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Old Persian writing

Subject Linguistics

DOI: 10.1111/b.9780631214816.1999.x


The latest and simplest of cuneiform scripts, Old Persian was the first to be deciphered. Old Persian cuneiform is documented on a number of monumental inscriptions as well as on clay and some small objects. The most important monument which is also generally considered the oldest Old Persian document is the trilingual (Elamite, Babylonian and Old Persian) inscription of Darius I (reign 522–486 bce ) on a cliff at Behistun, south-west Iran (520 bce ). Many conflicting hypotheses have been advanced concerning the origin of the Old Persian cuneiform script. In the Behistun inscription Darius himself claims credit for its invention. While some scholars have dismissed this testimony, others have taken the possibility of a deliberate invention seriously, although Darius's scribes were the more probable inventors, since, in all likelihood, he was illiterate. The fact that Old Persian was not the language of the State chancellery of Achaemenid Persia, which was administered in imperial Aramaic, would seem to support the assumption that the Old Persian script is the result not of historical evolution but of conscious design. There is evidence to suggest that the Old Persian version was the last to be inscribed on the rocks of Behistun, as a translation of the Elamite and Babylonian, although the original language of the inscription, that in which it was first dictated or drafted, is still ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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