Bistoon

Bistoon or Bisotun in Kermanshah:

The Behistun ( Bisotun ) Inscription is a multilingual inscription and large rock relief on a cliff at Mount Behistun in the Kermanshah Province of Iran, near the city of Kermanshah in western Iran. It was crucial to the decipherment of cuneiform script.

Bistoon of Kermanshah

Bisotun of Kermanshah

Authored by Darius the Great sometime between his coronation as king of the 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 and 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 inscription states in detail that the rebellions, which had resulted from the deaths of 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 kinghood 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”.

Bistoon of Kermanshah

Bisotun of Kermanshah

Bisotun of Kermanshah

The inscription in Bisotun includes three versions of the same text, written in three different cuneiform script languages: Old Persian, Elamite, and Babylonian (a variety of Akkadian). Bisotun inscription is to cuneiform what the Rosetta Stone is to Egyptian hieroglyphs: the document most crucial in the decipherment of a previously lost script.

The route up to the inscription

Bisotun inscription is approximately 15 metres high by 25 metres wide and 100 metres up a limestone cliff from an ancient road connecting the capitals of Babylonia and Media (Babylon and Ecbatana, respectively). 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 I, the Great, 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 supine figure is reputed to be the pretender Gaumata. 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. Faravahar floats above, giving his 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 pins and lead.