Close to Kermanshah, the mount Bisotun houses a series of the most prominent bas-reliefs and cuneiform inscriptions in the world. Rose to the throne of the Persian Empire in 521 BCE, Darius I ordered these monuments to document the re-establishment of the Empire. These monuments denote the influence of a specific event in the development of monumental art in the realm of the Achaemenids. The existence of three similar inscriptions but with different languages (Elamite, Babylonian and Old Persian) enabled researchers to decode a cuneiform for the first time in the 19th century.
The sacred mount Bisotun also called Bagastana (the place of Gods) was located along one of the main routes linking Persia with Mesopotamia. This logistical situatedness had made the mount Bisotun a place for Darius I to proclaim his military victories. The monument illustrates a life-sized bas-relief of Darius I holding a bow as a sign of sovereignty, with his left foot on the Gaumata’s chest who was the Median Magus and claimant of the throne. Furthermore, on the carved stone mountain monument of Bisotun there are two servants of Darius in his left, and on his right, there are nine one-meter figures of defeated armies, with tied hands and rope around their necks. A Faravahar floats above was curved to attribute his success to the grace of Ahura Mazda, the creator and sole God of Zoroastrianism.
Around the bas-reliefs, there about 1200 lines carved in three inscriptions provided a brief autobiography of Darius, including his lineage and ancestry, and the story of the victories over numerous pretenders to the Persian Empire’s throne after the deaths of Cyrus and his son Cambyses II. The translation of Old Persian transcript paved the way to the subsequent decoding of the Babylonian and Elamite cuneiform scripts. This fact, not only significantly promoted the development of modern Assyriology, but also opened the door to previously unknown aspects of ancient civilizations.
Mount Bisotun is also well-known among Iranians for the legends and poems around the Farhad Tarash, a long smoothed rock surface on the Mount. Farhad is a famous character in Persian literature and the story of his love with Shirin is among the most famous love stories in Persian culture. As narrated by Ferdowsi (925 – 1020 CE) in his Shahnameh (Book of Kings), Farhad was a sculptor who fell in love with Shirin, the princess of Armenia. But Shirin was already beloved by Khosrow, the king of Persia. Khosrow deceits Farhad to carve the Mount to find water so then Khosrow withdraws from Shirin. After some years and digging about half of the Mount, Farhad finally reaches the water but Khosrow fabricates about Shirin’s death. Nizami Ganjavi (1141 – 1209 CE) narrates that Farhad trusted the false news, became frenzied and mentally sick, threw his ax and died. Ultimately, his ax turned to a pomegranate tree which its fruit purportedly cures the ill. Recently, the sheer wall of Farhad Tarash has turned to a popular rock-climbing site giving you an excellent view to the surrounding villages.
Hunters’ caves, Median fortress, Median temple, Parthian bas-relief of Mithrades II (124 – 29 BC), the Seleucid figure of Heracles from 148 B.C., remains of Parthian town, Ḵhosrow bridge, Safavid bridge, carved Sassanian stones, the Gamasab retaining wall, Sheikh Ali khan Zangeneh inscription, Safavid caravanserai, Ilkhanid caravanserai, bas-relief of Gotarzes II, bas-relief of Vologases, and Royal Road are among other monuments of Bisotun.
Behistun inscription was registered in UNESCO World Heritage list in 2006.