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The Behistun Inscription (also Bisotun, Bistun or Bisutun; fa, بیستون,
Old Persian Old Persian is one of the two directly attested Old Iranian languages The Iranian or Iranic languages are a branch of the Indo-Iranian languagesIndo-Iranian may refer to: * Indo-Iranian languages * Indo-Iranians, the various peoples speaking ...
: Bagastana, meaning "the place of god") is a multilingual inscription and large
rock relief A rock relief or rock-cut relief is a relief sculpture Relief is a sculptural technique where the sculpted elements remain attached to a solid background of the same material. The term ''relief Relief is a sculptural technique wh ...
on a cliff at
Mount Behistun Mount Bisotoun (or Behistun and Bisotun) is a mountain of the Zagros Mountains range, located in Kermanshah Province of western Iran. It is located west of Tehran. Cultural history It is well known for the famous Behistun Inscription and rock r ...

Mount Behistun
in the
Kermanshah Province #REDIRECT Kermanshah Province#REDIRECT Kermanshah Province Kermanshah Province ( fa, استان كرمانشاه, Ostān-e Kermanšah, ku, پارێزگای کرماشان, Parêzgeha Kirmaşan) is one of the 31 provinces of Iran Iran is su ...
of
Iran Iran ( fa, ایران ), also called Persia, and officially the Islamic Republic of Iran, is a country in Western Asia Western Asia, West Asia, or Southwest Asia, is the westernmost subregion A subregion is a part of a larger regio ...

Iran
, near the city of
Kermanshah Kermanshah ( fa, ; ku, Kirmaşan ,کرماشان), also known as Kermāshān, is the capital of Kermanshah Province#REDIRECT Kermanshah Province Kermanshah Province ( fa, استان كرمانشاه, Ostān-e Kermanšah, ku, پارێزگا ...

Kermanshah
in western
Iran Iran ( fa, ایران ), also called Persia, and officially the Islamic Republic of Iran, is a country in Western Asia Western Asia, West Asia, or Southwest Asia, is the westernmost subregion A subregion is a part of a larger regio ...

Iran
, established by
Darius the Great Darius I ( peo, 𐎭𐎠𐎼𐎹𐎺𐎢𐏁 ; New Persian New Persian ( fa, فارسی نو), also known as Modern Persian () and Dari (), is the final stage of the Persian language Persian (), also known by its endonym An endonym ( ...

Darius the Great
(). It was crucial to the
decipherment In philology Philology is the study of language A language is a structured system of communication used by humans, including speech (spoken language), gestures (Signed language, sign language) and writing. Most languages have a writing sys ...
of
cuneiform script Cuneiform is a - that was used to write several languages of the . The script was in active use from the early until the beginning of the . It is named for the characteristic wedge-shaped impressions (: ) which form its . Cuneiform was origi ...

cuneiform script
as the inscription includes three versions of the same text, written in three different
cuneiform script Cuneiform is a - that was used to write several languages of the . The script was in active use from the early until the beginning of the . It is named for the characteristic wedge-shaped impressions (: ) which form its . Cuneiform was origi ...

cuneiform script
languages:
Old Persian Old Persian is one of the two directly attested Old Iranian languages The Iranian or Iranic languages are a branch of the Indo-Iranian languagesIndo-Iranian may refer to: * Indo-Iranian languages * Indo-Iranians, the various peoples speaking ...
,
Elamite Elamite, also known as Hatamtite, is an extinct language that was spoken by the ancient Elamites. It was used in present-day southwestern Iran from 2600 BC to 330 BC. Elamite works disappear from the archeological record after Alexander the Great ...
, and Babylonian (a variety of
AkkadianAkkadian or Accadian may refer to: * The Akkadian language Akkadian ( ''akkadû'', ''ak-ka-du-u2''; logogram: ''URIKI'')John Huehnergard & Christopher Woods, "Akkadian and Eblaite", ''The Cambridge Encyclopedia of the World's Ancient Languages' ...

Akkadian
). The inscription is to
cuneiform Cuneiform is a Logogram, logo-Syllabary, syllabic writing system, script that was used to write several languages of the Ancient Near East. The script was in active use from the early Bronze Age until the beginning of the Common Era. It is nam ...

cuneiform
what the
Rosetta Stone The Rosetta Stone is a granodiorite stele inscribed with three versions of a Rosetta Stone decree, decree issued in Memphis, Egypt, in 196 BC during the Ptolemaic dynasty on behalf of King Ptolemy V Epiphanes. The top and middle texts are in Eg ...

Rosetta Stone
is to
Egyptian hieroglyph Egyptian hieroglyphs () were the formal writing system A writing system is a method of visually representing verbal communication Communication (from Latin ''communicare'', meaning "to share" or "to be in relation with") is "an apparent ...
s: the document most crucial in the
decipherment In philology Philology is the study of language A language is a structured system of communication used by humans, including speech (spoken language), gestures (Signed language, sign language) and writing. Most languages have a writing sys ...
of a previously lost
script Script may refer to: Writing systems * Script, a distinctive writing system, based on a repertoire of specific elements or symbols, or that repertoire * Script (styles of handwriting) * Script (Unicode), historical and modern scripts as organise ...
. Authored by
Darius the Great Darius I ( peo, 𐎭𐎠𐎼𐎹𐎺𐎢𐏁 ; New Persian New Persian ( fa, فارسی نو), also known as Modern Persian () and Dari (), is the final stage of the Persian language Persian (), also known by its endonym An endonym ( ...

Darius the Great
sometime between his coronation as king of the
Persian Empire The Achaemenid Empire (; peo, wikt:𐎧𐏁𐏂𐎶, 𐎧𐏁𐏂, translit=Xšāça, translation=The Empire), also called the First Persian Empire, was an ancient Iranian peoples, Iranian empire based in Western Asia founded by Cyrus the Grea ...

Persian Empire
in the summer of 522 BC and his death in autumn of 486 BC, the inscription begins with a brief autobiography of Darius, including his ancestry and lineage. Later in the inscription, Darius provides a lengthy sequence of events following the deaths of
Cyrus the Great Cyrus II of Persia (; peo, wikt:𐎤𐎢𐎽𐎢𐏁, 𐎤𐎢𐎽𐎢𐏁, translit=Kūruš), commonly known as Cyrus the Great and also called Cyrus the Elder by the Ancient Greece, Greeks, was the founder of the Achaemenid Empire, the Histo ...

Cyrus the Great
and
Cambyses II Cambyses II ( peo, 𐎣𐎲𐎢𐎪𐎡𐎹 ''Kabūjiya'') was the second King of Kings of the Achaemenid Empire The Achaemenid Empire (; peo, 𐎧𐏁𐏂, translit=Xšāça, translation=The Empire), also called the First Persian Empire, wa ...

Cambyses II
in which he fought nineteen battles in a period of one year (ending in December 521 BC) to put down multiple rebellions throughout the
Persian Empire The Achaemenid Empire (; peo, wikt:𐎧𐏁𐏂𐎶, 𐎧𐏁𐏂, translit=Xšāça, translation=The Empire), also called the First Persian Empire, was an ancient Iranian peoples, Iranian empire based in Western Asia founded by Cyrus the Grea ...
. The inscription states in detail that the rebellions, which had resulted from the deaths of
Cyrus the Great Cyrus II of Persia (; peo, wikt:𐎤𐎢𐎽𐎢𐏁, 𐎤𐎢𐎽𐎢𐏁, translit=Kūruš), commonly known as Cyrus the Great and also called Cyrus the Elder by the Ancient Greece, Greeks, was the founder of the Achaemenid Empire, the Histo ...

Cyrus the Great
and his son Cambyses II, were orchestrated by several impostors and their co-conspirators in various cities throughout the empire, each of whom falsely proclaimed himself king during the upheaval following Cyrus's death. Darius the Great proclaimed himself victorious in all battles during the period of upheaval, attributing his success to the "grace of
Ahura Mazda Ahura Mazda (; ae, , translit=Ahura Mazdā also known as Oromasdes, Ohrmazd, Ahuramazda, Hourmazd, Hormazd, and Hurmuz) is the creator deity A creator deity or creator god (often called the Creator) is a deity A deity or god is a su ...

Ahura Mazda
". The inscription is approximately high by wide and up a
limestone Limestone is a common type of carbonate In chemistry, a carbonate is a salt Salt is a mineral composed primarily of sodium chloride (NaCl), a chemical compound belonging to the larger class of Salt (chemistry), salts; salt in its na ...

limestone
cliff from an ancient road connecting the capitals of
Babylonia Babylonia () was an and based in central-southern which was part of Ancient Persia (present-day and ). A small -ruled state emerged in 1894 BCE, which contained the minor administrative town of . It was merely a small provincial town dur ...
and
Media Media may refer to: Physical means Communication * Media (communication) In mass communication, media are the communication Communication (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, It ...
(
Babylon ''Bābili(m)'' * sux, 𒆍𒀭𒊏𒆠 * arc, 𐡁𐡁𐡋 ''Babil'' * grc-gre, Βαβυλών ''Babylṓn'' * he, בָּבֶל ''Bavel'' * peo, 𐎲𐎠𐎲𐎡𐎽𐎢 ''Bābiru'' * elx, 𒀸𒁀𒉿𒇷 ''Babili'' *Kassite The Kassites ...

Babylon
and
Ecbatana Ecbatana (; peo, 𐏃𐎥𐎶𐎫𐎠𐎴 ''Hagmatāna'' or ''Haŋmatāna'', literally "the place of gathering"; Elamite language, Elamite: 𒀝𒈠𒁕𒈾 ''Ag-ma-da-na''; Middle Persian: 𐭠𐭧𐭬𐭲𐭠𐭭; Parthian language, Parthian: ...

Ecbatana
, respectively). The
Old Persian Old Persian is one of the two directly attested Old Iranian languages The Iranian or Iranic languages are a branch of the Indo-Iranian languagesIndo-Iranian may refer to: * Indo-Iranian languages * Indo-Iranians, the various peoples speaking ...
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 I, the Great
Darius I, the Great
, holding a
bow Bow often refers to: * Bow and arrow The bow and arrow is a ranged weapon A ranged weapon is any weapon A weapon, arm or armament is any implement or device that can be used with the intent to inflict physical damage or harm. Weapons ar ...
as a sign of kingship, with his left foot on the chest of a figure lying on his back before him. The supine figure is reputed to be the pretender
Gaumata Bardiya ( peo, 𐎲𐎼𐎮𐎡𐎹 ''Bạrdiya''), also known as Smerdis among the Greeks ( grc, wikt:Σμέρδις#Ancient Greek, Σμέρδις ''Smerdis'') (possibly died 522 BC), was a son of Cyrus the Great and the younger brother of Camb ...
. Darius is attended to the left by two servants, and nine one-meter figures stand to the right, with hands tied and rope around their necks, representing conquered peoples. A
Faravahar The Faravahar (), also known as the Forouhar () or Farr-e Kiyâni ( fa, فَرِّ کیانی, label=none), is one of the best-known symbols of Zoroastrianism Zoroastrianism or Mazdayasna is an Iranian religion and one of the world's olde ...

Faravahar
floats above, giving its blessing to the king. One figure appears to have been added after the others were completed, as was Darius's beard, which is a separate block of stone attached with
iron Iron () is a chemical element In chemistry Chemistry is the study of the properties and behavior of . It is a that covers the that make up matter to the composed of s, s and s: their composition, structure, properties, behav ...

iron
pins and
lead Lead is a chemical element In chemistry, an element is a pure Chemical substance, substance consisting only of atoms that all have the same numbers of protons in their atomic nucleus, nuclei. Unlike chemical compounds, chemical elements ...

lead
.


History

After the fall of the Persian Empire's
Achaemenid Dynasty The Achaemenid dynasty ( peo, 𐏃𐎧𐎠𐎶𐎴𐎡𐏁𐎡𐎹, translit=Haxāmanišyaʰ; fa, دودمان هخامنشی; grc, Ᾰ̓χαιμενῐ́δαι, translit=Akhaimenídai) was an ancient Persian royal house. They were the ruling d ...
and its successors, and the lapse of Old Persian cuneiform writing into disuse, the nature of the inscription was forgotten, and fanciful explanations became the norm. For centuries, instead of being attributed to Darius the Great, it was believed to be from the reign of
Khosrau II Khosrow II (aka. Chosroes II in classical sources; pal, 𐭧𐭥𐭮𐭫𐭥𐭣𐭩; Modern Persian: ''Khosrow (word), Husrō''), also known as Khosrow Parviz (Persian language, New Persian: , "Khosrow the Victorious"), is considered to be th ...

Khosrau II
of
Persia Iran ( fa, ایران ), also called Persia, and officially the Islamic Republic of Iran, is a country in Western Asia. It is bordered to the northwest by Armenia and Azerbaijan, to the north by the Caspian Sea, to the northeast by Tu ...

Persia
—one of the last
Sassanid The Sasanian () or Sassanid Empire, officially known as the Empire of Iranians (, ''Iran (word), Ērānshahr''), and also called the Neo-Persian Empire by historians, was the last Persian Empire, Persian imperial dynasty before the spread of I ...
kings, who lived over 1000 years after the time of Darius the Great. The inscription is mentioned by
Ctesias of Cnidus:''For the beetle genus, see Ctesias (beetle).'' Ctesias (; grc, Κτησίας, ''Ktēsíās'', 5th century BC), also known as Ctesias the Cnidian or Ctesias of Cnidus, was a Greek physician A physician (American English), medical practitio ...
, who noted its existence some time around 400 BC and mentioned a well and a garden beneath the inscription. He incorrectly concluded that the inscription had been dedicated "by Queen Semiramis of Babylon to
Zeus Zeus or , , ; grc, Δῐός, ''Diós'', label=genitive In grammar In linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of language, meaning that it is a comprehensive, systematic, objective, and precise study of language. Ling ...

Zeus
".
Tacitus Publius Cornelius Tacitus ( , ; – ) was a Roman historian and politician. Tacitus is widely regarded as one of the greatest Roman historians by modern scholars. He lived in what has been called the Silver Age of Latin literature Classi ...

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 "
Herakles Heracles ( ; grc-gre, Ἡρακλῆς, , glory/fame of Hera Hera (; grc-gre, Ἥρᾱ, ''Hērā''; , ''Hērē'' in Ionic and Homeric Greek) is the goddess of women, marriage, family and childbirth in ancient Greek religion and ...

Herakles
". What has been recovered of them, including a statue dedicated in 148 BC, is consistent with Tacitus's description.
Diodorus Diodorus Siculus, or Diodorus of Sicily ( grc-gre, Διόδωρος Σικελιώτης ;  1st century BC), was an ancient Greek Ancient Greek includes the forms of the Greek language Greek ( el, label=Modern Greek Modern ...
also writes of "Bagistanon" and claims it was inscribed by Semiramis. A legend began around
Mount Behistun Mount Bisotoun (or Behistun and Bisotun) is a mountain of the Zagros Mountains range, located in Kermanshah Province of western Iran. It is located west of Tehran. Cultural history It is well known for the famous Behistun Inscription and rock r ...

Mount Behistun
(Bisotun), as written about by the Persian poet and writer
Ferdowsi , image = File:Statue of Ferdowsi in Tus, Iran 3 (cropped2).jpg , image_size = , caption = Statue of Ferdowsi in Tus by Abolhassan Sadighi Abolhassan Sadighi ( fa, ابوالحسن صدیقی) (5 October 1894 – 11 December 1995) was an ...

Ferdowsi
in his ''
Shahnameh The ''Shahnameh'' or ''Shahnama'' ( fa, شاهنامه, Šāhnāme ; ) is a long epic poem written by the Persian literature, Persian poet Ferdowsi for Sultan Mahmud of Ghazni between c. 977 and 1010 CE and is the national epic of Greater Iran ...
'' (''Book of Kings'') , about a man named
Farhad Farhad ( fa, فرهاد ''farhād''), also spelt Ferhaad or Ferhod, has been a Persian name for men since the Parthians, first recorded for Arsacid kings circa 170 BC. Etymology Modern Persian name ''Farhād'' () is derived from Middle Persian ...

Farhad
, who was a lover of King Khosrow's wife,
Shirin Shirin ( fa, شیرین; died 628) was a Christian wife of the Sasanian The Sasanian () or Sassanid Empire, officially known as the Empire of Iranians ( Middle Persian: 𐭠𐭩𐭥𐭠𐭭𐭱𐭲𐭥𐭩 '' Ērānshahr''), and called the Neo ...
. The legend states that, exiled for his transgression, Farhad was given the task of cutting away the mountain to find water; if he succeeded, he would be given permission to marry Shirin. After many years and the removal of half the mountain, he did find water, but was informed by Khosrow that Shirin had died. He went mad, threw his axe down the hill, kissed the ground and died. It is told in the book of
Khosrow and Shirin Image:Nizami - Khusraw discovers Shirin bathing in a pool.jpg, 280px, Khosrau II, Khosrow Parviz's first sight of Shirin, bathing in a pool, in a manuscript of Nizami Ganjavi, Nezami's poem. This is a famous moment in Persian literature. File:Khu ...
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 was not dead, according to the story, and mourned upon hearing the news. In 1598, the
Englishman
Englishman
Robert Sherley saw the inscription during a diplomatic mission to
Persia Iran ( fa, ایران ), also called Persia, and officially the Islamic Republic of Iran, is a country in Western Asia. It is bordered to the northwest by Armenia and Azerbaijan, to the north by the Caspian Sea, to the northeast by Tu ...

Persia
on behalf of
Austria Austria (, ; german: Österreich ), officially the Republic of Austria (german: Republik Österreich, links=no, ), is a landlocked Eastern Alps, East Alpine country in the southern part of Central Europe. It is composed of nine States o ...

Austria
, and brought it to the attention of Western European scholars. His party incorrectly came to the conclusion that it was Christian in origin. French General
Gardanne Gardanne (; oc, Gardana) is a Communes of France, commune in the Bouches-du-Rhône Departments of France, department in southern France. Its inhabitants are called Gardannais. Geography It is close to Aix-en-Provence and Marseille and on the r ...
thought it showed "Christ and his
twelve apostles upright=1.35, Jesus and his Twelve Apostles, Chi-Rho symbol ☧, Catacombs of Domitilla">Chi_Rho.html" ;"title="fresco with the Chi Rho">Chi-Rho symbol ☧, Catacombs of Domitilla, Rome In Christian theology and ecclesiology, apostles, partic ...

twelve apostles
", and
Sir Robert Ker Porter
Sir Robert Ker Porter
thought it represented the
Lost Tribes of Israel The ten lost tribes were the ten of the Twelve Tribes of Israel that were said to have been deported from the Kingdom of Israel after its conquest by the Neo-Assyrian Empire The Neo-Assyrian Empire ( Assyrian cuneiform: ''mat Aš-šur KI' ...
and
Shalmaneser of Assyria
Shalmaneser of Assyria
. In 1604, Italian explorer
Pietro della Valle Pietro della Valle (2 April 1586 – 21 April 1652) was an Italian composer, musicologist, and author who travelled throughout Asia Asia () is Earth's largest and most populous continent, located primarily in the Eastern Hemisphere, ...

Pietro della Valle
visited the inscription and made preliminary drawings of the monument.


Translation efforts

German surveyor
Carsten NiebuhrKarsten or Carsten is a both a given name and a surname. In Greek the name means "anointed". It is also known to be derived from a Low German form of Christian. Notable persons with the name include: Given name ;Carsten: * Carsten Niebuhr (1733 ...

Carsten Niebuhr
visited in around 1764 for
Frederick V of Denmark Frederick V (Danish Danish may refer to: * Something of, from, or related to the country of Denmark * A national or citizen of Denmark, also called a "Dane", see Demographics of Denmark * Danish people or Danes, people with a Danish ancestral or et ...
, publishing a copy of the inscription in the account of his journeys in 1778. Niebuhr's transcriptions were used by
Georg Friedrich Grotefend Image:Georg Friedrich Grotefend.jpg, Georg Friedrich Grotefend Georg Friedrich Grotefend (9 June 1775 – 15 December 1853) was a Germany, German epigraphist and philologist. He is known mostly for his contributions toward the decipherment of cuneif ...

Georg Friedrich Grotefend
and others in their efforts to decipher the
Old Persian cuneiform Old Persian cuneiform is a semi-alphabetic cuneiform script Cuneiform is a logo- syllabic script that was used to write several languages of the Ancient Near East. The script was in active use from the early Bronze Age The Bronze Age ...

Old Persian cuneiform
script. Grotefend had deciphered ten of the 37 symbols of Old Persian by 1802, after realizing that unlike the Semitic cuneiform scripts, Old Persian text is alphabetic and each word is separated by a vertical slanted symbol. The Old Persian text was copied and deciphered before recovery and copying of the Elamite and Babylonian inscriptions had even been attempted, which proved to be a good deciphering strategy, since Old Persian script was easier to study due to its alphabetic nature and because the language it represents had naturally evolved via
Middle Persian Middle Persian or Pahlavi, also known by its endonym Pārsīk or Pārsīg (𐭯𐭠𐭫𐭮𐭩𐭪) in its later form, is a Western Middle Iranian language which became the literary language of the Sasanian Empire. For some time after the Sasan ...
to the living modern
Persian language Persian (), also known by its endonym An endonym (from Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country located in Southeast Europ ...
dialects, and was also related to the
Avestan Avestan , also known historically as Zend, comprises two languages: Old Avestan (spoken in the 2nd millennium BCE) and Younger Avestan (spoken in the 1st millennium BCE). The languages are known only from their use as the language of Zoroastrian ...
language, used in the
Zoroastrian Zoroastrianism or Mazdayasna is an Iranian religion and one of the world's oldest continuously-practiced organized faiths, based on the teachings of the Iranian-speaking prophet Zoroaster Zoroaster (, ; el, Ζωροάστρης, ''Zōr ...
book the ''
Avesta The Avesta () is the primary collection of religious text Religious texts, also known as scripture, scriptures, holy writ, or holy books, are the texts which various religious traditions consider to be sacred, or of central importance to ...

Avesta
''. In 1835, Sir Henry Rawlinson, an officer of the
British East India Company The East India Company (EIC), also known as the Honourable East India Company (HEIC), East India Trading Company (EITC), the English East India Company or (after 1707) the British East India Company, and informally known as John Company, Com ...
army assigned to the forces of the
Shah Shah (; fa, شاه, Šâh or Šāh, , ) was a title given to the emperors and kings of Iran Iran ( fa, ایران ), also called Persia and officially the Islamic Republic of Iran ( fa, جمهوری اسلامی ایران ), is ...

Shah
of Iran, began studying the inscription in earnest. As the town of Bisotun's name was anglicized as "Behistun" at this time, the monument became known as the "Behistun Inscription". Despite its relative inaccessibility, Rawlinson was able to scale the cliff with the help of a local boy and copy the Old Persian inscription. The Elamite was across a chasm, and the Babylonian four meters above; both were beyond easy reach and were left for later. With the Persian text, and with about a third of the
syllabary In the linguistic Linguistics is the scientific study of language A language is a structured system of communication used by humans, including speech (spoken language), gestures (Signed language, sign language) and writing. Most langu ...
made available to him by the work of
Georg Friedrich Grotefend Image:Georg Friedrich Grotefend.jpg, Georg Friedrich Grotefend Georg Friedrich Grotefend (9 June 1775 – 15 December 1853) was a Germany, German epigraphist and philologist. He is known mostly for his contributions toward the decipherment of cuneif ...

Georg Friedrich Grotefend
, Rawlinson set to work on deciphering the text. The first section of this text contained a list of the same Persian kings found in
Herodotus Herodotus ( ; grc, Ἡρόδοτος, Hēródotos, ; BC) was an Classical Greece, ancient Greek writer, geographer, and historian born in the Greek city of Halicarnassus, part of the Achaemenid Empire, Persian Empire (now Bodrum, Turkey). He ...
but in their original Persian forms as opposed to Herodotus's Greek
transliteration Transliteration is a type of conversion of a text from one script Script may refer to: Writing systems * Script, a distinctive writing system, based on a repertoire of specific elements or symbols, or that repertoire * Script (styles of h ...

transliteration
s; for example Darius is given as the original ''Dâryavuš'' instead of the Hellenized ''Δαρειος''. By matching the names and the characters, Rawlinson deciphered the type of cuneiform used for Old Persian by 1838 and presented his results to the
Royal Asiatic Society The Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland, commonly known as the Royal Asiatic Society (RAS), was established, according to its royal charter of 11 August 1824, to further "the investigation of subjects connected with and for the enco ...

Royal Asiatic Society
in
London London is the capital Capital most commonly refers to: * Capital letter Letter case (or just case) is the distinction between the letters that are in larger uppercase or capitals (or more formally ''majuscule'') and smaller lowerc ...

London
and the Société Asiatique in
Paris Paris () is the Capital city, capital and List of communes in France with over 20,000 inhabitants, most populous city of France, with an estimated population of 2,175,601 residents , in an area of more than . Since the 17th century, Paris ha ...

Paris
. In the interim, Rawlinson spent a brief tour of duty in
Afghanistan Afghanistan (; Pashto Pashto (,; / , ), sometimes spelled Pukhto or Pakhto, is an Eastern Iranian language The Eastern Iranian languages are a subgroup of the Iranian languages The Iranian or Iranic languages are a branch of t ...

Afghanistan
, returning to the site in 1843. This time he crossed the chasm between the Persian and Elamite scripts by bridging the gap with planks, subsequently copying the Elamite inscription. He found an enterprising local boy to climb up a crack in the cliff and suspend ropes across the Babylonian writing, so that
papier-mâché papier-mâché masks, Haiti Papier-mâché (, ; , literally "paper-mash") is a composite material consisting of paper pieces or pulp, sometimes reinforced with textiles, bound with an adhesive, such as glue, starch, or wallpaper adhesive, wallp ...
casts of the inscriptions could be taken. Rawlinson, along with several other scholars, most notably
Edward Hincks Edward Hincks (19 August 1792 – 3 December 1866) was an Irish clergyman, best remembered as an Assyriologist and one of the decipherers of Mesopotamian Mesopotamia ( ar, بِلَاد ٱلرَّافِدَيْن '; grc, Μεσοποτα ...

Edward Hincks
,
Julius Oppert Julius Oppert Julius (Jules) Oppert (July 9, 1825 – August 21, 1905) was a French- German Assyriologist Assyriology (from Greek , ''Assyriā''; and , '' -logia'') is the archaeological, historical, and linguistic study of Assyria Assyri ...
,
William Henry Fox Talbot William Henry Fox Talbot Fellow of the Royal Society, FRS FRSE Royal Astronomical Society, FRAS (; 11 February 180017 September 1877) was an English scientist, inventor and photography pioneer who invented the Salt print, salted paper and caloty ...
, and
Edwin Norris Edwin Norris (24 October 1795 – 10 December 1872) was a British British may refer to: Peoples, culture, and language * British people, nationals or natives of the United Kingdom, British Overseas Territories, and Crown Dependencies. ** Br ...
, either working separately or in collaboration, eventually deciphered these inscriptions, leading eventually to the ability to read them completely. The translation of the Old Persian sections of the Behistun Inscription paved the way to the subsequent ability to decipher the Elamite and Babylonian parts of the text, which greatly promoted the development of modern
Assyriology Assyriology (from Ancient Greek, Greek , ''Assyriā''; and , ''-logy, -logia'') is the archaeological, historical, and linguistic study of Assyria and the rest of ancient Mesopotamia (a region that encompassed what is now modern Iraq, northeaster ...
.


Later research and activity

The site was visited by the American linguist A. V. Williams Jackson in 1903. Later expeditions, in 1904 sponsored by the
British Museum The British Museum, in the Bloomsbury Bloomsbury is a district in the West End of London The West End of London (commonly referred to as the West End) is a district of Central London Central London is the innermost part of Lond ...

British Museum
and led by
Leonard William KingLeonard William King, F.S.A. (8 December 1869 – 20 August 1919) was an English archaeologist Archaeology or archeology is the study of human activity through the recovery and analysis of material culture. Archaeology is often considered a ...
and
Reginald Campbell Thompson Reginald Campbell Thompson (21 August 1876 – 23 May 1941) was a British archaeologist, assyriologist, and cuneiformist. He excavated at Nineveh, Ur, Nebo and Carchemish among many other sites. Biography Thompson was born in Kensington, an ...
and in 1948 by George G. Cameron of the
University of Michigan , mottoeng = "Arts, Knowledge, Truth" , former_names = Catholepistemiad, or University of Michigania (1817–1821) , budget = $8.99 billion (2018) , endowment = $17 billion (2021)As of October 25, 2021. ...

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 was inscribed, while leaving new deposits of limestone over other areas, covering the text. In 1938, the inscription became of interest to the
Nazi German Nazi Germany, (lit. "National Socialist State"), ' (lit. "Nazi State") for short; also ' (lit. "National Socialist Germany") officially known as the German Reich from 1933 until 1943, and the Greater German Reich from 1943 to 1945, was ...
think tank A think tank, or policy institute, is a research institute A research institute, research centre, or research center is an establishment founded for doing research Research is "creativity, creative and systematic work undertaken to inc ...
Ahnenerbe The Ahnenerbe (, ''ancestral heritage'') operated as a think tank A think tank, or policy institute, is a research institute A research institute, research centre, or research center is an establishment founded for doing research Rese ...

Ahnenerbe
, although research plans were cancelled due to the onset of World War II. The monument later suffered some damage from
Allied An alliance is a relationship among people, groups, or sovereign state, states that have joined together for mutual benefit or to achieve some common purpose, whether or not explicit agreement has been worked out among them. Members of an alli ...
soldiers using it for target practice in
World War II World War II or the Second World War, often abbreviated as WWII or WW2, was a global war A world war is "a war War is an intense armed conflict between states State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literatur ...
, and during the
Anglo-Soviet invasion of Iran The Anglo-Soviet invasion of Iran or Anglo-Soviet invasion of Persia was the joint invasion of neutral Imperial State of Iran Imperial is that which relates to an empire An empire is a sovereign state consisting of several territories and p ...
. In 1999, Iranian archeologists began the documentation and assessment of damages to the site incurred during the 20th century. Malieh Mehdiabadi, who was
project manager A project manager is a professional in the field of project management Project management is the process of leading the work of a team A team is a group of individuals (human or non-human) working together to achieve their goal A goal ...

project manager
for the effort, described a photogrammetric process by which two-dimensional photos were taken of the inscriptions using two cameras and later transmuted into 3-D images. In recent years, Iranian archaeologists have been undertaking conservation works. The site became a
UNESCO The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) (french: Organisation des Nations unies pour l'éducation, la science et la culture) is a specialised agency United Nations Specialized Agencies are autonomous orga ...

UNESCO
World Heritage Site A World Heritage Site is a landmark or area with legal protection by an international convention administered by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). World Heritage Sites are designated by UNESCO for h ...
in 2006. In 2012, the Bisotun Cultural Heritage Center organized an international effort to re-examine the inscription.


Content of the inscription


Lineage

In the first section of the inscription, Darius the Great declares his ancestry and lineage:


Territories

Darius also lists the territories under his rule:


Conflicts and revolts

Later in the inscription, Darius provides an eye-witness account of battles he successfully fought over a one year period to put down rebellions which had resulted from the deaths of Cyrus the Great, and his son Cambyses II: Behistun Relief, Assina.jpg,
Relief of ššina : "This is ššina. He lied, saying ''"I am king of
Elam Elam (; Linear Elamite Linear Elamite is a Bronze Age The Bronze Age is a prehistoric Periodization, period that was characterized by the use of bronze, in some areas proto-writing, and other early features of urban civilization. The Br ...

Elam
."''"
Behistun Relief Nidintu-Bêl.jpg,
Relief of Nidintu-Bêl: "This is Nidintu-Bêl. He lied, saying ''"I am Nebuchadnezzar, the son of
Nabonidus Nabonidus (Babylonian cuneiform Cuneiform is a Logogram, logo-Syllabary, syllabic writing system, script that was used to write several languages of the Ancient Near East. The script was in active use from the early Bronze Age until the begi ...

Nabonidus
. I am king of
Babylon ''Bābili(m)'' * sux, 𒆍𒀭𒊏𒆠 * arc, 𐡁𐡁𐡋 ''Babil'' * grc-gre, Βαβυλών ''Babylṓn'' * he, בָּבֶל ''Bavel'' * peo, 𐎲𐎠𐎲𐎡𐎽𐎢 ''Bābiru'' * elx, 𒀸𒁀𒉿𒇷 ''Babili'' *Kassite The Kassites ...

Babylon
."''"
Behistun Relief, Tritantaechmes.jpg, Relief of Tritantaechmes: "This is Tritantaechmes. He lied, saying ''"I am king of Sagartia, from the family of
Cyaxares Cyaxares ( grc, Κυαξάρης; peo, 𐎢𐎺𐎧𐏁𐎫𐎼 ; Avestan: ''Huxšaθra'' "Good Ruler"; Akkadian language, Akkadian: ''Umakištar''; Phrygian language, Old Phrygian: ''ksuwaksaros''; r. 625–585 BC) was the third and most capable ...
."''" Behistun relief Arakha.jpg, Relief of
Arakha Nebuchadnezzar IV (Babylonian cuneiform Cuneiform is a Logogram, logo-Syllabary, syllabic writing system, script that was used to write several languages of the Ancient Near East. The script was in active use from the early Bronze Age until t ...
: "This is Arakha. He lied, saying: ''"I am
Nebuchadnezzar Nebuchadnezzar II (Babylonian cuneiform Cuneiform is a Logogram, logo-Syllabary, syllabic writing system, script that was used to write several languages of the Ancient Near East. The script was in active use from the early Bronze Age until ...

Nebuchadnezzar
, the son of
Nabonidus Nabonidus (Babylonian cuneiform Cuneiform is a Logogram, logo-Syllabary, syllabic writing system, script that was used to write several languages of the Ancient Near East. The script was in active use from the early Bronze Age until the begi ...

Nabonidus
. I am king in Babylon."''" Behistun relief Frada.jpg, Relief of Frâda: "This is Frâda. He lied, saying ''"I am king of
Margiana Margiana ( el, ''Margianḗ'', Old Persian: ''Marguš'', Middle Persian: ''Marv'') is a historical region centred on the oasis of Merv and was a minor satrapy within the Achaemenid Empire, Achaemenid satrapy of Bactria (satrapy), Bactria, and a ...
."''" Behistun relief Skunkha.jpg, Behistun relief of Skunkha. Label: "This is Skunkha the ."


Other historical monuments in the Behistun complex

The site covers an area of 116 hectares. Archeological evidence indicates that this region became a human shelter 40,000 years ago. There are 18 historical monuments other than the inscription of Darius the Great in the Behistun complex that have been registered in the Iranian national list of historical sites. Some of them are: * Hunters' cave * Farhād Tarāsh * Medes, Median fortress * Parthian town * Statue of Hercules in Behistun * Parthian site of worship * Behistun Palace (said to be Palace of
Khosrau II Khosrow II (aka. Chosroes II in classical sources; pal, 𐭧𐭥𐭮𐭫𐭥𐭣𐭩; Modern Persian: ''Khosrow (word), Husrō''), also known as Khosrow Parviz (Persian language, New Persian: , "Khosrow the Victorious"), is considered to be th ...

Khosrau II
) * Ilkhanate, Ilkhanid caravanserai * Median temple * Bas relief of Mithridates II of Parthia * Bas relief of Gotarzes II of Parthia * Sheikh Ali khan Zangeneh text endowment * Safavid caravanserai * Vologases's relief * Carved Sassanian stones * Royal Road Image:Seleucid statue of Hercules 2.jpg, Statue of Herakles in Behistun complex File:Heracles Behistun 4000762965 10dbfce20a.jpg, Herakles at Behistun, sculpted for a Seleucis Governor in 148 BC. Image:Godarz.jpg, Bas relief of Mithridates II of Parthia and bas relief of Gotarzes II of Parthia and Sheikh Ali khan Zangeneh text endowment File:Behistun, Parthian relief of Gotarzes II.jpg, Damaged equestrian relief of Gotarzes II at Behistun File:نقش برجسته بلاش 1.JPG, Vologases's relief in Behistun


Similar reliefs and inspiration

The Anubanini rock relief, also called Sarpol-i Zohab, of the Lullubi king Anubanini, dated to , and which is located not far from the Behistun reliefs at Sarpol-e Zahab, is very similar to the reliefs at Behistun. The attitude of the ruler, the trampling of an enemy, the lines of prisoners are all very similar, to such extent that it was said that the sculptors of the Behistun Inscription probably have seen the Anubanini relief beforehand and were inspired by it. The Lullubi, Lullubian reliefs were the model for the Behistun reliefs of
Darius the Great Darius I ( peo, 𐎭𐎠𐎼𐎹𐎺𐎢𐏁 ; New Persian New Persian ( fa, فارسی نو), also known as Modern Persian () and Dari (), is the final stage of the Persian language Persian (), also known by its endonym An endonym ( ...

Darius the Great
. The inscriptional tradition of the Achaemenids, starting especially with Darius I, is thought to have derived from the traditions of
Elam Elam (; Linear Elamite Linear Elamite is a Bronze Age The Bronze Age is a prehistoric Periodization, period that was characterized by the use of bronze, in some areas proto-writing, and other early features of urban civilization. The Br ...

Elam
, Lullubi, the Babylonians and the Assyrians.


See also

* Behistun palace * Darius I of Persia * Achaemenid dynasty, Achaemenid empire * Taq-e Bostan (Rock reliefs of various Sassanid kings) * Pasargadae (Tomb of Pasargadae
Cyrus the Great Cyrus II of Persia (; peo, wikt:𐎤𐎢𐎽𐎢𐏁, 𐎤𐎢𐎽𐎢𐏁, translit=Kūruš), commonly known as Cyrus the Great and also called Cyrus the Elder by the Ancient Greece, Greeks, was the founder of the Achaemenid Empire, the Histo ...

Cyrus the Great
) * Shapur I's inscription at the Ka'ba-ye Zartosht * Naqsh-e Rajab * Cities of the Ancient Near East * Gaumata (False Smerdis) * Anubanini rock relief


Notes


References

*Adkins, Lesley, ''Empires of the Plain: Henry Rawlinson and the Lost Languages of Babylon'', St. Martin's Press, New York, 2003. *Blakesley, J. W.
An Attempt at an Outline of the Early Medo-Persian History, founded on the Rock-Inscriptions of Behistun taken in combination with the Accounts of Herodotus and Ctesias
'. (Trinity College, Cambridge,) in the ''Proceedings of the Philological Society''. *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. (pp. 760–767) *Cameron, George G. "Darius Carved History on Ageless Rock". ''National Geographic Magazine''. Vol. XCVIII, Num. 6, December 1950. (pp. 825–844) *Rubio, Gonzalo. "Writing in another tongue: Alloglottography in the Ancient Near East". In ''Margins of Writing, Origins of Cultures'' (ed. Seth Sanders. 2nd printing with postscripts and corrections. Oriental Institute Seminars, 2. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2007), pp. 33–70. *Louis Herbert Gray, Louis H. Gray, Notes on the Old Persian Inscriptions of Behistun, Journal of the American Oriental Society, vol. 23, pp. 56–64, 1902 *A. T. Olmstead, Darius and His Behistun Inscription, The American Journal of Semitic Languages and Literatures, vol. 55, no. 4, pp. 392–416, 1938 *Paul J. Kosmin, A New Hypothesis: The Behistun Inscription as Imperial Calendar, Iran - Journal of the British Institute of Persian Studies, August 2018

Saber Amiri Parian, A New Edition of the Elamite Version of the Behistun Inscription (I), Cuneiform Digital Library Bulletin 2017:003


External links

*
The Behistun Inscription
livius.org article by Jona Lendering, including Persian text (in cuneiform and transliteration), King and Thompson's English translation, and additional materials *
Brief description of Bisotun
from
UNESCO The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) (french: Organisation des Nations unies pour l'éducation, la science et la culture) is a specialised agency United Nations Specialized Agencies are autonomous orga ...

UNESCO

"Bisotun receives its World Heritage certificate"
Cultural Heritage News Agency, Tehran, July 3, 2008
Other monuments of Behistun
* Rüdiger Schmitt, "Bisotun i", Encyclopaedia Iranica]

{{Kermanshah Province Behistun Inscription, Achaemenid inscriptions Buildings and structures in Kermanshah Province Multilingual texts Archaeological sites in Iran Sculpture of the Ancient Near East World Heritage Sites in Iran Sources of ancient Iranian religion Tourist attractions in Kermanshah Province Darius the Great