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BAGISTANUS MONS (ὄρος Βαγίστανον, Diod. 2.13; Steph. B. sub voce a mountain on the confines of Media, at which Semiramis is said to have halted her army on her march from Babylon to Ecbatana in Media Magna. The description of Diodorus (6.13) is very curious:--“Semiramis,” he says, “having accomplished her labours (at Babylon) marched upon Media with a vast army; but when she had arrived at the mountain called Bagistanon, she encamped near it, and prepared a Paradise, whose circumference was twelve stadia, and which being in the plain, had a great spring, from which all the plants could be watered. The mountain itself is sacred to Zeus, and has abrupt rocks on the side towards the garden, rising to seventeen stadia in height. Having cut away the lower part of the rock, she caused her own portrait to be sculptured there, together with those of a hundred attendant guards. She engraved also the following inscription in Syrian (Assyrian) letters:--‘ Semiramis having piled up one upon the other the trapping of the beasts of burthen which accompanied her, ascended by these means from the plain to the top of the rock.’ ” In another place Diodorus (17.110), describing the march of Alexander the Great from Susa to Ecbatana, states that he visited Bagistane, having turned a little out of his course, in order to see a most delightful district abounding in fruits and in all other things appertaining to luxury. Thence he passed on through some plains, which rear abundance of horses, and are called (though incorrectly) by Arrian (7.13) the Nisaean plains, where he halted thirty days. Stephanus B. speaks of a city of Media called Bagistana; and Isid. Charax (ap. Hudson. p. 6) of a town called Baptana seated on the mountains, where there was a statue and pillar of Semiramis. The district around he calls Cambadene. The geography of this neighbourhood has been of late years very carefullyinvestigated, chiefly by Col. Rawlinson (Journ. Geogr. Soc. vol. 9.1839), and by C. Masson (J. R. As. Soc. vol. xii. pt. 1. 1849). Both travellers assert that they have been able to verify every position and almost every line of measurement in the route of Isidorus. Col. Rawlinson points out the coincidence between the name Bagistanon and the Persian Baghistán--which signifies a place of gardens, and of which Bostán applied to some sculptures in the neighbourhood is a corruption--and conjectures that the Baptana of Isidorus may be a yet further corruption of the same name. Mr. Masson (p. 108) states that Bisitun is the name now popularly used for the locality. Behistun, the form which Col. Rawlinson has adopted in his Memoir on the Cuneiform Inscriptions (As. Journ. vol. x.) is derived by Mr. Masson from Behist-tan, the Place of Paradise or Delight--a more natural derivation, however, would make it come from Bagistanon or Baghistán.

Mr. Masson in his memoir has pointed out very clearly that the rocks in the neighbourhood contain remains of four distinct periods. 1. On the upper part of the principal mass of rock, the whole surface of which has been scarped away, are the remains of the heads of three colossal figures, and above them are traces of characters. The heads are in basso-rilievo, and, according to Mr. Masson, who is we believe the only traveller who has described them, of very early workmanship. 2. At the N. extremity of Bagistanon, in a nook or retiring angle of the hill, high upon the rock, and almost inaccessible, is a group of thirteen figures, the one on the extreme left representing the king, and carved on the face of the rock, which is cut away horizontally, so as to allow a place to stand on. About the figures are tablets with inscriptions in the Cuneiform character. These figures and inscriptions, we now know, refer to Dareius the son of Hystaspes and his victories. 3. Still further to the N., of much later workmanship, is a group composed originally of five or six figures, but now much mutilated, representing a person to whom a Victory is presenting a wreath as trampling on a prostrate enemy. Over it is a Greek inscription in which the name Gotarzes may be detected. Rawlinson and Masson concur in supposing that this Gotarzes was an Arsacid prince, who fought a great battle near this spot with Meherdates. (J. AJ 20.3.4; Tac. Ann. 11.8.) It is worthy of remark that Tacitus (Tac. Ann. 12.13) states that Gotarzes took up his position on Mt. Sambulos. There is every reason to suppose that Mt. Sambulos is the same as Bagistanon, it being a generic name for the range of which the latter formed one projecting portion. If so, Baghistan might have acquired its name, as that part traditionally connected with the labours of Semiramis. Tacitus says Mt. Sambulos was sacred to Hercules, probably meaning Jupiter; it is called by Pliny (6.27) Mons Cambalidus, in a passage ( “super Chosicos ad septentrionem Mesobatene sub monte Cambalido” ), which seems to prove that there is a connection between the names Mesobatene, Baptana or Batana in Isidorus, and the present Máh-Sabadán. Diodorus, too (l.c.), in describing Alexander's march, speaks of Sambea, a place abounding with the necessaries of life, which is, no doubt, the Mons Cambalidus of Pliny, the Cambadene of Isidore, and the present Kirmánsháh. 4. Is a comparatively modern inscription in Arabic, recording a grant of land in endowment of the adjacent caravanserai.

A peculiar interest attaches to the rock of Baghistan or Behistun, owing to the successful interpretation within the last few years by Col. Rawlinson of the Cuneiform inscriptions, which are on the tablets [p. 1.370]

MONS BAGISTANUS. (A, Sculptures.)

above and beside the thirteen figures to which we have alluded. Col. Rawlinson has published a complete account of his labours in the Joiurn. Roy. As. Soc. vol. x. with copies of the inscriptions themselves, and translations in Latin and English of the


original Persian. In this memoir, he has shown that the standing Royal figure is that of Dareius himself, and that the figures in front of him are those of different impostors, who had claimed the throne of his ancestors, and were successively compelled to succumb to his power. The inscriptions above, in the three forms of the Cuneiform writing, Persian, Assyrian, and Median, proclaim the ancestral right of Dareius to the throne of Persia, with the names of the kings of the Achaemenid race who had preceded him: they give an account of his gradual, but, in the end, successful triumph over the different rebels who rose against him during the first four years of his reign. Col. Rawlinson thinks, that, in the fifth year B.C. 516, Dareius commenced constructing this monument, the completion of which must have been the work of several years. It is evident, that the Persian monarch took the greatest pains to ensure the permanency of his record. It is placed at an elevation of about 300 feet from the base of the rock, and the ascent is so precipitous, that scaffolding must have been erected to enable the workmen to carve the sculpture. In its natural state, the face of the rock, on which the figures are placed, is almost unapproachable. The execution of the figures themselves is, perhaps, not equal to those at Persepolis, but this is natural, as an earlier effort of the artist's skill. “The labour,” says Col. Rawlinson, “bestowed on the whole work, must have been enormous. The mere preparation of the surface of the rock must have occupied many months, and on examining the tablets minutely, I observed an elaborateness of workmanship, which is not to be found in other places. Wherever, in fact, from the unsoundness of the stone, it was difficult to give the necessary polish to the surface, other fragments were inlaid, imbedded in molten lead, and the fittings so nicely managed that a very careful scrutiny is required, at present, to detect the artifice. Holes or fissures, which perforated the rock, were filled up also with the same material, and the polish, which was bestowed upon the entire sculpture, could only have been accomplished by mechanical means. But the real wonder of the work, I think, consists in the inscriptions. For extent, for beauty of execution, for uniformity and correctness, they are, perhaps, unequalled in the world. . . . . . . . . . It would be very hazardous to speculate on the means employed to engrave the work in an age when steel was supposed to have been unknown, but I cannot avoid noticing a very extraordinary device, which has been employed, apparently, to give a finish and durability to the writing. It was evident to myself, and to those who, in company with myself, scrutinized the execution of the work, that, after the engraving of the rock had been accomplished, a coating of siliceous 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. It has been washed down in several places by the trickling of water for three and twenty centuries, and it lies in flakes upon the foot-ledge like thin layers of lava. It adheres in other portions of the tablet to the broken surface, and still shows with sufficient distinctness the forms of the characters, although the rock beneath is entirely honeycombed and destroyed. It is only, indeed, in the great fissures, caused by the outbursting of natural springs, and in the lower part of the tablet, where I suspect artificial mutilation, that the varnish has entirely disappeared.” (Rawlinson, Journ. As. Soc. vol. x.; Masson, ibid. vol. xii. pt. 1; Ker Porter, Travels, vol. ii.)


hide References (6 total)
  • Cross-references from this page (6):
    • Diodorus, Historical Library, 17.110
    • Flavius Josephus, Jewish Antiquities, 20.3.4
    • Tacitus, Annales, 11.8
    • Tacitus, Annales, 12.13
    • Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, 6.27
    • Diodorus, Historical Library, 2.13
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