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Behistun Inscription (Iran)

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Behistun Inscription, Iran

Behistun Inscription, Iran

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Definition:

The Behistun inscription (also spelled Bisotun or Bisitun) is a 6th century BC Persian Empire carving, cut deep into a cliff on the Kermanshah-Tehran highway in Iran, about 500 kilometers from Tehran and about 30 kilometers from Kermanshah, near the town of Bisotun, Iran.

The Behistun inscription, like the Rosetta Stone, is one text recorded in three different languages: Old Persian, Elamite, and Akkadian. The text is a description of the early military campaigns of the Achaemenid King Darius I (522-486 BC). The inscription was carved into the side of a cliff about 300 feet off the ground near the town of Bisotun, Iran, on the ancient road connecting the Assyrian towns of Babylon and Media, still used today as the Kermanshah-Tehran highway.

The inscription, carved between 520 and 518 BC, describes (among other things) Darius' risky (but successful) attack on Egypt, and a failed coup attempt on the Achaemenid empire while he was away. The first archaeologist to scale the cliff to take a close look was Henry Rawlinson in 1835, who translated the text and published it in 1835.

Sources

This glossary entry is part of the About.com Guide to the Persian Empire, the Guide to the Achaemenid Dynasty, and the Dictionary of Archaeology.

Briant, Pierre. 2005. History of the Persian Empire (550-330 BC). Pp 12-17 in Forgotten Empire: The World of Ancient Persia, edited by John E. Curtis and Nigel Tallis. University of California Press, Berkeley.

Tavernier, Jan 2001 An Achaemenid Royal Inscription: The Text of Paragraph 13 of the Aramaic Version of the Bisitun Inscription. Journal of Near Eastern Studies 60(3):61-176.

Alternate Spellings: Bisitun, Bisotun
Common Misspellings: Beistun, Bistun
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