History on His Shoulders

Newsha Tavakolian / Polaris for TIME

Supporters of President-elect Hassan Rouhani gather in Tehran to celebrate early results that made his election seem inevitable

I often tell Americans that there are two ways to understand Iran. The first is to think of the most chauvinistic Texans they know and then add 5,000 years of history. The Persians are surely among the world's most prideful people. The other way is to consider the Cyrus Cylinder, a chunk of baked clay shaped like a rugby ball that is inscribed with one of the world's earliest declarations of human rights.

The cylinder, currently on a nine-month tour of museums in five U.S. cities, tells the story of the Persian...

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