("Cylinder of Cyrus", Tehran 2001, third edition, pp. 20-21); this presumably reflects the fact that a massive ceremony to celebrate the 2500 anniversary was enacted at this site on 15 October 1971 but the object in this photograph was actually a copy rather than the original. This copy (a plaster cast) was taken to Persepolis on this occasion by the Reverend Norman Sharp and presented by him to Mr Ali Sami of the Persepolis Museum. The loan of the original was sanctioned by the Trustees, 24 July 1971; report by Barnett read at the Trustees meeting, 30 October 1971, after which it was concluded that "Despite a press campaign for its transfer to Iranian ownership, Dr. Barnett was able to bring the cylinder back to London without difficulty on 22 October. He believed that the Iranian Government might wish to make an application for a fresh loan of the object at the conclusion of the Trustees' exhibition, "Royal Persia", perhaps for the remainder of the Cyrus Year, ending in March 1972. While reaffirming their view that it had been right to lend the Cylinder for the opening ceremonies of the anniversary celebrations, the Board decided that it would be undesirable to make a further loan of the Cylinder to Iran".Press history

    Press items specifically dealing with this object and its loan history include: Martin Bailey: "How Britain tried to use a Persian antiquity for political gain", 'The Art Newspaper', no. 150, September 2004, p.18 [making use particularly of declassified Foreign Office files at the Public Record Office]. Louise Jury: "2,500-year-old charter of rights to revisit Iran", 'The Independent', Saturday 11 September 2004, p.9.
    Matthew Norman: "We've lost the authority to lecture Iran", 'The Independent', Friday 30 March 2007, p. 51, following the Iranian seizure of British military personnel in the Persian Gulf, and beginning with a mis-quotation about this object and its popular title as "the First Charter of Human Rights", thus: "I announce that I will respect the traditions, customs and religions of the nations of my empire ... While I am the King of Iran, Babylon and the nations of the four directions, I will never let anyone oppress any others, and if it occurs I will ... penalise the oppressor. I will never let anyone take possession of movable and landed properties of the others by force ..."Condition of the Cyrus Cylinder

    The object was found in several fragments in the 19th century and even after restoration is incomplete. The core is made of clay containing unusually large grey stone inclusions and was formed by initially making a cone shape, building up the cylinder form with additional clay and finally adding a much finer surface slip of clay over the surfaces prior to writing the inscription. It was then fired. This sequence of stages suggests that it was mass-produced but the coarse matrix of the core contributed to its later instability and explains why it broke into several pieces in antiquity. It was refired in 1961 as part of its museum conservation and a limited amount of plaster filling added in the 1970s before and after the addition of another fragment from the Yale Babylonian Collection and the moulding of the object for the purposes of making a type cast. An additional fragment, NBC 2504 on loan from the Yale Babylonian Collection, restores part of the text of lines 36-45 (giving details of the building operations at Babylon and describing Cyrus' discovery of an earlier foundation inscription of Ashurbanipal) is joined to the back of the Cylinder. The identification of this fragment in Yale was reported by Barnett to the Trustees on 7 January 1972, and its loan agreed by the Trustees, 22 January 1972. In 2007 the plaster was removed in order to enhance the appearance of the object and better show how it had been made.
    Interpretation of the Cyrus Cylinder

    The whole document is written from a purely Babylonian point of view in traditional Babylonian terms, and it has been suggested that its author took the Ashurbanipal inscription as his literary model. There is no acknowledgement that Cyrus himself worshipped the Iranian god Ahuramazda. He is the tool of Marduk, just as in the biblical book of Ezra he is presented as the servant of the god of Israel who is instructed to rebuild the temple in Jerusalem and allow the Jews deported by Nebuchadnezzar II to return home.

    Because of its references to just and peaceful rule, and to the restoration of deported peoples and their gods the cylinder has in recent years been referred to in some quarters as a kind of 'charter of human rights'. Such a concept would have been quite alien to Cyrus's contemporaries, and indeed the cylinder says nothing of human rights; but the return of the Jews and of other deported peoples was a significant reversal of the policies of earlier Assyrian and Babylonian kings.

    The publication of this object as an example of Achaemenid rather than Babylonian propaganda dates from the 1970s onwards. See for example Wiesehofer (1996, pl. XIb), who captions his illustration as "The so-called 'Cyrus Cylinder' from Babylon, written on clay in cuneiform script, was an Achaemenid propaganda document intended to legitimize and glorify Cyrus' rule in Babylonia". There is an extensive and growing literature on the significance of this object in this connection, including R.J. van der Spek, "Did Cyrus the Great introduce a new policy towards subdued nations?" in: 'Persica' 10 (1982), pp. 278-83.Moulds and casts of the Cyrus Cylinder

    The object was first moulded in 1962 following a request for a cast from the Minister of the Imperial Court of the Shah of Iran in 1961 in preparation for the 2500 jubilee originally planned for this period. A second cast was made from the same mould in August/September 1971 following a separate request from the Reverend Norman Sharp who took this cast with him when he attended the 2,500 year celebrations in October 1971: he presented it to his friend Mr Ali Sami, then director of the Persepolis museum. A further request was received via Mr Shapurian, the press attache of the Iranian embassy in London, in 1971 who was informed that it "would take about two weeks to make" (letter dated 2 November 1971). Secondary casts re-moulded from one of these which had been sent to Tehran were distributed by the Shah of Iran, including one which is displayed in the fort museum of Umm al-Qaiwain (UAE). They have also been sold commercially by the British Museum, National Museum in Tehran and assorted companies since that period. Those sold by the BM were marketed as part of their "Biblical Archaeology" series (1992 Casts catalogue). On 14 October, Princess Ashraf Pahlavi, the sister of the Shah, presented a cast to the United Nations Secretary General, Sithu U Thant. The display was made by the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the text translated into the six official languages of the UN.

    A modified cast was made after the join of the Yale fragment when the object was sent for moulding by Mr A.G. Prescott between 7 May and 13 August 1975.


  • Bibliography

    • Ghias Abadi 2001a bibliographic details
    • Berger 1975a bibliographic details
    • Walker 1972a bibliographic details
    • Harmatta J 1971a bibliographic details
    • Kuhrt A 1988a bibliographic details
    • Kuhrt A 1983a bibliographic details
    • Harmatta J 1974a bibliographic details
    • Finkel 2013a (definitive account of the text with discovery, display history and modern resonances) bibliographic details
    • Curtis & Tallis 2005 cat.6, p. 59 bibliographic details
    • Pinder-Wilson 1971a no.18 bibliographic details
    • Nies J B & Keiser C E 1920a no.32 (first publication of joining fragment in Yale) bibliographic details
    • Rawlinson H C & Pinches T G 1884a no.35 (first publication of) bibliographic details
    • Mitchell 1988 no.44, p.83 bibliographic details
    • Rassam H 1897a p. 267 bibliographic details
    • Guide 1900a p.172, photograph bibliographic details
    • Weissbach 1911a p.2 ff. (with transliteration) bibliographic details
    • Allen 2005a p.26 bibliographic details
    • Curtis 1993a p.55: illustration bibliographic details
    • Wiesehofer J 1996a pl. XIb bibliographic details
    • Curtis 1997a pl.11 bibliographic details
    • Grayson & Redford 1973 pp.124-26 bibliographic details
    • Pritchard 1950a pp.315-16 (translation by A L Oppenheim) bibliographic details
    • Chavalas M W 2006a pp.426-30 (entry by Piotr Michalowski) bibliographic details
    • Habershon A R 1909a pp.77-81 (discusses content in connection with the display at that time) bibliographic details
  • Location

    On display: G52/dc4

  • Exhibition history


    2014 April- BM, G52/Iran/4
    2013-2014 Dec-Mar, CSMVS, Mumbai, 'Cyrus Cylinder'
    2013 27 Sept-early Dec, Los Angeles, J. Paul Getty Museum, 'Cyrus Cylinder'
    2013 9 Aug-20 Sept, San Francisco, Asian Arts Museum, 'Cyrus Cylinder'
    2013 21 June-2 Aug, New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art, 'Cyrus Cylinder'
    2013 3 May-14 June, Houston, Museum of Fine Arts, 'Cyrus Cylinder'
    2013 15 Mar-26 Apr, Washington, Freer Sackler Gallery, 'Cyrus Cylinder'
    2010-2011 12 Sept-12 Jan, Tehran, National Museum of Iran, 'The Cyrus Cylinder'.
    2008-2009 13 Nov-15 Mar, BM, G35, 'Babylon: Myth and Reality'
    2007 - 15 Jun, BM, G52/Iran/4
    2006-2007 9 Aug-2 Apr, BM, G2/The Changing Museum, wall-case 76
    2006 7 Mar-11 Jun, Barcelona, Fundacion La Caixa, 'L'imperi Oblidat'
    2005-2006 Sept-Jan, BM, 'Forgotten Empire'
    1995-2005 17 Nov-Aug, BM, G52/IRAN/6/7
    1994 16 Jun-23 Dec, BM, G49/IRAN/6/9
    1975-1990 6 Jul-end, BM, Iranian Room [IR] case 9/6
    1971-1972 29 Oct-30 Jan, BM, 'Royal Persia: a commemoration of Cyrus the Great and his successors on the occasion of the 2500th anniversary of the founding of the Persian Empire'
    1971 12-19 Oct, Tehran, Shahyad Monument, opening ceremonies of the 2,500 anniversary celebration of the Kingship in Iran
    1930s BM, Persian Room, wall-case [WC] 15, top shelf
    1900-1922 (at least) BM, Babylonian Room, table-case G, no.67

  • Condition

    Incomplete; refired 28 August 1961.

  • Associated names

  • Associated places

  • Acquisition name

  • Acquisition date


  • Acquisition notes

    Excavated in March 1879; acquisition reported in the BM Return for 1880 (p.18).

  • Department

    Middle East

  • BM/Big number


  • Registration number


  • Additional IDs

    • BM.12049 (previously)
    • L1166
The Cyrus cylinder; clay cylinder; a Babylonian account of the conquest of Babylon by Cyrus in 539 BC, of his restoration to various temples of statues removed by Nabonidus, the previous king of Babylon, and of his own work at Babylon.

The Cyrus cylinder; clay cylinder; a Babylonian account of the conquest of Babylon by Cyrus in 539 BC, of his restoration to various temples of statues removed by Nabonidus, the previous king of Babylon, and of his own work at Babylon.

Image description



If you’ve noticed a mistake or have any further information about this object, please email: 

View open data for this object with SPARQL endpoint

Object reference number: WCT53356

British Museum collection data is also available in the W3C open data standard, RDF, allowing it to join and relate to a growing body of linked data published by organisations around the world.

View this object

Support the Museum:
donate online

The Museum makes its collection database available to be used by scholars around the world. Donations will help support curatorial, documentation and digitisation projects.

About the database

The British Museum collection database is a work in progress. New records, updates and images are added every week.

More about the database 


Work on this database is supported by a range of sponsors, donors and volunteers.

More about supporters and how you
can help