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Cyrus Cylinder (2)

Cyrus' cylinder. British museum, London (Britain). Photo Marco Prins.
Cyrus' cylinder (British Museum)
The Cyrus Cylinder was discovered in 1879 and rapidly became one of the most famous cuneiform texts, as it seemed to confirm that the Persian conqueror Cyrus the Great had allowed the Jews to return from their Babylonian Captivity. Although this is a bit exaggerated (more...), it remains an interesting text.
  • The transcription offered here has been adapted from the edition by Hanspeter Schaudig, Die Inschriften Nabonids von Babylon und Kyros' des Groen (2001 Mnster). Because this web edition was made to counter propaganda, Mr. Schaudig's footnotes could be ignored; some aspects have been simplified; and Personenkeile have been rendered with m instead of  i (cf. the web versions of the Babylonian Chronicles). Check the original if you need to quote it.
  • The translation is a modified version of Mordechai Cogan's, which was published in W.H. Hallo and K.L. Younger, The Context of Scripture. Vol. II: Monumental Inscriptions from the Biblical World (2003, Leiden and Boston), now adapted to Schaudig's edition with the help of Bert van der Spek and Mr. M. Stolper
  • A scan of a drawing made by Th. Pinches can be found here.
  • The titles of the sections do not belong to the original text but are only there to help the reader.
  • An introduction to reading a page like this can be found here.
  • I offer a box of chocolate to the one who can tell me who is responsible for the fraudulent text.
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Modern propaganda
Text and translation

Pinches' drawing

Text of Fragment A


The tyranny of Nabonidus

1 [-nu x x x] /x\-ni-šu [When...] ...
2 [x x x ki-i]b-ra-a-t [... of the four quar]ters
3 [x x x] /x x\ GAL ma-tu- iš -šak-na a-na e-nu-tu ma-ti-š [x x x] /x x\ An incompetent person [i.e., Nabonidus] was installed to exercise lordship over his country.
4 /?\ [x x x]-ši-li -ša-š-ki-na se-ru-šu-un /and?\ [...] he imposed upon them.
5 ta-am-ši-li -SAG-L i-te-[pu-uš-ma x x x t]? a-na RIki si-it-ta-a-t ma-ha-za A counterfeit of Esagila he ma[de, and...]... for Ur and the rest of the cultic centers,
6 pa-ra-as la si-ma-a-ti-šu-nu ta-[ak-li-im la-me-si x x x la] pa-lih u4-mi-š-am-ma id-de-n-eb-bu-ub /ana ma-ag\-ri-t a ritual which was improper to them, an [unholy] di[splay offering x x x without] fear he daily recited. Irreverently,
7 sat-tuk-ku -šab-ti-li -l[a-ap-pi-it pl-lu-de-e x x x ]-tak-ka-an q-reb ma-ha-zi pa-la-ha dAMAR.UTU LUGAL DINGIRmeš i[g-m]ur kar-šu-uš-šu he put an end to the regular offerings (and) he in[terfered  in the cultic centers; x x x he] established in the sacred centers.
By his own plan, he did away with the worship of Marduk, the king of the gods,
8 le-mu-ut-ti URU-šu [i-t]e-n-ep-pu-/\ u4-mi-ša-am-/ma x x\ [x x x G]meš-š i-na ab-ša-a-ni la ta-ap-šu-h-t -hal-li-iq kul-lat-si-in he continually did evil against Marduk's city. Daily, [...] without interruption, he imposed the corve upon its inhabitants unrelentingly, ruining them all.

Marduk's anger

9 a-na ta-zi-im-ti-ši-na dEN.LL DINGIRmeš ez-zi-iš i-gu-ug-m[a x x x] ki-su-r-šu-un DINGIRmeš a-ši-ib Š-bi-šu-nu i-zi-bu at-/ma\-an-šu-un Upon hearing their cries, the lord of the gods became furiously angry and [x x x] their borders; the gods who lived among them forsook their dwellings,
10 i-na ug-ga-ti-ša -še-ri-bi a-na q-reb ŠU.AN.NAki dAMAR.UTU t[i-iz-qa-rudEN.LL DINGIRm]us-sa-ah-ra a-na nap-har da-d-mi š in-na-du- šu-bat-su-un angry that he [sc. Nabonidus] had brought them to Babylon. Marduk, the ex[alted, the lord of the gods], turned towards all the habitations that were abandoned and

Marduk finds a new king for Babylon

11 Gmeš KUR šu-me-ri URIki ša i-mu- ša-lam-ta-š -sa-/ah\-hi-ir ka-/bat\-[ta-š] ir-ta-ši ta-a-a-ra kul-lat ma-ta-a-ta ka-li-ši-na i-hi-it ib-re-e-ma all the people of Sumer and Akkad, who had become corpses. He was reconciled and had mercy upon them. He examined and checked all the entirety of the lands, all of them,
12 iš-te-'e-e-ma ma-al-ki i-š-ru bi-bil Š-bi-ša it-ta-ma-ah qa-tu-uš-šu mKu-ra-š LUGAL URU an-ša-an it-ta-bi ni-bi-it-su a-na ma-li-ku-t kul-la-ta nap-har iz-zak-ra šu-/um-š\ he searched everywhere and then he took a righteous king, his favorite, by the hand, he called out his name: Cyrus, king of Anšan; he pronounced his name to be king all over the world.
13 kurqu-ti-i gi-mir um-man-man-da -ka-an-ni-ša a-na še-pi-šu Gmeš sal-mat SAG.DU ša -ša-ak-ši-du qa-ta-a-š He made the land of Gutium and all the Umman-manda [i.e., the Medes] bow in submission at his feet. And he [i.e., Cyrus] shepherded with justice and righteousness all the black-headed people,
14 i-na ki-it-t mi-š-ru iš-te-n-'e-e-ši-na-a-t dAMAR.UTU EN GAL ta-ru- Gmeš-š ep-še-e-ti-ša dam-qa-a-ta Š-ba-šu i-ša-ra ha-di-iš ip-pa-li-i[s] over whom he [i.e., Marduk] had given him victory. Marduk, the great lord, guardian of his people, looked with gladness upon his good deeds and upright heart.

Cyrus takes Babylon

15 a-na URU-šu K.DINGIRmeš ki a-la-ak-šu iq-bi -ša-as-bi-it-su-ma har-ra-nu TIN.TIRki ki-ma ib-ri tap-pe-e it-tal-la-ka i-da-a-šu He ordered him to go to his city Babylon. He set him on the road to Babylon and like a companion and a friend, he went at his side.
16 um-ma-ni-šu rap-ša-a-t ša ki-ma me-e D la -ta-ad-du- ni-ba-šu-un gišTUKULmeš-šu-nu sa-an-du-ma i-ša-ad-di-ha i-da-a-šu His vast army, whose number, like water of the river, cannot be known, marched at his side fully armed.
17 ba-lu qab-li ta-ha-zi -še-ri-ba-š q-reb ŠU.AN.NAki URU-šu K.DINGIRmeš ki i-ti-ir i-na šap-ša-q, mdN.N.TUKU LUGAL la pa-li-hi-šu -ma-al-la-a qa-tu-uš-š He made him enter his city Babylon without fighting or battle; he saved Babylon from hardship. He delivered Nabonidus, the king who did not revere him, into his hands.
18 Gmeš TIN.TIRkika-li-šu-nu nap-har KUR šu-me-ri u URIki ru-b-e šak-ka-nak-ka ša-pal-šu ik-mi-sa -na-š-ši-qu še-pu-uš-šu ih-du- a-na LUGAL--ti-š im-mi-ru pa-nu-uš-š-un All the people of Babylon, all the land of Sumer and Akkad, princes and governors, bowed to him and kissed his feet. They rejoiced at his kingship and their faces shone.
19 be-lu ša i-na tu-kul-ti-ša -bal-li-tu mi-tu-ta-an i-na pu-uš-qu -de-e ig-mi-lu kul-la-ta-an ta-bi-iš ik-ta-ar-ra-bu-šu iš-tam-ma-ru zi-ki-ir-šu Lord by whose aid the dead were revived and who had all been redeemed from hardship and difficulty, they greeted him with gladness and praised his name.

Cyrus' titles

20 a-na-ku mKu-ra-š LUGAL kiš-šat LUGAL GAL LUGAL dan-nu LUGAL TIN.TIRki LUGAL KUR šu-me-ri ak-ka-di-i LUGAL kib-ra-a-ti er-b-et-t I am Cyrus, king of the world, great king, mighty king, king of Babylon, king of Sumer and Akkad, king of the four quarters,
21 DUMU mKa-am-bu-zi-ia LUGAL GAL LUGAL URU an-ša-an DUMU DUMU mKu-ra-š LUGAL GAL LUGA[L U]RU an-ša-an Š.BAL.BAL mši-iš-pi-iš LUGAL GAL LUGAL URU an-š-an the son of Cambyses, great king, king of Anšan, grandson of Cyrus, great king, king of Anšan, descendant of Teispes, great king, king of Anšan,
22 NUMUN da-ru- ša LUGAL--tu ša dEN u dN ir-a-mu pa-la-a-šu a-na tu-ub Š-bi-š-nu ih-ši-ha L[UGA]L-ut-su e-nu-ma a-n[a q]-reb TIN.TIRkie-ru-bu sa-li-mi-iš of an eternal line of kingship, whose rule Bl and Nabu love, whose kingship they desire fot their hearts' pleasure. When I entered Babylon in a peaceful manner,

The prince of peace

23 i-na ul-si ri-ša-a-t i-na .GAL ma-al-ki ar-ma-a šu-bat be-lu-tdAMAR.UTU EN GAL Š-bi ri-it-pa-šu ša ra-/im\ TIN.TIRki ši-m[a]/a-tiš\ /iš-ku?-na\-an-ni-ma u4-mi-šam a-še-'a-a pa-la-/ah\ I took up my lordly abode in the royal palace amidst rejoicing and happiness. Marduk, the great lord, /established as his fate (šimtu)\ for me a magnanimous heart of one who loves Babylon, and I daily attended to his worship.
24 um-ma-ni-ia rap-ša-t i-na q-reb TIN.TIRki i-ša-ad-di-ha š-ul-ma-niš nap-har KU[R šu-me-ri] /\ URIki mu-gal-[l]i-t ul -šar-ši My vast army marched into Babylon in peace; I did not permit anyone to frighten the people of [Sumer] /and\ Akkad.
25 /URUki\ K.DINGIR.RAki kul-lat ma-ha-zi-šu i-na ša-li-im-t š-te-'e-e DUMUmeš TIN.TIR[ki x x x š]a ki-ma la Š-[bi DING]IR-ma ab-š-a-ni la si-ma-ti-š-nu šu-ziz-/zu!\ I sought the welfare of the city of Babylon and all its sacred centers. As for the citizens of Babylon, [x x x upon wh]om  he [i.e., Nabonidus] imposed a corve which was not the gods' wish and not befitting them,
26 an-hu-ut-su-un -pa-š-ši-ha -ša-ap-ti-ir sa-ar-ma-šu-nu a-na ep-še-e-ti-[ia dam-qa-a-ti] dAMAR.UTU EN GA[L]- ih-de-e-ma I relieved their weariness and freed them from their service. Marduk, the great lord, rejoiced over [my good] deeds.
27 a-na ia-a-ti mKu-ra-š LUGAL pa-li-ih-šu mKa-am-bu-zi-ia DUMU si-it Š-bi-[ia a-n]a nap-h[ar] um-ma-ni-ia He sent gracious blessing upon me, Cyrus, the king who worships him, and upon Cambyses, the son who is [my] offspring, [and up]on all my army,

Religious measures

28 da-am-q-š ik-ru-ub-ma i-na š-lim-t ma-har-ša ta-bi-iš ni-it-t[a-al-la-ak i-na q-bi-ti-š] sir-ti nap-har LUGAL a-ši-ib BRAmeš and in peace, before him, we mov[ed] around in friendship. [By his] exalted [word], all the kings who sit upon thrones
29 ša ka-li-iš kib-ra-a-ta iš-tu tam-t e-li-t a-di tam-t šap-li-t a-ši-ib n[a-gi-i n-su-t] LUGALmeš KUR a-mur-ri-i a-ši-ib kuš-ta-ri ka-li-š-un throughout the world, from the Upper Sea to the Lower Sea, who live in the dis[tricts far-off], the kings of the West, who dwell in tents, all of them,
30 bi-lat-su-nu ka-bi-it-t -bi-lu-nim-ma q-er-ba ŠU.AN.NAki -na-š-ši-qu še-pu--a iš-tu [ŠU.AN.NAk]i a-di URU aš-šurki MŠ-ERENki brought their heavy tribute before me and in Babylon they kissed my feet. From [Babylon] to Aššur and (from) Susa,
31 a-k-dki KUR š-nu-nak URU za-am-ba-an URU me-tr-nu BD.DINGIRki a-di pa-at kurqu-ti-i ma-ha-z[a e-be]r-ti dIDIGNA ša iš-tu pa!-na-ma na-du- šu-bat-su-un Agade, Ešnunna, Zamban, Me-Turnu, Der, as far as the region of Gutium, the sacred centers on the other side of the Tigris, whose sanctuaries had been abandoned for a long time,
32 DINGIRmeš a-ši-ib Š-bi-š-nu a-na š-ri-šu-nu -tir-ma -šar-ma-a šu-bat da-r-a-ta kul-lat Gmeš-š-nu -pa-ah-hi-ra-am-ma -te-er da-d-mi-š-un I returned the images of the gods, who had resided there [i.e., in Babylon], to their places and I let them dwell in eternal abodes. I gathered all their inhabitants and returned to them their dwellings.
33 DINGIRmeš KUR šu-me-ri URIki ša mdN.N.TUKU a-na ug-ga-t EN DINGIRmeš -še-ri-bi a-na q-reb ŠU.AN.NAki i-na q-bi-ti dAMAR.UTU EN GAL i-na ša-li-im-t In addition, at the command of Marduk, the great lord, I settled in their habitations, in pleasing abodes, the gods of Sumer and Akkad, whom Nabonidus, to the anger of the lord of the gods, had brought into Babylon.

Cyrus' prayer

34 i-na maš-ta-ki-šu-nu -še-ši-ib š-ba-at tu-ub Š-bi {ut} kul-la-ta DINGIRmeš ša -še-ri-bi a-na q-er-bi ma-ha-zi-šu-un May all the gods whom I settled in their sacred centers ask daily
35 u4-mi-ša-am ma-har dEN dN ša a-ra-ku U4meš-ia li-ta-mu- lit-taz-ka-ru a-ma-a-ta du-un-q-ia a-na dAMAR.UTU EN-ia li-iq-bu- ša mKu-ra-š {} LUGAL pa-li-hi-ka u mKa-am-bu-zi-ia DUMU-š of Bl and Nbu that my days be long and may they intercede for my welfare. May they say to Marduk, my lord: "As for Cyrus, the king who reveres you, and Cambyses, his son,

Text of Fragment B

36 /x\ [x x x- i]b šu-nu lu- /x x x x x x x x\ Gmeš TIN.TIRki /ik-tar-ra-bu\ LUGAL--tu KUR.KUR ka-li-ši-na šu-ub-ti n-eh-t -še-ši-ib [end of prayer]."
The people of Babylon blessed my kingship, and I settled all the lands in peaceful abodes.

Building activities

37 [x  x  x KUR.]GImušen 2 UZ.TURmušen 10 TU.GUR4mušen.meš e-li KUR.GImušen UZ.TURmušen.meš TU.GUR4mušen.meš I [daily increased the number offerings to N] geese, two ducks, and ten turledoves above the former offerings of geese, ducks, and turtledoves.
38 [x x x u4-m]i-šam -ta-ah-hi-id BD im-gur-dEN.LL BD GAL-a ša TIN.TIRk[i ma-as-s]ar-/ta\-š du-un-nu-n š-te-'e-e-ma [...] Dur-Imgur-Enlil, the great wall of Babylon, its de[fen]se, I sought to strengthen
39 [x x x] ka-a-ri a-gur-ru š G ha-ri-si ša LUGAL mah-ri i-p[u-šu-ma la -ša]k-/li-lu\ ši-pi-ir-šu [...] The quay wall of brick, which a former king had bu[ilt, but had not com]pleted its construction,
40 [x x x la -ša-as-hi-ru URU] /a\-na ki-da-a-ni ša LUGAL ma-ah-ra la i-pu-šu um-man-ni-šu di-ku-u[t ma-ti-šu i-na (or: a-na) q]-/reb\ ŠU.AN.NAki [...who had not surrounded the city] on the outside, which no former king had made, (who) a levy of work[men (or: soldiers) had led] in[to] Babylon,
41 [x x x i-na ESIR.HD.R]/A\ SIG4.AL.R.RA eš-ši-iš e-pu-uš-ma [-šak-lil ši-pir-ši]-in [... with bitumen] and bricks, I built anew [and completed th]eir [job].
42 [x x x gišIGmeš gišEREN MAH]meš ta-ah-lu-up-t ZABAR as-ku-up-pu nu-ku-š[e-e pi-ti-iq e-ri-i e-ma Kmeš]i-na [... magnificent gates of cedar] with a bronze overlay, thresholds and door-sockets [cast in copper, I fixed in all] their [doorways].
43 [-ra-at-ti x x x š]i-ti-ir šu-mu š mAN.ŠR-D-IBILA LUGAL a-lik mah-ri-[ia š qer-ba-šu ap-pa-a]l-sa! [x x x] An inscription with the name of Aššurbanipal, a king who had preceded [me, I s]aw [in its midst].
44 [x x x]/x x x\[x x x]-x-t [...]
45 [x x x]/x x x\[x x a-na d]a-r-a-t [...] for eternity.


  • J. Harmatta, "Les modles littraires de l' dit babylonien de Cyrus", in: Acta Iranica 1 (1974) 29-44
  • Amlie Kuhrt, "The Cyrus Cylinder and Achaemenid Imperial Policy" in: Journal for the Study of the Old Testament 25 (1983) 83-97
  • R.J. van der Spek, "Did Cyrus the Great introduce a new policy towards subdued nations?" in: Persica 10 (1982) 278-283
  • R.J. van der Spek, "Cyrus the Great, Exiles and Foreign Gods.
    A Comparison of Assyrian and Persian Policies on Subject Nations" in: W.F.M. Henkelman, C.E. Jones, M. Kozuh, C. Woods (eds.), Extraction and Control: Studies in Honor of Matthew W. Stolper (forthcoming)
Jona Lendering
Livius.Org, 2006 
Revision: 5 Feb. 2010
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