Among them is ancient history professor Josef Wiesehöfer, who derided it yesterday as "a propaganda inscription".
"It has become a very celebrated document," he said, "but
Cyrus himself ordered it done, trying to make himself appear righteous.
The real king was not more or less brutal than other ancient kings of
the near east, like Xerxes, but he was cleverer."
In the UK, author and historian Tom Holland, who wrote about the rise of Cyrus in his book Persian Fire, joined the condemnation of the cylinder as a model text enshrining human rights.
"It's nonsense, absolute nonsense," he said. "The ancient Persians were not some early form of Swedish Social Democrats."
He added that conquering a huge empire in the ancient world
did not come without a list of atrocities, and "he staged several
salutatory atrocities when he invaded."
He added that the UN's adoption of the cylinder stemmed in
part from a desire to claim some eastern roots "when it is so Western in
its philosophical underpinnings".
But the UN, which has promoted the relic as an "ancient
declaration of human rights" since 1971, when then Secretary General
Sithu U Thant was given a replica by the sister of the Shah of Iran,
stood by its importance yesterday.
"It is considered the first human declaration of human
rights, guaranteeing the rights and welfare of the Babylonians after the
Persians captured the city," Isabelle Broyer, the chief guide at UN
headquarters, said yesterday.
Since then the scroll, which has been translated into all
official UN languages, has helped burnish Cyrus's enduring reputation as
a just and fair ruler, who favoured freedom of worship over
For all the criticisms of the Cyrus cylinder, it is unlikely
to change perceptions of it in Iran, where Cyrus and the cylinder are
regarded with intense national pride.
"It is a source of great pride," said Mr Holland, "but like
many things said about Persia in Iran, it has to be taken with a big
pinch of salt."