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Panel Discussion at Asian Art Museum in San Francisco: The Cyrus Cylinder: Uses, Misuses, and Contemporary Iran

Asian Art Museum, San Francisco
August 9, 2013, 3-5 PM at the Samsung Hall

Cyrus Cylinder's historic U.S. tour
August 9 - September 22, 2013

Asian Art Museum in San Francisco, CA

One of the most iconic objects from the ancient world, the Cyrus Cylinder is widely considered a symbol of multiculturalism, tolerance, and human rights. Cyrus the Great, founder of the expansive Persian Achaemenid dynasty, had the Cylinder created to formally mark the establishment of Persian rule over Babylon in 539 BCE.

The Cylinder gained new prominence in the late 1960s when the Shah of Iran celebrated it as the world's first charter of human rights, even as his regime was being accused of human rights abuses. Though the Cylinder symbolizes the principles of human understanding, tolerance, courage, compassion, and liberty to many around the world, others have interpreted it in widely divergent ways.

This year, the Cylinder began its first tour of the United States, and it will be on view at the Asian Art Museum along with a number of related objects from ancient Persia. Asia Society Northern California is pleased to partner with the Asian Art Museum on the exhibition's opening day of August 9 to host a panel discussion on the Cylinder's historical context, its changing symbolism and representations, and its contemporary relevance in Iran and beyond. The exhibition will be open that day from 10:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.


  • Jay Xu (moderator), Director, Asian Art Museum
  • John Curtis, Keeper of the Middle East Collections, The British Museum
  • Reza Zarghamee, Author of Discovering Cyrus: The Persian Conqueror Astride the Ancient World (forthcoming 2013)
  • Trita Parsi, President, National Iranian American Council
  • Mitra Ara, Professor and Founding Director, Persian Studies Department, San Francisco State University

Promotional Co-Sponsors: UC Berkeley Department of Near Eastern Studies and the San Francisco State University Persian Studies Program

Program Agenda:

2:30-3:00 pm: Registration
3:00-4:45 pm: Discussion and Audience Q&A
4:45-5:30 pm: Reception and Exhibition Viewing

Tickets are available in advance only. Tickets will not be on sale at the museum on the day of the event.
$20 members*, $25 non-members (includes museum admission). Advance tickets only
*Members include Asian Art Museum members and Asia Society members.

Exhibition Partners

The exhibition was organized by the British Museum in partnership with the Iran Heritage Foundation and the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Smithsonian Institution.

The exhibition is supported by an indemnity from the Federal Council on the Arts and the Humanities.

Exhibition supporters

The exhibition at the Asian Art Museum is generously supported by Tina and Hamid Moghadam, Bita Daryabari and Dr. Reza Malek in collaboration with the Public Affairs Alliance of Iranian Americans.

Related Articles:

Catching up with the Cyrus Cylinder - Following in the footsteps of the Cyrus Cylinder trekking through five museums in the United States, we have reached the mid-point in Manhattan. So let's pause for a commercial break and see how far this iconic object has come, as we eagerly await its arrival on the West Coast. -A.J. Cave 7/19/13

World Premier of the King Cyrus Symphonic Suite to be held in San Francisco - The Public Affairs Alliance of Iranian Americans (PAAIA) is proud to announce the world premiere of The King Cyrus Symphonic Suite: From Birth to the Proclamation of Human Rights for a one night only performance on August 10, 2013. Composed and conducted by Maestro Loris Tjeknavorian and performed by the San Francisco Philharmonic Orchestra 7/18/13

Ancient Persian Ruler Influenced Thomas Jefferson, U.S. Democracy - The discovery of the Cyrus Cylinder was a hundred years in the future when Thomas Jefferson and other founders of the United States adopted the progressive ideas of the ancient Persian ruler Cyrus the Great. They knew of Cyrus through classical Greek writers and Biblical accounts. -Lea Terhune, IIP 03/17/13

Cyrus Cylinder: Ancient Persia Foreshadowed Modern Values - The Cyrus Cylinder has left its British Museum repository for its first U.S. tour, beginning at the Smithsonian Institution's Arthur M. Sackler Gallery in Washington. "The Cyrus Cylinder and Ancient Persia" showcases this 2,600-year-old archeological treasure amid other artifacts from the Achaemenid Empire (550-331 B.C.) founded by the Persian ruler Cyrus the Great. -Lea Terhune, IIP 03/13/13

The Cyrus Cylinder Tour Of The United States: Washington, Houston, New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles -- March-December 2013 - The Cyrus Cylinder will be on display in an exhibition entitled "The Cyrus Cylinder and Ancient Persia: A New Beginning." This touring exhibition is organised by the British Museum in partnership with the Iran Heritage Foundation (IHF) and the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, and in collaboration with four other major museums. 02/23/13

Cyrus, Ben-Gurion and Ben-Zion - By all accounts. Cyrus was a magnanimous man and the archetype of a wise ruler. The policies that he introduced did indeed promote religious tolerance, and the right for communities to live according to their own laws and beliefs. What Cyrus promoted is a model to be emulated and not criticized. One must be grateful that Neil MacGregor delivered his TED talk, and is allowing the Cyrus Cylinder to tour the United States of America. -Abolala Soudavar 02/20/13

The Cyrus Cylinder: Its Significance for Today

- The Cyrus Cylinder has traveled to the United States for the first time, and it will tour five major metropolitan centers, starting March 9th at the Smithsonian Institution's Arthur M. Sackler Gallery in Washington, D.C., traveling afterwards to Houston, New York, San Francisco, and Los Angeles. Despite its antiquity, the cylinder may still have a significant role to play on the international stage today. -Farhang Jahanpour 03/11/13


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