The Circle of Ancient Iranian Studies
History & Method of Research
By: K. Schippmann
Very few monuments from this period have been discovered in
Iran, and probably none from the time of Alexander the Great, though it has been
argued by H. Luschey that the long known life-size stone lion of Hamadān was
erected by Alexander as a cenotaph for his male-lover Hephaiston, who died
suddenly at the games held in Ecbātānā in 324 BCE (A MI, N. F. I , 1968,
pp. 115ff.). The only other monument which could perhaps be attributed to the
Alexandrian period is the town of Ai Khanum (Ay Xānom, q.v.) in the east of
Greater-Iran, in what is today known as Afghanistan. P. Bernard, who excavated
the site from 1964, does not rule out this possibility, though he is more
inclined to date the foundation of the town from the reign of Seleucus I
(312-281 BCE) (Comptes Rendus de l'Académie des Inscriptions et Belles
Lettres, 1971, pp. 450f.; MDAFA 21, 1973; Comptes Rendus, 1975, pp. 167ff.).The famous capital of this Greco-Bactrian
kingdom, Bactra, modern Balkh, might also date to Alexander, however, the few
excavations carried out there have produced no evidence concerning the
post)Qxhqe,enid period, and no firm conclusions can be drawn (A. Foucher, MDAFA
1, 1942, pp. 98ff.; J.-C. Gardin, MDAFA 15, 1957).
Failaka (F aylaka), Persian Gulf:
In 1958-60, in the Sa'd wa Sa'id tall at the southwestern end of Failaka island
the Danish archaeologists discovered a fortified settlement (a military camp?)
and a small temple with antae. The plan and ornamentation (Ionian capitals,
acroteria with palmettos) are Greek, and an inscription makes it clear that the
site was built on in 239 BCE In addition two Doric capitals were found, which
the archeologists believe belong to a second temple that has not yet been
unearthed. (See E. Albrectsen, KUML, 1958 , pp. 186ff.; O. Morkholm,
KUML, 1960, pp. 205ff.; E. Albrectsen, Illustrated London News 27,
August, 1960, p.351; Huitième
Congres International d'Archéologie Classique Paris 1963, 1965, p.541; G. Bibby, Looking for Dilmun, New York,
1970, pp. 239ff., 329ff.); L. Hannestad in Arable orientate, Mésopotamie et Iran méridional de Page de fer au début
de la période islamique. Réunion de
travail, Maison de l'Orient, Mémoire,
Lyon, 1982, no. 37, pp. 59ff.
Bisotūn, Kermānšāh Province:
The Hercules relief in Bisotun has a Greek inscription dating it to 148 BCE It
has been known for several years (`A. Hakemi, Majalla-ye Bāstān-šenāsī 3-4,
1958, pp. 3ff.; L. Robert, Gnomon 30, 1963, p. 76; W. Kleiss, AMI, N.F. 3, 1970,
pp. 144-46; H. Luschey, Archliologischer
Anzeiger, 1974, pp. 114ff.).
The majority of the following discoveries or sites can only
be roughly dated within the Seleucid period. Some may even belong to the
Nāhāvand, Lorestān Province:
In 1946 a marble stele with two Greek inscriptions was found on the edge of the
town. This suggests that the modern Nehavand is identical with the town known in
the Seleucid period as Laodikeia. Numerous bronze statuettes were also
discovered on the same site, and a small circular stone altar (height 1 m) came
to light near the marble stele. R. Ghirshman (Hellenica 7, 1949, p.21)
reported that, according to local inhabitants there had been six columns
standing there some fifty years previously. The finds must therefore have
belonged to one or more temples and presumably date back to the end of the 3rd
or the beginning of the 2nd century BCE (See L. Robert, Hellenica 7,
1949, pp. Sff.; L. Vanden Berghe, Archéologie de I'Iran ancien,
Leiden, 1959, pp.90-91; R. Ghirshman, Iran: Parthians and Sassanians,
London, 1962, p. 18).
Dīnavar, Kermānšāh Province:
Here were found fragments of a stone vessel adorned with the heads of satyrs,
silenes and maenads; date perhaps 3rd century BCE (Vanden Berghe, op. cit., p.
1(0; R. Ghirshman, op. cit., p. 18; H. von Gall, AMI, N.F. 4, 1971, p.
Dokkān-Dāvūd, Kurdistan Province:
The relief beneath the well-known rock-cut tomb (Achaemenid?) may belong to the
Seleucid period (G. Husing, Der Adte Orient, 9/34, 1908, p.15; N.C.
Debevoise, JNES 1, 1942, p. 88; H. von Gall, Archaologischer Anzeiger,
1966, pp. 25, 33ff.; idem, AMI, N. F. 5, 1972, pp. 277ff. and in F.
Bagherzadeh, ed., Proceedings of the Second Annual Symposium on
Archaeological Research in Iran 1973, Tehran, 1974, pp. 139ff.).
Sakāvand, Kurdistan Province:
There are three rock-cut tombs, one of which is decorated with a relief. Here
again the question arises whether the relief goes back to the Seleucid period as
Vanden Berghe surmises, or to the Achaemenid period, as von Gall argues. (H. von
Gall, Archaologischer Anzeiger, 1966, p. 29; L. Vanden Berghe, On the
Track of the Civilizations of Ancient Iran (Memo from Belgium, No. 104-105,
Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 1968), p. 24; G. Gropp, AMI, N.F. 3, 1970,
p. 175; H. von Gall, AMI, N.F. 5, 1972, pp. 277 ff., and in Bagherzadeh,
op. cit., pp. 141 fl.
Karaftū, Kurdistān Province:
A cave used for cultic rituals and containing a Greek inscription dedicated to
Hercules was discovered here in 1819 by R. Ker Porter. Opinions differ as to
whether this inscription dates from the end of the 4th, or the beginning of the
3rd century BCE, or later. W. Kleiss also mentions the remains of a Parthian
settlement. (A. Stein, Old Routes of Western Iran, London, 1940, pp.
324ff.; C. Hopkins, Ars Islamica 9, 1942, p. 220; W. Kleiss, AMI,
N.F. 6, 1973, p. 187 [map]; H. von Gall, AMI 11, 1978, pp. 91ff.; P.
Bernard, Studia Iranica 9, 1980, pp. 301ff.).
Persepolis, Fārs Province:
The well-known Frātadāra temple occupies an extensive site below the palace
terrace at Persepolis. The precise purpose of the site as a whole and the
relationship between the individual areas within it are not clear; only one
small structure can be identified with any certainty as a shrine. The dating is
disputed; my own opinion is that it dates from the period after 300 BCE (ca.
280). According to recent investigations by Italian archaeologists (1973-74) the
site was laid out as early as the Achaemenid period and brought back into use in
the Seleucid era and again later by the Frātadāra rulers. (See K. Schippmann, Die iranischen Feuerheiligtumer,
Berlin and New York, 1971, pp. 177ff.; R. Ghirshman, Terrasses sacrees de
Bard-e Nechandeh et Masjid-i Solaiman I (MD AI 45), Paris, 1976, pp. 200ff.;
Boyce, Zoroastrianism II, p.226).
Istakhr (Estakr), Fārs Province:
Here a few portals, columns and the remains of bases have come to light. Whether
they date from the Seleucid period is not certain, nor do we know their exact
purpose. (Schippmann, op. cit., pp. 200ff.; F. D. Whitecomb, AMI,
Enganzungsb. 6, 1979, pp. 363ff.).
Tall-a Zohhāk, Fārs Province:
A marble head which A. Stein acquired herein 1934 during a preliminary search is
supposed to have originated from this site hard by the small town of Fasa. Date:
250-150 BCE In 1973 J. Hansmann investigated the site afresh and found among
other things Hellenistic pottery. (A. Stein, Iraq 3 1936, pp. 140-41; J.
Hansmann, Acta Iranica 5, 1975, pp. 289ff.).
Khurha (Kurha), Lorestan Province:
The dating and purpose of the site are not clear. The ruins may be those of a
temple, but there is no evidence for the common assumption that they date from
the Seleucid period. A date from the Parthian era is also possible, according to
W. Kleiss (AMI, N.F. 5, 1972, p. 160; and 6, 1973, pp. 180f.; see also
Schippmann, op. cit., pp. 424ff.).
Susa (Šūš), Khūzestān Province:
One of the most important Seleucid cities in Iran was Seleukia on the Eulaios,
the modern Susa. The new Seleucid settlement lies beneath the tell known as the
"vine des artisans" within the great ruins of Susa (Ghirshman, op.
cit., p. 197). This tell was first excavated in 1947-48 by Ghirshman, who
discovered a Seleucid/Parthian necropolis (ca. 300 BCEA.D.200). In his next dig
in 1949-50 he unearthed the famous "Achaemenian village." Whereas
Layer I belongs without doubt to the Achaemenid period, Layers II and III, which
Ghirshman ascribed to the 6/5th and the 5/4th century BCE respectively, are
probably somewhat later, i.e. late Achaemenid and Seleucid, to about 250 BCE (R. Ghirshman, RA 46, 1952, pp. 12ff.; and Village Perse-Achéménide, MDAI 36, 1954; D. Stronach,
Iraq 36, 1974, pp. 239ff.)
Bard-e Nishande (Nešānda), Khūzestān Province:
The site lies in the Baktiari mountains and was excavated by Ghirshman between
1964 and 1967. The most important complex, apart from a castle and the lower
part of the town, is an extensive site (ca. 157 x 94 m) used for religious
ceremonies and consisting of an upper and a lower terrace. The former is
supposed to have been built as early as the pre-Achaemenid period and was then
[possibly] enlarged in post-Achaemenid period. The lower terrace, however, with
a temple dedicated-according to Ghirshman-to Anahita and Mithra, dates back no
later than the Parthian period (R. Ghirshman, Terrasses sacrées; C. Auge, R. Curie 1, and G. Le Rider, MDAI 44,
Masjed-i Sulaiman (Masĵed-a Solaymān) Khūzestān Province:
This site was subjected to a preliminary investigation by Ghirshman in 1948 and
then properly excavated in 1967-72. Here too we have extensive terracing used
for cultic purposes. It is said to have originated in the pre-Achaemenid period
and to have been considerably enlarged in the Hellenistic period. Two temples
were then built, one dedicated-according to Ghirshman, op. cit.-to Athena Hippia
(the "Grand Temple"), the other to Hercules (Ghirshman, op. cit.; C. Auge et al., op. cit.).
Šam-i, Khūzestān Province:
The site was discovered in 1936; the dates of the Parthian statues and
statuettes found in the shrine are hotly disputed. Ghirshman (op. cit., I, p.236
n. l) believes that Šam-i could be one of the two temples of the Seleucid ruler
Antiochos IV Epiphanes (175-164) which Mithridates I destroyed when he liberated
Elymais. H. von Gall (Istanbuler Mitteilungen 19-20, 1969-70, p.304)
dates the Parthian bronze statue from Šami back to the second half of the 1st
century BCE and maintains that the temple could have been rebuilt after being
razed by Mithridates. The precise function of the temple (a fire shrine?) is
also a matter for speculation. (H. Seyrig, Syria 20, 1939, pp. I77ff.;
Schippmann, Feuerheiligtiimer, pp. 227ff.)
Bakttari mountains Chahār Mahāl Bakhtiārī Province:
One alabaster torso of a female Greek divinity was discovered here (Ghirshman, Iran,
Hecatompylos, Khorasan Province:
Although this town is mainly known as one of the Parthian capitals, Appian (Syriaca
57) claimed that Hecatompylos was founded by Seleucus I (312-281 BCE). It
is probably identical with the ruins of Shahr-i Qumis (Šahr-e Qūmes), some 32
km to the west of Damghan (Dāmgān)
in Khorāsān. Excavations have been carried out here since 1967 under the
direction of D. Stronach and J. Hansmann. They have of course been mainly
interested in the Parthian remains, but some minor evidence of a Hellenistic
settlement has also come to light. (J. Hansmann, JRAS, 1968, pp. ll Iff.;
J. Hansmann and D. Stronach, JRAS, (970, pp. 29ff. and in JRAS,
1974, pp. 8ff. On the Seleucid period see also L. Vanden Berghe and E. Haerinck,
Bibliographique analytique de l'archéologie de 'Iran
ancien, Leiden, 1979; Supplement l: /978-1980, Leiden, 1981.).
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