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Encyclopedia > Bisotun
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 (ca. ... Persian is a language spoken in Iran, Tajikistan, Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, Bahrain, Iraq, 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 dark grey-pinkish granite stone (originally thought to be basalt in composition) with writing on it in two languages, Egyptian and Greek, using three scripts, Hieroglyphic, Demotic Egyptian and 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 in the ancient Elamite Empire. ... 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 akkadītum) 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. ...


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 (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 in the ancient Elamite Empire. ... 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. ... 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 was a Persian king of infamous memory. ... The Zagros Mountains are Irans second largest range in terms of 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. metre or meter, see meter (disambiguation) The metre (in the U.S., chiefly meter) is a measure of length, approximately equal to 3. ... 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 is the Greek variant of Akkadian Babilu (bāb-ilû, meaning Gateway of ... Ecbatana (Hañgmatana in Old Persian, Agbatana in Aeschylus, written Agamtanu by Nabonidos, and Agamatanu at Behistun) was the capital of Astyages (Istuvegü), which was taken by the Persian emperor Cyrus the Great in the sixth year of Nabonidos (549 BC). ... 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)
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. ... Centuries: 5th century BC - 4th century BC - 3rd century BC Decades: 450s BC 440s BC 430s BC 420s BC 410s BC - 400s BC - 390s BC 380s BC 370s BC 360s BC 350s BC Years: 405 BC 404 BC 403 BC 402 BC 401 BC - 400 BC - 399 BC 398 BC... Semiramis (c. ... Statue of Zeus Phidias created the 12-m (40-ft) tall statue of Zeus at Olympia about 435 BCE. The statue was perhaps the most famous sculpture in ancient Greece, imagined here in a 16th-century engraving. ... Ahura Mazda is the Avestan language name for an exalted divinity of ancient proto-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. ... Hercules is the Latin name used in Roman mythology for a hero corresponding to the Greek mythological hero Heracles (or Herakles). ... 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. 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, and throws himself from the cliff. Shirin is not dead, naturally, and hangs herself upon hearing the news. 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). ... 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. ...


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. ... Royal motto (French): Dieu et mon droit (Translated: God and my right) Englands location (dark green) within the United Kingdom (light green), with the Republic of Ireland (blue) to its west Languages English Capital London Largest city London Area – Total Ranked 1st UK 130,395 km² Population –mid-2004... Sir Anthony Sherley was in Persia from Dec 1, 1599 to May 1600. ... Motto: Persian: Esteqlāl, āzādÄ«, jomhÅ«rÄ«-ye eslāmÄ« (English: Independence, freedom, (the) Islamic Republic) Anthem: SorÅ«d-e MellÄ«-e Īrān Capital Tehran Largest city Tehran Official language(s) Persian (Farsi) Government Islamic Republic  - Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei  - President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad Revolution Overthrew Monarchy   - Declared February... 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 — 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 (in Koine Greek απόστολος 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 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 (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 at Naples Herodotus of Halicarnassus (Greek: , Herodotos) was a historian who lived in the 5th century BC (484 BC-ca. ... Article 90a of the bylaws of the Royal Asiatic Society. ... London is the capital city of England and of the United Kingdom, and is the most populous city in the European Union. ... City flag City coat of arms Motto: Fluctuat nec mergitur Tossed by the waves, she does not founder Coordinates : , Time Zone : CET (GMT +1) Administration Subdivisions 20 arrondissements Département Paris (75) Région ÃŽle-de-France Mayor Bertrand Delanoë (PS) City (commune) Characteristics Land Area 86. ...

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. ... It has been suggested that History of Ancient Mesopotamia be merged into this article or section. ... 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 Foster and Partners surrounding the original Reading Room. ... This article is about the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. ...

The monument suffered some damage from soldiers using it for target practice during World War II. In recent years, Iranian archaeologists have been undertaking conservations works. The site became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2006.[1] Combatants Allies: Soviet Union United States United Kingdom France and others Axis Powers: Germany Japan Italy and others Casualties Military dead: 17 million Civilian dead: 33 million Total dead: 50 million Military dead: 8 million Civilian dead: 4 million Total dead: 12 million World War II, also known as the... UNESCO logo UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) is a specialized agency of the United Nations established in 1945. ... Site #86: Memphis and its Necropolis, including the Pyramids of Giza (Egypt). ...


  • 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 Livius historical website — a comprehensive discussion of the Behistun inscription, with pictures, drawings of the entire cuneiform text, transcription, and a translation to English.
  • Darius the Great and the Bisutun Inscription

Cover of January, 1915 National Geographic The National Geographic Magazine, later shortened to National Geographic, is the official journal of the National Geographic Society. ...

External links

  Results from FactBites:
Bisotun And Three Churches To Be Registered As World Heritage (298 words)
She said during UNESCO conference, which was held in China recently it was decided that registration restrictions to be removed and that more than one natural, historical and historical-natural site of each country to be registered from 2006.
She said Bisotun and three other churches are in the initial list of registration.
Bisotun is situated in Kermanshah, Saint Thaddeus in West Azerbaijan and Saint Mary in east Azerbaijan.
  More results at FactBites »



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