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he majority of the world’s population thinks of human rights as a modern concept that hasn’t really been touched upon since the banishment of slavery, however, this concept is over 2500 years old. Just because the concept or ideology was there does not imply that it was respected.

Cyrus The Great

Cyrus the Great (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

One of the most important historical figures from ancient history which not many people talk about is Cyrus II also known as Cyrus the Great. Cyrus the Great was born in 590 BC and became king of Persia in 559 BC.

This was at a time were Persia was a small and mediocre power within the world. About three decades later Persia would be transformed by Cyrus the Great into becoming the biggest power within Asia.

The way That Cyrus the great led his empire to such success was by leading with his sword and forcing people to respect rules whilst being humble to those who deserved it.

To show the philosophy and wisdom behind Cyrus we can look at the defeat of Lydia. Once Persia defeated Cresus which was the King of Lydia, Cyrus made him one of his counselors and later on gave the throne of Lydia back to Cresus as he felt that Cresus earned it back.

The cylinder of Cyrus

The main attraction within this article is the cylinder of Cyrus which is filled with hieroglyphics depicting what historians believe to be the first set of human rights in the history of humankind. Writing on cylindrical shapes as the one presented above was quite common in contemporary Persia.

This artifact was discovered by Hormuzd Rassam who was the assistant of British archeologist Austen Henry Layard in 1879.

Cyrus had created these human rights as laws that had to be followed by each citizen in the empire of Persia otherwise the consequences would lead to long-term incarceration or death.

It is imperative to remember that the 4th century before Christ was a predominant period of time for slavery within Asia. Cyrus believed that every human should be free but controlled by a government to conduct ethical social behaviors.

Some of the most important rights presented on the cylinder are:

  • Abolishing any type of slavery. No one was allowed to own slaves or to be enslaved.
  • Freedom of people to chose their own religion and not to be forcefully influenced to follow a certain religion.
  • Equality between different races. It did not matter what nationality a certain Persian citizen was, all citizens had to be treated the same inferred of race.

The other laws imply things such as not killing others, following the justice system, and reporting any crime but explained more explicitly.

If you take a close look at the cylinder, there are a few chunks missing. These pieces could have contained laws or human rights that would show the world a new perspective on equality and even people management.

It is funny in a way to see that humanity 2500 years ago had a better understanding of human rights and equality than we have in present times. Yes, this was mainly seen in Persia, but no one was forced to live in the empire if they did not like it. Contrary, many people from the western world actually decided to migrate to Persia because of these fair and equal laws.

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