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Cyrus Cylinder text
The surviving inscription on the Cyrus Cylinder consists of 45 lines of text written in Akkadian cuneiform script. The first 35 lines are on fragment "A" and the remainder are on fragment "B."[26] A number of lines at the start and end of the text are too badly damaged for more than a few words to be legible. The text is written in an extremely formulaic style that can be divided into six distinct parts: Extract from the Cyrus Cylinder (lines 15–21), giving the genealogy of Cyrus and an account of his capture of Babylon in 539 BC. Lines 1–19: an introduction reviling Nabonidus, the previous king of Babylon, and associating Cyrus with the god Marduk; Lines 20–22: detailing Cyrus's royal titles and genealogy, and his peaceful entry to Babylon; Lines 22–34: a commendation of Cyrus's policy of restoring Babylon; Lines 34–35: a prayer to Marduk on behalf of Cyrus and his son Cambyses; Lines 36–37: a declaration that Cyrus has enabled the people to live in peace and has increased the offerings made to the gods; Lines 38–45: details of the building activities ordered by Cyrus in Babylon.[27] Sample detail image showing cuneiform script. The beginning of the text is partly broken; the surviving content reprimands the character of the deposed Babylonian king Nabonidus. It lists his alleged crimes, charging him with the desecration of the temples of the gods and the imposition of forced labor upon the populace. According to the proclamation, as a result of these offenses, the god Marduk abandoned Babylon and sought a more righteous king. Marduk called forth Cyrus to enter Babylon and become its new ruler.[28] In [Nabonidus's] 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 ... [Marduk] inspected and checked all the countries, seeking for the upright king of his choice. He took the hand of Cyrus, king of the city of Anshan, and called him by his name, proclaiming him aloud for the kingship over all of everything.[28] Midway through the text, the writer switches to a first-person narrative in the voice of Cyrus, addressing the reader directly. A list of his titles is given (in a Mesopotamian rather than Persian style): "I am Cyrus, king of the world, great king, powerful king, king of Babylon, king of Sumer and Akkad, king of the four quarters [of the earth], son of Cambyses, great king, king of Anshan, descendent of Teispes, great king, king of Anshan, the perpetual seed of kingship, whose reign Bel [Markuk] and Nebo love, and with whose kingship, to their joy, they concern themselves."[28] He describes the pious deeds he performed after his conquest: he restored peace to Babylon and the other cities sacred to Marduk, freeing their inhabitants from their "yoke," and he "brought relief to their dilapidated housing (thus) putting an end to their (main) complaints."[29] He repaired the ruined temples in the cities he conquered, restored their cults, and returned their sacred images as well as their former inhabitants which Narbonidus had taken to Babylon.[29] Near the end of the inscription Cyrus highlights his restoration of Babylon's city wall, saying: "I saw within it an inscription of Ashurbanipal, a king who preceded me."[28] The remainder is missing but presumably describes Cyrus's rededication of the gateway mentioned.[30] A partial transcription by F.H. Weissbach in 1911[31] was supplanted by a much more complete transcription after the identification of the "B" fragment; this is now available in German[32] and in English.[29][33] Several editions of the full text of the Cyrus Cylinder are available online, incorporating both "A" and "B" fragments. A false translation of the text – affirming, among other things, the abolition of slavery and the right to self-determination, a minimum wage and asylum – has been promoted on the Internet and elsewhere.[34] As well as making claims that are not found on the real cylinder, it refers to the Zoroastrian divinity Ahura Mazda rather than the Mesopotamian god Marduk.[35] The false translation has been widely circulated; alluding to its claim that Cyrus supposedly has stated that "Every country shall decide for itself whether or not it wants my leadership."[34] Iranian Nobel Peace Prize winner Shirin Ebadi in her acceptance speech described Cyrus as "the very emperor who proclaimed at the pinnacle of power 2,500 years ago that ... he would not reign over the people if they did not wish it".[36][34][37] Similarly, in a 2006 speech, United States President George W. Bush referred to Cyrus, declaring that his people had "the right to worship God in freedom"[38] – a statement made nowhere in the text of the Cylinder.
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