The Cyrus Cylinder, sixth century B.C.E. Clay, inscribed with cuneiform, British Museum, London.
The Cyrus Cylinder is a Mesopotamian royal inscription on a 10-inch-long clay barrel. It was discovered by the archaeologist Hormuzd Rassam in the ruins of Babylon in Mesopotamia (modern Iraq) in 1879.
The cylinder is inscribed in Babylonian cuneiform. Cyrus, king of Persia (559-530 BC) tells of his conquest of Babylon in 539 BC and the capture of Nabonidus, the last Babylonian king. Cyrus follows a classic Mesopotamian formula for legitimizing his new reign-he describes how Marduk, the Babylonian god, chose him to come liberate his people from an oppressive ruler. Cyrus goes on to describe the reforms he will establish and how he will improve the lives of the people.