The Avesta is the primary collection of religious texts of Zoroastrianism, composed in the otherwise unrecorded Avestan language. The Avesta texts fall into several different categories, arranged either by usage; the principal text in the liturgical group is the Yasna, which takes its name from the Yasna ceremony, Zoroastrianism's primary act of worship, at which the Yasna text is recited. The most important portion of the Yasna texts are the five Gathas, consisting of seventeen hymns attributed to Zoroaster himself; these hymns, together with five other short Old Avestan texts that are part of the Yasna, are in the Old Avestan language. The remainder of the Yasna's texts are in Younger Avestan, not only from a stage of the language, but from a different geographic region. Extensions to the Yasna ceremony include the texts of the Visperad; the Visperad extensions consist of additional invocations of the divinities, while the Vendidad is a mixed collection of prose texts dealing with purity laws.
Today, the Vendidad is the only liturgical text, not recited from memory. Some of the materials of the extended Yasna are from the Yashts, which are hymns to the individual yazatas. Unlike the Yasna and Vendidad, the Yashts and the other lesser texts of the Avesta are no longer used liturgically in high rituals. Aside from the Yashts, these other lesser texts include the Nyayesh texts, the Gah texts, the Siroza, various other fragments. Together, these lesser texts are conventionally called "Little Avesta" texts; when the first Khordeh Avesta editions were printed in the 19th century, these texts became a book of common prayer for lay people. The term Avesta is from the 9th/10th-century works of Zoroastrian tradition in which the word appears as Zoroastrian Middle Persian abestāg, Book Pahlavi ʾpstʾkʼ. In that context, abestāg texts are portrayed as received knowledge, are distinguished from the exegetical commentaries thereof; the literal meaning of the word abestāg is uncertain. The repeated derivation from *upa-stavaka is from Christian Bartholomae, who interpreted abestāg as a contraction of a hypothetical reconstructed Old Iranian word for "praise-song".
The surviving texts of the Avesta, as they exist today, derive from a single master copy produced by collation and recension in the Sasanian Empire. That master copy, now lost, is known as the'Sassanian archetype'; the oldest surviving manuscript of an Avestan language text is dated 1323 CE. Summaries of the various Avesta texts found in the 9th/10th century texts of Zoroastrian tradition suggest that a significant portion of the literature in the Avestan language has been lost. Only about one-quarter of the Avestan sentences or verses referred to by the 9th/10th century commentators can be found in the surviving texts; this suggests that three-quarters of Avestan material, including an indeterminable number of juridical and legendary texts, have been lost since then. On the other hand, it appears that the most valuable portions of the canon, including all of the oldest texts, have survived; the reason for this is that the surviving materials represent those portions of the Avesta that were in regular liturgical use, therefore known by heart by the priests and not dependent for their preservation on the survival of particular manuscripts.
A pre-Sasanian history of the Avesta, if it had one, is in the realm of myth. The oldest surviving versions of these tales are found in the ninth to 11th century texts of Zoroastrian tradition; the legends run as follows: The twenty-one nasks of the Avesta were created by Ahura Mazda and brought by Zoroaster to his patron Vishtaspa. Vishtaspa or another Kayanian, Daray had two copies made, one of, stored in the treasury, the other in the royal archives. Following Alexander's conquest, the Avesta was supposedly destroyed or dispersed by the Greeks after they translated the scientific passages that they could make use of. Several centuries one of the Parthian emperors named Valaksh then had the fragments collected, not only of those, written down, but of those that had only been orally transmitted; the Denkard transmits another legend related to the transmission of the Avesta. In that story, credit for collation and recension is given to the early Sasanian-era priest Tansar, who had the scattered works collected, of which he approved only a part as authoritative.
Tansar's work was supposedly completed by Adurbad Mahraspandan who made a general revision of the canon and continued to ensure its orthodoxy. A final revision was undertaken in the 6th century under Khosrow I. In the early 20th century, the legend of the Parthian-era collation engendered a search for a'Parthian archetype' of the Avesta. In the theory of Friedrich Carl Andreas, the archaic nature of the Avestan texts was assumed to be due to preservation via written transmission, unusual or unexpected spellings in the surviving texts were assumed to be reflections of errors introduced by Sasanian-era transcription from the
Hieroglyphic Luwian is a variant of the Luwian language, recorded in official and royal seals and a small number of monumental inscriptions. It is written in a hieroglyphic script known as Anatolian hieroglyphs. A decipherment was presented by Emmanuel Laroche in 1960, building on partial decipherments proposed since the 1930s. Corrections to the readings of certain signs as well as other clarifications were given by David Hawkins, Anna Morpurgo Davies and Günther Neumann in 1973 referred to as "the new readings"; the earliest hieroglyphs appear on official and royal seals, dating from the early 2nd millennium BC, but they begin to function as a full-fledged writing system only from the 14th century BC. The first monumental inscriptions confirmed as Luwian date to the Late Bronze Age, c. 14th to 13th centuries BC. After some two centuries of sparse material, the hieroglyphs resume in the Early Iron Age, c. 10th to 8th centuries BC. In the early 7th century BC, the Luwian hieroglyphic script, by aged more than 700 years, falls into oblivion.
A more elaborate monumental style is distinguished from more abstract linear or cursive forms of the script. In general, relief inscriptions prefer monumental forms, incised ones prefer the linear form, but the styles are in principle interchangeable. Texts of several lines are written in boustrophedon style. Within a line, signs are written in vertical columns, but as in Egyptian hieroglyphs, aesthetic considerations take precedence over correct reading order; the script consists of the order of some with multiple values. The signs are numbered according to Laroche's sign list, with a prefix of'L.' or'*'. Logograms are transcribed in Latin in capital letters. For example, *90, an image of a foot, is transcribed as PES when used logographically, with its phonemic value ti when used as a syllabogram. In the rare cases where the logogram cannot be transliterated into Latin, it is rendered through its approximate Hittite equivalent, recorded in Italic capitals, e.g. *216 ARHA. The most up-to-date sign list is that of Marazzi.
Hawkins, Morpurgo-Davies and Neumann corrected some previous errors about sign values, in particular emending the reading of symbols *376 and *377 from i, ī to zi, za. Roster of CV syllabograms: Some signs are used as reading aid, marking the beginning of a word, the end of a word, or identifying a sign as a logogram; these are used inconsistently. The script represents three vowels a, i, u and twelve consonants, h, k, l, m, n, p, r, s, t, w, y, z. Syllabograms have the structure V or CV, more CVCV. *383 ra/i, *439 wa/i and *445 la/i/u show multiple vocalization. Some syllabograms are homophonic, disambiguated with numbers in transliteration, there are many syllabograms each for phonemic /sa/ and /ta/. There is a tendency of rhotacism, replacing intervocalic d with r. Word-final stops and in some cases word-initial a- are elided. Suffixes -iya- and -uwa- may be syncopated to -i-, -u-. Forrer, Emil. Die hethitische Bilderschrift. Studies in ancient oriental civilization / Oriental Institut of the University of Chicago, no. 3.
Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Hawkins, J. D. 2000. Corpus of Hieroglyphic Luwian. Laroche, Emil. 1960. Les hiéroglyphes Première partie, L'écriture. Paris. Marazzi, M. 1998. Il Geroglifico Anatolico, Sviluppi della ricerca a venti anni dalla "ridecifrazione". Naples. Melchert, H. Craig. 1996. "Anatolian Hieroglyphs", in The World's Writing Systems, ed. Peter T. Daniels and William Bright. New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-507993-0 Melchert, H. Craig. 2004. "Luvian", in The Cambridge Encyclopedia of the World's Ancient Languages, ed. Roger D. Woodard. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-56256-2 Payne, A. 2004. Hieroglyphic Luwian, Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz. Plöchl, R. 2003. Einführung ins Hieroglyphen-Luwische. Dresden. Woudhuizen, F. C. 2004. Luwian Hieroglyphic Monumental Rock and Stone Inscriptions from the Hittite Empire Period. Innsbruck. ISBN 3-85124-209-2. Woudhuizen, F. C. 2004. Selected Hieroglyphic Texts. Innsbruck. ISBN 3-85124-213-0. Yakubovich, Ilya. 2010. Sociolinguistics of the Luvian Language.
Leiden "Digital etymological-philological Dictionary of the Ancient Anatolian Corpus Languages". Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München. Retrieved 2017-03-14
Homer is the legendary author of the Iliad and the Odyssey, two epic poems that are the central works of ancient Greek literature. The Iliad is set during the Trojan War, the ten-year siege of the city of Troy by a coalition of Greek kingdoms, it focuses on a quarrel between King Agamemnon and the warrior Achilles lasting a few weeks during the last year of the war. The Odyssey focuses on the ten-year journey home of Odysseus, king of Ithaca, after the fall of Troy. Many accounts of Homer's life circulated in classical antiquity, the most widespread being that he was a blind bard from Ionia, a region of central coastal Anatolia in present-day Turkey. Modern scholars consider these accounts legendary; the Homeric Question – concerning by whom, when and under what circumstances the Iliad and Odyssey were composed – continues to be debated. Broadly speaking, modern scholarly opinion falls into two groups. One holds that most of the Odyssey are the works of a single poet of genius; the other considers the Homeric poems to be the result of a process of working and reworking by many contributors, that "Homer" is best seen as a label for an entire tradition.
It is accepted that the poems were composed at some point around the late eighth or early seventh century BC. The poems are in Homeric Greek known as Epic Greek, a literary language which shows a mixture of features of the Ionic and Aeolic dialects from different centuries. Most researchers believe that the poems were transmitted orally. From antiquity until the present day, the influence of the Homeric epics on Western civilization has been great, inspiring many of its most famous works of literature, music and film; the Homeric epics were the greatest influence on education. Today only the Iliad and Odyssey are associated with the name'Homer'. In antiquity, a large number of other works were sometimes attributed to him, including the Homeric Hymns, the Contest of Homer and Hesiod, the Little Iliad, the Nostoi, the Thebaid, the Cypria, the Epigoni, the comic mini-epic Batrachomyomachia, the Margites, the Capture of Oechalia, the Phocais; these claims are not considered authentic today and were by no means universally accepted in the ancient world.
As with the multitude of legends surrounding Homer's life, they indicate little more than the centrality of Homer to ancient Greek culture. Many traditions circulated in the ancient world concerning Homer. Modern scholarly consensus is; some claims were repeated often. They include that Homer was blind, that he was born in Chios, that he was the son of the river Meles and the nymph Critheïs, that he was a wandering bard, that he composed a varying list of other works, that he died either in Ios or after failing to solve a riddle set by fishermen, various explanations for the name "Homer"; the two best known ancient biographies of Homer are the Life of Homer by the Pseudo-Herodotus and the Contest of Homer and Hesiod. The study of Homer is one of the oldest topics in scholarship, dating back to antiquity. Nonetheless, the aims of Homeric studies have changed over the course of the millennia; the earliest preserved comments on Homer concern his treatment of the gods, which hostile critics such as the poet Xenophanes of Colophon denounced as immoral.
The allegorist Theagenes of Rhegium is said to have defended Homer by arguing that the Homeric poems are allegories. The Iliad and the Odyssey were used as school texts in ancient Greek and Hellenistic cultures, they were the first literary works taught to all students. The Iliad its first few books, was far more intently studied than the Odyssey during the Hellenistic and Roman periods; as a result of the poems' prominence in classical Greek education, extensive commentaries on them developed to explain parts of the poems that were culturally or linguistically difficult. During the Hellenistic and Roman Periods, many interpreters the Stoics, who believed that Homeric poems conveyed Stoic doctrines, regarded them as allegories, containing hidden wisdom; because of the Homeric poems' extensive use in education, many authors believed that Homer's original purpose had been to educate. Homer's wisdom became so praised that he began to acquire the image of a prototypical philosopher. Byzantine scholars such as Eustathius of Thessalonica and John Tzetzes produced commentaries and scholia to Homer in the twelfth century.
Eustathius's commentary on the Iliad alone is massive, sprawling nearly 4,000 oversized pages in a twenty-first century printed version and his commentary on the Odyssey an additional nearly 2,000. In 1488, the Greek scholar Demetrios Chalkokondyles published the editio princeps of the Homeric poems; the earliest modern Homeric scholars started with the same basic approaches towards the Homeric poems as scholars in antiquity. The allegorical interpretation of the Homeric poems, so prevalent in antiquity returned to become the prevailing view of the Renaissance. Renaissance humanists praised Homer as the archetypically wise poet, whose writings contain hidden wisdom, disguised through allegory. In western Europe during the Renaissance, Virgil was more read than Homer and Homer was seen through a Virgilian lens. In 1664, contradicting the widespread praise of Homer as the epitome of wisdom, François Hédelin, abbé d'Aubignac wrote a s
The Rigveda is an ancient Indian collection of Vedic Sanskrit hymns along with associated commentaries on liturgy and mystical exegesis. It is one of the four sacred canonical texts of Hinduism known as the Vedas; the core text, known as the Rigveda Samhita, is a collection of 1,028 hymns in about 10,600 verses, organized into ten books. In the eight books that were composed the earliest, the hymns are praise of specific deities; the younger books in part deal with philosophical or speculative questions, with the virtue of dāna in society and with other metaphysical issues in their hymns. The oldest layers of the Rigveda Samhita are among the oldest extant texts in any Indo-European language of similar age as certain Hittite texts. Philological and linguistic evidence indicates that the bulk of the Rigveda Samhita was composed in the northwestern region of the Indian subcontinent, most between c. 1500 and 1200 BC, although a wider approximation of c. 1700–1100 BC has been given. The initial codification of the Rigveda took place during the early Kuru kingdom.
Some of its verses continue to be recited during Hindu rites of passage celebrations and prayers, making it the world's oldest religious text in continued use. The associated material has been preserved from two shakhas or "schools", known as Śākalya and Bāṣkala; the school-specific commentaries are known as Brahmanas Aranyakas, Upanishads. The text maṇḍalas, of varying age and length; the text originates as oral literature, "books" may be a misleading term, the individual mandalas are, much rather, standalone collections of hymns that were intended to be memorized by the members of various groups of priests. This is true of the "family books", mandalas 2–7, which form the oldest part of the Rigveda and account for 38 per cent of the entire text, they are called "family books" because each of them is attributed to an individual rishi, was transmitted within the lineage of this rishi's family, or of his students. The hymns within each of the family books are arranged in collections each dealing with a particular deity: Agni comes first, Indra comes second, so on.
They are arranged by decreasing number of hymns within each section. Within each such collection, the hymns are arranged in descending order of the number of stanzas per hymn. If two hymns in the same collection have equal numbers of stanzas they are arranged so that the number of syllables in the metre are in descending order; the second to seventh mandalas have a uniform format. The eighth and ninth mandalas, comprising hymns of mixed age, account for 9 %, respectively; the ninth mandala is dedicated to Soma and the Soma ritual. The hymns in the ninth mandala are arranged by their length; the first and the tenth mandalas are the youngest. Some of the hymns in mandalas 8, 1 and 10 may still belong to an earlier period and may be as old as the material in the family books; the first mandala has a unique arrangement not found in the other nine mandalas. The first 84 hymns of the tenth mandala have a structure different than the remaining hymns in it; each mandala consists of sūktas intended for various rituals.
The sūktas in turn consist of individual stanzas called ṛc, which are further analysed into units of verse called pada. The meters most used in the ṛcas are the gayatri, anushtubh and jagati; the trishtubh meter and gayatri meter dominate in the Rigveda. For pedagogical convenience, each mandala is divided into equal sections of several sūktas, called anuvāka, which modern publishers omit. Another scheme divides the entire text over the 10 mandalas into adhyāya and varga; some publishers give both classifications in a single edition. The most common numbering scheme is by book and stanza. E.g. the first verse is in three times eight syllables: 1.1.1a agním ī́ḷe puróhitaṃ 1b yajñásya deváṃ ṛtvíjam 1c hótāraṃ ratna-dhā́tamam "Agni I invoke, the house-priest / the god, minister of sacrifice / the presiding priest, bestower of wealth." Tradition associates a rishi with each ṛc of the Rigveda. Most sūktas are attributed to single composers; the "family books" are so-called. In all, 10 families of rishis account for more than 95 per cent of the ṛcs.
The original text is close to but not identical to the extant Samhitapatha, but metrical and other observations allow reconstruction of the original text from the extant one, as printed in the Harvard Oriental Series, vol. 50. The surviving form of the Rigveda is based on an early Iron Age collection that established the core'family books' and a redaction, co
Old Latin known as Early Latin or Archaic Latin, refers to the Latin language in the period before 75 BC, i.e. before the age of Classical Latin. It is descended from the Proto-Italic language; the use of "old", "early" and "archaic" has been standard in publications of Old Latin writings since at least the 18th century. The definition is not arbitrary, but the terms refer to writings with spelling conventions and word forms not found in works written under the Roman Empire; this article presents some of the major differences. The earliest known specimen of the Latin language appears on the Praeneste fibula. A new analysis performed in 2011 declared it to be genuine "beyond any reasonable doubt" and dating from the Orientalizing period, in the first half of the seventh century BC; the concept of Old Latin is as old as the concept of Classical Latin, both dating to at least as early as the late Roman Republic. In that period Cicero, along with others, noted that the language he used every day the upper-class city Latin, included lexical items and phrases that were heirlooms from a previous time, which he called verborum vetustas prisca, translated as "the old age/time of language".
During the classical period, Prisca Latinitas, Prisca Latina and other idioms using the adjective always meant these remnants of a previous language, which, in the Roman philology, was taken to be much older in fact than it was. Viri prisci, "old-time men", were the population of Latium before the founding of Rome. In the Late Latin period, when Classical Latin was behind them, the Latin- and Greek-speaking grammarians were faced with multiple phases, or styles, within the language. Isidore of Seville reports a classification scheme that had come into existence in or before his time: "the four Latins", they were Prisca, spoken before the founding of Rome, when Janus and Saturn ruled Latium, to which he dated the Carmen Saliare. The scheme persisted with little change for some thousand years after Isidore. In 1874, John Wordsworth used this definition: "By Early Latin I understand Latin of the whole period of the Republic, separated strikingly, both in tone and in outward form, from that of the Empire."Although the differences are striking and can be identified by Latin readers, they are not such as to cause a language barrier.
Latin speakers of the empire had no reported trouble understanding Old Latin, except for the few texts that must date from the time of the kings songs. Thus, the laws of the Twelve Tables from the early Republic were comprehensible, but the Carmen Saliare written under Numa Pompilius, was not entirely. An opinion concerning Old Latin, of a Roman man of letters in the middle Republic, survives: the historian, read "the first treaty between Rome and Carthage", which he says "dates from the consulship of Lucius Junius Brutus and Marcus Horatius, the first consuls after the expulsion of the kings". Knowledge of the early consuls is somewhat obscure, but Polybius states that the treaty was formulated 28 years before Xerxes I crossed into Greece. Polybius says of the language of the treaty "the ancient Roman language differs so much from the modern that it can only be made out, that after much application by the most intelligent men". There is no sharp distinction between Old Latin, as it was spoken for most of the Republic, Classical Latin, but the earlier grades into the later.
The end of the republic was too late a termination for compilers after Wordsworth. Bell, De locativi in prisca Latinitate vi et usu, Breslau, 1889, sets the limit at 75 BC. A definite date is impossible, since archaic Latin does not terminate abruptly, but continues down to imperial times." Bennett's own date of 100 BC did not prevail but rather Bell's 75 BC became the standard as expressed in the four-volume Loeb Library and other major compendia. Over the 377 years from 452 to 75 BC, Old Latin evolved from being comprehensible by classicists with study to being read by scholars. Old Latin authored works began in the 3rd century BC; these are complete or nearly complete works under their own name surviving as manuscripts copied from other manuscripts in whatever script was current at the time. In addition are fragments of works quoted in other authors. Numerous inscriptions placed by various methods on their original media survive just as they were except for the ravages of time; some of these were copied from other inscriptions.
No inscription can be earlier than the introduction of the Greek alphabet into Italy but none survive from that early date. The imprecision of archaeological dating makes it impossible to assign a year to any one inscription, but the earliest survivals are from the 6th century BC; some texts, that survive as fragments in the works of classical authors, had to have been composed earlier than the republic, in the time of the monarchy. These are listed below. Notable Old Latin fragments with estimated dates include: The Carmen Saliare (chant put forward in classical times as
Linear B is a syllabic script, used for writing Mycenaean Greek, the earliest attested form of Greek. The script predates the Greek alphabet by several centuries; the oldest Mycenaean writing dates to about 1450 BC. It is descended from the older Linear A, an undeciphered earlier script used for writing the Minoan language, as is the Cypriot syllabary, which recorded Greek. Linear B, found in the palace archives at Knossos, Pylos and Mycenae, disappeared with the fall of Mycenaean civilization during the Late Bronze Age collapse; the succeeding period, known as the Greek Dark Ages, provides no evidence of the use of writing. It is the only one of the Bronze Age Aegean scripts to have been deciphered, by English architect and self-taught linguist Michael Ventris. Linear B consists of over 100 ideographic signs; these ideograms or "signifying" signs symbolize commodities. They are never used as word signs in writing a sentence; the application of Linear B appears to have been confined to administrative contexts.
In all the thousands of clay tablets, a small number of different "hands" have been detected: 45 in Pylos and 66 in Knossos. It is possible that the script was used only by a guild of professional scribes who served the central palaces. Once the palaces were destroyed, the script disappeared. Linear B has 200 signs, divided into syllabic signs with phonetic values and ideograms with semantic values; the representations and naming of these signs have been standardized by a series of international colloquia starting with the first in Paris in 1956. After the third meeting in 1961 at the Wingspread Conference Center in Racine, Wisconsin, a standard proposed by Emmett L. Bennett, Jr. became known as the Wingspread Convention, adopted by a new organization, the Comité International Permanent des Études Mycéniennes, affiliated in 1970 by the fifth colloquium with UNESCO. Colloquia continue: the 13th occurred in 2010 in Paris. Many of the signs are identical or similar to those in Linear A; the grid developed during decipherment by Michael Ventris and John Chadwick of phonetic values for syllabic signs is shown below.
Initial consonants are in the leftmost column. The transcription of the syllable is listed next to the sign along with Bennett's identifying number for the sign preceded by an asterisk. In cases where the transcription of the sign remains in doubt, Bennett's number serves to identify the sign; the signs on the tablets and sealings show considerable variation from each other and from the representations below. Discovery of the reasons for the variation and possible semantic differences is a topic of ongoing debate in Mycenaean studies. In addition to the grid, the first edition of Documents in Mycenaean Greek contained a number of other signs termed "homophones" because they appeared at that time to resemble the sounds of other syllables and were transcribed accordingly: pa2 and pa3 were presumed homophonous to pa. Many of these are shown in the "special values" below; the second edition relates: "It may be taken as axiomatic that there are no true homophones." The unconfirmed identifications of *34 and *35 as ai2 and ai3 were removed.
Pa2 became qa. Other values remain unknown because of scarcity of evidence concerning them. Note that *34 and *35 are mirror images of each other but whether this graphic relationship indicates a phonetic one remains unconfirmed. In recent times, CIPEM inherited the former authority of Bennett and the Wingspread Convention in deciding what signs are "confirmed" and how to represent the various sign categories. In editions of Mycenaean texts, the signs whose values have not been confirmed by CIPEM are always transcribed as numbers preceded by an asterisk. CIPEM allocates the numerical identifiers, until such allocation, new signs are transcribed as a bullet-point enclosed in square brackets:; the signs are approximations―each may be used to represent a variety of about 70 distinct combinations of sounds, within rules and conventions. The grid presents a system of monosyllabic signs of the type V/CV. Clarification of the 14 or so special values tested the limits of the grid model, but Chadwick in the end concluded that with the ramifications, the syllabic signs can unexceptionally be considered monosyllabic.
Possible exceptions, Chadwick goes on to explain, include the two diphthongs, and, as in, ai-ku-pi-ti-jo, for Aiguptios and, au-ke-wa, for Augewās. However, a diphthong is by definition two vowels united into a single sound and therefore might be typed as just V. Thus, as in, e-rai-wo, for elaiwon, is of the type CV. Diphthongs are otherwise treated as two monosyllables:, a-ro-u-ra, for arourans, of the types CV and V. Lengths of vowels and accents are not marked, and the more doubtful and may be regarded as beginning with labialized consonants, rather than two consonants though they may alternate with a two-sign form: o-da-twe-ta and o-da-tu-we-ta for Odatwenta. And begin with palatalized consonants rather than two consonants: -ti-ri-ja for -trja (-τρι
The Behistun 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, established by Darius the Great. It was crucial to the decipherment of cuneiform script as the inscription includes three versions of the same text, written in three different cuneiform script languages: Old Persian and Babylonian; the inscription is to cuneiform what the Rosetta Stone is to Egyptian hieroglyphs: the document most crucial in the decipherment of a lost script. The inscription is 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; the Old Persian text contains 414 lines in five columns. 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, nine one-meter figures stand to the right, with hands tied and rope around their necks, representing conquered peoples. A Faravahar floats above. One figure appears to have been added after the others were completed, as was Darius's beard, a separate block of stone attached with iron pins and lead. After the fall of the Persian Empire's Achaemenid Dynasty and its successors, the lapse of Old Persian cuneiform writing into disuse, the nature of the inscription was forgotten, fanciful explanations became the norm. For centuries, instead of being attributed to Darius the Great, it was believed to be from the reign of Khosrau II of Persia—one of the last Sassanid kings, who lived over 1000 years after the time of Darius the Great; the inscription is mentioned by Ctesias of Cnidus, who noted its existence some time around 400 BC and mentioned a well and a garden beneath the inscription. He incorrectly concluded that the inscription had been dedicated "by Queen Semiramis of Babylon to Zeus".
Tacitus mentions it and includes a description of some of the long-lost ancillary monuments at the base of the cliff, including an altar to "Herakles". What has been recovered of them, including a statue dedicated in 148 BC, is consistent with Tacitus's description. Diodorus writes of "Bagistanon" and claims it was inscribed by Semiramis. A legend began around Mount Behistun, as written about by the Persian poet and writer Ferdowsi in his Shahnameh c. 1000, about a man named Farhad, a lover of King Khosrow's wife, Shirin. The legend states that, exiled for his transgression, Farhad was given the task of cutting away the mountain to find water. After many years and the removal of half the mountain, he did find water, but was informed by Khosrow that Shirin had died, he threw his axe down the hill, kissed the ground and died. It is told in the book of Khosrow and Shirin that his axe was made out of a pomegranate tree, where he threw the axe, a pomegranate tree grew with fruit that would cure the ill.
Shirin was not dead, according to the story, mourned upon hearing the news. In 1598, the Englishman Robert Sherley saw the inscription during a diplomatic mission to Persia on behalf of Austria, brought it to the attention of Western European scholars, his party incorrectly came to the conclusion. French General Gardanne thought it showed "Christ and his twelve apostles", Sir Robert Ker Porter thought it represented the Lost Tribes of Israel and Shalmaneser of Assyria. Italian explorer Pietro della Valle visited the inscription in the course of a pilgrimage in around 1621. German surveyor Carsten Niebuhr visited in around 1764 for Frederick V of Denmark, publishing a copy of the inscription in the account of his journeys in 1778. Niebuhr's transcriptions were used by Georg Friedrich Grotefend and others in their efforts to decipher the Old Persian cuneiform script. Grotefend had deciphered ten of the 37 symbols of Old Persian by 1802, after realizing that unlike the Semitic cuneiform scripts, Old Persian text is alphabetic and each word is separated by a vertical slanted symbol.
The Old Persian text was copied and deciphered before recovery and copying of the Elamite and Babylonian inscriptions had been attempted, which proved to be a good deciphering strategy, since Old Persian script was easier to study due to its alphabetic nature and because the language it represents had evolved via Middle Persian to the living modern Persian language dialects, was related to the Avestan language, used in the Zoroastrian book the Avesta. In 1835, Sir Henry Rawlinson, an officer of the British East India Company army assigned to the forces of the Shah of Iran, began studying the inscription in earnest; as the town of Bisotun's name was anglicized as "Behistun" at this time, the monument became known as the "Behistun Inscription". Despite its relative inaccessibility, Rawlinson was able to scale the cliff with the help of a local boy and copy the Old Persian inscription; the Elamite was across a chasm, the Babylonian four meters above. With the Persian text, with about a third of the syllabary made available to him by the work of Georg Friedrich Grotefend, Rawlinson set to work on deciphering the text.
The first section of this text contained a list of the same Pe