Achaemenid Inscriptions in Modern Iran

Written in forgotten or dead languages, scripts are important keys that open doors to the fascinating world of antiquity. However, in this paper, they also help us to analyze the current political scene of Iran. Over the past several decades in Iran there has been a renewed interest in ancient Persia, particularly in the Achaemenid Dynasty (550-330 BC). From 23 Achaemenid Kings, just 9 left inscriptions. These scripts have played a crucial role In Iranian Society since the Constitutional Revolution. They have not only defined our cultural identity but also informed the political trends and geographical disputes. Engraved on rock walls or on archaeological monuments, the scripts are written in cuneiform in several languages, Old Persian, Elamite, Babylonian and so on. Until recently, the inscriptions remained obscure to Iranians, descendants of this magnificent empire, with no knowledge of ancient languages. After the Constitutional Revolution, the translation of these scripts from European languages to Persian, called in this paper "archaeological translations" to Persian, changed the dominant political tendency and led Iranian Society towards nationalism. The Pahlavi Dynasty, especially Mohammad Reza Shah, encouraged the systematic translation of these inscriptions from Ancient Persian into Modern Persian, as well as the works of European orientalists in general. This phenomenon slowed down during the Islamic Revolution (1979), but regained momentum with the radicalization of the Islamic Republic of Iran. For several years, the publishing houses have published an abundance of translations from the Achaemenid period. These ‘back-translations’ fulfill an identity and political function because they support the current nationalist and reformist movement against a regime bent on eclipsing Iran’s Pre-Islamic past. Turning to statistics extracted from National Library of IR of Iran, I try to to analyze the socio-political scene behind these translations. The underlying hypothesis of this study is that archaeological translation is inherent to the politico-cultural identity of Iranians.