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.IRANIAN WORLD

ESTAKHR AS A ZOROASTRIAN RELIGIOUS CENTER

By Prof. Mary Boyce 

The religious importance of Estakhr was marked in the 4th century B.C.E. by the setting up at Persepolis by Artaxerxes II (q.v.) of one of his statues to Anaitis (Berossus 3.65; see ANÂHÎD). Other instances show that "at" in this context need mean no more than "near" (Boyce and Grenet, Zoroastrianism, p. 203), and that these statues were regularly placed within temples. Artaxerxes' foundation may, therefore, reasonably be identified with the temple whose imposing ruins, "about one parasang from the town of Estakhr" were visited by Mas´ûdî in the 10th century C. E. It stood, he recorded, at the foot of a mountain, where the imprisoned wind made a noise like thunder, night and day, and where he saw, still standing, "pillars, made from blocks of astonishing size, surmounted by curious figures in stone representing horses and other animals, of gigantic shapes and proportions." Around these remains was "a vast empty space enclosed by a strong stone wall, covered with bas-reliefs very elegantly and gracefully wrought" (Morûj, ed. Pellat, sec. 1403). This ruined temple was probably the original Achaemenid building, which had doubtless been pillaged by Macedonians and been subsequently restored and further embellished under the Sasanians. Mas´ûdî records the tradition that it had originally been an "idol-temple," converted into one of fire by Homây, the legendary predecessor of the Achaemenid dynasty. In fact it was presumably at the beginning of the Sasanian period, or a little earlier, that the Zoroastrian iconoclastic movement (Boyce, 1975; Boyce and Grenet, Zoroastrianism, p. 66, n. 71) caused the cult-image of Anâhîd to be replaced by a sacred fire, which Mas´ûdî characterized as "one of the most venerated of Zoroastrian fires." The association with Anâhîd persisted, however, and Tabarî (I, p. 814) says that the sanctuary was known as "the house of Anâhîd's fire" (bayt nâr Anâhîdh).

The wardenship of this temple was evidently a prestigious office, which according to tradition was held at one time by Sâsân, eponymous ancestor of the Sasanian dynasty (Tabarî, p. 814). He is said to have married into the family of the Bâzrangîs (q.v.), vassals of the Arsacids, who were ruling at Estakhr in the early 3rd century. Subsequently Ardašîr I is reputed to have sent to "the house of Anâhîd's fire" the heads of enemies slain in his early campaigns, and in 340 Šâbuhr II had the heads of Christians suspended there (Tabarî, I, p. 819; Christensen, Iran Sass., p. 166, n. 4). Among the honors conferred on the great Sasanian high priest, Kirdêr, by Bahrâm II (276-93) were the offices of master of ceremonies (ê, q.v.) and warden (pâdixšây) of "fire(s) at Stakhr of Anâhîd-Ardašîr and Anâhîd the Lady," â (Kirdêr, KZ, l. 8). Considering how great were the other privileges and powers enjoyed by Kirdêr, these appointments, proudly recorded by him, attest the immense regard in which these sacred fires of Estakhr were held. Since Bânû (Lady) is a cult-epithet of Anâhîd (see EIr. I, p. 1005), the second fire named was evidently that of the Achaemenid foundation. The first, whose name lacks satisfactory explanation, was probably that of "the fire-house which is called that of Ardašîr," where the nobles of Estakhr had Yazdegerd III crowned in 632 (Tabarî, I, p. 1067); and it is likely to be this same temple, described as having round pillars with bull capitals, which was subsequently converted into the chief mosque of Muslim Estakhr, standing in the town's bâzâr (Moqaddasî, p. 436). Mas´ûdî (Morûj, ed. Pellat, sec. 1403) says that, before Anâhîd's temple was ruined, its fire was taken away, and it has been argued that this was one of the two exalted fires which were eventually carried to safe obscurity in Šarîfâbâd near Yazd, where it burns to this day (Boyce, Stronghold, pp. 2-3).

In Sasanian times the royal treasury (ganj î šâhîgân; Bailey, Zoroastrian Problems, 2nd ed., pp. xlii-xliii, 230-31; Shaki, p. 115, n. 2; Boyce and Grenet, Zoroastrianism, p. 78, n. 59) appears to have been in Estakhr. It is frequently mentioned in the Dênkard and Mâdayân î hazâr dâdestân, for among its contents were books, sacred and profane. In the later Sasanian period these would undoubtedly have included one of the rare copies of the Great Avesta, possibly that from which the whole existing Avestan manuscript tradition derives (EIr. III, p. 36). In 303/915-16, Mas´ûdî (Tanbîh, p. 106) saw in the house of a great Persian noble at Estakhr the large and very fine manuscript of a work copied in 113/731 from documents in the royal treasury, including, according to his description, the Tâj-nâma (Christensen, Iran Sass., pp. 67-69.).

 

In spite of its religious importance, Estakhr is rarely mentioned by name in the Zoroastrian writings.

 

 

Bibliography

(for works not cited in detail see "Short References")

M. Boyce, "Iconoclasm among the Zoroastrians," Studies for Morton Smith at Sixty, ed. J. Neusner, Leiden, 1975, IV, pp. 93-111. 

Nöldeke, Geschichte der Perser, pp. 4, 17, 397. 

K. Schippmann, Die iranischen Feuerheiligtümer, Berlin and New York, 1971, pp. 200-203. 

M. Shaki, "The Dênkard Account of the History of the Zoroastrian Scriptures," Archív Orienta‚lni, 1981, pp. 114-25.

 

 

 

Source/Extracted From: Encyclopaedia Iranica

 

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