Behistun Inscription

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Behistun Inscription

(bāhĭsto͞on`, bə–, bēhĭs`to͝on) or

Bisutun Inscription

(bēso͞oto͞on`, bēsə–), 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). A bas-relief depicting Darius I with a group of captive chiefs is carved together with the inscription. Although the rock was known in ancient times (Diodorus attributed the carvings to Semiramis), it was not until 1835 that Sir Henry RawlinsonRawlinson, Sir Henry Creswicke,
1810–95, English Orientalist and administrator; brother of George Rawlinson. In the course of his service with the Persian army and as consul at Baghdad, Rawlinson became interested in deciphering the cuneiform of the Behistun Inscriptions
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 scaled it and copied the inscriptions. Rawlinson translated the Persian section of the inscription, which later led to the entire decipherment of the Assyrian text.

Behistun Inscription


an inscription of the ancient Persian king Darius I (ruled 522–486 B.C.), cut on the cliff of Behistun Rock (Bisitun, Bisotun), in the territory of present-day Iran, approximately 100 km west of Hamadan. The inscription consists of the so-called great inscription and a series of small ones. The former is divided into three large texts with identical content, written respectively in three types of cuneiform in three languages: Old Persian, Elamite, and Babylonian. The inscription first became accessible after H. Rawlinson copied it in 1835–47 and substantially deciphered it. The Persian cuneiform text supplied the key to the cuneiform writing of other ancient eastern peoples.

The content of the Behistun inscription provides the official version of events unfolding in the Achaemenid state after the death of Cyrus II, chiefly from 522 to 519 B.C. The inscription tells of the rebellion of the magus Gaumata, his murder by conspirators from the Persian aristocracy, and the crowning of Darius I. It also describes subsequent rebellions and their suppression and the campaign of Darius I in Middle Asia.


Abaev, V. I. “Perevod persidskogo teksta Bol’shoi, ili Bekhistun-skoi nadpisi.” In Khrestomatiia po istorii Drevnego mira, 2nd ed., vol. 1. Moscow, 1950. Pages 255–63.
Dandamaev, M. A. “Bekhistunskaia nadpis’ i antichnye avtory o Bardii—Gaumate.” Kratkie soobshcheniia In-ta narodov Azii AN SSSR, 1962, issue 46.
Struve, V. V. Etiudy po istorii Severnogo Prichernomor’ia, Kavkaza i Srednei Azii. Leningrad, 1968. Chapters 1–3.
Tiurin, V. O. “K ustanovleniiu znacheniia sotsial’no-ekonomich. terminov Bekhistanskoi nadpisi.” In the collection Tr. Intaiazykoznaniia AN SSSR, vol. 6. Moscow, 1956. (Bibliography.)
Trömpelmann, L. T. “Zur entstehungsgeschichte des Monuments Dareios I von Bisitun . . . .” Archaologischer Anzeiger, 1967. no. 3.


References in periodicals archive ?
In order to answer this question, it is necessary, I believe, to return to the historical and rhetorical context of the phrase mana ba[n]daka in the Behistun inscription and consider whether its traditional interpretation is a valid one or whether the phrase should be merely transliterated in order to indicate a complex network of associations.
Further focus on the rhetoric of the passages relevant to the deeds of the ba[n]daka-generals illuminates their suitability to the authoritative first-person-singular narrative of the Behistun inscription.
In addition to the three texts of the Behistun inscription in Old Persian, Babylonian and Elamite, a late fifth-century B.
In the Behistun inscription the assessment of equivalence is almost impossible, because of the limited information we have on slavery under the Achaemenids;(70) we do not know whether there was any differentiation between ba[n]daka and libar, or between ba[n]daka and the other two OP terms for slavery, maniya and marika, that occur in the Achaemenid inscriptions.
In the Behistun inscription and other relevant texts these three terms presumably represented a relationship between the supreme monarch and his nobles,(78) indicating through the metaphor of 'slavery' that the nobles had placed their lives at the disposal of the king, in effect rendering them the king's property.
GREEK TEXT OMITTED] originated as a calque, a loan-translation of the term(s) known to us from the trilingual Behistun inscription, rather than as an expression conceived to express the Greeks' prejudiced image of the barbarian Persians.
90) The narrative of the Behistun inscription gives evidence of a social, economic and political struggle between 'those who had been on top economically and socially.
In my references to the Old Persian text of the Behistun inscription I use the abbreviation DB followed by a number (1-76), indicating the paragraphs, as they are in the edition of the text by Rudiger Schmitt, The Bisitun
14-15, referring to the Old Persian texts in general makes the remark: 'l'expression des notions essentielles n'est pas fixee'; this remark may apply to the other terms of the Behistun inscription but not to ba[n]daka.
71)Maniya, a loan-word from the Median language, used in the Behistun inscription (BD 14), probably designated the captive slaves who came in large numbers to Media in the late seventh and early sixth centuries B.