Sassanid Art & Architecture Traced in Western Iran

Sassanid Art & Architecture Traced in Western Iran

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This video explores the ancient art and architecture Fars province of Iran, where that the Sassanians first established their empire.

Sassanid Art & Architecture Traced in Western Iran - History

Paper Information

Journal Information

p-ISSN: 2168-507X e-ISSN: 2168-5088

An Investigation of Historical Structures in Iranian Ancient Architecture

Department of Architecture, University of Tehran, Tehran, 1417466191, Iran

Correspondence to: Katayoun Taghizadeh , Department of Architecture, University of Tehran, Tehran, 1417466191, Iran.


Copyright © 2012 Scientific & Academic Publishing. All Rights Reserved.

The pre-Islamic styles of Iranian architecture draw on 3-4 thousand years of architectural development from various. Each of the periods of Elamites, Achaemenids, Parthians, and Sassanids were creators of great architecture that over the ages has spread wide and far to other cultures being adopted. Although Iran has suffered its share of destruction, including Alexander the Great's decision to burn Persepolis, there are sufficient remains to form a picture of its classical architecture. This paper featuring a chronological description of structural styles, information on traditional construction materials, as well as an analysis of numerous structures, this interest and informative text will be of importance to anyone with a technical interest in structural history and presents a general overview of the structural and architectural characteristics of Iranian historical structures and investigates historical buildings of Iran through a structural engineering approach. This paper includes a chronological description of architectural styles from the beginning to the end of Sassanid’s (before Islam).

Keywords: Iranian Architecture, Iranian Structures, Dome, Vault, Traditional Structures

Sassanid Art & Architecture Traced in Western Iran - History

TEHRAN – An archaeological survey and research project is planned to start on Sirvan, a western Iranian town in modern Ilam province, which dates from the Sassanid era (224–651).

A budget of two billion rials (about $48,000 at the official exchange rate of 42,000 rials per dollar) has been allocated to the project, provincial tourism chief Abdolmalek Shanbehzadeh announced on Friday.

The mission involves researching, identifying, documenting, and preparing management plans for the historical site, the official added.

Sirvan was one of the most important and prosperous cities of Iran in the Sassanid period. It is home to the ruined bridges, roads, yards, numerous castles, and other ancient settlements dating back to the Sassanid era.

The historical city of Sirvan was inscribed on Iran’s National Heritage List in 2001.

The under-the-radar province is making its best to grow into a major travel destination for both domestic and international holidaymakers, sightseers, history buffs, and nature lovers.

The Sassanid era is of very high importance in the history of Iran. Experts believe during the Sassanid era the art and architecture of the nation experienced a general renaissance. In that era, crafts such as metalwork and gem-engraving grew highly sophisticated, as scholarship was encouraged by the state many works from both the East and West were translated into Pahlavi, the official language of the Sassanians.

The Sassanid archaeological landscape also represents a highly efficient system of land use and strategic utilization of natural topography in the creation of the earliest cultural centers of the Sassanid civilization.

In 2018, UNESCO added an ensemble of Sassanian historical cities in southern Iran -- titled “Sassanid Archaeological Landscape of Fars Region”-- to its World Heritage list. The ensemble is comprised of eight archaeological sites situated in three geographical parts of Firuzabad, Bishapur, and Sarvestan. It reflects the optimized utilization of natural topography and bears witness to the influence of Achaemenid and Parthian cultural traditions and of Roman art, which later had a significant impact on the architecture and artistic styles of the Islamic era.

The dynasty evolved by Ardashir I and was destroyed by the Arabs during a period of 637 to 651. The dynasty was named after Sasan, an ancestor of Ardashir I. Under his leadership who reigned from 224 to 241, the Sassanians overthrew the Parthians and created an empire that was constantly changing in size as it reacted to Rome and Byzantium to the west and the Kushans and Hephthalites to the east, according to Britannica Encyclopedia.

At the time of Shapur I (reigned 241 CE–272), the empire stretched from Sogdiana and Iberia (Georgia) in the north to the Mazun region of Arabia in the south in the east, it extended to the Indus River and in the west to the upper Tigris and Euphrates river valleys.

Study – Influences of Sassanid Empire in the Islamic Art and Architecture

One of the empires that influenced the Islamic aesthetic is the Sassanid Empire. The influence of the Empire was widespread not only it was apparent in the home of the civilization that is Persia and its surroundings, but the influences can also be noticed and seen throughout the Islamic empire to a certain extend.

A short introduction of the Sassanid Empire

The Sassanid Empire, also known as the Sassanian Empire, was the last Pre-Islamic empire of Persia, under the rule of the Sassanian Dynasty from 224 to 651. It succeeded the Parthian Empire and was recognized as one of the main powers in Western Asia and Europe alongside then Roman and Byzantine Empire. During the time of the Empire, it encompassed the areas of Central Asia that includes Iran, some parts of Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, The Caucus area of Armenia, Georgia, Azerbaijan and Dagestan, parts of Turkey, Coastal areas of the Arabian Peninsula that faces the Indian ocean and the Persian Gulf Area.The Sassanid Empire witnessed the peak of Ancient Persian Empire, and considered one of the most important historical periods of Iran. The cultural and aesthetic influence of the Sassanid Empire not only affected the Arabic/Islamic empire, but also played a prominent role in European and Asian Medieval art.

A Sassanid coin, Hormizd I, Afghanistan issue copying Kushan designs.

The Influence in Islamic Architecture

The Muslim architects had taken a number of Sassanid architectural inventions infact, Islamic architecture borrowed heavily from the Sassanid Architecture. Domes, while not perfect in a sense, was utilized in Sassanid buildings later to be incorporated into Islamic ones. Arches were used as well and later were improved by Muslim architects. Iwans were also used and carried on by the Islamic architects to be used in Islamic buildings for example the Jame Mosque in Isfahan, Iran. Perhaps one of the greatest example of Sassanid influence on Islamic architecture is the copying of the fire temple tower found in the center of Sassanid cities. The tower was a spiral tower and copied by Islamic architects to be used as the minaret for the Great Mosque of Samarra in Baghdad, Iraq, though it is not practical to use the tall spiral tower as a place to call the faithful to prayer.

The Spiral Minaret of the Samarra Mosque in Iraq, a copy of the fire temple tower of Sassanid origins.


When Western academics first investigated the Muslim conquest of Persia, they relied solely on the accounts of the Armenian Christian bishop Sebeos, and accounts in Arabic written some time after the events they describe. The most significant work was probably that of Arthur Christensen, and his L’Iran sous les Sassanides, published in Copenhagen and Paris in 1944. [9]

Recent scholarship has begun to question the traditional narrative: Parvaneh Pourshariati, in her Decline and Fall of the Sasanian Empire: The Sasanian-Parthian Confederacy and the Arab Conquest of Iran, published in 2008, provides both a detailed overview of the problematic nature of trying to establish exactly what happened, and a great deal of original research that questions fundamental facts of the traditional narrative, including the timeline and specific dates.

Pourshariati's central thesis is that contrary to what was commonly assumed, the Sassanian Empire was highly decentralized, and was in fact a "confederation" with the Parthians, who themselves retained a high level of independence. [10] Despite their recent victories over the Byzantine Empire, the Parthians unexpectedly withdrew from the confederation, and the Sassanians were thus ill-prepared and ill-equipped to mount an effective and cohesive defense against the Muslim armies. [11] Moreover, the powerful northern and eastern Parthian families, the kust-i khwarasan and kust-i adurbadagan, withdrew to their respective strongholds and made peace with the Arabs, refusing to fight alongside the Sassanians.

Another important theme of Pourshariati's study is a re-evaluation of the traditional timeline. Pourshariati argues that the Arab conquest of Mesopotamia "took place, not, as has been conventionally believed, in the years 632–634, after the accession of the last Sasanian king Yazdgerd III (632–651) to power, but in the period from 628 to 632." [12] An important consequence of this change in timeline means that the Arab conquest started precisely when the Sassanians and Parthians were engaged in internecine warfare over succession to the Sassanian throne. [12]

Since the 1st century BC, the border between the Roman (later Byzantine) and Parthian (later Sassanid) empires had been the Euphrates River. The border was constantly contested. Most battles, and thus most fortifications, were concentrated in the hilly regions of the north, as the vast Arabian or Syrian Desert (Roman Arabia) separated the rival empires in the south. The only dangers expected from the south were occasional raids by nomadic Arab tribesmen. Both empires therefore allied themselves with small, semi-independent Arab principalities, which served as buffer states and protected Byzantium and Persia from Bedouin attacks. The Byzantine clients were the Ghassanids the Persian clients were the Lakhmids. The Ghassanids and Lakhmids feuded constantly, which kept them occupied, but that did not greatly affect the Byzantines or the Persians. In the 6th and 7th centuries, various factors destroyed the balance of power that had held for so many centuries.

The conflict with the Byzantines greatly contributed to its weakness, by draining Sassanid resources, leaving it a prime target for the Muslims.

Social problems Edit

Sassanid society was divided into four classes: priests, warriors, secretaries, and commoners. The latter formed the bulk of the population, served as its sole tax base, and remained its poorest class.

At the climax of Khosrau II's ambitious Byzantine territory conquests in the Levant and much of Asia Minor, taxes rose dramatically, and most people could not pay. Years of Sassanid-Byzantine wars had ruined trade routes and industry, the population's main income sources. The existing Sassanid administrative structure proved inadequate when faced with the combined demands of a suddenly expanded empire, economy, and population. [13] Rapid turnover of rulers and increasing provincial landholder (dehqan) power further diminished the Sassanids. Over a period of fourteen years and twelve successive kings, the Sassanid Empire weakened considerably, and the power of the central authority passed into the hands of its generals. Even when a strong king emerged following a series of coups, the Sassanids never completely recovered.

Events Edit

Revolt of the Arab client states (602) Edit

The Byzantine clients, the Arab Ghassanids, converted to the Monophysite form of Christianity, which was regarded as heretical by the established Byzantine Orthodox Church. The Byzantines attempted to suppress the heresy, alienating the Ghassanids and sparking rebellions on their desert frontiers. The Lakhmids also revolted against the Persian king Khusrau II. Nu'man III (son of Al-Monder IV), the first Christian Lakhmid king, was deposed and killed by Khusrau II in 602, because of his attempt to throw off Persian suzerainty. After Khusrau's assassination, the Persian Empire fractured and the Lakhmids were effectively semi-independent. It is now widely believed that the annexation of the Lakhmid kingdom was one of the main factors behind the fall of the Sasanian Empire and the subsequent Islamic conquest of Persia, as the Lakhmids agreed to act as spies for the Muslims after being defeated in the Battle of Hira by Khalid ibn al-Walid. [14]

Byzantine–Sassanid War (602–628) Edit

The Persian ruler Khosrau II (Parviz) defeated a dangerous rebellion within his own empire, Bahram Chobin's rebellion. He afterward turned his energies towards his traditional Byzantine enemies, leading to the Byzantine-Sassanid War of 602–628. For a few years, he succeeded. From 612 to 622, he extended the Persian borders almost to the same extent that they were under the Achaemenid dynasty (550–330 BC), capturing Western states as far as Egypt, Palestine (the conquest of the latter being assisted by a Jewish army), and more.

The Byzantines regrouped and pushed back in 622 under Heraclius. Khosrau was defeated at the Battle of Nineveh in 627, and the Byzantines recaptured all of Syria and penetrated far into the Persian provinces of Mesopotamia. In 629, Khosrau's general Shahrbaraz agreed to peace, and the border between the two empires was once again the same as it had been in 602.

Plague of Sheroe Edit

The Plague of Sheroe (627–628) was one of several epidemics that occurred in or close to Iran within two centuries after the first epidemic was brought by the Sasanian armies from its campaigns in Constantinople, Syria, and Armenia. [15] It contributed to the fall of the Sasanian Empire.

Execution of Khosrau II Edit

Khosrau II was executed in 628 and, as a result, there were numerous claimants to the throne from 628 to 632 there were ten kings and queens of Persia. The last, Yazdegerd III, was a grandson of Khosrau II and was said to be a mere child aged 8 years. [16]

Muhammad's Letter Edit

After the Treaty of Hudaybiyyah in 628, Islamic tradition holds that Muhammad sent many letters to the princes, kings, and chiefs of the various tribes and kingdoms of the time, exhorting them to convert to Islam and bow to the order of God. These letters were carried by ambassadors to Persia, Byzantium, Ethiopia, Egypt, Yemen, and Hira (Iraq) on the same day. [17] This assertion has been brought under scrutiny by some modern historians of Islam—notably Grimme and Caetani. [18] Particularly in dispute is the assertion that Khosrau II received a letter from Muhammad, as the Sassanid court ceremony was notoriously intricate, and it is unlikely that a letter from what at the time was a minor regional power would have reached the hands of the Shahanshah. [19]

With regards to Persia, Muslim histories further recount that at the beginning of the seventh year of migration, Muhammad appointed one of his officers, Abdullah Huzafah Sahmi Qarashi, to carry his letter to Khosrau II inviting him to convert:

In the name of God, the Beneficent, the Merciful. From Muhammad, the Messenger of God, to the great Kisra of Persia. Peace be upon him, who seeks truth and expresses belief in God and in His Prophet and testifies that there are no gods but one God whom has no partners, and who believes that Muhammad is His servant and Prophet. Under the Command of God, I invite you to Him. He has sent me for the guidance of all people so that I may warn them all of His wrath and may present the unbelievers with an ultimatum. Embrace Islam so that you may remain safe. And if you refuse to accept Islam, you will be responsible for the sins of the Magi. [20]

There are differing accounts of the reaction of Khosrau II. [21]

Military Edit

Years of warfare between the Sasanians and the Byzantines, as well as the strain of the Khazar invasion of Transcaucasia, had exhausted the army. No effective ruler followed Khosrau II, causing chaos in society and problems in the provincial administration, until Yazdegerd III rose to power. All these factors undermined the strength of the Persian army. Yazdegerd III was merely 8 years old when he came to the throne and, lacking experience, did not try to rebuild the army. The Sasanian Empire was highly decentralized, and was in fact a "confederation" with the Parthians, who themselves retained a high level of independence. [10] However, after the last Sasanian-Byzantine war, the Parthians wanted to withdraw from the confederation, and the Sasanians were thus ill-prepared and ill-equipped to mount an effective and cohesive defense against the Muslim armies. [11] Moreover, the powerful northern and eastern Parthian families, the Kust-i Khwarasan and Kust-i Adurbadagan, withdrew to their respective strongholds and made peace with the Arabs, refusing to fight alongside the Sasanians.

Pourshariati argues that the Arab conquest of Mesopotamia "took place, not, as has been conventionally believed, in the years 632–634, after the accession of the last Sasanian king Yazdgerd III (632–651) to power, but in the period from 628 to 632." [12] An important consequence of this change in timeline means that the Arab conquest started precisely when the Sasanians and Parthians were engaged in internecine warfare over who was to succeed the Sasanian throne. [12]

When Arab squadrons made their first raids into Sasanian territory, Yazdegerd III did not consider them a threat, and he refused to send an army to encounter the invaders. When the main Arab army reached the Persian borders, Yazdegerd III procrastinated in dispatching an army against the Arabs. Even Rostam-e Farokhzad, who was both Eran Spahbod and Viceroy, did not see the Arabs as a threat. Without opposition, the Arabs had time to consolidate and fortify their positions.

When hostilities between the Sassanids and the Arabs finally began, the Persian army faced fundamental problems. While their heavy cavalry had proved effective against the Roman forces, it was too slow and regimented to act with full force against the agile and unpredictable lightly armed Arab cavalry and foot archers.

The Persian army had a few initial successes. War elephants temporarily stopped the Arab army, but when Arab veterans returned from the Syrian fronts where they had been fighting against Byzantine armies, they taught the Arab army how to deal with these beasts.

These factors contributed to the decisive Sassanid defeat at the Battle of al-Qādisiyyah. The Persians, who had only one generation before conquered Egypt and Asia Minor, lost decisive battles when nimble, lightly armed Arabs accustomed to skirmishes and desert warfare attacked them. The Arab squadrons defeated the Persian army in several more battles culminating in the Battle of Nahāvand, the last major battle of the Sassanids. The Sassanid dynasty came to an end with the death of Yazdegerd III in 651.

Muhammad died in June 632, and Abu Bakr took the title of Caliph and political successor at Medina. Soon after Abu Bakr's succession, several Arab tribes revolted, in the Ridda Wars (Arabic for the Wars of Apostasy). The Ridda Wars preoccupied the Caliphate until March 633, and ended with the entirety of the Arab Peninsula under the authority of the Caliph at Medina.

Whether Abu Bakr actually intended an all-out imperial conquest or not is hard to say. He did, however, set in motion a historical trajectory (continued later by Umar and Uthman) that in just a few short decades would lead to one of the largest empires in history, [22] beginning with a confrontation with the Sassanid Empire under the general Khalid ibn al-Walid.

After the Ridda wars, a tribal chief of northeastern Arabia, Al-Muthanna ibn Haritha, raided the Persian towns in Mesopotamia (what is now Iraq). Abu Bakr was strong enough to attack the Persian Empire in the north-east and the Byzantine Empire in the north-west. There were three purposes for this conquest. First, along the border between Arabia and these two great empires were numerous nomadic Arab tribes serving as a buffer between the Persians and Romans. Abu Bakr hoped that these tribes might accept Islam and help their brethren in spreading it. Second, the Persian and Roman populations were very highly taxed Abu Bakr believed that they might be persuaded to help the Muslims, who agreed to release them from the excessive tributes. Finally, Abu Bakr hoped that by attacking Iraq and Syria he might remove the danger from the borders of the Islamic State. [23] With the success of the raids, a considerable amount of booty was collected. Al-Muthanna ibn Haritha went to Medina to inform Abu Bakr about his success and was appointed commander of his people, after which he began to raid deeper into Mesopotamia. Using the mobility of his light cavalry, he could easily raid any town near the desert and disappear again into the desert, beyond the reach of the Sasanian army. Al-Muthanna's acts made Abu Bakr think about the expansion of the Rashidun Empire. [24]

To ensure victory, Abu Bakr made two decisions concerning the attack on Persia: first, the invading army would consist entirely of volunteers and second, to put his best general, Khalid ibn al-Walid, in command. After defeating the self-proclaimed prophet Musaylimah in the Battle of Yamama, Khalid was still at Al-Yamama when Abu Bakr ordered him to invade the Sassanid Empire. Making Al-Hirah the objective of Khalid, Abu Bakr sent reinforcements and ordered the tribal chiefs of northeastern Arabia, Al-Muthanna ibn Haritha, Mazhur bin Adi, Harmala and Sulma to operate under Khalid's command. Around the third week of March 633 (first week of Muharram 12th Hijrah) Khalid set out from Al-Yamama with an army of 10,000. [24] The tribal chiefs, with 2,000 warriors each, joined him, swelling his ranks to 18,000.

After entering Mesopotamia, he dispatched messages to every governor and deputy who ruled the provinces. The messages said “In the Name of God, the Most Compassionate and Merciful. Khalid ibn Walid sends this message to the satraps of Persia. Peace will be upon him who follows the guidance. All praise and thanks be to God who disperses your power and thwarted your deceitful plots. On the one hand, he who performs our prayers facing the direction of our Qiblah to face the sacred Mosque in Mekkah and eats our slaughtered animals is a Muslim. He has the same rights and duties that we have. On the other hand, if you do not want to embrace Islam, then as soon as you receive this message, send over the jizya and I give you my word that I will respect and honor this covenant. But if you do not agree to either choice, then, by God, I will send to you people who crave death as much as you crave life.” [25] Khalid did not receive any responses and continued with his tactical plans.

Khalid won decisive victories in four consecutive battles: the Battle of Chains, fought in April the Battle of River, fought in the third week of April the Battle of Walaja the following month (where he successfully used a double envelopment manoeuvre), and the Battle of Ullais, fought in mid-May. The Persian court, already disturbed by internal problems, was thrown into chaos. In the last week of May, the important city of Hira fell to the Muslims. After resting his armies, in June, Khalid laid siege to the city of al-Anbar, which surrendered in July. Khalid then moved towards the south, and conquered the city of Ayn al-Tamr in the last week of July. At this point, most of what is now Iraq was under Islamic control.

Khalid received a call for aid from northern Arabia at Dawmat al-Jandal, where another Muslim Arab general, Iyad ibn Ghanm, was trapped among the rebel tribes. Khalid went there and defeated the rebels in the Battle of Dawmat al-Jandal in the last week of August. Upon his return, he received news of the assembling of a large Persian army. He decided to defeat them all separately to avoid the risk of being defeated by a large unified Persian army. Four divisions of Persian and Christian Arab auxiliaries were present at Hanafiz, Zumiel, Sanni and Muzieh. Khalid divided his army into three units, and employed them in well-coordinated attacks against the Persians from three different sides at night, in the Battle of Muzayyah, then the Battle of Saniyy, and finally the Battle of Zumail, all during the month of November. These devastating defeats ended Persian control over Mesopotamia, and left the Persian capital Ctesiphon vulnerable. Before attacking Ctesiphon, Khalid decided to eliminate all Persian forces in the south and west. He accordingly marched against the border city of Firaz, where he defeated the combined forces of the Sasanian Persians, the Byzantines and Christian Arabs in December. This was the last battle in his conquest of Mesopotamia. While Khalid was on his way to attack Qadissiyah (a key fort en route to Ctesiphon), Abu Bakr ordered him to the Roman front in Syria to assume command there. [26]

Battle of the Bridge Edit

According to the will of Abu Bakr, Umar was to continue the conquest of Syria and Mesopotamia. On the northeastern borders of the Empire, in Mesopotamia, the situation was rapidly deteriorating. During Abu Bakr's era, Khalid ibn al-Walid had left Mesopotamia with half his army of 9000 soldiers to assume command in Syria, whereupon the Persians decided to take back their lost territory. The Muslim army was forced to leave the conquered areas and concentrate on the border. Umar immediately sent reinforcements to aid Muthanna ibn Haritha in Mesopotamia under the command of Abu Ubaid al-Thaqafi. [3] At that time, a series of battles between the Persians and Arabs occurred in the region of Sawad, such as Namaraq, Kaskar and Baqusiatha, in which the Arabs managed to maintain their presence in the area. [27] Later on, the Persians defeated Abu Ubaid in the Battle of the Bridge. However, Muthanna bin Haritha was later victorious in the Battle of Buwayb. In 635 Yazdgerd III sought an alliance with Emperor Heraclius of the Eastern Roman Empire, marrying the latter's daughter (or, by some traditions, his granddaughter) in order to seal the arrangement. While Heraclius prepared for a major offence in the Levant, Yazdegerd ordered the concentration of massive armies to push the Muslims out of Mesopotamia for good through a series of well-coordinated attacks on two fronts.

Sassanid art, architecture traced in western Iran

If you love traveling to ancient sites and leafing through the history of a great civilization, then how about paying a visit to the Firuzabad city in the Fars Province.? It was here that the Sassanians established their great empire.

Sightseeing in Bushehr

The city of Bushehr, located by the Persian Gulf, in the south west of the country, is a shining pearl waiting to be discovered. There’s a lot to see and enjoy in this region but this week we’re heading to this wonderful destination to take pleasure in nature.

The City of Natanz

There’s a lot to see and discover when you pay a visit to the Isfahan Province. One of those places is a city called Natanz which is rich in history and architecture. Join the IRAN team for an exclusive tour of the area and what you can enjoy when you’re out and about in the city.

Press TV’s website can also be accessed at the following alternate addresses:

Sassanid Empire chronology

Sassanid rulers
Ruler Year
Ardashir I 224 to 241
Shapur I 241 to 272
Hormizd I 272 to 273
Bahram I 273 to 276
Bahram II 276 to 293
Bahram III 293
Narseh 293 to 302
Hormizd II 302 to 310
Shapur II 310 to 379
Ardashir II 379 to 383
Shapur III 383 to 388
Bahram IV 388 to 399
Yazdegerd I 399 to 420
Bahram V 420 to 438
Yazdegerd II 438 to 457
Hormizd III 457 to 459
Peroz I 457 to 484
Balash 484 to 488
Kavadh I 488 to 531
Djamasp 496 to 498
Khosrau I 531 to 579
Hormizd IV 579 to 590
Bahram Chobin 590 to 591
Khosrau II 591 to 628
Kavadh II 628
Ardashir III 628 to 630
Shahrbaraz 630
Purandokht 630 to 631
Hormizd VI 631 to 632
Yazdgerd III 632 to 651
  • 224&ndash226: Overthrow of Parthian Empire.
  • 229&ndash232: War with Rome
  • Zoroastrianism is revived as official religion.
  • The collection of texts known as the Zend Avesta is assembled.
  • 241&ndash244: First war with Rome.
  • 258&ndash260: Second war with Rome. Capture of Roman emperor Valerian in Battle of Edessa.
  • 215&ndash271: Mani, founder of Manicheanism.

271&ndash301: A period of dynastic struggles.

  • 337&ndash350: First war with Rome with a relatively little success.
  • 358&ndash363: Second war with Rome. Great victories, extending eastern and western borders of empire.
  • 409: Christian are permitted to publicly worship and to build churches.
  • 416&ndash420: Persecution of Christians as Yazdegerd revokes his earlier order.
  • 420&ndash422: War with Rome.
  • 424: Council of Dad-Ishu declares the Eastern Church independent of Constantinople.

483: Edict of Toleration granted to Christians.

531&ndash579: Reign of Khosrau I, "with the immortal soul" (Anushirvan)

533: "Treaty of Endless Peace" with Rome.

590&ndash628: Reign of Khosrau II

603&ndash628: War with Rome. Conquests in Syria, Palestine, Egypt and Anatolia, Persia nearly restored to boundaries of Achaemenid dynasty before being beaten back by Romans.

610: Arabs defeat a Sassanid army at Dhu-Qar.

626: Unsuccessful siege of Constantinople by Avars and Persians.

627: Roman Emperor Heraclius invades Assyria and Mesopotamia. Definitive defeat of Persian forces at the battle of Nineveh by the joint Byzantine force.

628&ndash632: Chaotic period of multiple rulers.

632&ndash642: Reign of Yazdegerd III.

636: Decisive Sassanid defeat at the Battle of al-Qဝisiyyah during the Islamic conquest of Iran.

642: Final victory of Arabs when Persian army destroyed at Nahavand (Nehavand).

651: Last Sassanid ruler Yazdegerd III murdered at Merv, present-day Turkmenistan, ending the dynasty. His son Pirooz and many others went into exile in China.


Shahryar is the fictional Sassanid King of kings in The Book of One Thousand and One Nights who is told stories by Scheherazade. / Wikimedia Commons

The Sassanids established an empire roughly within the frontiers achieved by the Achaemenids, with the capital at Ctesiphon in the Khvarvaran province. In administering this empire, Sassanid rulers, took the title of Shāhanshāh (King of Kings), became the central overlords and also assumed guardianship of the sacred fire, the symbol of the national religion. This symbol is explicit on Sassanid coins where the reigning monarch, with his crown and regalia of office, appears on the obverse, backed by the sacred fire, the symbol of the national religion, on the coin’s reverse. Sassanid queens had the title of Banebshenan banebshen (the Queen of Queens).

On smaller scale the territory might also be ruled by a number of petty rulers from Sassanid royal family, known as Shahrdar overseen directly by Shahanshah. Considerable centralization, ambitious urban planning, agricultural development and technological improvements characterized Sassanid rule. Below the king a powerful bureaucracy carried out much of the affairs of government the head of the bureaucracy and Vice-Chancellor, was the “Vuzorg (Bozorg) Farmadar“. Within this bureaucracy the Zoroastrian priesthood was immensely powerful. The head of the Magi priestly class, the Mobadan, along with the commander in chief, the Iran (Eran) Spahbod, the head of traders and merchants syndicate “Ho Tokhshan Bod” and minister of agriculture “Vastrioshansalar” who was also head of farmers, were below the emperor the most powerful men of the Sassanid state. [22]

In normal times the monarchical office was hereditary, but might be transmitted by the king to a younger son in two instances queens held the supreme power. When no direct heir was available, the nobles and prelates chose a ruler, but their choice was restricted to members of the royal family.

The Sassanid nobility was a mixture of old Parthian clans, Persian aristocratic families, and noble families from subjected territories. Many new noble families had risen after the dissolution of the Parthian dynasty, while several of the once-dominant Seven Parthian clans remained of high importance. At the court of Ardashir I, the old Arsacid families of the House of Karen and the House of Suren, along with several Persian families, the Varazes and Andigans, held positions of great honor. Alongside these Iranian and non-Iranian noble families, the kings of Merv, Abarshahr, Carmania, Sakastan, Iberia, and Adiabene, who are mentioned as holding positions of honor amongst the nobles, appeared at the court of the Shahanshah. Indeed, the extensive domains of the Surens, Karens, and Varazes had become part of the original Sassanid state as semi-independent states. Thus, the noble families that attended at the court of the Sassanid empire continued to be ruling lines in their own right, although subordinate to the Shahanshah.

In general, Bozorgan from Persian families held the most powerful positions in the imperial administration, including governorships of border provinces (Marzban). Most of these positions were patrimonial, and many were passed down through a single family for generations. Those Marzbans of greatest seniority were permitted a silver throne, while Marzbans of the most strategic border provinces, such as the Caucasus province, were allowed a golden throne. [23] In military campaigns the regional Marzbans could be regarded as field marshals, while lesser spahbods could command a field army. [24]

Culturally, the Sassanids implemented a system of social stratification. This system was supported by Zoroastrianism, which was established as the state religion. Other religions appear to have been largely tolerated (although this claim is the subject of heated discussion. Sassanid emperors consciously sought to resuscitate Persian traditions and to obliterate Greek cultural influence.

Sassanid Army

Mounted Persian knight, Taq-e Bostan, Iran / Photo by Zereshk, Wikimedia Commons

The backbone of the Persian army (Spah) in the Sassanid era was composed of two types of heavy cavalry units: Clibanarii and Cataphracts. This cavalry force was composed of elite noblemen trained since youth for military service and was supported by light cavalry, infantry, and archers. Sassanid tactics centered on disrupting the enemy with archers, war elephants, and other troops, thus opening up gaps the cavalry forces could exploit.

Unlike their predecessors the Parthians, the Sassanids developed advanced siege engines. This development served the empire well in conflicts with Rome, in which success hinged upon the ability to seize cities and other fortified points conversely, the Sassanids also developed a number of techniques for defending their own cities from attack. The Sassanid army was famous for its heavy cavalry, which was much like the preceding Parthian army, albeit only some of the Sassanid heavy cavalry were equipped with lances.

The Byzantine emperor Maurikios also emphasizes in his sixth century military treatise Strategikon that many of the Sassanid heavy cavalry did not carry spears, relying on their bows as their primary weapons.

The amount of money involved in maintaining a warrior of the knightly caste required a small estate, and the knightly caste received that from the throne, and in return, were the throne’s most notable defenders in time of war.

Relations with China

Sassanid influence didn’t remain confined to its borders. In this depiction from Qizil, Tarim Basin China, The “Tocharian donors,” are dressed in Sassanid style / Wikimedia Commons

Like their predecessors the Parthians, the Sassanid Empire carried out active foreign relations with China, and ambassadors from Persia frequently traveled to China. Chinese documents report on thirteen Sassanid embassies to China. Commercially, land and sea trade with China was important to both the Sassanid and Chinese Empires. Large numbers of Sassanid coins have been found in southern China, confirming maritime trade.

On different occasions Sassanid kings sent their most talented Persian musicians and dancers to the Chinese imperial court at Luoyang during the Jin Dynasty (265-420) and Northern Wei dynasties and to Chang’an during the Sui and Tang dynasties. Both empires benefited from trade along the Silk Road, and shared a common interest in preserving and protecting that trade. They cooperated in guarding the trade routes through central Asia, and both built outposts in border areas to keep caravans safe from nomadic tribes and bandits.

Politically, we hear of several Sassanid and Chinese efforts in forging alliances against the common enemy who were the Hephthalites. Upon the rise of the nomadic Gokturk Empire in Inner Asia, we also see what looks like a collaboration between China and the Sassanid to defuse the Turkic advances. Documents from Mount Mogh also talk about the presence of a Chinese general in the service of the king of Sogdiana at the time of the Arab invasions.

Following the invasion of Iran by Muslim Arabs, Pirooz, son of Yazdegerd III, escaped along with a few Persian nobles and took refuge in the Chinese imperial court. Both Piroz and his son Narseh (Chinese neh-shie) were given high titles at the Chinese court. At least in two occasions, the last possibly in 670, Chinese troops were sent with Peroz in order to restore him to the Sassanid throne with mixed results, one possibly ending up in a short rule of Peroz in Sistan (Sakestan) from which we have a few remaining numismatic evidences. Narseh later attained the position of commander of the Chinese imperial guards and his descendants lived in China as respected princes.

Expansion to India

After the Sassanids had secured Iran and its neighboring regions under Ardashir I, the second emperor, Shapur I (240–270), extended his authority eastwards into what is today Pakistan and northwestern India. The previously autonomous Kushans were obliged to accept his suzerainty. Although the Kushan empire declined at the end of the third century, to be replaced by the northern Indian Gupta Empire in the fourth century, it is clear that Sassanid influence remained relevant in India’s northwest throughout this period.

Persia and northwestern India engaged in cultural as well as political intercourse during this period, as certain Sassanid practices spread into the Kushan territories. In particular, the Kushan’s were influenced by the Sassanid conception of kingship, which spread through the trade of Sassanid silverware and textiles depicting emperors hunting or dispensing justice.

This cultural interchange did not, however, spread Sassanid religious practices or attitudes to the Kushans. While the Sassanids always adhered to a stated policy of religious proselytization, and sporadically engaged in persecution or forced conversion of minority religions, the Kushans preferred to adopt a policy of religious tolerance.

Lower-level cultural interchanges also took place between India and Persia during this period. For example, Persians imported chess from India and changed the game’s name from chaturanga to chatrang. In exchange, Persians introduced Backgammon to India.

During Khosrau I’s reign many books were brought from India and translated into Pahlavi, the language of the Sassanid Empire. Some of these later found their way into the literature of the Islamic world. A notable example of this was the translation of the Indian Panchatantra by one of Khosrau’s ministers, Burzoe this translation, known as the Kelileh va Demneh, later made its way into Arabia and Europe. [25] The details of Burzoe’s legendary journey to India and his daring acquirement of Panchatantra is written in full details in Ferdowsi’s Shahnameh [26] .


The art of the ancient Near East during the four centuries of Sasanian rule is richly documented. There are major remains of many different types: monumental rock reliefs, silver vessels, stucco architectural decoration, and seals. Objects in other media are less numerous but still sufficient to give a varied impression of the art of the period: textiles, wall paintings, floor mosaics, glass, and pottery. Nonetheless, the development of Sasanian art remains unclear because reliable criteria for dating (inscriptional, numismatic, and archeological) are rarely available. The original provenance of the objects is often unknown. While the dynastic rock reliefs are in situ and other architectural decoration was found during the course of scientific archeological excavations, a wider variety of works of art is without a meaningful archeological context. Included in this class are the silver vessels, the seals, and nearly all examples of the minor arts. There has never been a comprehensive excavation of a Sasanian site, revealing an extensive series of structures dating from one period or, alternately, establishing an unbroken sequence over a long time span. Undoubtedly the most significant contributions to the study of Sasanian art will come with the future archeological exploration of Sasanian cities and buildings.

Rock reliefs. Of the major remains, the dynastic rock reliefs are unquestionably the most important. In addition to illustrating the stylistic and chronological development of one branch of Sasanian art, they offer important evidence concerning the nature of the early Sasanian state, society, and religion. The majority of the reliefs have representations of Sasanian kings, identifiable through the form of their crowns. The series begins with the first ruler, Arda&scaronīr I (226-41), and continues with few exceptions through the reigns of his successors until &Scaronāpūr II (309-79). There are no reliefs that can be attributed with certainty to &Scaronāpūr II (Ghirshman, 1971, pp. 79-88 Lukonin, 1969, p. 193) but two, at Ṭāq-e Bostān, were commissioned by his successors Arda&scaronīr II (379-83) and &Scaronāpūr III (383 88) (Fukai and Horiuchi, 1972, pls. 64-92). After the fourth century there is an interruption in the sequence, and the final carvings, in a rock cut arched enclosure at Ṭāq-e Bostān, are dateable, in all probability, to the reign of Ḵosrow II (591-628) (Fukai and Horiuchi, 1969, pls. 4-102 idem, 1972, pls. 1-62).

Changes in the designs and in the styles of carving occur on the rock reliefs. In part, these changes are due to the passage of time but another important factor is the geographical location of the monuments. Although most of the reliefs are in Fārs in southern Iran, there are notable examples elsewhere&mdashat Ṭāq-e Bostān in central Iran, at Salmās in Azerbaijan (Hinz, 1965, pp. 148-60), and at Ray (Herzfeld, 1938, p. 135, fig. 18), south of the modern city of Tehran. The style and appearance of the late 4th century reliefs at Ṭāq-e Bostān is strikingly different from those of the 3rd and early 4th century in Fārs in the south. This may be explained by the passage of almost half a century, but it is probably also the result of the geographical separation of the two groups of monuments. Within Fārs, the reliefs are grouped around a number of centers: 1) Fīrūzābād, 2) Naq&scaron-e Rostam, Naq&scaron-e Rajab, Barm-e Delak, 3) Dārābgerd, 4) Bī&scaronāpūr, Naq&scaron-e Bahrām, Tang-e Qandīl, Gūyom, and Sar Ma&scaronhad. The distance between these centers is sufficient to suggest that even within the southern region different groups of craftsmen may have worked at the various locations. At Bī&scaronāpūr, the presence of foreign artisans, transported as prisoners of war by &Scaronāpūr I from the West, is historically documented (Gagé, 1964, p. 287), and their activity is apparent in the architecture of the royal city. The unusual design of some of the victory reliefs of &Scaronāpūr I in the neighboring river gorge is undoubtedly also the result of the presence of captive Syrian workers.

The formal development of the dynastic rock reliefs was governed by the nature of the monuments. These are proclamatory works of art, expressions of political, social, and religious concepts. As part of an official state art, the reliefs are conservative in form and conventional in design. They are slow to reflect changes in taste and fashion and do not necessarily illustrate contemporary styles of dress or appearance. This is evident in the representations of clothing, jewelry, and weapons (Trousdale, 1975, p. 95).

The significance of the reliefs is usually clear. Some are victory monuments and record historical events, but the purpose of the majority is the glorification of the dynasty, as represented by the monarch, and of the religion, in the form of the divinity who invests the ruler with kingship. The reliefs clearly demonstrate the close relationship between secular and religious power at the beginning of the period.

The monuments of Arda&scaronīr I depict two subjects: the historical defeat of the last Arsacid ruler and the granting of kingship to Arda&scaronīr by the god Ohrmazd (Herrmann, 1969, pp. 65-74). The latest relief of Arda&scaronīr I at Naq&scaron-e Rostam illustrates this last theme and becomes one of the standard types throughout the reigns of successive rulers. Two equestrian figures confront each other, their horses standing on the bodies of dead enemies. One horseman is the king, Arda&scaronīr, under whose horse is the defeated Arsacid monarch, Ardavān. The other horseman, bestowing upon Arda&scaronīr the ring of royal authority, is the god Ohrmazd. His enemy, the Evil Spirit (Ahriman), lies beneath the horse&rsquos hooves around the demon&rsquos head is a diadem of reptiles, and his legs are in the form of two serpents, a detail first observed by H. von Gall. The artisans have arranged the full sculptural forms in a well defined and balanced composition, the culmination of a long development in the course of Arda&scaronīr&rsquos reign from low flat relief (Fīrūzābād) and crowded scenes (Naq&scaron-e Rajab) to a clearly composed and sculptural presentation of the subject matter.

The same type of scene is represented on the reliefs of two later Sasanian kings, Arda&scaronīr&rsquos son &Scaronāpūr I (Herrmann, 1969, pp. 75-83), and Bahrām I (273 76), his successor (Ghirshman, 1971, pp. 76-77). &Scaronāpūr also introduces a new series of victory monuments. They are unrelated in form to the earlier battle scene, executed during the reign of Arda&scaronīr at Fīrūzābād, in which three pairs of contestants are depicted in a horizontal file, one behind the other. The theme of the victory scenes of &Scaronāpūr I is the capture of the Roman emperor Valerian and the defeat of two other Roman armies. Considerable discussion has centered on the identities of the chief prisoners, represented fallen, kneeling, and standing. The generalized portrayal of the human features prevents the recognition of specific individuals although it is probable that Gordian III, Valerian, and Philip the Arab are intended (MacDermot, 1954, pp. 76-80 Ghirshman, 1971, pp. 163-72 Mackintosh, 1973, pp. 181-203).

As sculptures, the figures on the reliefs of &Scaronāpūr I demonstrate the full modeling of the latest works carved during the reign of Arda&scaronīr I. However, a sense of movement and rich decoration are introduced by the exaggerated curvilinear folds of the drapery and the fluttering wind blown ribbons of the royal dress.

The rock reliefs from the reign of Bahrām II (276 93) reveal new trends in the social structure of the Sasanian state. A few of the sculptures represent persons other than the king of kings. The priest Kartīr added his image and his inscriptions to already existing royal rock reliefs and to the rock faces beside these reliefs. Two sculptures, at Barm-e Delak and Tang-e Qandīl, show a female with a male who wears the cap of a prince or noble but not a royal crown. The identity of the persons in these two carvings is disputed, and it has been suggested that the males on the reliefs are royal figures who do not wear the standard Sasanian crown (Hinz, 1969, pp. 224-28 idem, 1973, pp. 201ff Frye, 1974, pp. 188-90 Herrmann, 1977 and 1983).

The increasing power of the high nobility and the establishment of a priestly hierarchy under the leadership of Kartīr during the reign of Bahrām II are recorded in historical sources (Gagé, 1964, pp. 317-28). The reliefs described above may illustrate the rise to power of these classes of society. Kartīr and others of high rank who had previously been excluded from commissioning such dynastic monuments apparently achieved sufficient status and authority to assume this prerogative under Bahrām II and possibly during the short period of the rule of Bahrām III.

On the royal reliefs, Bahrām II is represented with his wife and members of his family (Herrmann, 1970, pp. 165-71), a subject already appearing on a relief of &Scaronāpūr I at Naq&scaron-e Rajab. The other reliefs of Bahrām II illustrate the theme of royal authority in a new fashion. At Naq&scaron-e Bahrām, the king is enthroned in a frontal position (Hinz, 1969, pp. 198-209). This type of image occurs in a large, unfinished victory relief with a representation of an unknown monarch at Bī&scaronāpūr (Lukonin, 1969, p. 193 Ghirshman, 1971, pp. 79-88) and on a badly worn monument at Naq&scaron-e Rostam (Schmidt, 1970, pl. 94), but only at Naq&scaron-e Bahrām does the subject achieve definitive form. The balanced presentation, with the king seated between two pairs of standing figures, is typically Sasanian.

A more radical design occurs at Sar Ma&scaronhad, where the king, Bahrām II, is portrayed in a unique scene as the slayer of lions and the protector of the figures placed beside him, his wife(?), Kartīr, and another male (Hinz, 1969, pp. 215-19 Herrmann, 1970, pp. 165-71 Trümpelmann, Sar Ma&scaronhad, 1975, pp. 3-11 P. Calmeyer in Calmeyer and Gaube, 1985, pp. 43-49). This is the earliest dynastic monument illustrating a royal hunt(?), a theme that was to become later, on the court silver plate, the primary expression of Sasanian majesty.

Some of the rock carvings of Bahrām II continue the rich high relief style of &Scaronāpūr I. Others are carved in low relief (10 cm), a feature interpreted by Herrmann as an indication that they are later in date (Herrmann, 1970, pp. 170-71 ).

In the single relief attributed to his reign, Narseh (292 303), the son of &Scaronāpūr I, returned to a more conventional statement of royalty (Schmidt, 1970, pl. 90). The king receives the ring of investiture from the goddess Anāhīd. Both figures are on foot rather than on horseback, a pose presumably not appropriate for the goddess. The basic composition resembles the investiture of Arda&scaronīr I at Naq&scaron-e Rajab where the monarch stretches his arm toward the god Ohrmazd. In both reliefs, the smaller figure of a descendant, and future king, is placed between the ruler and the divinity this return to an earlier scheme was probably deliberate on the part of Narseh, who was the grandson of Arda&scaronīr I. The over life size figures on the rock carving at Naq&scaron-e Rostam are executed in high relief but are poorly proportioned. The linear details&mdashdrapery fold, spiral hairs curls&mdashgive a particularly decorative appearance to the monument.

A number of battle scenes in the form of equestrian combats between two protagonists are contemporary with the reliefs of the late 3rd century (Schmidt, 1970, pls. 89, 91, 95). This type was first commissioned by Arda&scaronīr I at Fīrūzābād and is illustrated on a much smaller scale on the relief carved blocks from a building constructed during the reign of &Scaronāpūr I at Bī&scaronāpūr (Ghirshman, 1971, pls. 35, 36, fig. 15). The later examples, all at Naq&scaron-e Rostam, have a simple composition and more limited subject matter than the Fīrūzābād relief. The figures do not always wear recognizable Sasanian crowns, and it is possible that in at least two instances the warrior is a member of the royal family or the high nobility rather than the king (Schmidt, 1970, pls. 89, 95). On one of the reliefs, the three pronged headgear worn by the central combatant may be a special form of helmet rather than a crown (Herzfeld, 1938, pp. 136-37).

These battle scenes have a narrative, pictorial quality lacking in the more conventional investiture and victory reliefs. A wealth of detail covering the animal and human bodies gives the representations a rather decorative appearance.

The reliefs at Ṭāq-e Bostān follow by more than half a century the latest rock carved monuments in Fārs and reveal a change in style (Fukai and Horiuchi, 1972, pls. 64-92). Commissioned by Arda&scaronīr II (379-83) and in all probability, &Scaronāpūr III (383-88), they are primarily proclamations of legitimacy. During this troubled period in the history of the Sasanian monarchy, the natural succession was interrupted by the accession of Arda&scaronīr II who was then succeeded by &Scaronāpūr III, the son of &Scaronāpūr II (Herzfeld, 1928, p. 138).

The relief of Arda&scaronīr II is the more conventional of the two monuments in type and design. Within the customary rectangular panel three figures carved in high relief are standing side by side. The monarch, in the center, grasps the ring of investiture extended to him by the figure on his left, possibly the god Ohrmazd, although the headdress is that of the deceased &Scaronāpūr II. On the other side is the god Mithra, rays emanating from his head, a barsom bundle in his hands, and standing on an Indian lotus. This same divinity is associated with a Sasanian ruler of the Kushan territories who has been identified as Arda&scaronīr II (Lukonin, 1967, p. 27). Beneath the king and the figure holding the symbol of office lies a dead enemy, probably the Roman emperor Julian (Trümpelmann, &ldquoTriumph,&rdquo 1975, pp. 107-11 Carter, 1981, pp. 74-98). In the arrangement of the figures the scene resembles the investiture of Narseh, but the king wears a new form of royal dress: A beaded halter, strapped around the chest, has replaced the cloak held by a clasp, and the tunic, drawn up at the sides, falls in a rounded curve along the lower hem. The style of the carving is also distinctive. The drapery folds are rendered as a series of curving concentric lines covering the body this stylization gives the surface of the relief an extremely decorative appearance. The crude, almost grotesque treatment of the facial features is particularly noticeable since the heads are turned outward in a three quarter view. These changes in style and quality of workmanship suggest that the monument was executed by local artisans lacking the skills of the carvers who had worked on the royal monuments in the south. Noting the apparent inexperience of the craftsmen, Herzfeld suggested that the reliefs were the work of painters rather than sculptors (Herzfeld, 1928, p. 139).

The adjacent relief with the figures of &Scaronāpūr II and III is carved in a similar style, but the subject and the setting are new (Fukai and Horiuchi, 1972, pls. 64-73). The two kings, standing side by side, are represented on the back wall of a deep arched niche. They are almost full sculptures in the round. Inscriptions on either side of the heads give the names of the monarchs (Herzfeld, 1924, pp. 123-24). Since no divinity is included in the scene and the emphasis is on the relationship between the two royal personages, father (&Scaronāpūr II) and son (&Scaronāpūr III), it is appropriate that the setting resembles an arched hall similar to the audience halls of Sasanian palaces. &Scaronāpūr III does not wear the crown appearing on his coins and it is possible that the relief was executed before he became king of kings, during the reign of &Scaronāpūr II (Herzfeld, 1938, pp. 113-14).

The latest relief at Ṭāq-e Bostān (Fukai and Horiuchi, 1969 idem, 1972, pls. 1-62) is generally attributed to Ḵosrow II (591 628) (Herzfeld, 1920 idem, 1938, pp. 91-158 Ghirshman, 1963, pp. 293-311 Peck, 1969, pp. 101=2) in spite of some arguments for an earlier date in the reign of Pērōz (Erdmann, 1937, pp. 79=97 idem, 1951, pp. 87=123 von Gall, 1984, pp. 179=90) and one suggestion that the monument was executed during the reign of Ḵosrow I (Gropp, 1970, p. 282). This great ayvān similar in shape but larger than that of &Scaronāpūr II/III may well celebrate the victory of Ḵosrow II over the usurper Bahrām VI (Čōbīn) (Marshak and Krikis, 1969, p. 65 Soucek, 1974, pp. 34=35). Two winged females placed in the spandrels of the arched facade give it the appearance of a Western triumphal monument. The divinities, Ohrmazd and Anāhīd, stand on either side of Ḵosrow II. All three figures are carved on the top of the back wall of the niche. The gods do not surpass the king in height rather, they appear as supports to the royal person. Beneath the standing figures on the back wall is a horseman in full armor, holding a lance and a shield. The identity of this horseman is uncertain. A royal device (Figure 46a) and a sēnmurw, the fantastic creature believed to be the bearer of prosperity, on his garment suggest that this is the warrior king.

An alternative suggestion is that the rider is the fravahr or genius of the king (von Gall, 1971b, p. 233 J. Kellens, Iranica Antiqua 10, 1973, pp. 133=38 [von Gall, 1984, has now retracted this suggestion]). The close relationship in form between the mounted warrior and certain monumental sculptures in the late antique world has also been observed (Soucek, 1974, p. 34).

Entirely new in form and design are the low relief hunting scenes carved on the side walls of the ayvān of Ḵosrow II at Ṭāq-e Bostān (Fukai and Horiuchi, 1969, pls. 29-102). These resemble wall paintings or mosaics rather than rock sculptures and may be stone imitations of the wall decorations in similarly shaped audience halls in Sasanian palaces. The rock cut monument at Ṭāq-e Bostān, the last attributable to the Sasanian period, is a magnificent expression of royal authority. The large scale figures are solid masses, the body hidden beneath heavy drapery. A rich and elaborate style of workmanship is apparent in the treatment of the hair and dress. On the side walls similar attention is paid to minute details&mdashthe textiles, patterns, hair, and equipment of the human figures as well as the surface of the animal and landscape motifs. It is impossible to know whether all three parts of the decoration&mdashroyal investiture, mounted warrior, and hunting panels&mdashare contemporary in date. Differences in style and equipment may indicate that the reliefs were executed over a period of time (Trousdale, 1975, p. 98).

A few final observations can be made concerning the Sasanian rock reliefs. It is evident that some rulers added to the reliefs of their predecessors. This is the case at Bī&scaronāpūr where, on the relief of Bahrām I, Narseh substituted his own name in the inscription and added a dead enemy, possibly Bahrām III, beneath the royal mount (Schmidt, 1970, p. 129 Iran 13, 1970, pls. III, IV Herrmann, 1981 [ = Bishapur, pt. 2], p. 19). It has been suggested that the relief at Dārāb was begun by Arda&scaronīr I and reworked into a victory monument by his son &Scaronāpūr I (Trümpelmann, &ldquoTriumph,&rdquo 1975, pp. 3-20).

Another fact is that the monuments are frequently unfinished, with some portions carved only in outline. The interruption of historical events (death, war, social upheavals) might explain this phenomenon in occasional instances. However, the large number of reliefs with unfinished details is surprising, and it is possible that paint or some other material was originally used to complete the scenes (Herrmann, 1980 83).

Other stone sculpture. Four busts of Narseh decorate the sides of a square tower erected by that king at Paikuli (Herzfeld, 1924, pp. 7-l0) the inscription describes his assumption of royal power. Much weathered and damaged, the busts are unique examples of a type of royal sculpture that may once have existed in greater quantity.

More unusual and much better preserved is a three times life size statue in the round of &Scaronāpūr I (241 272) at Bī&scaronāpūr, which is the only sizeable stone sculpture in the round to have survived from Sasanian times. The figure is carved from a natural column of stone in a grotto above the river running past the Bī&scaronāpūr rock reliefs (Ghirshman, 1971, pp. 179ff., pls. 28-32). The king&rsquos informal stance, frontal but with arms bent, one hand resting on his hip, presumably placed on the hilt of a now missing sword, is without parallel in Sasanian art and reflects ultimately the influence of Greco Roman prototypes. Another stone figure, terribly worn and mutilated (the entire lower portion is missing) was found at Ṭāq-e Bostān (Fukai and Horiuchi, 1972, pl. 63). Probably this is Ḵosrow II (591 628), but the surface is much abraded and no details are observable. The pose is related to that of the Bī&scaronāpūr statue in that the royal figure grasps his sword, but the weapon is, in this instance, centered on the body.

A Middle Persian text carved on a stone column at Bī&scaronāpūr mentions another statue of king &Scaronāpūr I erected by Apasāy, his secretary (Ghirshman, 1936, p. 126). Regrettably nothing remains of this work of art.

Silver plate. During the long period from the end of the 4th century to the end of the 6th century, royal rock reliefs were no longer carved, perhaps because the firm establishment of the dynasty eliminated the political reasons for this type of monumental royal sculpture. In any event, the second half of the Sasanian period, beginning with the latter part of the reign of &Scaronāpūr II (309 79), is characterized by another medium of dynastic art: silver vessels with the image of the king hunting (Harper and Meyers, 1981). A few vessels with representations of nobles and princes of the royal family pursuing animal quarry precede the adoption and exclusive use of this motif by the king himself in the latter part of the 4th century. Two examples have survived, both found west of Iran in the Caucasus (Fajans, 1957, p. 61, pl. 5, fig. 11 Lukonin, 1961, p. 59, pl. 11) and Soviet Azerbaijan (Harper and Meyers, 1981, pl. 8). A third plate, now lost but known through a drawing, was acquired in Afghanistan (Erdmann, 1936, pp. 226-27 Harper and Meyers, 1981, pl. 11 a b). The hunters on all three of these plates may be rulers of newly acquired realms: on the example found in the western Caucasus the inscription names Bahrām, probably the son and heir apparent of Bahrām I.

The earliest silver vessel with an image of a Sasanian king is also from the western part of the empire. Bahrām II, his wife, and son appear on a two handled cup discovered at Zargveshi in Georgia (Lukonin, 1961, p. 57, pls.12 15 idem, 1967, pl. 207 Harper and Meyers, 1981, pl. 12). The royal figures are enclosed within medallions, a form of portraiture employed by princes and nobles on silver plate of the 3rd and early 4th centuries (Harper, 1974, pp. 61-80). Late in the 4th century, the medallion portrait was superseded on the royal court silver by the hunting scene, and this became the standard type, strictly reserved for the king of kings. Existing evidence suggests that from the 4th century until some time in the 6th, no person other than the Sasanian king was permitted to represent himself or his family on silver vessels.

The images on the royal silver plate are stereotyped and the representations remain largely unchanged in style and form for several centuries. Only minor variations occur in the iconography and design. Particularly distinctive is the representation of drapery in a series of short, paired lines. Gilding covers the figural scene or, on the latest examples, the background shell of the plate. Specific weapons are used, customarily the bow, occasionally a lasso. The compositions combine horizontal (horse and dead animals) and vertical (king and the bodies of the living quarry) elements. In general, there is a trend from simple compositions with few figures to more elaborate arrangements in which the numbers and species of animals increases (Erdmann, 1936, pp. 192-232 idem, 1937, pp. 79-97 idem, 1951, pp. 87-123 Herzfeld, 1938, pp. 91-158 Harper and Meyers, 1981).

The date of these vessels with royal hunters is suggested in part by the appearance of the royal crown, often identifiable through a comparison with Sasanian coins. Details of dress and equipment compared with images on securely dated monuments (reliefs, coins, seals) also provide some guidance in establishing a chronological sequence (Harper and Meyers, 1981).

Contemporary with the royal vessels are imitations of the Sasanian hunting plates produced in the countries bordering on Iran to the east and west. In the past, these works have often been confused with original Sasanian products (Erdmann, 1938, pp. 209-17 idem, 1943, pls. 61, 65, 66 Marshak and Krikis, 1969, pp. 51-81). However, on many of the provincial imitations, the differences in design, style, and notably the use of non Sasanian crown types are sufficient to make the distinction between the imitation and the original obvious. Instead of the paired line drapery style of the Sasanian court silver, there is a schematization of the folds in the form of overall parallel lines. The composition is often laid out in a triangular scheme. Gilding is applied to different parts of the design in a coloristic fashion.

A few provincial plates are closer in design and style to the Sasanian court products (Lukonin, 1967, pls. 148, 149, 150). In these instances the stylistic attribution of the vessels to provincial rather than central Sasanian workshops is substantiated by the analysis of the metal.

The use of neutron activation analysis to determine silver composition has revealed that vessels that may be called Sasanian court products on the basis of style and design are produced from silver derived from a single source (Meyers et al., 1973, pp. 67-78 Harper and Meyers, 1981, pp. 144-86). The composition of the metal of the vessels identifiable as provincial works is entirely different the silver is derived from a number of different ores and in no instance is it the same as that from which the Sasanian royal plate is made. It is evident therefore that the extraction of silver for use at court or state workshops was controlled by the Sasanian government. Beyond the limits of direct Sasanian authority, local rulers obtained silver from various sources and produced hunting plates modeled on Sasanian court products.

Although the image of the frontal king enthroned in state was not popular as a dynastic image either on the luxury vessels or on the rock reliefs, there are two representations of the motif that may be Sasanian. On a silver plate in the Hermitage Museum (Orbeli and Trever, 1935, pl. 13 Erdmann, pl. 67), the enthronement scene (which resembles the rock relief of Bahrām II at Naq&scaron-e Bahrām) is placed over a small hunt in the exergue. The crown of the enthroned king is the same as that appearing on the coins of six late Sasanian rulers from Kavād I to Kavād II. A more elegant gold, glass, and rock crystal bowl in the Bibliothèque Nationale has a central medallion with the frontal enthroned king, seated alone, carved in relief (Sarre, 1922, pl. 44 Ghirshman, 1962, p. 205, fig. 244). The king wears the same crown as the figure on the Bibliothèque Nationale silver plate.

Other Sasanian silver vases and ewers are decorated with motifs that refer less directly to the king of kings. These include the ram (Romans and Barbarians, 1976, pl. 219), possibly a symbol of (xwarrah or the royal fortune, and birds wearing long, jeweled necklets (Romans and Barbarians , 1976, pl. 220). A ewer in the Hermitage Museum (Erdmann, 1943, pl. 77) has figures of a (sēnmurw(. This creature appears on the garments of the king at Ṭāq-e Bostān but is otherwise rarely represented in Sasanian art (Riboud, 1976, pp. 21-42). It was probably a royal motif, and objects decorated with it may therefore be connected specifically with the monarchy (H. P. Schmidt, 1980).

A number of Sasanian silver vessels bear cult or ceremonial scenes lacking any specific reference to the king. The most numerous are vases and ewers decorated with dancing female figures holding particular attributes: vessels, fruit, plants, and animals (Harper, 1971, pp. 503-15). In its form, this type of subject is clearly associated with Dionysiac imagery. Some scholars believe that it was adopted by the Iranians in connection with the cult of Anāhīd, the Iranian goddess of water and fertility (Shepherd, 1964, pp. 66-92 Ettinghausen, 1967/68, pp. 29-41 Trever, 1967, pp. 121-32). More probable are suggestions that the images are associated with seasonal festivals (Harper, 1971, pp. 503-15 Carter, 1974, pp. 171-202).

Plates with mythological images are rather rare, and the precise meaning of this type of subject matter, often modeled on Greco Roman prototypes (Harper, 1978, nos. 8, 13), is uncertain.

A small class of hemispherical bowls is important because the figural subjects are unrelated to royal iconography and provide illustrations of court life and activities. Manufactured in all probability during the 6th and 7th centuries for noble (āzād) rather than royal patrons, the vessels have scenes of vintaging, banqueting, and marriage ceremonies as well as simple geometric, plant, and animal designs (Harper, 1978, nos. 14, 15, 25). The alloy from which these small bowls (average diameter: 14 cm) are made has a high copper content and is, in this sense, inferior to the silver of the court plate. Elliptical bowls with Christian motifs, specifically crosses, also exist (Sasanian Silver, 1967, no. 53). The shape of these vessels suggests a date at the end of the Sasanian period the production probably reflects the growing prestige and prosperity of the Christian community following the separation of the Nestorian church (484) from the Christian community in the West.

Regrettably, almost none of the surviving silver vessels, Sasanian or provincial, comes from controlled archeological excavations. Many were found in the Soviet Union, particularly in the Perm region in the Ural mountains, an area to which they were sent as articles of barter or trade in antiquity (Orbeli and Trever, 1935, pls. 5, 13, 28, 36, 39 41, 44-47). In recent years, countless other examples have been recovered, by chance, on Iranian soil. The precise use of the vessels, their general purpose, and significance is consequently uncertain. It is probable that the central Sasanian court plates with images of the king were part of a state propaganda production since both the form of the designs and the source of the material were rigidly controlled. Ancient sources speak frequently of gifts of silver plate, some with images of the king, to allies and neighboring rulers whom the monarch intended to impress (Sasanian Silver, 1967, p. 34ff.).

A few objects made of silver are unique. A spectacular, almost lifesize head of a Sasanian king, perhaps &Scaronāpūr II, is in the Metropolitan Museum of Art (Harper, 1966, pp. 136-46). Although images of rulers and emperors executed in stone and metal are familiar in the West, most large scale representations of Sasanian royalty are in relief sculpture. The original provenance of the silver head of a king in the Metropolitan Museum is allegedly Iran, but the circumstances of discovery and therefore the function of this work of art are unknown.

Other sculptures in the round made of silver also survive from the Sasanian era, but they represent animals rather than humans. Vessels in the shape of complete animals and heads of animals as well as rhyta terminating in animal heads were probably originally the property of members of the royal family and nobility (Harper, 1978, nos. 1, 5, 16 Sasanian Silver , 1967, no. 49). Nothing in the design or decoration of these objects refers specifically to the king.

The Middle Persian inscriptions appearing on both the Sasanian and the provincial vessels give their weight and sometimes the name of the owner (Henning, 1959, pp. 132-34 idem, 1961, pp. 353-56 Lukonin and Livshits, 1964, pp. 55-76 Brunner, 1974, pp. 109-21 Frye, 1973, pp. 2-11 Harmatta, 1973, 1974 Gignoux, 1975, 1982). This practice appears to have been customary from the 3rd century to the end of the period.

Stucco. The absence of stone architectural decoration in the Sasanian Near East is, to some extent, compensated for by the use of gypsum plaster&mdashstucco&mdashmolded into designs and applied to the walls and ceilings of court and noble buildings. Originally brightly painted, particularly in red and blue, the stucco reliefs include a variety of subjects: hunts, banquets, royal figures, and, in great quantity, plant, animal, and geometric designs. The stucco is usually fragmentary, and the reconstruction of the overall scenes is difficult since the pieces uncovered in excavations are usually scattered over a large area. Sites that have produced a considerable quantity of this material are Kī&scaron (Baltrusaitis, 1938, pp. 601-30 Pope, 1938, pp. 631-45 Moorey, 1976, pp. 65-66 idem, 1978 Harper, Royal Images, 1977, pp. 75-79) and Ctesiphon (Kühnel and Wachtsmuth, 1933 Schmidt, 1934, pp. 1-23 Kröger, 1977 1982) in Iraq and Tepe Ḥeṣār (Schmidt, 1937, pp. 327-50) and Čāl Ṭarḵān E&scaronqābād (Thompson, 1976) in Iran. The last named site is, strictly speaking, not Sasanian since it has recently been convincingly dated to the late 7th or 8th century, but the designs remain close to Sasanian forms. A small amount of Sasanian stucco, consisting solely of plant designs, was discovered by the French expedition at Bī&scaronāpūr in southern Iran (Ghirshman, 1956, pp. 149-75).

The conservatism apparent in the style and form of works produced in stucco makes it impossible to establish an absolute chronology in the absence of precise archeological data. The same motifs continue to be repeated in essentially the same form for centuries. In part, this is due to the method of manufacture: the use of molds undoubtedly encouraged the repetition of designs. Roger Moorey (1976, pp. 65-66) and Jens Kroger (in Harper, 1978, pp. 101-4 and in Kröger, 1982) have argued that the stucco from Kī&scaron belongs to the 5th century, that from Ctesiphon and Ḥeṣār to the 6th or early 7th. These opinions are based on the archeological evidence as well as on small variations in the plant and geometric patterns. Until further works in this material are unearthed in controlled archeological excavations, the dating of stucco found in Mesopotamia and Iran will remain unclear.

Gems and seals. This large category is one of the most fruitful for the study of the art and iconography of the Sasanian period. Although the surface of the stamp seals is small, the carved images are more varied than those that have survived in any other medium. In recent years, moreover, specialists in the Middle Persian language have provided a means of establishing a relative chronology based on the changing forms of the Middle Persian letters in the inscriptions, which can then be applied on a comparative basis for those seals without inscriptions (Borisov and Lukonin, 1962 Bivar, 1969 Brunner, 1978 Lukonin, 1976, pp. 158-66 Gignoux, 1978).

Motifs are generally represented in a standard fashion. Single animals stride or are recumbent animals attack each other heads of animals radiate out from a central point pairs of rams are antithetically placed on either side of a plant. Single flowers or bunches of three flowers are common, as is the human hand holding a plant or simply making a gesture in which the forefinger and the thumb are touching. Only a small number of seals represent specific Zoroastrian divinities or cult practices. The most common religious scene is the fire altar with or without attendants. Perhaps associated with a cult are single nude or draped females holding plants or fruit. Royal subjects are rare although a few examples of royal busts and full length figures have survived (Harper, 1978, pp. 142, 147). Human representations vary from simple &ldquoportraits,&rdquo in the form of a bust facing right in the impression, to elaborate images of high officials and priests dressed in the full regalia of their office. They wear tall caps decorated with floral motifs and devices or signs denoting family or rank.

A star and crescent frequently appear in the field on the face of Sasanian seals, and the inscriptions are customarily carved around the edge of the stone. In recent years many of the designs have been convincingly interpreted in terms of astrological and religious significance (Brunner, 1978 Borisov and Lukonin, 1962, pp. 31-45). A small group of Christian seals can also be identified on the basis of the subject matter (Lerner, 1977, pp. 1-74 Shaked, 1977).

The most common shapes of Sasanian seals are pierced hemispheroids and oval bezels, the latter designed to be set in finger rings, worn on armbands, or mounted as pendants. Stones are varied, chalcedony being one of the most popular.

Textiles. The sixth seventh century rock reliefs on the side walls of the ayvān of Ḵosrow II at Ṭāq-e Bostān illustrate a variety of woven and embroidered plant, animal, and geometric patterns on the garments of assorted personages (Herzfeld, 1920, pp. 121-39 Fukai and Horiuchi, 1969, 1972 Peck, 1969, pp. 101-46 Bier in Harper, 1978, pp. 119-25 von Falke, 1913) presumably these are textiles of Sasanian manufacture. Other fabrics found in tombs at Antinoë (Guimet, 1912 Pfister, 1948, pp. 46ff. idem, 1932) in Egypt, in Central Asia (Stein, 1928), and in the Caucasus (Yerusalimskaya, 1972, pp. 5 46) have also been attributed to Iranian workshops on the basis of their similarity to the textile patterns at Ṭāq-e Bostān and to designs on other Sasanian monuments. None of the existing textiles can be absolutely identified as Sasanian with the exception of a few simply decorated fabrics excavated in a Sasanian grave at &Scaronahr-e Qūmes in northeastern Iran (Hansman and Stronach, 1970, pp. 142-56). Wall paintings and graffiti. Literary sources mention the decoration of palaces with wall paintings (Ammianus Marcellinus 24.6) but only a few fragmentary murals from Susa (Ghirshman, 1962, fig. 224), Ayvān-e Ḵarka (Ghirshman, 1952, p. 21), and from Ḥeṣār (Schmidt, 1937, pp. 336-37) offer evidence for the appearance of works in this medium. The painting from Susa is a monumental hunting scene. At Ayvān-e Ḵarka, a royal headdress was depicted on the upper part of an apse. The fragments of Ḥeṣār illustrate the head of a horse and the leg of a rider. Recently excavated murals of Ḥājīābād in southern Iran&mdashnear Dārābgerd&mdashalso illustrate figural motifs (Azarnoush, 1983, pp. 172f.).

A crude fresco with battle scenes and a banquet was found in the Syrian city of Dura Europos. Middle Persian inscriptions associate it with the period of the 3rd century Sasanian occupation at this garrison city on the Euphrates River (Little in Baur, Rostovtzeff, and Bellinger, 1933, pp. 182-222). Graffiti at Persepolis belong to the decades immediately preceding the rise of the dynasty under Arda&scaronīr I (Schmidt, 1953, pl. 199 Herzfeld, 1941, figs. 401, 402 Calmeyer, 1976, pp. 63-68). The representations include equestrian and standing figures as well as a lion and ram.

Mosaics. Although mosaics have survived in greater quantity than textiles and paintings, they come almost exclusively from a single site, Bī&scaronāpūr, where eighteen panels with masks and heads, female dancers, musicians, and garland makers have been excavated (Ghirshman, 1956). Ghirshman interprets these 3rd century scenes as Dionysiac motifs and believes them to be an appropriate subject for the decoration of a banquet hall. Von Gall has suggested that there is a specific connection between the themes appearing on the mosaics and the victory reliefs of &Scaronāpūr I in the nearby river gorge and considers both series of monuments illustrations of a Dionysiac pomp or victory celebration. (&ldquoDie Mosaiken von Bishapur,&rdquo 1971, pp. 193-205).

At Ctesiphon, mosaics decorated the walls and ceilings of the noble residences. Some of the cubes recovered by the German expedition are made of gold glass and the original effect must have been impressive (Reuther, 1929, pp. 442-43). Syrian craftsmen from Antioch, brought east as prisoners of war in the 3rd and 6th centuries, probably played an important role in the development of this craft within the Sasanian kingdom.

Gold. References to gold received by the Sasanians as tribute and booty abound in the ancient literature (Procopius 2.6, 7, 8, 9, 11), but there was no substantial source of gold within the lands permanently under Sasanian rule. This situation may explain the fact that there was never an extensive gold coinage and that the court plate was made of gilded silver. A few gold vessels of late Sasanian date come from the tomb of a Khazar chieftain in Pereshchepina in the Caucasus (Marshak, 1972 Werner, 1984). More numerous are the golden belts and swords found by chance in recent years on Iranian soil (Ghirshman, 1963, pp. 293-311 Nickel, 1973, pp. 131-42 Harper, 1978, pp. 83-84). The form of the swords, with P shaped mounts on one side of the scabbard, differs from those appearing on early Sasanian rock reliefs. This distinctive form of suspension was adopted by the Sasanians possibly as early as the 5th century from the Hephthalites but certainly by the 6th century from Turkic invaders in the lands northeast of Iran (Trousdale, 1975, p. 94).

Glass and pottery. Recent excavations by a Tokyo University expedition in the area of Daylamān in northwestern Iran (Sono and Fukai, 1968, pl. XLI) and by an Italian mission at Choche (Venco Ricciardi, 1967, pp. 93-104) in southern Iraq have provided some information concerning the chronology and typology of Sasanian glass and pottery. Strong influence from the Mediterranean world is apparent in the forms and designs of the glass ware, an industry prominent in the east Roman empire (Clairmont, 1963, pp. 65-67 von Saldern, 1963, pp. 7-16 idem, 1968, pp. 32-62 Harper, 1978, pp. 150-59 Fukai, 1977). The large number of Sasanian glasses decorated with wheel cut facets suggests that this form of surface embellishment was particularly popular within Iran, the alleged source of most vessels with wheel cut designs.

Early Sasanian ceramics continue many of the traditional Parthian forms. Monochrome glazed wares are common in Iraq and in those areas of Iran, around Susa, that are naturally an extension of the Tigris Euphrates valley. Other Iranian wares of Sasanian date have a red burnished surface (Wilkinson, 1963, fig. 16). Until extensive excavations have been undertaken at Sasanian sites in different parts of Iran and Iraq, it is impossible to reconstruct a comprehensive ceramic typology and establish a chronological sequence for the period.

Conclusion. Sasanian art is an expression of the social and religious institutions that developed in Iran during the first half of the first millennium A.D. A powerful central authority, the monarchy, and an established state religion, Zoroastrianism, dominated and ordered daily life. In Sasanian art there is a clear emphasis on order and clarity of design. Considerable repetition occurs in the subject matter and in the ways of portraying standard motifs. To some extent this can be explained by the fact that many of the surviving works of art had a particular political or cultic significance, and their appearance was regulated by the demands of dynastic or religious doctrine. The adherences to formal rather than realistic images predominates even in the minor arts, on seal stone, bronzes, and textiles.

Although many Sasanian motifs are familiar from earlier periods of Near Eastern art (plant forms, rams confronting a tree, human headed winged bulls, bull and lion combats, birds of prey attacking animals, there are a number of designs newly adopted from Western sources (populated vine scrolls, vintaging scenes, winged victory figures). Toward the end of the period, influences from the East&mdashIndia and Central Asia&mdashincrease. These regions may be the source of the narrative and genre scenes appearing on some late silver plate (Harper, 1978, pp. 74-76). It is also probable that many of the Greco Roman designs reached the Sasanians from their eastern neighbors rather than directly from the Mediterranean world. In return, Sasanian landscape, geometric, and figural patterns were adopted and used in the art of Central Asia.

At present, only those monuments reflecting the life and beliefs of the ruling classes have been recovered and studied in depth. Future archeological excavations at Sasanian centers may provide a better understanding of the material remains and broaden our knowledge of the art of this important period in Iranian history.

Bibliography: A selection of works published after 1978 is placed at the end of the bibliography and alphabetically arranged.

J. Baltrusaitis, "Sasanian Stucco, A. Ornamental," in Survey of Persian Art I, pp. 601-30.

P. V. C. Baur, M.I. Rostovtzeff, and A. R. Bellinger, The Excavations at Dura-Europos Preliminary Report of Fourth Season of Work October 1930-March 1931, New Haven, 1933.

A. D. H. Bivar, Catalogue of the Western Asiatic Seals in the British Museum, Stamp Seals II: The Sasanian Dynasty, London, 1969.

Idem, "Cavalry Equipment and Tactics on the Euphrates Frontier," Dumbarton Oaks Papers 26, 1972, pp. 273-91.

A. Ya. Borisov and V. G. Lukonin, Sasanidskie gemmy, Leningrad, 1962.

C. J. Brunner, "Middle Persian Inscriptions on Sasanian Silverware," Journal of the Metropolitan Museum of Art 9, 1974, pp. 109-21.

Idem, Sasanian Stamp Seals in The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1978.

P. Calmeyer, "Zur Genese altiranischer Motive," AMI, N.F. 9, 1976, pp.45-95.

M. L. Carter, "Royal,, Festal Themes in Sasanian Silverwork and Their Central Asian Parallels," Ada Iranica 1, 1974, pp. 171-202.

C. W. Clairmont, The Glass Vessels, Dura-Europos Final Report IV, pt. V, New Haven, 1963.

K. Erdmann, "Die sasanidischen Jagdschalen," Jahrbuch der Preussischen Kunstsammlungen 57, 1936, pp. 192-232.

Idem, "Das Datum des Tak i Bustan," Ars Islamica 4, 1937, pp. 79-97.

Idem, "Eine unbekannte sasanidische Jagdschale," Jahrbuch der Preussischen Kunstsammlungen 59, 1938, pp. 209-17.

Idem, Die Kunst Irans zur Zeit der Sasaniden, Berlin, 1943.

Idem, "Die Entwicklungder sasanidischen Krone," Ars Islamica 15/16, 1951, pp. 87-123.

R. Ettinghausen, "A Persian Treasure," Arts in Virginia 8, 1967/68, pp. 29-41.

S. Fajans, "Some Russian Literature on Newly Found Middle Eastern Metal Vessels," Ars Orientalis 2, 1957, pp. 55-76.

R. N. Frye, "Sasanian Numbers and Silver Weights," JRAS, 1973, pp. 2-11.

Idem, "The Sasanian Bas-relief at Tang-i Qandil," Iran 12, 1974, pp. 188-90. S. Fukai, Persian Glass, New York, 1977.

S. Fukai and K. Horiuchi, Taq-i-Bustan I, II, IV, Tokyo, 1969-84.

J. Gagé, La monteé des sassanides, Paris, 1964.

R. Ghirshman, "Inscription des monuments de Chapour ler a Chapour," Revue des arts asiatiques 10, 1936, pp. 123-29.

Idem, "Cinq campagnes de fouilles a Susa," Revue d'assyriologie et d'archeologie orientale 46, 1952, pp. 1-18.

Idem, Bichapour I, II, Paris, 1956-71.

Idem, Persian Art, The Parthian and Sasanian Dynasties, New York, 1962.

Idem, "Notes iraniennes XIII Trois epees sassanides," Artibus Asiae 26, 1963, pp. 293-311.

R. Gobi, Dokumente zur Geschichte der iranischen Hunnen in Baktrien und Indien I-IV, Wiesbaden, 1967.

Idem, Der Sasanidische Siegelkanon, Braunschweig, 1973.

G. Gropp, &ldquoDer Gürtel mit Riemenzungen auf den sasanidischen Reliefs in der grossen Grotte des Taq-e Bostan," AMI, N.F. 3, 1970, pp. 273-88.

E. Guimet, Les portraits d'Antinoe au Musee Guimet, Paris, 1912.

J. Hansman and D. Stronach, "A Sasanian Repository at Shahr-i Qumis," JRAS, 1970, pp. 142-56.

P. O. Harper, "Portrait of a King," Bulletin of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Nov. 1966, pp. 136-46.

Idem, "Sources of Certain Female Representations in Sasanian Art," in La Persia nel Medioevo, Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei, Rome, 1971, pp. 503-15.

Idem, "Sasanian Medallion Bowls with Human Busts," in Studies in Honor of George C. Miles, ed. D. Kouymjian, Beirut, 1974, pp. 61-80.

Idem. Royal Images on Sasanian Silver Vessels, Ph.D. dissertation, Columbia University, New York, 1977.

Idem, "A Stucco King from Sasanian Kish," Bibliotheca Mesopotamica 7, 1977, pp. 75-79.

Idem, The Royal Hunter, exhibition catalogue, Asia House Gallery, New York, 1978.

W. B. Henning, "New Pahlavi Inscriptions on Silver Vessels," BSOAS 22, 1959, pp. 132-34.

Idem, "A Sasanian Silver Bowl from Georgia," BSOAS 24, 1961, pp. 353-56.

G. Hermann, "The Dārābgird Relief&mdashArdashīr or Shāhpūr? A Discussion in the Context of Early Sasanian Sculpture," Iran 1, 1969, pp. 63-88.

Idem, "The Sculptures of Bahram II," JRAS, 1970, pp. 165-71. E. Herzfeld, Am Tor von Asien, Berlin, 1920.

Idem, Paikuli l, II, Berlin, 1924.

Idem, "La sculpture rupestre de la Perse sassanide," Revue des arts asiatiques 5, 1928, pp. 129-42.

Idem, "Khusrau Parwēz und der Ṭāq i Vastān," AMI 9, 1938, pp. 91-158.

Idem, Iran in the Ancient East, London and New York, 1941.

W. Hinz, "Das sassanidische Felsrelief von Salmās," Iranica Antiqua 5, 1965, pp. 148-60.

Idem, Altiranische Funde und Forschungen, Berlin, 1969.

Idem. "Das sasanidische Felsrelief von Tang-e Qandīl," AMI, N.F. 6, 1973, pp. 201-12.

E. Kühnel and F. Wachtsmuth, Die Ausgrabungen der zweiten Ktesiphon-Expedition (Winter 1931/2), Islamische Kunstabteilung der Staatlichen Museen, Berlin, 1933.

J. Lerner, Christian Seals of the Sasanian Period, Istanbul, 1977.

V. G. Lukonin, Iran v epokhu pervykh sasanidov, Leningrad, 1961.

Idem, "Kushano-sasanidskie monety," Epigrafika Vostoka 18, 1967, pp. 16-33.

Idem, Persia II, Cleveland and New York, 1967.

Idem, Kul'tura sasanidskogo Irana, Moscow, 1969.

Idem, "Novye raboty po sasanidskoĭ gliptike," Vestnik Drevneĭ Istorii, 1976, 1, pp. 158-66.

V. G. Lukonin, and V. A. Livshits, "Srednepersidskye i sogdiskye nadpisi na serebryannykh sosudakh," Vestnik Drevneĭ Istorii, 1964, 3, pp. 55-76.

B.C. MacDermot, "Roman Emperors in the Sasanian Reliefs," Journal of Roman Studies 44, 1954, pp. 76-80.

M. C. Mackintosh, "Roman Influences on the Victory Reliefs of Shapur I of Persia," California Studies in Classical Antiquity 6, 1973, pp. 181-203.

B. Marshak, Pereshchepinskiĭ Klad (K vystavke "Sokrovishcha iskusstva drevnego Irana, Kavkaza, Sredneĭ Azii"), Gosudarstvennyi ordena Lenina, Ermitazh, Leningrad, 1972.

B. Marshak and Ya. K. Krikis. "Chilekskie Chashi," Trudy Gosudarstvennogo Ermitazha 10, 1969, pp. 55-81.

P. Meyers, et al., "Determination of Major Components and Trace Elements in Ancient Silver by Thermal Neutron Activation Analysis," Journal of Radioanalytical Chemistry 16, 1973, pp. 67-78.

Idem, "Major and Trace Elements in Sasanian Silver," Symposium in Archaeological Chemistry, Dallas, Texas, 1974, pp. 22-23.

P. R. S. Moorey, "The City of Kish in Iraq: Archaeology and History, ca. 3500 B.C. to A.D. 600," AJA 80,1976. pp. 65,66.

Idem, Field Museum-Oxford University Joint Expedition to Mesopotamia, Kish Excavations, 1923-1933, Oxford and New York, 1978.

H. Nickel, "About the Sword of the Huns and the 'Urepos' of the Steppes," Journal of The Metropolitan Museum of Art 7, 1973, pp. 131-42.

J. Orbeli and C. V. Trever, Sasanidskiĭ Metall, Leningrad, 1935.

E. H. Peck, "The Representation of Costumes in the Reliefs of Taq-i Bustan." Artibus Asiae 31, 1969, pp. 101-24.

R. Pfister, "Les premières soies sassanides," in Etudes d'orientalisme publiées par le Musée Guimet à la memoire de Raymonde Linossier, Paris, 1932.

Idem, "Le role de l'Iran dans les textiles d'Antinoé," Ars Islamica 13/14, 1948. pp. 46 ff.

A. U. Pope, "Sasanian Stucco, B. Figural," in A Survey of Persian Art I, pp. 630-45.

O. Reuther, "The German Excavations at Ctesiphon," Antiquity 3, 1929, pp. 442-43.

K. Riboud, "A Newly Excavated Caftan from the Northern Caucasus," Textile Museum Journal4/3, 1976, pp. 21-42.

Romans and Barbarians, exhibition catalogue. Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, 1976.

F. Sarre, Die Kunst des alten Persien, Berlin, 1922.

Sasanian Silver, exhibition catalogue, University of Michigan Museum of Art, Ann Arbor, 1967.

E. F. Schmidt, Excavations at Tepe Hissar, Damghan, Publications of the Iranian Section of the University Museum, Philadelphia, 1937, pp. 327-50.

Idem, Persepolis, I, III, Oriental Institute Publications 68, 70, Chicago, 1953, 1970.

J. H. Schmidt, "L'expedition de Ctesiphon en 1931-1932," Syria 15, 1934, pp. 1-23.

D. G. Shepherd, "Sasanian Art in Cleveland," Bulletin of The Cleveland Museum of Art 51, 1964, pp. 66-92.

Idem, "Two Silver Rhyta," Bulletin of The Cleveland Museum of Art 53, 1966, pp. 289-311.

T. Sono and S. Fukai, Dailaman III, Tokyo, 1968.

P. P. Soucek, "Farhād and Tāq-i Būstān: The Growth of a Legend," in Studies in Art and Literature of the Near East, ed. P. J. Chelkowski, New York, 1974, pp. 27-52.

A. Stein, Innermost Asia, Oxford, 1928.

D. Thompson, Stucco from Chal Tarkhan-Eshqabad near Rayy, Warminster, 1976. C. Trever, "A propos des temples de la deesse Anahita en Iran sassanide," Iranica Antiqua 1, 1967, pp. 121-32.

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L. Trümpelmann, Das sasanidische Felsrelief von Sar Ma&scaronhad, Iranische Denkmäler, Reihe II A, Iranische Felsreliefs, Lieferung 5, Berlin, 1975.

Idem, "Triumph über Julian Apostata," Jahrbuch für Numismatik und Geldgeschichte 25, 1975, pp. 107-11.

Idem, Das sasanidische Felsrelief von Darab, Iranische Denkmaler, Reihe II B, Iranische Felsreliefs, Lieferung 6. Berlin, 1975.

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H. von Gall, "Die Mosaiken von Bishapur," AMI, N.F. 4, 1971, pp. 193-205.

Idem, "Entwicklung und Gestalt des Thrones im vorislamischen Iran," AMI, N.F. 4, 1971, pp. 207-35.

A. von Saldern, "Achaemenid and Sasanian Cut Glass," Ars Orientalis 5, 1963, pp. 7-16.

Idem, "Sassanidische und islamische Gläser in Düsseldorf und Hamburg," Jahrbuch der Hamburger Kumtsammlungen 13, 1968, pp. 32-62.

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The following is a select bibliography of works published since the completion of the article in 1978: M. Azarnoush, "Excavations at Hajiabad, 1977, First Preliminary Report," Iranica Aniiqua 18, 1983, pp. 160-76.

P. Calmeyer and H. Gaube, "Eine edlere Fran als sie habe ich nie geschen," in Papers in Honour of Professor Mary Boyce I, Acta Iranica 24, Leiden, 1985, pp. 43-60.

M. Carter, "Mithra on the Lotus," in Monumentum Georg Morgensteren I, Acta Iranica 21,1981, pp. 74-98.

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Idem, Catalogue des sceaux, camees, et bulles sasanides de la Bibliothèque Nationale et du Musée du Louvre II: Les sceaux el bulles inscrits, Paris, 1978.

Idem, "Elements de prosopographie de quelques mobads sasanides," JA 270, 1982, pp. 257-69.

Idem and R. Gyselen, Sceaux sasanides de diverses collections privées, Louvain, 1982.

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J. Harmatta, "Inscriptions de vaisselle de 1'epoque sassanide et post-sassanide," Acta Antiqua Academiae Scientiarum Hungaricae 21, 1973, pp. 245-66.

Idem, "Remarques sur les inscriptions des vaisselles sassanides," in Mémorial Jean de Menasce, ed. Ph. Gignoux and A. Tafazzoli, Louvain, 1974, pp. 189-98.

P. O. Harper and P. Meyers, Silver Vessels of the Sasanian Period I: The Royal Imagery, New York, 1981.

G. Hermann, in Iranische Denkmäler, Lief. 8-11, Iranische Felsreliefs D, E, F, G (Naqsh-e Bahrain, Bishapur, Naqsh-i Rustam, Tang-i Qandil), 1977-1983.

J. Kröger, Sasanidischer Stuckdekor, Mainz, 1982.

H. P. Schmidt, "The Senmurw," Persica 9, 1980, pp. 1-85.

Sh. Shaked, "Jewish and Christian Seals of the Sasanian Period," in Studies in Memory of Gaston Wiet, ed. M. Rosen-Ayalon, Jerusalem, 1977, pp. 17-31.

J. Werner, Der Grabfund von Malaija Pere&scarončepina und Kuvrat, Kagan der Bulgarien, Abh. der Bayerischen Akademie der Wissenschaffen, Phil, -hist. Klasse 91, Munich, 1984.

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Thematic Review of the Royal Hunt on the Sassanid Silver Plates: Emphasizing the Roundabout of the King's Head



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