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The Cyrus Cylinder - Ancient Persian Declaration of Freedom As a Human Right Being Brought to the United States

Source: Farhang Foundation

Farhang Foundation Sponsoring the Cyrus Cylinder Tour
The Getty Villa, Fall 2013

The Cyrus Cylinder, 539-538 BC,
Achaemenid, clay

Los Angeles, CA - For the first time in history, the Cyrus Cylinder, one of the ancient world’s most celebrated artifacts of freedom and human rights, is being brought to the United States for exhibition.

Housed at the British Museum in London, the Cyrus Cylinder will travel to five major U.S. cities in 2013, in a tour supported by the Iran Heritage Foundation.

The Cyrus Cylinder will be accompanied in this exhibition by sixteen objects under the title “The Cyrus Cylinder in Ancient Persia.” The exhibition shows the innovations initiated by Persian rule in the Ancient Near East (550 BC-331 BC), when the Persian Empire was then the largest the world had known.

The tour will debut at the Smithsonian’s Arthur M. Sackler Gallery inWashington D.C. in March 2013 before traveling to the Museum of Fine Artsin Houston, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, and the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco, concluding its journey with an eight week stay at the J. Paul Getty Museum at The Getty Villa in Los Angeles fromOctober 2 - December 2, 2013.

Farhang Foundation is proud to be the financial sponsor and community organization working with the Getty Museum to ensure the success of the Cyrus Cylinder tour in its last and most anticipated stop, Los Angeles, home to the largest Iranian community outside Iran.

“It is an honor to be bringing this great artifact from our glorious Iranian culture to the community here in Los Angeles,” said Ali C. Razi, chairman of the board of trustees at Farhang Foundation. “In the coming months, we will be reaching out to other community leaders and organizations to help spread the word to as many people as possible, within the community at large about this historic opportunity to showcase one of the most iconic artifacts of our culture.”

The 2,500 year old Cyrus Cylinder is one of the most celebrated objects to have survived from the ancient world and is often referred to as the first bill of human rights as it appears to free all slaves, encourage freedom of worship throughout the Persian Empire and to allow deported people to return to their homelands.


In addition to Cyrus’ impact in the ancient world, it is known that Thomas Jefferson and the Founding Fathers of the United States were well aware of Cyrus the Great and his methods of governing when drafting the American Constitution, which may be why the First Amendment in the Bill of Rights, pertains to universal freedoms, including freedom of religion, a right that Cyrus has been credited with being the first to espouse.

“Freedom is the most treasured of human rights and forms the very heart of what it means to be American,” said Farhad Mohit, Farhang Foundation trustee. “As the Cyrus Cylinder shows, the concept of freedom as a basic human right perhaps originated in ancient Iran. Therefore, this exhibition offers a great opportunity to come together and celebrate our shared cultural values, with everyone in our new home in the United States.”

Beyond its significance for an American audience, the sweeping vision, humanitarian values and respect for diverse faiths conveyed on the Cyrus Cylinder have made it truly an object of world heritage. In fact, it is so valued by people all around the world as a symbol of religious freedom and multiethnic coexistence that a copy of the Cylinder is on display in the United Nations building in New York.

Additionally, the Cylinder has been seen by Biblical scholars as corroborative evidence of Cyrus’ policy of the repatriation of the Jewish people after the Persian King freed them from Babylonian captivity. And his kind treatment of the Jewish people is also reported in the Bible, making Cyrus, a Persian King, the only non-Jewish person designated as a Messiah, or divinely appointed leader, in the Torah.

“Perhaps no other object in the world today dispels so many popular myths, brings together many seemingly divergent cultures and peoples, and focuses all who see it on such unifying humanitarian ideals, as this small clay cylinder from Iran of 2,500 years ago,” said Bita Milanian, executive director of Farhang Foundation, “It is our hope that our community spreads the word about this exhibition, so that as many people as possible learn about the Cyrus Cylinder and come to appreciate true Iranian culture through the lens of our shared ideals.”

About Farhang Foundation
Farhang Foundation is a non-religious, non-political and not-for-profit foundation established in 2008 to celebrate and promote Iranian art and culture for the benefit of the community at large. The foundation supports a broad range of academic activities in Southern California by funding university programs, publications and conferences. The foundation also supports diverse cultural programs such as the celebration of Nowruz and Mehregan, theater, dance performances, film screenings and poetry reading in Southern California. And, in cooperation with various cultural and academic institutions, Farhang Foundation funds major programs and exhibitions about Iran and its culture. However, the content, viewpoints or biases expressed by individual artists, academics, institutions or events supported by the foundation belong solely to each individual party and do not necessarily reflect the views of Farhang Foundation.

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