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 It might be outdated or ideologically biased.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 ?
Aside from a doubtful occurrence in the Aramaic version of the Bisotun inscription (C2.1:69), the term rkly' is unique in the Aramaic corpus of the first millennium BCE, but in view of the Hebrew cognate rokel the translation 'trader' is assured.
Iran is home to 19 UNESCO-registered sites, including the ancient city of Bisotun.
Some of these sites include Persepolis, Takht-e Soleyman, Bisotun, Golestan Palace, Pasargadae, Shahr-e Sukhteh, Chogha Zanbil and Jameh Mosque of Isfahan.
The other 15 designated sites in Iran listed by UNESCO in previous years are: Maidan-e Emam in Esfahan; Persepolis; Tchogha Zanbil; Takht-e Soleyman; Bam; Pasargadae; Soltaniyeh; Bisotun; three Armenian monastic ensembles in northwest Iran (St Thaddeus, St Stepanos and the Chapel of Dzordzor); the Shushtar hydraulic system; Sheikh Safi al-din Khanegah and Shrine ensemble in Ardebil; Tabriz Bazaar ; nine Persian Gardens scattered across the country; Gonbad-e Qabus; and the Masjed-e Jameh of Esfahan.
Moradi Ghiasabadi referred to the Darius inscription in Bisotun, saying, "Darius talked about Cambyses in the inscription, but there is no reference to his (Cambyses) invasion (of the Temple of Amun) in the ancient document."
135-6 and Clarisse Herrenschmidt, 'Les historiens de l'empire achemenide et l'inscription de Bisotun' Annales ESC, 37, 5-6 (1982), 821-2.
202 and 219, translates the term as 'household slave(s)'; see also Herrenschmidt, 'Les historiens de l'empire achemenien et l'inscription de Bisotun', p.
Iranian sites currently inscribed on the World Heritage List include: Cultural Armenian Monastic Ensembles of Iran; Bam and its Cultural Landscape; Bisotun; Meidan Emam, Esfahan; Pasargadae; Persepolis; Shushtar Historical Hydraulic; System; Soltaniyeh; Takht-e Soleyman and Tchogha Zanbil.
Before the addition of the monasteries, Iran had eight historical sites on the UNESCO list: Pasargadae; Bam; Tchogha Zanbil; Persepolis; Maidan-e Jahan in Esfahan; Bisotun; Takht-e Soleyman; and Soltaniyeh, the mausoleum of Oljaytu.