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IRANIAN ART & ARCHAEOLOGY: SASANIAN DYNASTY

The Identification of the King of Kings in the upper register of the Larger Grotte, Taq-i Bustan: Ardashir III Restated


 

By: Katsumi TANABE

 

 

Summary

As for the date of the larger Grotto at Taq-i Bustan, two different views were proposed by E. Herzfeld and K. Erdmann. The former dates this grotto to the reigning period of Khusraw II (591-628) while the latter to that of Peroz (457-484). However, in 1984 the present author attributed this monument to Ardashir III (628-630).

In this paper I will try again to study it in order to corroborate my previous date. Usually the date of this monument depends largely on the comparative study of the crown worn by the King of Kings invested both by Ahura Mazdah and Anahitah in the upper register of the innermost wall.

However, the crown-type concerned is similar to that of Peroz, Khusraw II, Ardashir III and Yazdgard III (632-651). Therefore it is almost impossible to identify precisely the King of Kings concerned with any of these kings. The present author employed another method to compare the necklace and earring worn by the King of Kings depicted in the royal boar and dear hunts in addition to the ones worn by the invested King of Kings, with those of the relevant kings depicted on the coinage. The peculiarity of the necklace of the King of Kings lies in the fact that it is decorated with three oval pendants hanging horizontally. This can be attested to only by the coin-portraits of Ardashir III and Yazdgard III. The latter's necklace is modeled after the former's. As for the earring, the King of Kings wears a big oval precious stone which corresponds only with that worn by Ardashir III.

From these comparisons it is clear that the iconography of the King of Kings shares distinctly two distinct elements with the image of Ardashir III depicted on his coins. Therefore we can conclude that the construction of the monument began with the enthronement of Ardashir III either in 628 or 629.

However, this monument is not meant exclusively for the glorification of Ardashir III but more generally for the re-establishment of the Sasanian kingship which was threatened by the destruction of Takht-i Taqdîs by the Byzantine emperor Heraclius in 624. Therefore the sculpturing work continued after the murder of Ardashir III in 630 and came to an end probably by the Arab invasion in around 637 or the defeat of Sasanian army by the Arabs in 642.

 

Introductory remarks

Fig. 1 The Larger Grotte, Taq-i Bustan
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Fig. 2 Investiture scene, upper register of the Larger Grotte
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Fig. 3 Investiture scene, upper register of the Larger Grotte (photogrammetric drawing)
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Fig. 4 Drawing of the invested King of Kings, upper register
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Fig. 5 The invested King of Kings, upper register
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Fig. 6 Gold dinar of Khusraw II
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Fig. 7 Drawing of Ahura Mazdah, upper register
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Fig. 8 Drawing of the royal boar-hunt, left inner wall of the Larger Grotte
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Fig. 9 Shooting King of Kings, royal boar hunt
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Fig. 10 Drawing of Fig. 9
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Fig. 11 King of Kings, royal deer hunt
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Fig. 12 Winged Nike (Khvanindo), spandrel of the arch
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Fig. 13A Anahitah upper register
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Fig. 13B Drawing of Fig. 13A
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Fig. 14 Drachm of Ardashir III
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Fig. 15 Drachm of Yazdgard III
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Fig. 16 Fravashi of King of Kings holding a bow and arrow
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Fig. 17 Drawing of Fig. 16
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Fig. 18 King of Kings, royal deer hunt
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Fig. 19 Drach of Peroz
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Fig. 20 Drachm of Khusraw II
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Fig. 21 Gold dinar of Khusraw II
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Fig. 22 Drachm of Khusraw II
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Fig. 23 Gold dinar of Khusraw II
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Fig. 24 Drachm of Ardashir III
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Fig. 25 Drachm of Yazdgard III
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Fig. (Click to enlarge)

As for the Sasanian King of Kings who ordered the construction of the Larger Grotte (Fig. 1) at Taq-i Bustan situated to the north of Kermanshah city, North-West Iran, two identifications have been proposed, except for mine which identified for the first time the king concerned as Ardashir III (628-630), being published first in 1982 in Japanese and almost ten years later in English (Tanabe 1982, pp. 90-92:1983, pp. 111-112:1984, p. 86). One of the most prevalent identifications is proposed by E. Herzfeld, who identified the kings depicted in the upper register and two hunting reliefs as Khusraw II (591-628) (Herzfeld 1920a, pp. 82-103, 1920b, 1928, p. 139, 1935, p. 79, 1938, p. 158, 1941, pp. 31ff). The other one proposed by K. Erdmann who identified the King of Kings concerned as Peroz (457-484), is nowadays supported by a few scholars, if any (Erdmann 1937a, b, pp. 169-170, 1939, pp. 250-251, 1942, 1943a, p. 64, 1943b, pp. 20-24, 1945/49, p. 210, 1968, p. 109). Since these two identifications were known, many proposals for identifying the king concerned have appeared in various journals and books, although none of them is convincing (note 1). Therefore, I do not dwell upon these contributions which follow fundamentally the Herzfeld's identification.

As for my identification which rejected both identifications by Herzfeld and Erdmann, some scholars noticed it in their notes but seem not to accept it (Gignoux 1983, p. 68; von Gall 1990, p. 44, note 265; Harper 1996, p. 119, note 2; Movasat 1988, pp. 29, 190). Although my identification has been almost ignored and rejected by those scholars who attempted to identify the king concerned, I am convinced that mine is more to the point than the other two. In the following, I will try again to identify the king concerned as Ardashir III by introducing a few new concrete evidences that I could not recognize when I published the above-mentioned papers.

In the following, I will take into consideration only the coin-busts of the three relevant Sasanian Kings of Kings : Peroz, Khusraw II and Ardashir III.

 

I. Descriptions of the sculpture-portraits of the relevant Kings

My method of identifying the King of Kings at Taq-i Bustan is purely iconographical. I pick up the following four elements for description of the portraits of the kings depicted both in sculptures and coins.

a) Type of crown

b) Type of beard, moustache and whisker

c) Type of necklace

d) Type of earring

 

1. Portrait of the King of Kings in the upper Register (Fig. 2)

(a) The most reliable material for identifying the shape of crown is the photogrammetric elevation (Fig. 3) produced by the Tokyo University Iraq-Iran Archaeological Delegation headed by late Dr. Shinji Fukai (Fukai et al., 1983, pl. IV). According to it, it is a mural crown (Figs. 4, 5) consisting of two (actually four) turrets (two-stepped crenelations) decorated with a small crescent in front. The lower part of the crown is framed by double-pearled band with a jewel in the center. Although the lower band of the Sasanian crown was originally framed by a single pearled one, it became decorated by double-pearled band since the king Valkash (484-488) (Göbl 1971, pls.1-15, tables 1-14). Above the crown is usually put a cap covering the hair since Ardashir II (379-383). From behind the cap is flaring up a pair of wings the centre of which is depicted a rosette. Above the cap and between two wings is set a big crescent. Within this crescent is put a so-called corymbos or globus (globe), one of the most peculiar and typical regalia of the Sasanian King of Kings. On the surface of the corymbos are depicted many circles each of which contains so-called trefoil motif (three stars or disks) originated from Ancient Mesopotamia and probably symbolizing the astral descent of Sasanian Kings of Kings (Parpola 1985, pp. 21-29).

(b) As for the beard, moustache and whisker of the king, the hair-do of the king is tri-partite and depicted by curled hair following the traditional style and type of the Sasanian kings (Hinz 1969, pls. 51 ff; Göbl 1971, pls. 1-15). However, the moustache and beard are almost broken, and eventually it is difficult to know how they were depicted. Furthermore, the whisker is also broken but the remaining part consists of parallel thin lines. The extremity of these thin whiskers is curled just like the curled hair on the cheek of women depicted in Central Asian paintings (Horiuchi/Fukai 1972, pls. V,VI, IX). This unique ornamental depiction is not attested to by the faces of Sasanian Kings of Kings represented on rock-cut reliefs and coins.

(c) The necklace is composed of double rows of pearls, from the center of which are hanging three small beads. The necklace consisting of double rows of pearls is first attested to by a drachm issued by Vistakhm (591-597) and the memorial gold issue of Khusraw II (Fig. 6), and is adopted as a rule by Kavad II (628) and his successors (Göbl 1971, pls. 14-205, 206, 221, 222, 223 ff.). Most probably below the three small beads seem to be hanging three bigger pendants (or triple-pendant brooch according to Goldman 1989, p. 832), but unfortunately that part is not represented because it is covered by the right arm and breast-band (apezac) of the King. However, if we refer to the necklace worn by Ahura Mazdah (Fig. 7) represented to the King's proper left and also those worn by the Kings depicted in the royal boar and deer hunts (Figs. 8, 9, 10, 11), we can say definitively that three big oval pendants are hanging attached to the small beads (Horiuchi/Fukai 1972, pl. XVI; Fukai et al., 1983, pls. IV, V, XIII, XV,XVI, XIX). The three oval-shaped pendants are also attested to by the necklace (Fig. 12) worn by a pair of winged deities (Nike or Khvanindo) depicted on the spandrels of the arch (Horiuchi/Fukai 1969, pls. VIII, XVIII, XXI). Therefore, it is clear that in the reliefs of the Larger Grotte at Taq-i Bustan, the preference for three pendants is prevailing as far as the necklace is concerned. This fact is quite important for the identification of the King of Kings in this grotte. As for the number 'three' of the triple-pendant brooch, it might be related to the Zoroastrian sacred number three or threefold Zoroastrian ethic of good thoughts, words and deeds) (Boyce 1975, pp. 241, 258). As for the triple-pendant brooch depicted on the reliefs of the Larger Grotte, B. Goldman maintains that it was transmitted from Byzantine art (Goldman 1989). It seems to be valid only for the triple-pendant brooch worn by a pair of winged Nikes on both spandrels, but hardly applicable for those of the necklaces worn by the King of Kings and Ahura Mazdah. In my opinion, the fundamental concept of the reliefs of the Larger Grotte is the so-called tri-functional ideology of the Sasanian universal kingship (Tanabe 1982, pp. 92-94:1983). Therefore, the sacred number 'three' of the triple-pendant brooch derives from this ideology. Here I do not dwell upon details of my theory, but I confine myself to point out the following:

(1) Investiture by Anahitah and Ahura Mazdah symbolizes the first priestly stratum.

(2) Heavily-armed equestrian king symbolizes the second warrior stratum.

(3) Two royal hunts symbolize the third common man stratum (producteurs and pasteurs). (Dumézil 1958, pp. 18-20)

All these three strata are represented by the universal King of Kings, and also the so-called Xvarnah (royal glory) by beribboned ring held by the pair of Nikes on the spandrels. This tri-functional ideology is also reflected on the triad investiture (Ahura Mazdah =first sacerdotal stratum, King=second martial stratum, Anahitah=third economic stratum).

(d) As for the earring, it is clearly composed of one big oval-shaped pendant or jewel. This oval jewel is connected with a big ring pieced into the ear through a small connecting device (Horiuchi/Fukai 1972, pl. IX). Ahura Mazdah and Anahitah flanking the King of Kings also wear an exactly same type of earring (Figs. 7, 13) (Horiuchi/Fukai 1972, pls. XV, XVI, XXII-XXIV). As far as the earrings of Sasanian Kings of Kings are concerned, those fourteen Kings of Kings from Hormuzd I (272/273) to Yazdgard II (438-457) wear only one circular or spherical bead (Göbl 1971, pls. 3-10). On the other hand, those ten Kings of Kings from Peroz to Kavad II wear the earrings consisting of two or three circular or spherical beads (Göbl 1971, pls. 10-14). The same type of earrings is worn also by Hormuzd V (631/632), Khusraw V (631-633?) and partly by Yazdgard III (632-651) (Göbl 1971, pls. 15). However, the earring consisting of one big oval-shaped pendant or jewel is attested to only by the coins (Fig. 14) issued by Ardashir III (628-630) and by the first type (Fig. 15 )(632-650) of Yazdgard III (632-642) which is modeled after the coins of Ardashir III (Ghirshman 1962, p. 251, Fig. 329; Göbl 1971, pls. 14-15; Bosworth 1999, p. 409). Eventually we can say that this oval-shaped earring is extremely unique among the earrings worn by Sasanian Kings of Kings.

2. Portrait of the King of Kings in the royal boar hunt (Figs. 9, 10, 16, 17)

There are depicted two princely figures engaging in hunting. One of them is nimbate while the other is without nimbus. The former (Figs. 16, 17) holding a bow is, according to my hypothesis, the fravashi of the other shooting king (Figs. 9, 10) (Tanabe 1982, pp. 81-84). Both figures have almost the same appearances. Therefore, we can exclude the image of the fravashi from our discussion, because it must have been modeled after the portrait of the ruling King of Kings (the shooting king).

(a) The crown is a simple cap the lower hem of which is decorated with a band (diadem).

The angular shape of the cap reminds us of the traditional cap nowadays worn by the Uzbeks in Central Asia. This might be a special cap or hut of Sasanian Kings of Kings only to be worn when he participates in royal hunt.

(b) The beard, moustache and whisker are nearly worn out or broken. Therefore it is quite difficult to describe the details, but it seems that the moustache is depicted horizontally. It is difficult to recognize the beard and whisker (either worn out or not depicted).

(c) The necklace consists of double rows of pearls. From its center are hanging three big oval jewels connected with the double rows of pearls by three smaller beads (cf. Those of Ahura Mazdah).

(d) The earring seems not to be represented (Horiuchi/Fukai 1969, pls. XLIX, LXII).

3. Portrait of the King in the royal deer hunt (Figs. 11, 18)

(a) The crown is almost the same as that of shooting king and the nimbate one (Figs. 9, 10, 16, 17 ) in the royal boarhunt.

(b) The beard, moustache and whisker are hardly recognizable and seems not to be represented.

(c) The necklace is almost the same as that worn by the shooting king and the nimbate one (Figs. 9, 10, 16, 17). Although the three big oval-shaped pendants are covered by the bow, the three bead-like devices connecting them with the above double rows of pearls are clearly visible (Horiuchi/Fukai 1969, pl. LXXXIX).

(d) The earring is not represented.

M.Mode identified the King of Kings represented in the Larger Grotte as Yazdgard III on the basis of a royal figure depicted in the mural of Afrasiab (WW4), but the crown of the invested King of Kings in the upper register is not identical at all with the one depicted in this mural (Mode 1993, pp.57-75, fig.15: http://wwww.orientarch.uni-halle.de/ca/afras/text/wc.htm). Therefore, his identification is hardly tenable.

II. Coin-Portraits of the relevant Kings of Kings

In this chapter I will pick up the crowns decorated with a pair of wings depicted on the coins issued by three Sasanian Kings of Kings after Peroz. Needless to say, other Kings of Kings such as Bahram IV wear the crown of this type, but they are not concerned with the purpose of this paper. Therefore, I restrict myself to these three Kings of Kings. Furthermore, the queen Buran (630/631) wears a necklace with three same oval pendants hanging as those of the shooting king, the nimbate one and Ahura Mazdah (Figs. 7, 9, 10, 16, 17), but her necklace is excluded because she is not concerned with the identification of the King of Kings at Taq-i Bustan (Daryaee 1999, Fig. 2a). As for the details of coin-portraits of the Sasanian Kings of Kings from Khusraw II to Yazdgard III, M.I. Mochiri already published a detailed study that I consulted in this paper (Mochiri 1983, pp. 174-190).

As is already indicated above, I will describe the details of the relevant coin-portraits about four motifs (a) crown; (b) beard, moustache and whisker; (c) necklace; (d) earring.

1. Portrait of Peroz on Coins (Fig. 19)

There are three types of coins issued by Peroz, but the third type (Fig. 19) of crown with a pair of wings is worth investigating, which was issued after 467 A.D. (Göbl 1971, pp. 49-50, pl. 10, 174-176).

(a) Peroz's crown is depicted with one or two turrets (two-stepped crenelations) and the lower hem is decorated with a pearled band. Compared with the crown worn by the King of Kings of the Larger Grotte at Taq-i Bustan, one band of pearls is different from the latter with double-pearled band (Figs. 4, 5). On the forehead is put a crescent. Besides the cap is depicted a pair of wide-opened wings. As for the pair of wings, it is usually depicted in profile except for the symmetrical depiction adopted by Bahram IV (420-438) whose bust is depicted exceptionally en face, therefore this wide-opened style is rather an innovation (Erdmann 1945/49, pp. 208-210). Above the wings are put a big crescent and corymbos. The corymbos is decorated with several dots (small disks or circles=trefoil motif). Peroz's crown is thus decorated with the symbols of Zoroastrian gods (three-stepped crenelations=Ahura Mazdah, crescent=Mah, wings=Verethragna).

(b) He keeps a beard, moustache and whisker. The moustache is depicted horizontally and undulating. The whisker and beard are depicted by curls (de Morgan 1932/36, p. 319, type II; Bopearacchi/Landes/Sachs 2003, p. 345, no. 291-a).

(c) The necklace is composed of one row of pearls.

(d) The earring is composed of three circular or spherical beads or jewels. Probably the lower two bigger ones are connected with the upper smaller bead. It must be notified that the shape of these three beads or jewels is not oval but almost circular and spherical.

2. Portrait of Khusraw II on coins (Figs. 6, 20, 231, 22, 23)

According to the classification by R. Göbl, there are at least nine coin-types of Khusraw II but here I will take up three types because other remaining ones lack a pair of wings, or these three types include all the characteristics of the other six (Göbl 1971, pp. 53-54, pls. 13-14, tables XII, XIV). The first type is silver drachm of the normal size (Fig. 20).

(a) The crown is decorated with three turrets (two-stepped crenelations), one of which is, as a rule, represented frontally while the other two in profile. The lower hem of the crown is framed by double-pearled band. There is a cap above which is depicted symmetrically a pair of wings. The top of crown is composed of a big crescent and a star. Before Khusraw II, a corymbos or globus is employed instead of star and therefore it is Khusraw II that introduced for the first time, a star within a crescent (Erdmann 1968, p. 112). This replacement by a star might be related to the three stars struck on the three cardinal points of the hem of coin. The smaller crescent which must have been put on the front of crown is now removed to the above part of forehead because the head is represented in profile looking at the left.

(b) The moustache is depicted horizontally and undulating. The beard and whisker are represented by curls as those of Peroz (Fig. 19).

(c) The necklace is composed of one row of pearls in the center of which exists a round piece below which are hanging two circular or spherical beads or jewels.

(d) The earring is composed of three circular or spherical jewels of the same size (Mochiri 1983, Fig. 465).

The second type is a commemorative gold dinar (Fig. 21).

(a) The crown is composed of two turrets (two-stepped crenelations), the central one of which is depicted en face while the other in profile. A small crescent is put in the place of crenellation above the forehead of the King. The lower hem is decorated with double-pearled band (cf. Fig. 20). Probably a cap covers his hair and above it is a pair of wings wide open. Between the wings is depicted a crescent within which is a star (Göbl 1971, pl. 14, 217).

(b) He keeps a moustache, and also beard and whisker represented by curls (de Morgan 1932/36, p. 327, type II).

(c) The necklace is composed of one row of pearls in the center of which is a slightly bigger pearl and below them are hanging two circular or spherical pendants or pearls of the same size.

(d) The earring is composed of three circular or spherical pearls or balls of the same size.

The third type is a large silver drachm with the King's bust en face and on the reverse is depicted a flaming-haloed female (goddess or queen?) bust (Fig. 22). The same frontal busts are depicted on two types of gold dinars (Göbl 1971, pl. 14, 220-221; Vanden Berghe et al. 1993, pl. 186). As for the busts of the King depicted on these dinars, only the necklace is taken into consideration, because the other features are identical with those of the first and second types.

(a) The crown is composed of three two-stepped crenelations, the central one is depicted en face while the other two in profile. The flat cap is clearly represented. The lower hem is decorated with double-pearled band. Above the cap is depicted a pair of wings wide open and also a crescent and star.

(b) He keeps a moustache, and also beard and whisker represented by curls (de Morgan 1932/36, p. 327, type III).

(c)(d) The necklace and earring are the same as those of the second type. However, on another two gold dinars (Fig. 6, 23), the necklace is composed of double rows of pearls in the center. Into one of them is inserted a big medallion and below it are hanging three circular or spherical pendants or pearls (Fig. 6) (Göbl 1971, pl. 14, 220; Vanden Berghe et al. 1993, p. 300, pl. 186; Seipel 2000, p. 287, pl. 1a).

3. Portrait of Ardashir III on coins (Figs. 14, 24)

There are three types of drachms issued by this child King of Kings, but I take only two because there are only two types of crowns (Göbl 1971, pl. 14, 225-227). He got enthroned at the age of six or seven years, and therefore he does not keep moustache, beard and whisker (Zotenberg 1900, p. 731; Nöldeke 1879, p. 386; Bosworth 1999, p. 400).

(a) The crown is composed of three two-stepped crenelations surrounding a cap (Mochiri 1983, p. 176, Fig. 455; in fact composed of four crenelations one of which is not depicted). The lower hem is decorated with double-pearled band. A small crescent which should have been attached to the front of the crown is separated from the crown and removed to the proper left space of the coin. Above the cap is depicted a big crescent and corymbos (globus). In the bust of first type issued in 628/629 (Fig. 24), is not depicted a pair of wings and in its stead a pair of small ribbons is attached to something like support of the crescent and corymbos (globus). However, in the bust of second type issued in 629/630 (Fig. 14) is depicted a pair of wings (Mochiri 1983, Figs. 434-436). The more important type for my investigation is the second one.

(b) A moustache, beard and whisker are not depicted because he is child.

(c) The necklace is composed of double rows of pearls in the center of which is put a big medallion just like that of Khusraw II's (Fig. 6) (Mochiri 1983, p. 189, Fig. 475). The most peculiar characteristic of this necklace is the three oval pendants hanging below the medallion. These three pendants are connected to the chain of necklace by three small circular or spherical beads. This necklace is most splendid, luxurious and unique among the necklaces of the Sasanian Kings of Kings depicted on coins (Cottevieille-Giraudet 1938, p. 64; Sears 1999, p. 156). This is the reason why this type is adopted by his successors such as the queen Buran (630/631) and Yazdgard III (632-651) (Figs. 15, 24) (Kunz/Warden 1983, Fig. 1; Göbl 1971, pl. 15, 228; Ghirshman 1962, p. 251, Fig. 329).

(d) The earring is composed of one big oval-shaped jewel or pendant similar to the tree oval pendants of the necklace (both types) (Mochiri 1983, p. 183, Fig. 468). This jewel is attached to a big ring pierced into the earlobe through a smaller bead or jewel. This earring is also as unique as the necklace, never attested to by the earrings of his predecessors. The ring pierced into the earlobe is attested to for the first time by the coins issued by Kavad II (628) (Göbl 1971, pl. 14, 224). The same type of earring is worn by Yazdgard III (Figs. 15, 24) as is already mentioned, which is nothing but the copy of Ardashir III's earring.

III. Comparisons of coin-busts and sculpture-portraits

I will attempt to compare the crowns, necklaces and earrings of the above three Kings of Kings. As for the moustache, beard and whisker, it is quite difficult to compare them because the faces of the King of Kings depicted in the Larger Grotte are so extremely damaged that we cannot know the exact forms of moustache, beard and whisker.

(I) Crown

(a) All the crowns except for the first type of Ardashir III have a pair of wings. As for the corymbos or globus, the King of Kings in the upper register (Figs. 4, 5) has the one that is decorated with many circular ornaments composed of three small disks. Peroz also has a corymbos decorated with pair of three dots or trefoil motifs (Fig. 19). As for Khusraw II's crown, there is not a corymbos (globus) but a star. Ardashir III wears a corymbos. Therefore, as far as the corymbos is concerned, the King of Kings in the upper register (Figs. 4, 5) cannot be identified as Khusraw II, but either Peroz or Ardashir III.

(b) The lower hem of crown is composed of one band of pearls. The lower hem of the crown of the King of Kings in the upper register (Figs. 4, 5) is decorated with double-pearled band. The lower hem of Peroz's crown is decorated with a pearled band while those of other two Kings are with double rows of pearls. Therefore, Peroz cannot be identified as the King of Kings in the upper register. Khusraw II and Ardashir III can be identified as the King of Kings concerned (Figs. 6, 14, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24).

(II) Necklace

(a) The necklace (Figs. 4, 5) of the King of Kings in the upper register is composed of double rows of pearls. The same holds true of the necklaces worn by the King of Kings and his nimbate fravashi (Figs. 9, 10, 16, 17) represented both in the royal boar hunt, and another (Fig. 11) in the royal deer hunt. Peroz wears a necklace composed of one row of pearls. As for Khusraw II, he wears a necklace composed of one row of pearls in the first and second coin-types (Figs. 20, 21, 22, 23) while in the third coin-type (Fig. 6) his necklace is composed of double rows of pearls. Ardashir III always wears a necklace composed of double rows of pearls (Figs. 14, 24). Consequently, the necklace identical with those worn by the King of Kings and the nimbate fravashi in the Larger Grotte belongs to Khusraw II and Ardashir III.

(b) The necklace of the King of Kings and the nimbate fravashi in the Larger Grotte is decorated with three big oval-shaped pendants (Figs. 9, 10, 11, 16, 17, 18). The necklace of Peroz (Fig. 19) is decorated with only one circular or spherical pendant. Those of Khusraw II (Figs. 20, 21, 22, 23) are as a rule decorated with two circular or spherical pendants. However, the necklace depicted on the gold dinar (Fig. 6) is decorated with three circular or spherical pendants. Ardashir III's necklace (Fig. 14, 24) is, without exception, decorated with three big oval-shaped pendants imitated later by Yazdgard III (Figs. 15, 25). Eventually the necklace of the King of Kings in the Larger Grotte is identical only with that of Ardashir III.

(III) Earring

(c) The earring worn by the invested King of Kings (Figs. 4, 5) in the upper register is composed of one big elongated or oval jewel connected with the earlobe through a connecting device. Peroz and Khusraw II (Figs. 19, 20) put on the earring composed of two or three small spherical pendants. Ardashir III (Figs. 14, 23) wears a big oval-shaped or elongated jewel or pendant connected with a ring pierced into the earlobe, completely identical with that of the King of Kings in the upper register (Fig. 4, 5).

On the basis of the identical crown-shape, necklace with three oval pendants and earring with each of the sculpted King of Kings' represented in the Larger Grotte, it is clear that Ardashir III's busts depicted on his coins share the same characteristics as those of the King of Kings in the Larger Grotte. Although the necklace and earring of Yazdgard III depicted on his first type of coins are almost identical with those of Ardashir III, he should be duly excluded because his coin type concerned is nothing but the copy of that of Ardashir III's.

Concluding remarks

From the above iconographical analysis I conclude that the King of Kings represented in the Larger Grotte at Taq-i Bustan is Ardashir III. However, this king did not keep the throne more than two or three years. Therefore it is quite understandable to insist that it is almost impossible to complete such a big monument as the Larger Grotte or Iwan within such a short span of time, although some parts of the hunting reliefs are not completed. I also agree at such a criticism. It is impossible to hew out the rock and almost complete such big reliefs within two or three years. However, I still insist that all the images of the Kings depicted in this grotte are modeled after Ardashir III, because the monument of the Larger Grotte was not constructed to give glory to any particular Sasanian king including this child king but to revive the legitimate Sasanian kingship which was menaced by the confusion after the death of Khusraw II in 628. Therefore the ground design of this monument was decided during the reign of Ardashir III and eventually his royal effigy was adopted simply as the representative one by the designers in order to visualize the Sasanian kingship which had been symbolized by the so-called Takht-i Taqdîs destroyed by the Byzantine emperor Heraclius in 623/624. The function of Takht-i Taqdîs,is the plastic or figural representation of the so-called tri-functional ideology of the Sasanian kingship which I already clarified in my previous articles (Tanabe 1982:1983:1984). This tri-functional ideology also suggests that this huge monument was not constructed only for one child king to demonstrate his investiture by the supreme Zoroastrian god, Ahura Mazdah. The unusual participation of goddess Anahitah in the investiture in addition to Ahura Mazdah means that the investiture scene in the upper register is not ordinary one for a newly enthroned King of Kings but quite exceptional and unprecedented. This fact also supports that the Larger Grotte is not personal nor private. Therefore the Larger Grotte was the substitute for the lost Takht-i Taqdîs or something like second Takht-i Taqdîs or "raison d'être of the Sasanians" and its construction started after Ardashir III became the King of Kings to be continued until the defeat of Yazdgard III at Nehaband by the Arabs in 642 or the Arab occupation of Ctesiphon in 637, or to the year of 636 or 642 when this last Sasanian King of Kings adopted a second new different effigy on his coin, instead of the imitation type of Ardashir III (Göbl 1971, pl. 15-235, Table XIII, issued during his regnal years 1-3; Tyler-Smith 2000, p. 159, fig.1, pls. 15-29).

 


Note 1

M.Abha' i-Khavari, Das Bild des Königs in der Sasanidenzeit, Hildesheim/Zürich/New York, 2000. G. Gropp, "Gürtel mit Riemenzungen auf den sasanidischen Reliefs in der grosen Grotte des Taq-e Bostan", Arcaeologische Mitteilungen aus Iran, Bd. 3, 1970, pp. 273-288. J.F. Haskins, "Northern Origins of 'Sasanian' Metalwork", Artibus Asiae, Vol.15, 1952, pp. 324-347. H.Luschey, "Zum Problem der Stilentwicklung in der Achämenidische und Sasnidische Reliefkunst", Iranica Antiqua, Vol.32, 1975, pp. 113-133. M.C. Mackintosh, "Taq-i Bustan and Byzantine art. A case for early Byzantine influence on the reliefs of Taq-i Bustan", Iranica Antiqua, Vol. 13, 1978, pp. 149-177. B. Musche, "Römische Einflüsse auf den Taq-e Bostan", Beiträge zur Altorientalischen Archäologie und Altertumskunde, eds. by P. Calmeyer, K. Hecker et al., Wiesbaden, 1994, pp. 193-194. E.H. Peck, "The representation of costumes in the reliefs of Taq-i -Bustan", Artibus Asiae, Vol. 31, pp. 101-123. P.P. Soucek, "Farhâd and Taqi Bûstân: The Growth of a Legend", Studies in Art and Literature of the Near East in honor of Richard Ettinghausen, ed. by P.J. Chelkowski, New York, 1974, pp. 27-52. L. Vanden Berghe, Reliefs rupestres de l'Iran Ancien, Bruxelles: "Les scènes d'investiture sur les reliefs rupestres de l'Iran ancien: évolution et signification", Orientalia Iosephi Tucci Memoriae Dicata, ed. by G. Gnoli/L. Lanciotti, Roma, pp. 1511-1531. F. Wasmuth, "Zur Datierung des Taq-i Bustan und der Pariser Silberschale", Zeitschrift des Deutschen Morgenländischen Gesellschaft, Bd.49, 1945/49, pp. 212-224.

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Sources of Illustrations

Fig. 15 - Ghirshman 1962, Fig. 329.

 

 

 

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