British Museum

The Cyrus Cylinder. The Sumerian inscription written in cuneiform on this ten-inch-long clay barrel tells how the great god Marduk chose Cyrus (559 529 B.C.) to supplant the impious tyrant who preceded him as king of Persia, and of how Cyrus next conquered the equally odious king of Babylon, Nabonidus. It then proclaims, “I am Cyrus, king of the world, great king,” and gives an account of his benevolent acts. Among these acts was his decree that permitted the exiled Jews to return to Jerusalem in 538 B.C. Although the cylinder does not specifically refer to this decree, it does note Cyrus’s general policy of resuming exiles to their homelands when it says: “I (also) gathered all their (former) inhabitants and resumed (to them) their habitations.”