Sacred Texts  Ancient Near East  Records of the Past  Egypt  Index  Previous  Next 

Records of the Past, 2nd Series, Vol. IV , ed. by A.H. Sayce, [1890], at

p. 114


Translated by the Editor

The following inscription is engraved in cuneiform characters, but in the Vannic language, on the face of the cliff on which stands the castle of Van in Armenia. It records the conquests of Argistis, the son and successor of Menuas, who widely extended the empire of Bianias or Van in the early part of the eighth century B.C., at a time when Assyria was in a state of weakness. The Vannic armies marched victoriously in all directions, and even threatened the frontiers of Assyria. As will be seen from the Assyrian Chronicle, of which a translation is given in the Records of the Past, new series, ii. p. 12 3, the reign of Shalmaneser III was mainly spent in war with Ararat or Armenia. His successor, Assur-dân, seems to be referred to by Argistis in this inscription (No. ii. 52).

The inscriptions of which the text is composed are cut below the site of the citadel built by Sarduris I, the founder of the Vannic monarchy (B.C. 840). They begin to the right of a small chamber excavated

p. 115

in the western face of the rock at the commencement of a flight of twenty steps. Above the steps arc the three first inscriptions (I, II, and III), which are divided from one another by vertical lines, and should properly be regarded as the three columns of one and the same inscription. Turning a corner at the end of the steps we reach the entrance into a series of five sepulchral chambers. To the left of the entrance are inscriptions IV, V, and VII, while above it is the mutilated inscription VI, and on the right inscription VIII.

The inscriptions were first copied by Prof. F. E. Schulz, and published in the Journal Asiatique, 3d series, ix. 52, in 1840. They were again copied by Sir A. H. Layard in 1850, whose variant readings were published by myself in 1882, and also by Dr. L. de Robert in 1876. The copies of the latter, however, are not trustworthy. Squeezes of the inscriptions have further been taken by M. Deyrolles, and are preserved in the Louvre, where they have been examined by M. Stanislas Guyard.

The inscriptions were first deciphered by myself in 1882, and translations published in my Memoir on "The Cuneiform inscriptions of Van" in the Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, xiv. 3, pp. 571–62 3. Corrections and improvements were subsequently made in the translations by M. Stanislas Guyard, Prof. D. H. Müller, and myself, and were embodied in a paper I contributed to the Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, xx. 1, in 1888. The

p. 116

following version brings them up to the present level of our knowledge of the ancient language of Van. For a description of the latter reference may be made to the Records of the Past, new series, i. p. 163.

The great inscription of Argistis is the prototype of the similar historical inscription carved by Darius Hystaspis on the rock of Behistun, and may have suggested the latter to the Persian king. At all events the bilingual inscription of Xerxes, which is engraved on the south side of the cliff of Van, expressly states that it was his father Darius who had originally intended to have it made.

The inscriptions which follow arc numbered XXXVII, XXXVIII, XXXIX, XL, XLI, XLII, XLIII, and XLIV in my Memoir on the Vannic texts.

Next: Text