Located 30 km east of Kermanshah city, Bisotun or Behistun is one of the most important archaeological sites of Iran. It was registered by Unesco as world heritage in 2006. Carved in the orange cliffs running along the Kermanshah-Hamadan road which was in the past one of the most frequented caravan route of the Silk Road, these bas-reliefs majestically overhang anybody scrolling through the Bisotun site. The Persian name of this mountain is Baghestan which means place of gods.
When entering the place you first come across a statue of Hercules on your right, lying on a lion skin. He is holding a cup in his left hand and on his right is a tree from which a bow is hanging. Hercules, or Herakles in Greek, is a Greek god. He is the son of Zeus and one of the greatest hero of the Greek mythology. Behind him are written inscriptions in Greek and Latin informing us that the statue was carved in 139 B.C. when Demetrius II Nicator defeated the Parthian king Mithradata I. The statue was found in 1958 with the head missing. It was then found back and stolen again, and finally replaced by a fake one that you can see today.
Further up Hercules statue is a little cave also called Hunters cave. This name comes from the fact that this place was originally used by hunters as a lurking-place to watch animal drinking in the lake below and then hunt them. During the excavations several stone tools, ceramics and animal bones dating back from the Assyrian and Achaemenian periods were found.
Beside the carvings of Mithradata, there is a statue of King Goodarz on which we see him in a knight costume, holding a spear and attacking another horse-rider. There is a Greek inscription above the statue that says �He is Goodarz, son of Giv�. The inscription is telling the story of King Goodarz the second who won the war against one of his Iranian enemies Mehrdad (Mithradata) and a Roman general named Cassius. There is a stone carving above the head of Goodarz which, according to Greek beliefs, is the demigod of victory called Nike. Unfortunately part of this inscription has been destroyed by Sheikh Ali Khan Zangeneh in order to make another carving for one of the Safavid kings.
The most famous and important monument of this site is the ensemble consisting of the tablet and bas-relief of Darius the Great, dating back from the first years of his reign (521 B.C.). In the beginning of this tablet, Darius introduces himself and his ancestors and explains his conquests and the 23 countries under his rule. In the end he asks to conserve carefully this tablet. These inscriptions helped archaeologists to decipher the cuneiform writing. They also give interesting information about clothing, physiognomy, armament and religious customs of the Achaemenid Persians who lived 25 centuries ago. The fact that Darius chose this high rock to carve this tablet seem to indicate that he did not realize it for his contemporaries but for posteriority. The most impressive part of the bas-relief is 8m wide and features Darius with the body of the magus Ge�omut at his feet. Darius is wearing Persian clothes and a bow in his left hand as a sign of power. Two of his servitors stand behind him holding bows and spears. We can also see nine rebels enchained, aligned in front of the King. The sign of the Supreme god Ahuramazda is carved above them. The carvings of this tablet are in three languages : Elamite, Babylonian and Old Persian. The whole inscription fills 1119 lines. A Pahlavi translation of this text was also carved on both sides of the tablet. These carvings are architectural master pieces of Iran.
The stone is located next to the Parthian city and the ruins of the temple, near the entrance of the Bisotun area. The stone has an image of King Valgash on it, also called Balash or Valach, because �v� and �b� often are interchangeable in Middle Persian. The image is carved three times on three sides of the stone. The personality of King Valgash is known due to Greek inscriptions on the central image. Six kings ruled Parthia under this name between 51 to 228 CE thus probably the stone was carved among these years.
In Bisotun Mountains you will face a huge engraving on the rock, which reminds a writing board. The reason of creating this carving is unknown, but it seems the wall was prepared for writing. The monuments probably belongs to Khosrow Sassanid II era, after a millennium since Darius inscription, located near to Farhadtarash. Some legends connect the carving to the love story of Farhad and Shirin, an Armenian princess, spouse of Khosrow Parviz. The sad story of love of a stone cutter and the princess is very popular among Persian poetry.
The engraving is 180 meters long and 30 meters height, made by a special way of cutting stones. Now it is a prized place among rock climbers.
The palace is located between Bisotun Mountain and Bisotun Lake. According to the story, when Arabs invaded Iran, the palace was buried by sand and stone to protect it and its jewelry from invaders. Also this building is linked to Farhad and princess Shirin story. At the time Khosrow palace and Tagh-e Bostan were connected by a road. Bisotun was located between Ecbatana and Tisfoon which were part of the Silk Road, and Tisfoon also was a capital of the Sassanid dynasty.
The building of this caravansary started under the command of Shah Abbas Safavid, it was one of the numerous caravansaries which were built by Shah Abbas for the Silk Road. But the inscriptions are connected to his successor, Shah Soleiman Safavid and the Chancellor Sheikh Ali Khan Zanganeh. Now the construction is damaged but it still continues to astonish visitors