Tuesday, July 02, 2013

the Cyrus Cylinder at the Met

On Sunday I took advantage of the opportunity to see the Cyrus Cylinder, which is on loan from the British Museum at the Met for a limited time.  The cylinder is a cuneiform inscription of an announcement made by Cyrus, i.e. Koresh, upon his conquest of Bavel allowing subjugated people to return to their homelands and resume their own form of worship.  Not mentioned explicitly, but thought to be part and parcel of this same policy, is Koresh’s granting of permission to the Jewish people to return to Eretz Yisrael and rebuild the Mikdash.  As the website devoted to the Cylinder puts it, “To Jewish people the story told by the Cyrus Cylinder is a magnificent one, as it corroborates the events in the Old Testament about King Cyrus allowing captive Jews to return to Jerusalem and rebuild their temple. In fact, in the book of Ezra, King Cyrus permits the Jewish exiled people to return to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple.”  What better time than the Three Weeks to see an artifact like this.  

The Cylinder is on tour in the US and will be at other museums in other cities.  The website has more information here.  What surprised me is just how small the Cylinder is (I did not see the website in advance) -- it’s shape and size reminded me of the pressed-wood logs we use in the fireplace in the winter.  It makes the discovery even more impressive.

A few small tips for visiting the Met, which you may know already: Do not be put off by the suggested admission price.  If you can afford $25 a person, good for you.  If not, go anyway.  Plenty of people just give what they can and the admissions desk will give you no grief.  It’s worth the trip.  Also, try to get there early because especially on weekends, the museum gets plenty crowded.  Finally, do not attempt to bring a picnic lunch into the museum with you.  The guards are very strict about allowing food inside.  Your best bet is to check your bag when you enter and then go out to the park and eat there. 


  1. As you will know, there is a discrepancy of approx 165 years between the secular and traditional Jewish dating for the destruction of the first beis hamikdash. The dating of the cylinder would suggest support for the secular position.

  2. "Although the Cylinder clearly post-dates Cyrus the Great's conquest of Babylon in 539 BC, the date of its creation is unclear." (wikipedia)