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Darius' Suez Inscriptions

DZb. Louvre, Paris (France). Photo Jona Lendering.
Fragment of the Chalouf stela (Louvre, Paris)
Darius I (Old Persian D‚rayavauš): king of ancient Persia, whose reign lasted from 522 to 486. He seized power after killing king Gaum‚ta, fought a civil war (described in the Behistun inscription), and was finally able to refound the Achaemenid empire, which had been very loosely organized until then. Darius fought several foreign wars, which brought him to India and Thrace. When he died, the Persian empire had reached its largest extent. He was succeeded by his son Xerxes.

The following three texts are part of a stela of pink granite that was discovered in 1866, by Charles de Lesseps, near Kabret, 130 kilometers form Suez. The upper part shows Darius (twice), flanking a cartouche with his name (DZa). To the left and right is inscription DZb; at his feet is DZc, written in ancient Persian and Elamite; the reverse of the stone gives the same text -with some extra details- in Egyptian. The first two texts resemble DNa.

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Map of Egypt at the end of the sixth century BCE. Design Jona Lendering. Lower Egypt

The monument, also known as the Chalouf stela, was related to the construction of a canal that connected the river Nile and the Red Sea. The project, finished by king Darius, was not the first of its kind: in fact, the rulers of the New Kingdom had already built a canal like this, and the list of places mentioned in the biblical book of Exodus as the route of the Jews leaving Egypt, resembles the general direction of the canal. But although Darius merely restored an older water course, the project was very important, because it facilitated trade between the Nile, Red Sea, and Persian Gulf.


  1. D‚rayavauš

The Chalouf stela (©!!!)


  1. D‚rayavauš \ XŠ \ vazraka
  2. \ XŠ : XŠy‚n‚m \ XŠ \ dahy
  3. Żn‚m \ XŠ \ ahy‚y‚ \
  4. bumiy‚ \ vazrak‚y‚ \
  5. Višt‚spahy‚ \ pu
  6. Áa\ Hax‚manišiya
Darius the great king, king of kings, king of all nations, king in this great earth, son of Hystaspes, an Achaemenid.


  1. baga \ vazraka \ Auramazd‚ \ hya \ avam \ asm‚nam \ ad‚ \ hya \ im‚m \ bum
  2. im \ ad‚ \ hya \ martiyam \ ad‚ \ hya \ šiy‚tim \ ad‚ \ martiyahy
  3. ‚ \ hya \ D‚rayavaum \ XŠyam \ akunauš \ hya \ D‚rayavahauš \ XŠy‚ \xšaÁa
  4. m \ fr‚bara \ tya \ vazrakam \ tya \ uvaspam \ umartiyam \ adam \ D‚rayavauš \
  5. XŠ \ vazraka \ XŠ \ Xšy‚n‚m \ XŠ \ dahyun‚m \ vipazan‚n‚m \ XŠ \ ahy‚y
  6. ‚ \ bumiy‚ \ vazrak‚y‚ \ dŻraiy \ apiy \ Višt‚spahy‚ \ puÁa \ Ha
A great god is Ahuramazda, who created yonder sky, who created this earth, who created man, who created happiness for man, who made Darius king, who bestowed on Darius a great kingdom with good horses and good people.

I am Darius the great king, king of kings, king of all kinds of men, king in this great earth far and wide, son of Hystaspes, an Achaemenid.

  1. x‚manišiya \ th‚tiy \ D‚rayavauš \ XŠ \ adam \ P‚rsa \ amiy \ hac‚ \ P‚
  2. rs‚ \ Mudr‚yam \ agarb‚yam \ adam \ niyašt‚yam \ im‚m \ yauviy‚
  3. m \ katanaiy \ hac‚ \ Pir‚va \ n‚ma \ rauta \ tya \ Mudr‚yaiy \ danuvatiy \ ab
  4. iy \ draya \ tya \ hac‚ \ P‚rs‚ \ aitiy \ pas‚va \ iyam \ yauviy‚ \ akaniya \
  5. avath‚ \ yath‚ \ adam \ niyašt‚yam \ ut‚ \ n‚va \ ‚yat‚ \ hac‚ \ Mudr‚
  6. y‚ \ tara \ im‚m \ yauviy‚m \ abiy \ P‚rsam \ avath‚ \ yath‚ \ m‚m \ k‚ma\ ‚ha 
King Darius says: I am a Persian; setting out from Persia, I conquered Egypt.[1] I ordered to dig this canal from the river that is called Nile [2] and flows in Egypt, to the sea that begins in Persia. Therefore, when this canal had been dug as I had ordered, ships went from Egypt through this canal to Persia, as I had intended.


  • Carol A. Redmount, "The Wadi Tumilat and the "Canal of the Pharaohs"", in: Journal of Near Eastern Studies, 54/2 (1995) 127-135

Note 1:
In fact, it was Cambyses who had conquered Egypt.

Note 2:
The word Pir‚va contains a pun on the word piru, "ivory", the product for which Egypt was famous.

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