God talks Human Writes

The twilight of civilization and the rise of ancient religions in Iran predicated the way for the invention of the cuneiform alphabet. Scientific, commercial and religious epigraphs as well as legendary and literary pieces – and even students’ homework- written in cuneiform have been found. Cuneiform, which was commonly used in Iran from 4000 BC to the end of Achaemenids Empire (330 BC), was the only alphabetic system written from left to right. After the invention of cuneiform by the Sumerians in Mian Rudan, Elamites residing in the Zagros slopes developed their own cuneiform alphabet. One of the best religious examples of the Elamite alphabet is the bricks of the Ziggurat at Chogha Zanbil. “Untash-Napirisha”, King of Elam had the Ziggurat built to honor the great god, Inshushinak.

Cuneiform’s wedge shapes stem from the Sumerians’ approach towards life since they placed more value on utility than artistic beauty. “Ahoura Mazda”, the ancient god of Iranians, was honored in most Achaemenids epigraphs. Calligrapher-lithographer artists created integrated and harmonious works with their painstaking and masterly interpretation. Of the best-lithographed epigraphs, the Bisotun epigraph of Darius, shows the Achaemenid King owning his triumph over the rebellions to “Ahoura Mazda”.

Due to the invention of paper in the East, the written word entered a new era. With the replacement of stone and mud-made bricks for paper in Iran, the rigid, simple and straight cuneiform alphabet was substituted for the delicate, cursive Avesta alphabet. Avestans applied “din dabireh” as their alphabet system for writing and reading their religious hymns. This brand new alphabet was not only elegant and graphically appealing, but easily readable. Its legibility and harmony made it the best option for writing Avesta. “Gathas” or “Great-ha”, composed by Iranian prophet “Zoroaster”, is one of the most elaborate texts written using this alphabet.

The rest of this article is published in the 3rd number of Gilgamesh international edition

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