- 2017年08月01日09:51 来源：互联网
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The Cyrus cylinder——Diplomatic whirl
A show that tests the limits of cultural politics
CYRUS THE GREAT, king of Persia and conqueror of Babylon in the sixth century BC, has been a personal hero to many people. These include Thomas Jefferson and Iran's last shah, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, and, perhaps more oddly, Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and David Ben-Gurion, Israel's first leader.
公元前6世纪，居鲁士称帝波斯，征服巴比伦王国，史称居鲁士大帝(Cyrus the great)。其个人英雄形象万世流芳。粉丝包括美国总统托马斯杰弗逊、伊朗末代国王穆罕默德礼萨巴列维(Mohammad Reza Pahlavi)，或许还意外地成为伊朗前总统马哈茂德艾哈迈迪-内贾德(Mahmoud Ahmadinejad)和以色列首任总理戴维本-古里安(David Ben-Gurion)的偶像。
Xenophon, a Greek historian whose “Cyropaedia” has been read by statesmen down the ages, believed that Cyrus embodied all the qualities of a perfect king. Now the British Museum (BM) is sending an object closely associated with Cyrus on a tour of five American museums, beginning with the Smithsonian in Washington, DC. The curators hope the show will highlight the Persian king's religious tolerance and his close relations with the Jews in particular, and that this may help improve ties between America and Iran.
The Cyrus cylinder, one of the BM's most important objects, is made of clay and covered in dense Babylonian cuneiform script. Unearthed in 1879, it is cracked and bits have fallen off it, but enough remains for the writing to have been deciphered.
Under Cyrus the Persian empire became the largest kingdom the world had ever seen, unifying many tribes, languages and cultures, and stretching across vast distances. The cylinder, which had been placed at the base of a building in ancient Babylon (now modern Iraq) proclaimed Cyrus's ambitions for his rapidly expanding domain: that those people who had been captured and enslaved by his predecessors should be allowed to go back to their homes and the statues of their different gods returned to their original shrines to be freely worshipped. The exiled Jews, who wept by the waters of Babylon when they remembered Zion, the Bible says, could return to Jerusalem and rebuild their temple.
No ruler before Cyrus had done anything like this, and many since have claimed a connection with him. After the 1917 Balfour declaration in favour of a Jewish homeland, Jews displayed photographs of King George V alongside images of Cyrus. In 1971 the shah prayed at his tomb during the celebrations of 2,500 years of Iranian monarchy, and new coins were struck with the shah and Cyrus on one side and the cylinder on the other. The shah's sister gave a copy of it to the secretary-general of the United Nations. Some call it the first charter of human rights.
The leaders of revolutionary Iran at first turned away from everything that had been praised by the shah. But that began to change with the eight-year Iran-Iraq war, which began in 1980. Anxious to be regarded as superior to the Iraqis, Iran became more interested in its distant past. In 2010 the cylinder was sent to Tehran on loan. Nearly 500,000 people queued to see it, and its presence provoked a fierce national debate about Iranian values. Mr Ahmadinejad opened the exhibition at the National Museum of Iran, reminding visitors that Islam had a tradition of tolerance and that the Iranian constitution reserved seats in parliament for a Christian (Armenian), a Zoroastrian and a Jew.
The American exhibition takes up just two rooms at the Smithsonian's Freer/Sackler Gallery. The first shows the cylinder together with jewellery and seals from the same period; the second focuses on Cyrus's influence. A glass case contains Xenophon's “Cyropaedia”. Loaned by the Library of Congress, it is one of two copies that Jefferson owned. On the walls are a selection of laudatory phrases: from that student of power, Niccolò Machiavelli, Edmund Spenser, a 16th-century English poet, and Shirin Ebadi, an Iranian human-rights activist and the first Muslim woman to win the Nobel peace prize.
本次美国展在隶属史密森尼博物院的弗利尔/沙可乐美术馆两个展厅进行：塞勒斯圆筒和同时期的一批珠宝和印章放置在其中一个展厅供人观赏，而另一展厅集中展出深受塞勒斯圆筒影响的后期文物。玻璃柜盛放着色诺芬所著的《居鲁士的教育》一书，为美国约瑟芬总统的两个藏本之一，由国会图书馆(Library of Congress)出面借得。墙上是名人所题的赞美之词：研究权利的学者马基雅维利(Niccolò Machiavelli)，16世纪英国诗人斯潘塞(Edmund Spenser)，伊朗人权活动家和首位获得诺贝尔和平奖的穆斯林女性莎琳艾巴迪(Shirin Ebadi)。
American Iranians and Jews have been among the many early visitors to the show, which opened on March 9th. The BM's director, Neil MacGregor, hopes others will come too. But America's relationship with Iran is still toxic. The exhibition catalogue is subtitled: “A New Beginning for the Middle East”. But the Smithsonian posters for the show merely say: “A New Beginning”, as if the mere mention of the Middle East might put people off.
As for Mr Ahmadinejad's views on Cyrus, the Iranian leader's words of praise were expected to hang on the wall of the exhibition's second room, alongside those of Jefferson and Ms Ebadi. But they were not included. Exhibitions like this should help Iranians and Americans understand the past better. But such caution suggests that relations between the two countries will not improve fast.