Behistun Inscription

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Behistun Inscription

Behistun Inscription (bāhĭsto͞onˈ, bə–, bēhĭsˈto͝on) or Bisutun Inscription (bēso͞oto͞onˈ, 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 Rawlinson 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.
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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

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.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
[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.
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
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.
In addition to the three texts of the Behistun inscription in Old Persian, Babylonian and Elamite, a late fifth-century B.C.
In addition, it is worth noting that the phrase mana ba[n]daka uniquely qualifies these nine 'ba[n]daka-generals' in the Behistun Inscription.(45) Other terms applied to Darius and his men were also used of his opponents and their men.
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.(41)
Friendship and loyalty are elements of Darius' phraseology in the Behistun inscription,(37) and Greek sources yield evidence on the significance that these notions had for the Persians.
Rawlinson deciphered the Old Persian text of the Behistun inscription, the word ba[n]daka has been considered as being etymologically related to the PIE root *Bhendh-, 'bind',(26) and the phrase mana ba[n]daka(27) has been rendered as 'one of my subjects' or 'one of my servants',(28) 'my subject',(29) 'mein Diener',(30) 'my servant',(31) 'mon serviteur',(32) 'my slave',(33) and 'my vassal'.(34) Nonetheless, to my knowledge the association of this word with slavery has only ever been explained in terms of etymologically related words from Pahlavi (300 B.C.
102, suggests that a Greek copy of the Behistun inscription might have reached the Greek-speaking subjects of Darius.