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Latest Archeological and Cultural News of Iran and the Iranian World


Sasanian' Estakhr was a Greek Inspired City


02 June 2008



LONDON, (CAIS) -- Iranian archaeologists have used geological surveys in the south of Iran to reveal rectangular formations inspired by Greek architecture dating to the Sasanian dynasty.

According to a report in Press TV, archeologists have said that the structures located in Fars Province are part of the urban planning of the ancient Achaemenid city of Istakhr utalised by the Sasanians (226-651 CE).

"The design is borrowed from Hippodamus style of urban planning during a series of armed conflicts between the Iranian Sasanian and Roman Empires", said Ali Asadi, archeologist and expert on the archeology of Istakhr.

"The two victorious Sasanian king of kings, Ardashir I (206-241 CE) and his son Shapur I (241-272 CE), succeeded in bringing a large number of Roman POWs back to mainland Iran tp serve as the workforce, which may explain the Greek architectural influence on Istakhar architecture", said Asadi.

Hippodamian plan of city layouts qlso known as the grid plan characterised by order and regularity in contrast to the more intricacy and confusion common to cities of that period.


According to Aristotle (in Politics), Hippodamos was a pioneer of urban planning [in Greece] and he devised an ideal city to be inhabited by 10,000 men (free male citizens), while the overall population including the correspondent women, children and slaves would reach 50,000 people. He studied the functional problems of cities and linked them to the state administration system. As a result he divided the citizens into three classes (soldiers, artisans and 'husbandmen'), with the land also divided into three (sacred, public and private). However, applying to Sasanian urban planning is remotely plausible, since the social construction of Sasanian Iran was different to its rival Rome to adopt such a urban planning. In addition to that previous archaeological surveys and finds date the foundation of the city to the Achaemenid dynasty, nearly 900 years before the rise of Sasanian dynasty to power. According to the Pahlavi traditions the Avesta written on oxhides kept in the Achaemenid imperial archives in Istakhr. 


The Achaemenid city however was captured by Alexander of Macedon and the  imperial archive was burnt down. The city was liberated by Arsacid Dynasty (248 BCE -224 CE) and eventually passed to their successors the Sasanian dynasty (224 - 651 CE). Sasanians hereditary were the guardians of  Anāhid temple. In Addition Istakhr was also the hometown of Ardeshir I, the founder of Sasanian dynasty. The city temporarily became Ardeshir's capital before moving to Ctesiphon. 


However, the city kept its importance as the imperial family's fire were kept at the Anāhid temple. The city fell to the Arab army in 649 and after the Zoroastrian high priests moved the 'holy fire' to safety from extinguishment the Arab invaders converted the fire temple to a mosque and called it masdjid of Sulayman (mosque of Solomon). Four years later during an uprising against the invaders, the Caliph sent troops from Basra to Istakhr where over 40,000 Iranians were slaughtered and the city burnt down to the ground. Masudi visiting the city in 9th century describes the devastation and how the once magnificent city with its fire temple complexes and massive library was laid waste and deserted. 


After being rebuilt, the city lost its importance to the city of Shiraz. Today only an archaeological site remains.


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