The National Monuments Foundation on behalf of the People of Georgia and the United States of America stands with the Iranian People who have made their voices heard across the world. We commend the Iranian People, who like our own forefathers, are standing together against tyranny. As protests grow in over 40 cities across Iran after the murder of 22-year old Mahsa Amini, let us remember the words of George Washington, "Liberty, when it begins to take root, is a plant of rapid growth."
At The National Monuments Foundation, we work to sow the seeds of liberty, justice, and peace. We pray for the Iranian people, especially the brave Iranian women, in their struggle for such ideals as they chant in the streets
"Women! Life! Liberty!"
In the coming weeks, we will announce a project dedicated to the Iranian-American community of Georgia and the United States of America. This project will include a statue of Cyrus the Great, founder of the Achaemenid empire, who pioneered the first human rights doctrine in what is known today as the Cyrus Cylinder. We have faith in the Iranian people, and in their cause for freedom. May freedom ring all across Iran, and echo the words of Cyrus the Great for the next generation.
"Whenever you can, act as a liberator. Freedom, dignity, wealth-- these three together constitute the greatest happiness of humanity. If you bequeath all three to your people, their love for you will never die."
- Cyrus the Great
More about Cyrus the Great
The Cyrus Cylinder, a 2,600-year-old clay artifact, was made on the order of the Persian King Cyrus after he captured Babylon in 539 BC. Referred to by some scholars as the "first bill on human rights," the cuneiform inscriptions on the cylinder encourage freedom of worship throughout the Persian Empire and to allow deported people to return to their homelands. The empire, founded by Cyrus and Darius, stretched from the Balkans to Central Asia at its peak. It was the first state model based on diversity and tolerance of different cultures and religions.
The barrel-shaped clay cylinder was buried in the foundations of Babylon after Cyrus captured the city. It was unearthed in 1879 in Mesopotamia, modern day Iraq, by British archaeologist and diplomat, Hormuzd Rassam. The cuneiform inscriptions describe how Cyrus invaded Babylon at the invitation of the Babylonian god Marduk. It also mentions how Cyrus freed nations enslaved by the Babylonians, and returned their various gods to their shrines. Although the cylinder does not refer to the Jewish people by name, it has been mentioned in the Book of Chronicles and Book of Ezra that Jews were among those liberated by Cyrus and returned to their land to build the second temple. These acts, which have been interpreted as allowing freedom of worship and repatriating deported people, have earned Cyrus a reputation as a "liberal and enlightened monarch."
A bilingual Greek and Latin version of the Cyropaedia, Xenophon’s book on Cyrus, was published in Europe in 1767. A contemporary of Socrates, Xenophon wrote on how Cyrus ruled a diverse society based on tolerance. The book became popular during the Enlightenment among political thinkers in Europe and America, including those who drafted the US Constitution in 1787. Thomas Jefferson is known to have owned two copies. In the 18th Century, that model of religious tolerance based on a state with diverse cultures, but no single dominant religion, became a model for the founding fathers. The Cyrus Cylinder was unearthed roughly about 100 years after the United States Declaration of Independence was published, so people like Thomas Jefferson, who drafted the Declaration and became the third president of the United States, relied on Xenophon's Cyropaedia as a reference for the life and leadership of the Persian king. Scripture was the other source for information on Cyrus, as it chronicled the invasion of Babylon and the freedom of Jews. What's extraordinary about Cyrus, is that he appears as a paragon of princely statesmanship in the two pillars of Western cultures, that is the Greco-Roman tradition and the Bible.
And so, with this extraordinary legacy the Persian culture has given the world, the National Monuments Foundation stands with them in this critical moment in their history.