The Cyrus Cylinder and Ancient Persia
Charting a New Empire
June 20–August 4, 2013
The Cyrus Cylinder is one of the most famous surviving icons from the ancient world. Excavated at Babylon in 1879, the Cylinder was inscribed in Babylonian cuneiform on the orders of the Persian king Cyrus the Great after he captured Babylon in 539 B.C. It marks the establishment of Persian rule and records how Cyrus restored shrines and allowed deported peoples to return home. Although not mentioned, it is thought to be at this time that the Jews returned to Jerusalem to build the Second Temple, as recorded in the Bible. The Cylinder and sixteen related works, all on loan from the British Museum, reflect the innovations initiated by Persian rule in the ancient Near East (550–331 B.C.) and chart a new path for this empire, the largest the world had known.
A unique aspect of the exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum will be its display within the galleries of Ancient Near Eastern Art, where objects from the permanent collection—including the famous lions from Babylon—will provide a stunning backdrop. Also on display will be works of art from the Metropolitan's Department of Drawings and Prints and Department of European Sculpture and Decorative Arts that celebrate Cyrus and his legacy as a liberal and enlightened ruler.