Bisotun (Kermanshah)


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The Bisotun (or Behistun) mountain stands some 30 km to the northeast of Kermanshah via the main road to Hamadan, which itself follows the ancient caravan route along the bottom of a fine velvety fawn-colored cliff. Long before Achaemenians, even prehistoric man inhabited Bisotun according to Carleton Coon, who found while excavating a cave there in 1949 evidence of a highly developed industry datable to the Middle Paleolithic, indicating that Bisotun was inhabited during the Warm glaciation.
On the roadside there are Achaemenian inscriptions and relief engraved high up ( 100 and 40-50 m above the ground) on the Bisotun cliff, which attract the attention of tourists, travelers, and passers- by. Henry Rawlinson, then a subaltern in the British Army, copied the trilingual inscriptions in 1833 and 1834 and eventually began the process of deciphering the Akkadian script which until that time had baffled scholars. Againin 1948 Dr G Cameron of ChicagoUniversity could correct some of Rawlinson's errors.

Altogether twelve hundred lines of inscriptions tell the story of the battles Darhad to wage in 521-520 BC against the governors who were trying to dismantle Empire founded by Cyrus. The decisive battle took place on this site.
A bas-relief portrays the King's victory; unfortunately the scene showing him with his main enemy at his feet and nine rebel governors enchained, is some 50 m above ground level and is hardly visible without the use of binoculars.
The tablet of Darius I is high up on the side of the cliff over the village of Bisotun which stands to a large pool. Below the tablet is a staircase up to a platform, from which you can see a shallow recess containing an inscription in Greek and a rather worn mid-second century BC sculpture of Hercules (Heracles) on the back of a lion. These sculptures, inscriptions and tablets of considerable dimensions, comprise the figure of Darius I, tall and with attractive features, while Ahura Mazda's symbolic celestial figure can be seen hovering above his head. Darius has stretched his right hand toward this deity and with his left foot he is trampling upon the rebel Gaumata (pretender) lying prostrate at his feet. Two persons are standing behind Darius, while nine governors from different nations are seen before him with their hands tied behind their backs and a cord running around their necks. The name and nationality of each rebel governor have been inscribed as follows:
 I. Atrina (of Susiana)
2. Nidinter-Bel (of Babylonia)
3. Faravartish (of Media)
4. Martiya (of Susiana)
5. Citrantakhma (House of Sargartiya, in Media)
6. Vahyazdata (Smerdis in Persis)
7. Arakha (of Babylonia)
8. Frada (of Marv)
9. Skunkha (the Scythian)
The latter figure, wearing a rather tall hat, seems to be later addition. The three  languages used in the inscriptions are Babylonian, Elamite, and the Old Persian. The inscriptions are also known as the Longer and the Shorter. The former consists of Ahura Mazda's praise and adoration, the genealogy of Darius, and an account of the events of his reign, his views, beliefs, recommendations, and comments. The Shorter inscription deals with Darius' lineage and a number of events taken place during his reign.
These sculptures seem to have been intended to give a true picture of those represented. The Achaemenian sovereign, for instance, wears a garment with folds at the waist. He is 180 cm high. One of the two prisoners (governors) standing behind the King, bears the royal bow and arrows, while the other is holding the King's spear. The figure of Ahura Mazda is seen above the heads of the prisoners. with a winged sun-disc {which is the symbol of eternity) encircling him. In the inscriptions, Darius gives the names of his ancestors and says: "Eight of my family were kings before me. I am the ninth. We inherit kingship on both sides."
The Bisotun sculptures (measuring 5.48 by
3,04 m) are of the highest historic importance and have been created in 480 BC, the sixth year of Darius' reign. It would take the best part of a day to explore everything, although most visitors are happy merely to see these famous reliefs. Because of the lighting conditions, it is better to visit this site in the early morning and then move on to Taq-e Bostan.
There are plenty of remains at this site. Within easy reach of the cliff there are a Median citadel, the walls of a Parthian settlement, a stone block, carved with three Parthian figures. the foundations of a Sassanian bridge, and a grotto with evidence of occupation in Neanderthal times. In Bisotun, there are several places to eat.




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