Friday, September 17, 2010

Is the Cyrus Cylinder Being Used by Iran's President to Buttress his Legitimacy?

The history of despotic regimes is replete with a history of using artifacts from the past to buttress their legitimacy. Saddam Hussein sought to link his government to the glories of ancient Babylon. Mussolini saw himself as a new Caesar who could restore Rome's Empire in North Africa and the Balkans. Recently, Venezuela's president exhumed the body of Simon Bolivar in an apparent effort to prove that imperialists schemed against him too.

Now, Iran's president is apparently using a loan of the Cyrus Cylinder from the BM to buttress his own authority. See According to a recent Economist report, Iran's President has been trying to sideline the clergy that has long supported him with the help of a nationalistic appeal reminding the people of Iran's great imperial past . See

Ironically, the Shah also associated his government with that of the Persian Empire. But, it all backfired for him. Indeed, the Shah's lavish celebration of the 2500 anniversary of the Persian Empire is often cited as the swan song of the Iranian Monarchy. See,500_year_celebration_of_the_Persian_Empire

And the symbol of that celebration? Why the Cyrus Cylinder, of course, which was also loaned for the event.

Will the loan also backfire for Iran's President because it will stoke the fear that he also has imperial ambitions? Will he give back the Cyrus Cylinder to the BM? Stay tuned.

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