Take the 2-minute tour ×
History Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for historians and history buffs. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Wikipedia says:

"The Cyrus' Cylinder gained new prominence in the late 1960s when the last Shah of Iran called it "the world's first charter of human rights".[90] The cylinder was a key symbol of the Shah's political ideology and is still regarded by some commentators as a charter of human rights, despite the disagreement of some historians and scholars."

Then says:

"This ancient document is currently in the possession of the British Museum, which sponsored the expedition that discovered the cylinder"

It is going to the United States of America to make Americans familiar with a glorious piece of world's history not only Iran.

What other documents from ancient times concern human rights or civil rights in ancient ages?

The whole translated text in English is available here.

After some heated debates under this topic I found it useful to add something about bellow:

Cyrus's attempts and his justice in making a safe and fearless situation for people of lands which he had made them free and taking care of their economical rights and safety in ancient ages in compare with kings who only by killing and plunder could occupy new lands has considered as primary signs of respect to human rights.

I know there are many heated debates between two different prejudice groups which first group defends of this document as a certain evidence of human rights in ancient ages and the second group who tries hard to ignore whole the matter and mixes it with lies and damages it completely by a wrong personal selection in translating this document from ancient languages to new languages and gives a personal idea about it with comparing it with human rights' concepts in 21 century!

I am against both as want to have an impartial approach to this invaluable evidence of a civilized action toward people of another country after war about 500BC which might you can not find the same justice in new ages in wars and after wars and in the soldiers' behaviors with people of occupied countries in 19,20 or even 21 century!

I don't want to make people of the second group sensitive against myself as I am not one of people of first group not even prejudiced about anything else. I only respect to this ancient evidence and found it a kind of notable respect to human rights in ancient ages and wanted to find if there is any similar attempts like this or not! That's all!

Anyway I respect to downvoters from second group who showed their disagreement with this topic by this reaction. Surely everyone has a special method of talking. I respect to different cultures and their methods of communication.

P.S: I found this in Economist useful to read: Diplomatic Whirl and this interview: A great moment for the Middle East

share|improve this question

closed as not a real question by coleopterist, Darek Wędrychowski, Mark C. Wallace, Steven Drennon Mar 10 '13 at 21:57

It's difficult to tell what is being asked here. This question is ambiguous, vague, incomplete, overly broad, or rhetorical and cannot be reasonably answered in its current form. For help clarifying this question so that it can be reopened, visit the help center. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

i'm trying to understand what you're asking. is this a resource request? are you asking for more documents about human rights in history in general? if so i think that question is too broad. however. if you're looking for documents concerning human rights in its relation to the Cyrus Cylinder that may be more do-able. if you're looking for documents related to the use of the Cyrus Cylinder and its influence over human rights during the 60s when it was prominent in Iran that's even better. It would be helpful if you could clarify your question. –  franklin Mar 5 '13 at 3:16
I do not think so .It is not too broad. How many human rights documents do you think can find over the history? It is a very clear question: Is there any more documents about human rights in over the history like this one? I asked to know. Maybe there are more ancient documents like this but I do not know and the others know and can help me to know them too. It seems you have a bachelor degree in history so it would be a good question for you to answer if you know. –  Persian Cat Mar 5 '13 at 3:19
@choster Thanks! Nice edit! And please take a look on Persia tag. I found it wrong and changed it. When there is a tag about ancient-Iran we do not need another tag with wrong explanations. You can add Persia as a synonym of Iran not instead of ancient-Iran which it is wrong. –  Persian Cat Mar 5 '13 at 7:28
So this bold text is supposed to be human-rights related? In fact the sentence praises Cyrus for not pillaging the conquered cities. –  Anixx Mar 10 '13 at 15:54
@user37324 of course Cyrus as all rulers throughout the world had to show his generosity to the conquered peoples so to have them content and loyal. Some other kings of the time were throwing money to the crowd so to show how generous they are. –  Anixx Mar 10 '13 at 16:02

1 Answer 1

Since the author has clarified in the comments that she is interested in ancient codes of civil law rather than in modern concept of human rights, I hereby post another answer.

The most ancient known code of civil law is the Shumerian code of Ur-Nammu. It is about 15 centuries more ancient than the Cyrus cylinder. There is no doubt though that this code of law was not the first civil law code ever written, it is just the most ancient of the survived.


Regarding Cyrus Cylinder, it was not actually a document about rights of anybody, not to say, human rights.

The first part of the document is in the third person.

  • The first part denigrates the previous kings of Babylon, especially their religious practices, halting the offerings and the like.

  • The Gods disliking this previous king decided to choose a better one, whom they decided should be Cyrus.

  • Then follows the part where it is described how much the people and subordinated kings love Cyrus and kiss his feet.

The second part is explained from the name of Cyrus himself:

  • The full title of Cyrus

  • Cyrus describes that his troops entered Babylon peacefully (following the city's surrender) and made no damage to the population and temples.

  • Again how much the subordinated kings and representatives of remote quarters expressed love and loyalty to him and kissed his feet.

  • He then describes how he restored and rebuilt the temples.

  • He then describes how he improved the defenses and city walls.

The claim that it has something about "human rights" is described as a hoax, for example, by Spiegel.

share|improve this answer
It is a she! So please vote to delete your the other post and please add more context to your answer to be read as a real answer. –  Persian Cat Mar 10 '13 at 10:28
@user37324 the other answer answers your question literally and correctly. If you change the question, I will remove that answer. –  Anixx Mar 10 '13 at 10:30
I am wondering if you disagree with considering this ancient document as a kind of respect to human rights why are you suggesting something here? I feel you are confused about the matter and cannot decide about it. I hope one of mods at finally delete one of your answers to clean this topic of messy irrelevant answers which are not good fits for this site. –  Persian Cat Mar 10 '13 at 13:20

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.