Behistuin or Bisutun

Behistuin Or Bisutun

(Lat. Bagistanus; Persian, Baghistan, Place of Gardens), a ruined town of the Persian province of Irak-Ajemi. 21 miles east of Kirmanshah, lat. 340 18' N., long. 47° 30' E. Behistun is chiefly celebrated for a remarkable mountain, which on one side rises almost perpendicularly to the height of 1700 feet, and which was in ancient times sacred to Jupiter or to Ormuzd. According to Diodorus, Semiramis, on her march from Babylon to Ecbatana, in Media Magna, encamped near this rock, and, having cut away and polished the lower part of it, had her own likeness and those of a hundred of her guards engraved on it. She further, according to the same historian, caused the following inscription in Assyrian letters to be cut in the rock: "Semiramis having piled up one upon the other the trappings of the beasts of burden which accompanied her, ascended by these means from the plain to the top of the rock." No trace of these inscriptions is now to be found, and Sir Henry Rawlinson accounts for their absence by the supposition that they were destroyed by Khusrau Parvis when he was preparing to form of this long scarped surface the back wall of his palace." Diodorus also mentions that Alexander the Great, on his way to Ecbatana from Susa, visited Behistun. But the rock is especially interesting for its cuneiform inscriptions (q.v.), which within recent years have been successfully deciphered by Sir H. Rawlinson. The principal inscription of Behistun, executed by the command of Darius, is on the north extremity of the rock, at an elevation of 300 feet from the ground, where it could not have been engraved without the aid of scaffolding, and can now only be reached by the adventurous antiquary at considerable risk to his life. The labor of polishing the face of the rock, so as to fit it to receive the inscriptions, must have been very great. In places where the stone was defective, pieces were fitted in and fastened with molten lead with such extreme nicety that only a careful scrutiny can detect the artifice. "But the real wonder of the work," says Sir H. Rawlinson, "consists in the inscriptions. For extent, for beauty of execution, for uniformity and correctness, they are perhaps unequalled in the world. After the engraving of the rock had been accomplished, a coating of silicious varnish had been laid on, to give a clearness of outline to each individual letter, and to protect the surface against the action of the elements. This varnish is of infinitely greater hardness than the limestone rock beneath it." Washed down in some places by the rain of twenty-three centuries, it lies in consistent flakes like thin layers of lava on the foot-ledge; in others, where time has honey-combed the rock beneath, it adheres to the broken surface, still showing with sufficient distinctness the forms of the characters. The inscriptions—which are in the three forms of cuneiform writing, Persian, Babylonian, and Median-set forth the hereditary right of Darius to the throne of Persia, tracing his genealogy, through eight generations, up to the Achaemenes; they then enumerate the provinces of his empire, and recount his triumphs over the various rebels who rose against him during the first four years of his reign. The monarch himself is represented on the tablet with a bow in hand, and his foot upon the prostrate figure of a man, while nine rebels, chained together by the neck, stand humbly before him; behind him are two of his own warriors, and above him, another figure [see cut]. The Persian inscriptions which Sir H. Rawlinson has translated are contained in the five main columns numbered in cut 1, 2, 3, 4, 5. The first column contains 19 paragraphs, and 96 lines. Each paragraph after the first, which commences, "I am Darius the Great King," begins with, "Says Darius the King." The second column has the same number of lines in 16 paragraphs; the third, 92 lines and 14 paragraphs; the fourth has also 92 lines and 18 paragraphs; and the fifth, which appears to be a supplementary column, 35 lines. A transcription, in Roman characters, of the Persian part, with a translation in English, is given in Rawlinson's Herodotus, 2, 490 sq. The second, fourth, and fifth columns are much injured. Sir H. Rawlinson fixes the epoch of the sculpture at 515 B.C. See Jour. of Asiatic Society, vol. 10; Norris, Behistun Inscription.

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