Bisotun Mountain and Inscription

If you travel to western Iran, visiting Bisotun in Kermanshah province is a must. It is one of the gorgeous, can’t-miss destinations of this part of the country, which is of high importance among Iranian people. Because of its unique characteristics, many domestic and foreign travelers visit Bisotun each year. As well as its historic features and rich background, it is an important destination for mountain climbers. The Bisotun wall is 5km wide and has a 1200-meters vertical rock. It is a great place for adventurous climbers who seek challenging destinations. In this article, we are going to explore this wonderful tourist site together.

Where is Bisotun?

The magnificent historic and cultural site of Bisotun is on the slopes of Bisotun mountain in Kermanshah province. It is situated alongside a very ancient road connecting Kermanshah to Hamedan city. The site has always been an important location due to its geographical location and favorable weather. Since the very beginning, Mount Bisotun has been a sacred place among people, rulers and kings of different eras. So far, 28 monuments of this site have been listed in the National Heritage List of Iran. 13 of them including Bisotun inscription are registered as UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

The caves and rock shelters of Bisotun were also one of the most important human settlements of Iran in the Zagros mountains. Signs of human presence in the four historic caves of Mount Bisotun and its surrounding hills confirm this claim.

Darius I Inscription, The recorded history of the Achaemenid Empire in Bisotun

As you approach Mount Bisotun, you can see the huge inscription of Darius I, located 100 meters high on a limestone cliff. The inscription is written in 3 languages: Elamite, Babylonian and Old Persian. It is the most crucial document for deciphering other scripts like the Rosetta Stone to Egyptian hieroglyphs. This inscription is a unique testimony to the Achaemenid empire and the interchange of influences in art and writing in the region.

The Darius inscription is the most significant inscription ever recognized in the world. It is registered as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In 522 BC, Darius the Great engraved the image of himself and Faravahar on the wall of Mount Bisotun. Faravahar a symbol used by Zoroastrianism and depicts a human soul open to God’s guidance. Besides, the portrait of 2 important Persian figures, Gaumata Magus and nine other defeated kings are present.

In this inscription, Darius explains his conquests in cuneiform in three languages. It is such a huge inscription that only its ancient Persian language part has 414 lines. King Darius invites human beings to be truthful in their words and actions, as he is an advocate of honesty and an enemy of lie.

The Statue of Hercules in Bisotun

This is another point of interest in the Bisotun site which is located to the right of the path before the passage leading up to Darius’s inscription. Hercules was a Greek mythical figure who symbolizes the courage, power, and embodiment of masculinity. He has superhuman power and is considered to be so important and holy. His sculpture in the heart of Mount Bisotun dates back to about 153 BC and was built during the Seleucid era. The length of this huge statue is 1.47 meters. Behind the figure, a Greek inscription with images of arcs and olive trees are carved. The statue of Hercules has long, curly beards. He rests on a 2-meter lion skin and holds a cup in his left hand. They discovered the statue of Hercules during a road construction project.

Mehrdad II bas-relief and Farhad Tarash in Bisotun

This monument is reminiscent of the Parthian Empire in Iran. It depicts Mehrdad II, the king of Parthian, along with four other political men of that era. An inscription accompanies this image. It is written in Greek and introduces the figures who are present in this relief.

Next, the inscription of Sheikh Ali Khan Zanganeh, one of the rulers of Kermanshah is located. During the reign of Shah Abbas II, Sheikh Ali Khan was a prominent minister. The inscription contains the contents of a letter from him.

Further along the path, you will see Farhad Tarash. It is a huge smoothed wall from the Sassanid times which symbolizes the famous Persian romantic legend of Farhad and Shirin. The height of the wall is around 30 meters and its width is around 200 meters and it is the biggest work of such kind in Iran.

Sarab-e Bisotun

This beautiful natural phenomenon lies at the bottom of Mount Bisotun. It has created a fascinating view alongside the other monuments of this site. It is also known as “Pool of Bisotun” and is located near the Shah Abbasi caravansary which dates back to Safavid and Ilkhanid eras.