- Behistun Inscription
Infobox World Heritage Site
Name = Bisotun
State_Party = IRN (Islamic Republic of)
Type = Cultural
Criteria = ii, iii
ID = 1222
Region = Asia-Pacific
Year = 2006
Session = 30th
The Behistun Inscription (also Bisitun or Bisutun,
Modern Persian: بیستون ; Old Persian: Bagastana, meaning "the god's place or land") is a multi-lingual inscription located on Mount Behistunin the Kermanshah Provinceof Iran, near the town of Jeyhounabad.
The inscription includes three versions of the same text, written in three different
cuneiform scriptlanguages: Old Persian, Elamite, and Babylonian. A British armyofficer, 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. In effect, then, the inscription is to cuneiform what the Rosetta Stoneis to Egyptian hieroglyphs: the document most crucial in the deciphermentof a previously lost script.
The inscription is approximately 15
metres high by 25 metres wide, and 100 metres up a limestonecliff from an ancient road connecting the capitals of Babyloniaand Media ( Babylonand 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. Faravaharfloats 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 Fact|date=November 2007, which is a separate block of stone attached with ironpins and lead.
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 Babylonto 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.
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, throws his axe down the hill, kisses the ground and dies. It is told in the book of Chosroes and Shirinthat 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.
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 Sherleysaw 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 Jesuswith an inscription in Greek.
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 Israeland Shalmaneser of Assyria. Italian explorer Pietro della Vallevisited the inscription in the course of a pilgrimage in around 1621, and German surveyor Carsten Niebuhrvisited 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 Grotefendand others in their efforts to decipher the Old Persian cuneiform script. Grotefend had deciphered ten of the 37 symbols of Old Persian by 1802.
In 1835, Sir Henry Rawlinson, an officer of the
British East India Companyarmy assigned to the forces of the Shahof Iran, began studying the inscription in earnest. As the town of Bisutun'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 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.
Armed with the Persian text, and with about a third of the
syllabarymade available to him by the work of Georg Friedrich Grotefend, Rawlinson set to work on deciphering the text. Fortunately, the first section of this text contained a list of the same Persian kings found in Herodotusin their original Persian forms as opposed to Herodotus's Greek transliterations, for example Darius is given as the original "Dâryavuš" instead of the Hellenized "Δαρειος". By matching the names and the characters, Rawlinson was able to decipher the type of cuneiform used for Old Persian by 1838 and present his results to the Royal Asiatic Societyin Londonand the Société Asiatiquein Paris.
Surprisingly, the Old Persian text was copied and deciphered before the recovery and copying of the Elamite and Babylonian inscriptions had even been attempted. In the interim, Rawlinson spent a brief tour of duty in
Afghanistan, returning to the site in 1843. He first crossed a chasm between the Persian and Elamite scripts by bridging the gap with planks, subsequently copying the Elamite inscription. He was then able to find an enterprising local boy to climb up a crack in the cliff and suspend ropes across the Babylonian writing, so that papier-mâchécasts of the inscriptions could be taken. Rawlinson, along with scholars Edward Hincks, Julius Oppert, William Henry Fox Talbot, and Edwin Norris, either working separately or in collaboration eventually deciphered these inscriptions, leading eventually to the ability to read them completely. The ability to read Old Persian, Elamite, and Babylonian was one of the key developments that put the field of Assyriologyon a modern footing.
Later expeditions, in 1904 sponsored by the
British Museumand led by Leonard William Kingand Reginald Campbell Thompsonand in 1948 by George G. Cameronof 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 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 Sitein 2006. [http://www.payvand.com/news/06/jul/1130.html]
Other historical monuments in 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,
* Farhad Tarash,
* Median fortress,
Seleucidstatue of Hercules,
* Parthian worshipping place,
* Khosrow palace,
* Median temple,
* Bas relief of
Mithridates II of Parthia,
* Bas relief of
Gotarzes II of Parthia,
Sheikh Ali khan Zangenehtext endowment,
* Balash stone,
* Carved Sassanian stones,
Darius I of Persia
Full translation of the Behistun Inscription
* Achaemenid empire
Taq-e Bostan(Rock reliefs of various Sassanid kings)
Pasargadae(Tomb of Pasargadae Cyrus the Great)
Ka'ba-i Zartosht(The "Cube of Zoroaster", a monument at Naqsh-e Rustam)
*Adkins, Lesley, "Empires of the Plain: Henry Rawlinson and the Lost Languages of Babylon", St. Martin's Press, New York, 2003.
*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) [http://members.ozemail.com.au/~ancientpersia/behistun.html]
*Cameron, George G. "Darius Carved History on Ageless Rock". "
National Geographic Magazine". Vol. XCVIII, Num. 6, December 1950. (p. 825–844) [http://members.ozemail.com.au/~ancientpersia/behistun.html]
*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. [http://oi.uchicago.edu/research/pubs/catalog/ois/ois2.html]
* "The Bisotun inscription", Photos from Iran, [http://www.livius.org/be-bm/behistun/behistun01.html "Livius"] .
* "Gandj Nameh", Photos from Iran, [http://www.livius.org/a/iran/gandj_nameh/gandj_nameh.html "Livius"] .
* [http://aryo.ir/pages/kermanshah/bisotun.htm Photos of Bisotun Complex] - From Online Photo Gallery Of [http://www.aryo.ir Aryo.ir]
* [http://www.livius.org/be-bm/behistun/behistun01.html The Behistun Inscription] , livius.org article by Jona Lendering, including Persian text (in cuneiform and transliteration), English translation, and additional materials
* [http://mcadams.posc.mu.edu/txt/ah/Persia/Behistun_txt.html English translation of the inscription text]
* [http://library.case.edu:9090/ksl/ecoll/books/anoscu00/anoscu00.pdf Case Western Reserve University Digital Library] — the complete text of the Behistun inscription, in transcribed cuneiform and English translation, available in PDF format
* [http://www.ghiasabadi.com/behistun2.html Behistun Inscription, Persian text ترجمه فارسی کتیبه بیستون]
* [http://visopsys.org/andy/essays/darius-bisitun.html Darius the Great and the Bisutun Inscription] , by J. Andrew McLaughlin
* [https://www.sharemation.com/zoroaster7/BISOTUN.PDF?uniq=ksz8bm Bisotun] — the complete text of the bisotun inscription, in transcribed cuneiform and Persian translation, available in pdf format.
* [http://www.payvand.com/news/04/aug/1149.html Iran: Documentation of Behistun Inscription Nearly Complete]
* [http://www.avesta.org/op/op.htm Behistun and many others persian royal inscriptions]
* [http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/1222 Brief description of Bisotun] from
* "Bisotun receives its World Heritage certificate", Cultural Heritage News Agency, Tehran, July 3, 2008, [http://www.chnpress.com/news/?section=2&id=7430] .
* [http://www.livius.org/be-bm/behistun/behistun-rem.html Other monuments of Behistun]
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