The Circle of Ancient Iranian Studies
By: Shervin Ostovar
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.
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.
بلوجی و گیلی به زرین
کوس وز جای لشکر براند
همی ماه و خورشید زو خیره ماند
بس پیکر و لشکر و سیم وزر
کمر های زرین و
تو گفتی به کان اندرون زر نماند همان در خوشاب و گوهر نماند
frontier soldiers wearing gold belt
blew the horn and led the army
beautiful figures, the soldiers of the army, the gold and silver
if no gold was left in mines
در و دشت گفتی که زرین شدست کمرها ز گوهر چو پروین شدست
valley and pastures looked shining gold
ز چیز سیا وش نخستین کمر به هر مهره ای در سه پاره گهر
Fig. of Siavash, his first belt
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:
را گفت خورشید فش
که شاخی گهر زین کمر باز کش
شاخ بر مهره زر
ز هرگونه مهره بسی
گفت با باغبان شهریار
که این مهره ها تاکت آید به کار
بازار شو بهره ای گوشت خر
دگر نان و بی راه جایی
گوهران را بها سی هزار
درم بد کسی را که
بودی به کار
sun-Fig. king asked the worshipper,
stones were on that branch
unto the king that Gardner:
to marketplace, buy some portions of meat
stones were worthy of thirty thousand Dirham
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).
Leather belt with no buckles
-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).
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:
plain shawl wrapped around the waist and is fastened by a knot in front (Fig.
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).
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.
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.
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