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Encyclopedia > Behistun Inscription
The Behistun Inscription, carved into a cliffside, gives the same text in three languages, telling the story of King Darius' conquests, with the names of twenty-three provinces subject to him. It is illustrated by life-sized carved images of King Darius with other figures in attendance.
The Behistun Inscription, carved into a cliffside, gives the same text in three languages, telling the story of King Darius' conquests, with the names of twenty-three provinces subject to him. It is illustrated by life-sized carved images of King Darius with other figures in attendance.

The Behistun Inscription (also Bisitun or Bisutun, بیستون in modern Persian; in Old Persian is Bagastana the meaning is "the god's place or land") is to cuneiform what the Rosetta Stone is to Egyptian hieroglyphs: the document most crucial in the decipherment of a previously lost script. It is located in the Kermanshah Province of Iran. Download high resolution version (1091x740, 389 KB)Behistun Inscription, with some modern annotations Sketch: Fr. ... Download high resolution version (1091x740, 389 KB)Behistun Inscription, with some modern annotations Sketch: Fr. ... Darius I of Persia Darius the Great (Darayawush I) (ca. ... Persian, (local name: FārsÄ« or PārsÄ«), is an Indo-European language spoken in Iran, Afghanistan, Tajikistan and by minorities in Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Georgia, Southern Russia, neighboring countries, and elsewhere. ...   The cuneiform script is one of the earliest known forms of written expression. ... The Rosetta Stone in the British Museum The Rosetta Stone is an ancient stone inscribed with the same passage of writing in two Egyptian language scripts and in classical Greek. ... It has been suggested that Hieroglyph (French Wiki article) be merged into this article or section. ... Decipherment is the analysis of documents written in ancient languages, where the language is unknown, or knowledge of the language has been lost. ... Writing Systems of the World today A Specimen of typeset fonts and languages, by William Caslon, letter founder; from the 1728 Cyclopaedia. ... Kermanshah (KirmaÅŸan in Kurdish, كرمانشاه in Persian) is one of the 30 provinces of Iran. ...


The inscription includes three versions of the same text, written in three different cuneiform script languages: Old Persian, Elamite, and Babylonian. A British army officer, Sir Henry Rawlinson, had the inscription transcribed in two parts, in 1835 and 1843. Rawlinson was able to translate the Old Persian cuneiform text in 1838, and the Elamite and Babylonian texts were translated by Rawlinson and others after 1843. Babylonian was a later form of Akkadian: both are Semitic languages.   The cuneiform script is one of the earliest known forms of written expression. ... Sketch of the first column of the Behistun Inscription Old Persian is the oldest attested Persid language. ... Elamite is an extinct language, which was spoken by the ancient Elamites (also known as Ilamids). ... Akkadian was a language of the Semitic family spoken in ancient Mesopotamia, particularly by the Assyrians and Babylonians. ... See Henry Rawlinson, 1st Baron Rawlinson for the British World War I general (the son of Henry Creswicke Rawlinson). ... Akkadian (lišānum akkadÄ«tum) was a Semitic language (part of the greater Afro-Asiatic language family) spoken in ancient Mesopotamia, particularly by the Assyrians and Babylonians. ... 14th century BC diplomatic letter in Akkadian, found in Tell Amarna. ...

Contents

The inscription

The text of the inscription is a statement by Darius I of Persia, written three times in three different scripts and languages: two languages side by side, Old Persian and Elamite, and Babylonian above them. Darius ruled the Persian Empire from 521 to 486 BC. Some time around 515 BC, he arranged for the inscription of a long tale of his accession in the face of the usurper Smerdis of Persia (and Darius' subsequent successful wars and suppressions of rebellion) to be inscribed into a cliff near the modern town of Bisistun, in the foothills of the Zagros Mountains of Iran, just as one reaches them from the Kermanshah Plain. Darius I of Persia Darius the Great (Darayawush I) (ca. ... Sketch of the first column of the Behistun Inscription Old Persian is the oldest attested Persid language. ... Elamite is an extinct language, which was spoken by the ancient Elamites (also known as Ilamids). ... Akkadian was a language of the Semitic family spoken in ancient Mesopotamia, particularly by the Assyrians and Babylonians. ... The Persian Empire was a series of historical empires that ruled over the Iranian plateau (Irān - Land of the Aryans) and beyond. ... Centuries: 7th century BC - 6th century BC - 5th century BC Decades: 570s BC - 560s BC - 550s BC - 540s BC - 530s BC - 520s BC - 510s BC - 500s BC - 490s BC - 480s BC - 470s BC Events 529 BC - Cambyses II succeeds his father Cyrus as ruler of Persia. ... Centuries: 6th century BCE - 5th century BCE - 4th century BCE Decades: 530s BCE 520s BCE 510s BCE 500s BCE 490s BCE - 480s BCE - 470s BCE 460s BCE 450s BCE 420s BCE 430s BCE Years: 491 BCE 490 BCE 489 BCE 488 BCE 487 BCE - 486 BCE - 485 BCE 484 BCE... Centuries: 7th century BC - 6th century BC - 5th century BC Decades: 560s BC - 550s BC - 540s BC - 530s BC - 520s BC - 510s BC - 500s BC - 490s BC - 480s BC - 470s BC - 460s BC Events and Trends Establishment of the Roman Republic March 12, 515 BC - Construction is completed on the... Smerdis (also Bardia) was the son of Cyrus the Great whose name was usurped by an impostor, a magian reportedly named Gaumata. ... The Zagros Mountains are the most extensive range in Western Asia in terms of the area covered. ...


The inscription is approximately 15 metres high by 25 metres wide, and 100 metres up a limestone cliff from an ancient road connecting the capitals of Babylonia and Media (Babylon and Ecbatana). It is extremely inaccessible as the mountainside was removed to make the inscription more visible after its completion. The Old Persian text contains 414 lines in five columns; the Elamite text includes 593 lines in eight columns and the Babylonian text is in 112 lines. The inscription was illustrated by a life-sized bas-relief of Darius, holding a bow as a sign of kingship, with his left foot on the chest of a figure lying on his back before him. The prostrate figure is reputed to be the pretender Gaumata. Darius is attended to the left by two servants, and ten one-metre figures stand to the right, with hands tied and rope around their necks, representing conquered peoples. Faravahar floats above, giving his blessing to the king. One figure appears to have been added after the others were completed, as was (oddly enough) Darius' beard, which is a separate block of stone attached with iron pins and lead. The metre, or meter (US), is a measure of length. ... Limey shale overlaid by limestone. ... Babylonia, named for its capital city, Babylon, was an ancient state in the south part of Mesopotamia (in modern Iraq), combining the territories of Sumer and Akkad. ... Babylon was a city in Mesopotamia, the ruins of which can be found in present-day Babil Province, Iraq, about 50 miles south of Baghdad. ... Golden Rhyton from Irans Achaemenid period. ... Bow may mean: Bow (knot): A type of knot Bow (music): A device used to play string instruments Bow (ship): The foremost point of the hull of a ship or boat Bow (weapon): An archery weapon that uses elasticity to propel arrows Bow (human): Bowing is the act of lowering... A Pretender is a claimant to an abolished or already occupied throne. ... Smerdis was a Persian king of infamous memory. ... This article needs to be wikified. ... General Name, Symbol, Number iron, Fe, 26 Chemical series transition metals Group, Period, Block 8, 4, d Appearance lustrous metallic with a grayish tinge Atomic mass 55. ... General Name, Symbol, Number lead, Pb, 82 Chemical series poor metals Group, Period, Block 14, 6, p Appearance bluish white Atomic mass 207. ...

Column 1 (DB I 1-15), sketch by Fr. Spiegel (1881)
Enlarge
Column 1 (DB I 1-15), sketch by Fr. Spiegel (1881)

It is believed that Darius placed the inscription in an inaccessible position to make it tamper-resistant. Readability took second place to this demand: the text is completely illegible from ground level. The Persian king did not account for the creation of a pool of water at the bottom of the cliff, which brought increased human traffic to the area. Considerable damage has been caused to some figures. Download high resolution version (1000x331, 137 KB)Behistun Inscription, Column 1 (DB I 1-15) Sketch: Fr. ... Download high resolution version (1000x331, 137 KB)Behistun Inscription, Column 1 (DB I 1-15) Sketch: Fr. ... Friedrich (von) Spiegel (July 11, 1820, Kitzingen - December 15, 1905, München) was a German orientalist. ...


In ancient history

The first historical mention of the inscription is by the Greek Ctesias of Cnidus, who noted its existence some time around 400 BC, and mentions a well and a garden beneath the inscription dedicated by Queen Semiramis of Babylon to Zeus (the Greek analogue of Ahura Mazda). Tacitus also mentions it and includes a description of some of the long-lost ancillary monuments at the base of the cliff, including an altar to Hercules. What has been recovered of them, including a statue dedicated in 148 BC, is consistent with Tacitus' description. Diodorus also writes of "Bagistanon" and claims it was inscribed by Queen Semiramis. Ctesias of Cnidus (in Caria) (Greek ), was a Greek physician and historian, who flourished in the 5th century BC. In early life he was physician to Artaxerxes Mnemon, whom he accompanied in 401 BC on his expedition against his brother Cyrus the Younger. ... The Celtics claim Vienna, Austria Carthaginians occupy Malta. ... Semiramis (c. ... The Statue of Zeus at Olympia Phidias created the 12-m (40-ft) tall statue of Zeus at Olympia about 435 BC. The statue was perhaps the most famous sculpture in Ancient Greece, imagined here in a 16th century engraving In Greek mythology, Zeus (in Greek: nominative: Ζεύς Zeús, genitive... Ahura Mazda is the Avestan language name for an exalted divinity of ancient proto-Indo-Iranian religion that was subsequently declared by Zarathustra (Zoroaster) to be the one uncreated creator of all (God). ... Gaius Cornelius Tacitus Publius or Gaius Cornelius Tacitus (c. ... It has been suggested that this article or section be merged with Heracles. ... Diodorus Siculus (c. ...


After the fall of the Persian Empire and its successors, and the fall of cuneiform writing into disuse, the nature of the inscription was forgotten and fanciful origins became the norm. For centuries, instead of being attributed to Darius — one of the first Persian kings — it was believed to be from the reign of Chosroes II of Persia — one of the last. Khosrau II (sometimes called Parvez, the ever Victorious), King of Persia, son of Hormizd IV of Persia (579–590), grandson of Khosrau I of Persia (531–579). ...


A legend arose that it had been created by Farhad, a lover of Chosroes' wife, Shirin. Exiled for his transgression, Farhad is given the task of cutting away the mountain to find water; if he succeeds, he will be given permission to marry Shirin. After many years and the removal of half the mountain, he does find water, but is informed by Chosroes that Shirin had died. He goes mad, throws his axe down the hill, kisses the ground and dies. It is told in the book of Chosroes and Shirin that his axe was made out of a Pomegranate tree, and where he threw the axe a Pomegranate tree grew with fruit that would cure the ill. Shirin is not dead, naturally, and mourns upon hearing the news. Farhad Mehrad Farhad Mehrad (1943 - 2002), widely known as Farhad, was an Iranian pop musician and singer. ... Shirin (? – 628) was the Christian wife of the Persian Shah, Khosrau II. In the revolution after the death of Khosraus father Hormizd IV, the General Bahram Chobin took power over the Persian empire. ... Chosroes and Shirin (Originally Persian خسرو و شيرين pron. ...


Translation

Modern day picture of the inscription.

The inscription was noted by an Arab traveller, Ibn Hawqal, in the mid-900s, who interpreted the figures as a teacher punishing his pupils. It was not until 1598, when the Englishman Robert Sherley saw the inscription during a diplomatic mission to Persia on behalf of Austria, that the inscription first came to the attention of western European scholars. His party came to the conclusion that it was a picture of the ascension of Jesus with an inscription in Greek. ImageMetadata File history File links Darius_I_the_Greats_inscription. ... ImageMetadata File history File links Darius_I_the_Greats_inscription. ... 10th century map of the World by Ibn Hawqal. ... This article or section does not cite its references or sources. ... Sir Anthony Sherley was in Persia from Dec 1, 1599 to May 1600. ... Motto: Esteqlāl, āzādÄ«, jomhÅ«rÄ«-ye eslāmÄ«  (Persian) Independence, freedom, (the) Islamic Republic Anthem: SorÅ«d-e MellÄ«-e Īrān Capital (largest city) Tehran Persian Government Islamic Republic  - Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei  - President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad Establishment 550 BCE Cyrus the Great overthrows Median overlords and... The Christian doctrine of the Ascension holds that Jesus bodily ascended to heaven by His own power in presence of His disciples, following his resurrection. ... Jesus (8–2 BC/BCE to 29–36 AD/CE),[1] also known as Jesus of Nazareth, is the central figure of Christianity. ...


Biblical misinterpretations by Europeans were rife for the next two centuries. French General Gardanne thought it showed Christ and his twelve apostles, and Sir Robert Ker Porter thought it represented the 12 tribes of Israel and Shalmaneser of Assyria. Italian explorer Pietro della Valle visited the inscription in the course of a pilgrimage in around 1621, and German surveyor Carsten Niebuhr visited in around 1764 while exploring Arabia and the middle east for Frederick V of Denmark, publishing a copy of the inscription in the account of his journeys in 1777. Niebuhr's transcriptions were used by Georg Friedrich Grotefend and others in their efforts to decipher the Old Persian cuneiform script. Grotefend had deciphered ten of the 37 symbols of Old Persian by 1802. The Twelve Apostles (, apostolos, Liddell & Scott, Strongs G652, someone sent forth/sent out) were men that according to the Synoptic Gospels and Christian tradition, were chosen from among the disciples (students) of Jesus for a mission. ... This is a list of the Tribes of Israel. ... Shalmaneser I, son of Adad-nirari I, succeeded his father as king of Assyria about 1310 BC. He carried on a series of campaigns against the Aramaeans in northern Mesopotamia, annexed a portion of Cilicia to the Assyrian empire, and established Assyrian colonies on the borders of Cappadocia. ... Pietro Della Valle Pietro della Valle (April 1586–1652) was an Italian traveler in Asia. ... Carsten Niebuhr Carsten Niebuhr (March 17, 1733 - April 26, 1815) was a German traveller. ... Frederick V, painting by Carl Gustaf Pilo Statue of Frederick V in the center of Amalienborg by Jacques François Joseph Saly Frederick V (March 31, 1723 – January 13, 1766) was king of Denmark and Norway from 1746, son of Christian VI of Denmark and Sophia Magdalen of Brandenburg-Kulmbach. ... Georg Friedrich Grotefend (June 9, 1775 - December 15, 1853), German epigraphist, was born at Munden in Hanover. ...


In 1835, Sir Henry Rawlinson, a British army officer training the army of the Shah of Iran, began studying the inscription in earnest. As the town of Bisistun's name was anglicized as "Behistun" at this time, the monument became known as the "Behistun Inscription". Despite its inaccessibility, Rawlinson was able to scale the cliff and copy the Old Persian inscription. The Elamite was across a chasm, and the Babylonian four metres above; both were beyond easy reach and were left for later. Sir Henry Creswicke Rawlinson (April 11, 1810 – March 5, 1895) was a British soldier, diplomat and orientalist. ... Shah is an Iranian & Pakistani/Indian term in Persian language & Urdu (شاه), for a monarch (king or emperor), and has also been adopted in many other languages. ...


Armed with the Persian text, and with about a third of the syllabary made available to him by the work of Grotefend, Rawlinson set to work on deciphering the text. Fortunately, the first section of this text contained a list of Persian kings identical to that found in Herodotus, and by matching the names and the characters, Rawlinson was able to crack the form of cuneiform used for Old Persian by 1838 and present his results to the Royal Asiatic Society in London and the Société Asiatique in Paris. A syllabary is a set of written symbols that represent (or approximate) syllables, which make up words. ... Bust of Herodotus Herodotus of Halicarnassus (Greek: , Herodotos Halikarnasseus) was a Dorian Greek historian who lived in the 5th century BC (484 BC - ca. ... Article 90a of the bylaws of the Royal Asiatic Society. ... London (pronounced ) is the capital city of England and the United Kingdom. ... City flag City coat of arms Motto: Fluctuat nec mergitur (Latin: Tossed by the waves, she does not sink) Location Coordinates Time Zone CET (GMT +1) Administration Country France Région ÃŽle-de-France Département Paris (75) Subdivisions 20 arrondissements Mayor Bertrand Delanoë  (PS) (since 2001) City Statistics Land...


Next came the remaining two texts. After a stretch of service in Afghanistan, Rawlinson returned in 1843. Using planks he crossed the gap between the Old Persian text and the Elamite, and copied that. He was then able to find an enterprising local boy to climb up a crack in the cliff and rig ropes across the Babylonian writing, so that papier-mâché casts of it could be taken. Rawlinson set to work and translated the Babylonian writing and language, working independently of Edward Hincks, Julius Oppert and William Henry Fox Talbot, who also contributed to the decipherment; Edwin Norris and others were the first to do the same for the Elamite. As three of the primary languages of Mesopotamia, and three variations of the cuneiform script, these decipherments were one of the keys to putting Assyriology on a modern footing. Papier-mâché around a form such as a balloon to create a pig. ... Edward Hincks Edward Hincks (August 19, 1792 - December 3, 1866), Irish Assyriologist and one of the decipherers of Mesopotamian cuneiform. ... Julius Oppert (July 9, 1825 - August 21, 1905), German Assyriologist, was born at Hamburg, of Jewish parents. ... William Henry Fox Talbot (February 11, 1800 - September 17, 1877) was one of the first photographers and made major contributions to the photographic process. ... Mesopotamia refers to the region now occupied by modern Iraq, eastern Syria, southeastern Turkey, and Southwest Iran. ... Assyriology is the historical and archaeological study of ancient Mesopotamia. ...


After Rawlinson

Later expeditions, in 1904 sponsored by the British Museum and led by Leonard William King and Reginald Campbell Thompson and in 1948 by George G. Cameron of the University of Michigan, obtained photographs, casts and more accurate transcriptions of the texts, including passages that were not copied by Rawlinson. It also became apparent that rainwater had dissolved some areas of the limestone in which the text is inscribed, while leaving new deposits of limestone over other areas, covering the text. The centre of the museum was redeveloped in 2000 to become the Great Court, with a tessellated glass roof by Buro Happold and Foster and Partners surrounding the original Reading Room. ... UM also has campuses in Dearborn and Flint. ...


The monument suffered some damage from soldiers using it for target practice during World War II. In recent years, Iranian archaeologists have been undertaking conservation works. The site became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2006. [1] Combatants Major Allied powers: United Kingdom Soviet Union United States Republic of China and others Major Axis powers: Nazi Germany Italy Japan and others Commanders Winston Churchill Joseph Stalin Franklin Roosevelt Harry Truman Chiang Kai-Shek Adolf Hitler Benito Mussolini Hideki Tojo Casualties Military dead: 17,000,000 Civilian dead... UNESCO logo UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) is a specialized agency of the United Nations established in 1945. ... A UNESCO World Heritage Site is a specific site (such as a forest, mountain, lake, desert, monument, building, complex, or city) that has been nominated and confirmed for inclusion on the list maintained by the international World Heritage Programme administered by the UNESCO World Heritage Committee, composed of 21 State...


See also

Darius I of Persia Darius the Great (Darayawush I) (ca. ... This article should belong in one or more categories. ... The Persepolis Ruins The Achaemenid dynasty (Old Persian:Hakamanishiya, Persian: هخامنشیان) - was a dynasty in the ancient Persian Empire. ...

References

  • Rawlinson, H.C., Archaeologia, 1853, vol. xxxiv, p. 74
  • Thompson, R. Campbell. "The Rock of Behistun". Wonders of the Past. Edited by Sir J. A. Hammerton. Vol. II. New York: Wise and Co., 1937. (p. 760–767) [2]
  • Cameron, George G. "Darius Carved History on Ageless Rock". National Geographic Magazine. Vol. XCVIII, Num. 6, December 1950. (p. 825–844) [3]

The National Geographic Magazine, later shortened to National Geographic, is the official journal of the National Geographic Society. ...

External links

  • The Behistun Inscription, livius.org article by Jona Lendering, including Persian text (in cuneiform and transliteration), English translation, and additional materials
  • English translation of the inscription text
  • Case Western Reserve University Digital Library — the complete text of the Behistun inscription, in transcribed cuneiform and English translation, available in PDF format
  • Darius the Great and the Bisutun Inscription, by J. Andrew McLaughlin
  • Bisotun— the complete text of the bisotun inscription, in transcribed cuneiform and Persian translation, available in pdf format.
  • Iran: Documentation of Behistun Inscription Nearly Complete
  • Behistun and many others persian royal inscriptions
  • Brief description of Bisotun from UNESCO

  Results from FactBites:
 
Behistun Inscription - Cyrus Cylinder - Crystalinks (1665 words)
The Behistun Inscription is to cuneiform what the Rosetta Stone is to Egyptian hieroglyphs: the document most crucial in the decipherment of a previously lost script.
The inscription was noted by an Arab traveller, Ibn Hawqal, in the mid-900s, who interpreted the figures as a teacher punishing his pupils.
Italian explorer Pietro della Valle visited the inscription in the course of a pilgrimage in around 1621, and German surveyor Carsten Niebuhr visited in around 1764 while exploring Arabia and the middle east for Frederick V of Denmark, publishing a copy of the inscription in the account of his journeys in 1777.
Behistun Inscription - Encyclopedia.com (711 words)
Behistun Inscription or Bisutun Inscription, cuneiform text, the decipherment of which was the key to all cuneiform script and opened to scholars the study of the written works of ancient Mesopotamia.
The inscription in Old Persian, in Susian (the Iranian language of Elam), and in Assyrian is chiseled on the face of a mountainous rock c.300 ft (90 m) above the ground at Behistun, Persia (modern W Iran).
the Aveta and the Achaemenid Inscriptions (Minneapolis: Univ. of Minnesota...
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