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Work Foundation charter of the palace of Darius I, in Old Persian

Department of Near Eastern Antiquities: Iran

Charte de fondation du palais de Darius Ier, en vieux-perse

© 1997 RMN / Hervé Lewandowski

Near Eastern Antiquities
Iran

Author(s):
Giraudon Catherine

This tablet inscribed in Old Persian is one of the first texts drawn up by Darius I on his accession to power. It is the foundation charter of his palace at Susa. Found buried under one of the gates into the Apadana, it provides valuable information about the Darius's titles and the construction of his palace.

The construction of the palace of Darius

After invoking the protection of the god Ahura Mazda and listing the titles and lineage of King Darius, the text of the charter deals with the construction of his palace, describing first the excavation work carried out to build the foundations. It goes on to enumerate the materials used and their geographical origins. The building materials came from all over the kingdom, notably the precious materials used for the decoration: gold, lapis lazuli, turquoise, silver and ebony. Finally, the text recognizes the contribution of the various population groups in the empire, according to specialty: the stone cutters were Ionian and the gold and silversmiths from Media and Egypt.

A foundation object

Since the time of the archaic dynasties, it had been the tradition in Mesopotamia to bury a foundation tablet under the thresholds of palaces. This document invoked the protection of the gods and recorded the important events that took place during the construction. The Achaemenian kings upheld this custom. This baked-clay tablet was found in fragments under a gate to the Apadana at Susa in 1911 by Roland de Mecquenem.

An inscription in Old Persian

Written in Old Persian, this tablet is inscribed with cuneiform characters that obey a structure close to the alphabetical system, which had not been used before Darius' time. In the Achaemenid period, royal texts were drawn up in the three official languages of the empire: Elamite, Babylonian and Old Persian, the language of the Persians, the dominant ethnic group of the kingdom. Many specimens of this charter were found in the two other languages, transcribed on documents that were intended to be seen (Louvre Museum, sb9746 and sb9722). The various versions were translated, commented on and published in 1929 by Father Jean-Vincent Scheil, Assyriologist and decipherer of cuneiform texts found at Susa.

Bibliography

André-Salvini Béatrice, Traduction de la Charte de fondation du palais de Darius Ier, site Internet du musée du Louvre, base Atlas.
André-Salvini Béatrice, Ziegler Christiane, Naissance de l'écriture cunéiforme et hiéroglyphes, 7 mai-9 août 1982, Paris, Éditions de la Réunion des musées nationaux, 1982, p. 110, ill. 70.
Scheil Jean-Vincent, "Inscriptions des Achéménides à Suse : Charte de fondation du palais", in Mémoires de la Délégation en Perse, Paris, Leroux, 1929, vol. XXI, pp. 3-34.
Stolper Matthew W., in The Royal City of Susa. Ancient Near Eastern Treasures in the Louvre, New York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1992, New York, Abrams, 1992, p. 271, ill. 190.

Technical description

  • Charte de fondation du palais de Darius Ier, en vieux-perse

    Règne de Darius Ier (522 - 486 avant J.-C.)

    Suse, Palais de Darius Ier (découverte sous un seuil de porte de l'Apadana)

  • Argile

    W. 42 cm; H. 42 cm

  • Fouilles J. de Morgan et R. de Mecquenem, 1911 , 1911

    Sb 2789

  • Near Eastern Antiquities

    Sully wing
    Ground floor
    Iran, Persian empire during the Achaemenian period: Persepolis and Susa, 6th–4th century BC
    Room 14, temporarily closed to the public
    Vitrine 4 : Langues et écritures d'empire achéménide

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