Pollywood: A 2,600-Year Legacy

Famed ‘Cyrus Cylinder’ symbol of Middle East peace anchors Persian New Year celebration in Washington.

The Cyrus Cylinder continues to be a symbol of peace in the Middle East, 2,600 years after the Persian king Cyrus the Great’s conquest of Babylon. (Photo by Tony Powell)

Long held as the first human rights document, the Cyrus Cylinder is making waves in Washington just in time for “Norooz,” the Persian New Year.

On loan from the British Museum, the football-sized clay artifact is the star of an exhibit highlighting the Persian Empire, on view through April 28 at the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery as part of a five-city tour across the country.

The Cyrus Cylinder recounts in ancient cuneiform the Persian king Cyrus the Great’s conquest of Babylon in 539 B.C.,a move that created one of the largest and most diverse kingdoms at the time. It was also one of the most enlightened, granting religious freedom for its people in allowing Jews to return to their homeland in the process. Cyrus the Great’s approach to governance influenced Thomas Jefferson, who owned two versions of his biography which he consulted while drafting the Declaration of Independence. Today, this iconic artifact continues to impact political and scholarly discussion about peace in the Middle East.

The Sackler’s “The Cyrus Cylinder and Ancient Persia: New Beginnings” exhibit is on view now through April 28, 1050 Independence Ave. SW, 202-633-4880, Free.

See our extended coverage of the Cylinder, including an exclusive interview of British Museum director by CNN’s , Norooz on the Hill and a congressional resolution marking the cultural holiday and the arrival of the Cylinder in the April 2013 issue of Washington Life Magazine, on sale April 1. Or click the image below to read the full feature now. 

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