Shiraz Naqsh- e Rostam the most important Achaemenian and Sassanian sites in Iran

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Naqsh- e Rostam

Naqsh- e Rostam, about four kilometres (2.5 miles) north perspolis, is one of the most important Achaemenian and Sassanian sites in Iran. It is here, in the rock face of the Kuhe- e Hossein, that Darius I and three of his successors had their tombs dug. Like the later tombs of the two Artaxerxes at persepolis, which were modeled on these, their outer façade, in the shape of a cross, has an opening in the center which leads to funerary chamber. The lower part of the façade is plain, while the centeral section is decorated with columns and capital, and the upper part with representations of the king beside a fire altar, held up by the vassal nations. Only the right- hand tomb, on the main cliff, bears an inscription which attributes it to Darius I (521- 485 BC). The single tomb on the far right is generally attributed to Darius II (425- 405), while the remaining two tombs (from left to right) are thought to be those of Artaxerxes I (465- 425 BC) snd Xerxes I (485-465 BC).

Opposite the Achaemenian tombs is a square stone structure, known as the Kaabah-e Zardusht, or Kaaba of Zoroaster, and usually considered to be an Achaemenian fire temple. The walls on three sides have niches set in them which resemble windows while, on the fourth side, a door leads into the building This tower, probably built during the reign of Darius I, is one of only very few of its type still standing. It would probably have held the sacred fire of the Achaemenians. In 1936, while the base of the tower was being excavated, inscriptions were discovered on the outer wall. The first one, written in Middle Persian, is one of the four versions of the priest Kartir`s text (a longer version of this appears at this same site on the carving of Shapur's victory over the Romans).  The second inscription, written in Parthian Arsacid Pehlevi, in Sassanian Pehlevi and in Greek, tells of Shapur’s campaigns against Rome which ended in one case in the death of Cesar Gordian, in another in the defeat of a Roman army 60,000 strong and in the capture of Anffochus, and in the last case in the capture of the Roman emperor Valerian in 260 AD. The importance of these inscriptions for the understanding of Sassanian history is vital: indeed, without Karin inscriptions his very name and the role he played in the development of Zoroastrianism would be completely unknown to us. As for Shapur’s text on his Roman campaigns, it is the direct equivalent of Darius Achaemenian text at Bisotun.

On the same rock face as the Achaemcnian tombs are eight Sassanian bas-reliefs.  The choice of this site by the Sassanian rulers was hardly a chance one and they most probably hoped to benefit from the divine emanations, or xvarnah of their Predecessors at this spot which had become sacred for the Achaemenians. To the far left of the site, beside the road, are two small Sassanian fire altars carved into the rock. They are pyramidal in shape , with small columns at the corners and a hollow in the top in which the fire was it.

The first bas-reliefs are on the far left of the rock face, before the Achacmenian tombs.The first carving shows the investiture of Ardeshir I (224_241 AD) the founder of the dynasty The king and the god Ahura Mazda handing him the behbboned crown are both represented on horseback. Under the horses ofhe horses are the bodies of their enemies, Artabanus V, the last Parthian king, and Ahriman the God of Evil.  InscriPtions in Middle Persian and Greek give the entity of the our figures.  The scene is carved in very high relief, with the horses almost free- standing and is considered by many to be the finest example of Sassanian carving .

The second scene shows Bahram II (276-293) with members of his  family and dignitaries. Its most interesting feature is that it was carved over a much earlier Elamite bas-relief, dated between the ninth and seventh centuries BC. Only the two figures at each end of the carving remain. This, along with the carving at Kurangun near Bishapur, is one of rare examples of Elamite rock carving to have survived in Iran.

The third bas-relief, under the furthest tomb on the left, shows Bahram II on horseback and in combat. Next are two carvings set one above  the other. The top one, which is badly damaged, represents Shapur II (309-379) leaning on his sword; the lower one shows Hormizd II (303 309) unseating an enemy with his spear. The sixth relief commemorates Shapur’s (241-272) victories against the Romans: the figure kneeling before Shpur’s horse is believed to be Emperor Philip the Arab, while standing behind him is Emperor Valerian, who was captured at the battle of Edessa in 260. Note the billowing and heavily pleated clothes which are characteristic of Shapurs reign, a sharp contrast to the more austere style of Ardeshir seen in the first bas relief. The next carving, dated to the reign of Bahram II, shows a fight on horseback set in two registers separated by a horizontal line. The last carving represents the investiture of Narseh (293-302) receiving the crown from the hands of the goddess Anahita.

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