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SASANIAN BELTS


 

By: Shervin Ostovar

2006

 

The glory of Sasanian arts is not a concealed fact and different aspects of the arts of that era have been studied by researchers many times.  However, if we review the researches made on clothing during Sasanian era, we will see that in no places there has been any particular mention of the belts and there are only few brief explanations on this part of costume. This paper is the result of a research made on this field and describes different belts during Sasanian dynasty by observing the historical subsequence of their development.


According to Monika Dobur, belt is the tool of strength and stability of a person who wears it in the same manner as the fortifications are the safety and security of a city from probable risks of attacks.

 

Sedreh-Pushi ceremony in Tehran

 

(Fig. 1)

 

(Fig. 1a)

 

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(Fig. 1b)

 

(Fig. 1c)

 

(Fig. 1d)

 

(Fig. 1e)

 

(Fig. 1f)

 

(Fig. 1g)

 

(Fig. 2)

 

(Fig. 2b)

 

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(Fig. 2c)

 

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(Fig. 3)

 

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(Fig. 4)

 

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(Fig. 5)

 

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(Fig. 5a)

 

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(Fig. 5b)

 

Ostovar5c.JPG (10463 bytes)

(Fig. 5c)

 

Belt is also the sign  of commitment, oath and pledge as well as being the symbol of purity and cleanness and power. The most ancient Iranian tradition and code in relationship with the belt, as it is still exists to this date is wearing "Koshti" or "Kustik".  Kusti is the religious belt-like cord worn by Zoroastrians (Behdins). It is made of 72 tread of white lamp wools knitted in 6 sets. Each Behdin who reaches 7 to 15 years of old, after learning religious codes and ceremonies, appears before his family and friends and in a ritual (Sedreh-Pushi/Navjote ceremony), after washing himself, wears Sedreh on his clean body, accompanied by the Mobed (Zoroastrian Priest) and the Mobed fastens the Koshti on the Behdin's waist.  This circle is the symbol of battle belt and prepares the Behdin to fight against uncleanness and lies. According to the available documents, before prophecy of Zoroaster and in his childhood, fastening Koshti was an old and practicable tradition. 

 

Since this nice tradition was maintained for centuries and one may say that  wearing Koshti was ordinary during Sasanian dynastic era where Zoroastrian religion had gained its long lasted values. The modern term of kamar-bastan in New-Persian, meaning to tie the waist, or to put on the belt, is a phrase which has come to mean "to be ready for work", is continuation of that tradition. 


Except some frescoes  and gold dishes, there are no other  reliable sources to study belts during Sasanian dynasty. As we know, Sasanian art is a court-attached art and fit only the situations of kings, princes, soldiers and musicians and minstrels. Therefore, there are no documents on the costumes of ordinary people. According to the reaches and what mentioned in the ancient texts, the Sasanian kings wore metal (gold) or leather belts and in both conditions, the belts were decorated by precious stones.


In Ferdowsi's Shanameh, there are frequent mentions of the golden belts of Sasanian kings and their courtiers:

 

همه  مرزبانان  زرین   کمر               بلوجی  و  گیلی  به  زرین سپر

بزد کوس وز جای لشکر براند              همی ماه و خورشید زو خیره ماند

ز بس  پیکر و لشکر و سیم وزر              کمر های  زرین  و زرین  سپر

تو گفتی به کان اندرون زر نماند              همان در خوشاب و گوهر نماند

 

 

The  frontier soldiers wearing gold belt
The Baluchi and Guili soldiers, taking golden shields

 

He blew the horn and led the army
Both moon and sun were astonished by his beauty

 

The beautiful figures, the soldiers of the army, the gold and silver
The golden belts and shining shields.

 

As if no gold was left in mines
No pearls, stones and silvers could have been left.

 


در و دشت گفتی که زرین شدست            کمرها ز گوهر چو پروین شدست

 

The valley and pastures looked shining gold
The belts looked like sky with shining stars.

 

 

 

ز  چیز سیا وش   نخستین   کمر             به هر مهره ای  در سه  پاره  گهر

 

The Fig. of Siavash, his first belt
All decorated with kneads and jewels in three pieces.

 

 

 

Khosrow II, Parviz (591-628 CE) who was hiding in a pasture because of the fears he felt of his enemies, took away a stone from his belt and gives it to the gardener to sell and buy him food:

 

 

پرستنده را گفت خورشید فش              که شاخی گهر زین کمر باز کش

بران شاخ  بر مهره  زر  پنج            ز هرگونه مهره  بسی برده رنج

چنین گفت با  باغبان  شهریار           که این مهره ها تاکت آید به کار

به بازار شو بهره ای گوشت خر                دگر  نان  و بی  راه  جایی  گذر

مران گوهران را بها سی هزار                    درم  بد کسی را که  بودی به کار

 

The sun-Fig. king  asked the worshipper,  
Take away a stone from this belt.

 

Five stones were on that branch
So much works have been done on each single of them

 

Said unto the king that Gardner:
May these knead would become of some use.

 

Go to marketplace, buy some portions of meat
And load of bread and pass from hidden roads

 

The stones were worthy of thirty thousand Dirham
If someone could afford to buy.

 

 

By studying pieces of work remained from Sasanian (metal dishes, frescoes, etc.) different belts could be divided in 14 groups:

 

 

1. Belts with solid balls stock together

This type of belt is a leather belt with small  balls of stones or metals fixed on  it with no distance one after another (Fig. 1). This type of belt is seen in following works:

 

- Firouzabad, a part of the scene of victory of Ardeshir the First, Battle of Two Noblemen, 3rd century CE (Fig. 1A).

 

Nawsh Rajab on the body of Shapur, the accompanying persons and officers, 3rd Century, CE. (Fig. 1B).

 

Hunting of the Sasanian King, work on silver plate, 5th and 6th CE. (Fig. 1.C).

 

 

2. Leather belt with no buckles  
This leather includes a wide and leather band with folds at both ends with 20 to 30 cm length. This belt has no buckles and was fastened by knot.

 

-Statue of Shapur, 3rd Century, short plain belt with simple knot (Fig. 2 B).

 

Naqsh Rostam, the scene of giving the crown to Nersy by Anahita, 3rd and 4th centuries CE. All four persons have belts with no buckles, fastened by a propeller knot (Fig. 2.B).

 

 

3. Leather belt with buckles and long tail:

With some differences in the shape of buckles, the four models are seen in the items left from 3rd century. In all cases, the belts are to long and after passing through buckles, the  end parts are left loose  on waist in both parts with arc shapes and the middle part is fastened in the side of waist and the left part is left loose on both sides of body (figures 3a, 3b, 3c, 3d).

 

Naqsh-e Rostam, victory of Shapur over Valerian, 3rd century CE.

 

In this work the buckle of Philip the Arab is a plain rectangular and that of Valerian is a small ring (Fig. 3.A.).

 

The soldiers of Valerian have  belts with large buckles (Fig. 3A and 3,B).

 

Bishapur, Victory of Shapur, 3rd century AD., the person accompanying Shapur has the same belt with a buckle made of two symmetric rectangular and two circles opposite each other and the middle part of the tail of belt is tied on side with a tussle shape pin (Fig. 3.D).

 

 

4. Ribbon-shape belt

This belt was for women and consisted of a plain ribbon that with knot under breast. Tile Fig.4, Bishapur, 3rd century.

 

 

5. Leather belt with twin circular buckles and loose ends

Taq-e Bostan, the scene of Crown taking of Ardeshir II, all three standing figures; Mihtra, Ardeshir the second and Ahura Mazda? / The Great Mobad?/ wear the same belts. 4th century CE (Fig. 5,A)

 

This belt is seen on the costume of kings in their hunting place, figures on silver plate with gold plating, 4th century (Fig. 5,B) and a plate found in Russia, end of 5th century or beginning of 6th century CE. (Fig. 5.C).

 

In addition, in figures at Taqe-e-Bostan, 4th and 5th centuries CE. and the stone carvings, Fig. 5. C and 5.D).

 

 

6. Leather belt with twin buckles, with no loose end (figures 6,1 and 6.2).

This type of belt is a plain leather with a buckle shaped as two stuck circles. This belt style could be seen on the gold-plate silver plates with picture of Shapur the second in boar  hunting, 4th century (Fig. 6.A).

 

Parviz or Qobad hunting wild goat, 5th century (Fig. 6.B). Probably the leather was ornamented with stones.

 

The same belt with lids on the buckle circles, Fig. on a plate with the painting of Bahram Gur and Sepinud, 5th century CE. (Fig. 6.C).

 

 

7. Metal belt with square  figures:

This type of belt is made of square shape frames joining each other, with square cut stones  in the middle of each frame (Fig. 7).


The model is found in a plate discovered in Deylaman, Guilan, known as Shapur the Second, 4th century, Fig. 7.A.

 

Same shape is found on a gold-plated silver plate with figures of Ardeshir the third in hunting place, 7th century CE. (Fig. 7.B).

 

There is a silver plate with the Fig. of feast of Bahram Gour belonging to 5th century (Fig. 8.A) with three types of belts could be recognized in it.

 

 

 

8. Cloth belt:

A plain shawl wrapped around the waist and is fastened by  a knot in front (Fig. 8).
In the plate, which was used by Bahram Gour himself, and in Taqe-e-Bostan fresco, the man who is offering crown to Khosrow the Second (Ahura Mazda? Grand Mobad?) have the same belt.

 

In this plate,  Bahram Gour and Ahura Mazda/Mobad? Have same plain belts with no buckles.

 

 

9. Plain cloth belt, without  buckles and loose end

Perhaps, this type of belt could be classified as belt type 4 which was a simple ribbon (Fig. 9). These belts are found on the paintings on a vase found in Kelardasht, 6th century (Fig. 9.A) on the costume of a minstrel, the rock engraved with mother and child Fig. (9.B), and a vase with the Fig. of king sat on the throne with girls dancing for him (6th and 7th centuries CE.) (Fig. 9.C).


Since this belt is a piece of cloth and is worn only by women, it might have a fine fiber and probably made of silk.

 

 

10. Shawl type cloth belt  with long loose end

In a plate that shows Bahram Gur hunting lion, 5th century CE. (Fig. 10.A.), Bahram is in hunting place and has a belt with very long loose end. There are stones around the belt  and the knot is located in side. This type of belt is also seen on the costume of dancing women as encored in a gold coat plate of 6th and 7th centuries CE.) (Fig. 10.B).

 

 

11. Leather belt with stone decorations all in same size in a row

This particular type of belt could be found only in one place, Taqe-e-Bostan, the fresco of Boars Hunting, 5th century. The belt is worn by the king on the boat and has outstanding look.

 

 

12. Leather belt with stone-worked metal rings decorations:

This special type is seen on a silver plate that shows a feast by the Sasanian prince and belongs to the 6th or 7th CE.

 

The prince wears a belt and has leaned back on a gold-fiber throne. The belt is a leather belt with  stone worked metal ring buckles.


There is another belt with larger circles close to each other but still there is a  visible space between circles.

 

 

13. Metal belt with joining rings

On the gold-coat vase of 6-7th centuries CE. there is a minstrel that is wearing a belt made of hollow metal rings. The rings are joined like necklace with tiny clamps to form a chain.

 

 

14. Leather belt for carrying sword:

In addition to their ordinary belt, a leather bank for keeping sword is also seen on the clothes of all Sasanian warriors.

 

Examples of some Sasani buckles are on the show in museums of Iran. figures 15 and 16 are samples which are kept at the Ancient Iran Complex  and a belt buckle made of gold with the Fig. of a gazelle in a pasture (Fig. 17) is kept in Reza Abbasi museum's collection.

 

 

 

Bibliography

Arthur Apham Pope, Masterpieces of Iranian Arts, extracted and written by Dr. Parviz Natel Khanlari, Franklin Publication, Tehran- New York

R. Girschman, Iranian Art during Partians and Sasaniand Era, Persian translation by Dr. Bahram Farahvashi, Book Publication Co. 1971

Richard Etinghosen and Ehsan Yar Shater, Significant Peaks of Iranian Arts, Persian translation by Roein Pakbaz and Hormoz Abdolahi, Tehran, Agah Publication, first edition, 2000.

Peyman Matin, Iranian Costumes, Tehran, Office of Cultural Researches, first edition, 2004, (of collection: What  do I know about Iran? 43).

Jalil Ziapour, Ancient Iranian Clothing, from Most Ancient Time till the End of Sasanian Dynasty, Tehran, Ministry of Culture and Arts Publication, 1967.

Jalil Ziapour, Costumes of Iranian Women form Oldest Time to the beginning of Pahlavi Dynasty,  Tehran, Ministry of Culture and Arts, 1968

Jalil Ziapour, Iranian Clothes since the Past 14th Century  to the Beginning of Pahlavi Era,  Tehran, Ministry of Culture and Arts, 1970

Kasra Vafadari, Iranian Zoroastrians, Mahriz Publication, 2002.

Monika Dobokur, Living Codes of Soul, Persian translation by Jalal Sattari, Tehran, Markaz Publication, 2nd Ed. 1997

Abolghasem Ferdowsi, Shanameh (Based on Moscow Publication), Tehran, Bank Melli Iran Publication Co., 2002.

 

 

 

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