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Damage-Evaluation Planned for Bas-reliefs in Bishapur


17 July 2004




Iranian archaeologists plan to evaluate the damage inflicted on six masterpiece bas-reliefs in the historical city of Bishapur, the most significant city of the Sasanid dynasty (226-651), to prevent further corrosion and erosion.

Bishapur was built on the Imperial Road in Fars Province, at the time of Shapour I (241-272), the second Sasanid King, in the third century A.D. The beautiful scenery of the Shapur plain and river, besides the new architecture style of Bishapur buildings distinguished the city in the whole Sasanid civilization. The city was decorated by some Islamic architecture features after the Arabs entered Iran. The ruins of the historical city of Bishapur are found on the slope of Koohmareh heights, 23 Kilometers west of the city of Kazeroon.

“In recent years, since the bas-reliefs are engraved on cliff faces, thus defenseless against natural elements, rainfall has made preservation and renovation all more necessary,” said Mosaeib Amiri, head of the project.

Explaining the project would be a long-term one, he added, “The damage-evaluation means we should determine how much the bas-reliefs need preservation and how can we best prevent further dilapidation.”

The bas-reliefs that vividly depict the coronation and celebration of the Sasanid monarchs include:
Coronation Ceremony

At the right side of the cliff face, Shapour is seen mounted on a horse and stretching his hand to pick up the royal ring. On the left side, a figure is mounted on a horse delivering the royal ring to Shapour. Gordianus, the defeated Roman emperor, is meekly shown under the feet of Shapur's horse and another man is lying under the feet of the grand Mobed (priest). Between them, King Philip the Arab, the Roman emperor, is kneeling on the ground. The pieces worn by the figures indicate the date of engraving: 243 A.D. The image was engraved on the rock after the Shapour's coronation and during Nowruz, the Iranian New Year.

Scene of Victory Shapur's victory over the Roman emperor has been engraved in two big images at Shapour Mountain; however, it has been damaged in the course of time. In one image Shapour is seen mounted on a horse and Siriadis is on foot. A man has fallen under the king's horse and the Roman emperor is kneeling in front of the king. The goddess of victory is flying overhead. Shapour is flanked by two rows of Iranian infantrymen, carrying their weapons.

A far bigger image shows many figures standing in four rows from above to below. In the middle the Iranian king is portrayed mounted on a fat horse and Valerianus, the Roman emperor, is standing bareheaded in front of the king begging for clemency. The king is seen trampling upon a man who has fallen under his horse.

Siriadis is standing in front of the king, as he lifts his right hand and swears to remain faithful to the Shapur's heir apparent and the king is caressing his bare head. Opposite the king, a Roman-looking man is standing. In front of the king, 240 Roman officers are seen in a line and behind them four rows of 18 Iranian elders. A big disc is placed on the king's head which serves as his crown and dancing laces are raised behind the king.

Coronation Scenery
Bahram I (273-276), mounted on a horse, is standing on the right side. He stretches his right hand to pick up the royal ring from the grand Mobed. The following is inscribed in Middle Persian on Bahram's chest: "This is Nersi, the Mazda-worshiping king of Iran and Aniran, whose face resembles that of God. He is the son of Shapour, Ahura Mazda worshipper, the king of Iran and Aniran, who has a divine face and was a descendent of Ardeshir, the king of kings.

Bahram II
The images of Bahram II (276-293) can be easily divided into two parts: an earlier inscription and a later inscription. The scene of victory in Bishapur proves that there are two distinct images there. In one image the victory of Bahram over Hormozd, his nephew has been portrayed. Hormozd had been the governor of Turestan, Sekestan and India and had perhaps been appointed as crown prince.

Hormozd revolted in 283, but was ruthlessly defeated and his title, Sekestanshah and the regent, was transferred to Bahram Jr., son of Bahram II. Since then, the image of Bahram II was engraved in all official Sassanid works and in all these images he is portrayed with his wife and courtiers but without a successor.

Scene of Victory
This image is divided into two parts. In the center and at an upper elevation Bahram is standing in front of the royal throne. He is holding a banner in his right hand and a sword in his left. On his right side, Iranian warriors carry their prisoners and on his left, his elders are portrayed.

At the left and at a lower elevation, Bahram's special guard and courtiers are portrayed leading the king's horse. At the right hand side, the Iranian army is shown bringing war prisoners and booty. One of these soldiers is carrying a head whose helmet proves to be Hormozd, the slain king of Sakestan. The engraving of the king's crown does not appear to have been finished yet. Nevertheless the wings of the crown and the disc mounted on it can be distinguished.



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