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Latest Archaeological and Cultural News of Iran and the Iranian World


ICHHTO to Deliver One Last Blow to the Already Suffered Sasanian City of Gundeshapur


02 February 2013




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Mausoleum of Yaqub Layth (Click to enlarge)


LONDON, (CAIS) -- Permission for the construction of a housing complex over the Sasanian city of Jondi Shapur (Gundeshapur) has been issued by the city of Dezful Cultural heritage authority. 

The provincial brunch of Iran Cultural Heritage and Handcraft Organisation (ICHHTO), in a damaging move has issued a license for the construction of houses, coving 40,000 square meters over the protected national heritage site of the Sasanian city of Jondi Shapur. 

For the last three decades the ancient city has severely been damaged by constant illegal excavations, agriculture and unnecessary civil projects caused mainly by the authorities’ negligence as well as malice acts, towards the pre-Islamic Iranian heritage site by the ruling regime. The construction of new houses over the ancient city would ensure its total destruction. 

ICHHTO, under a false pretence of being the protector of Iranian heritage, in fact has caused more damage to the Iranian Heritage, particularly to those of the pre-Islamic era, than any other governmental organisation since the rise of the Islamic regime to power in 1979. 

The executives and key management personnel which are appointed by the regime are chosen based on their devotion to the regime rather than expertise. As a result of the lack of expertise, in addition to corruption to the highest level, Iran has witnessed these sorts of construction permits over her ancient sites. Of course, the policy of the destruction of pre-Islamic sites is also in accordance with the regime’s policy of de-Iranianisation (de-Persianisation) of the country. 

Before 1979, there were 50 archaeological mounds visible over the Gunde Shaur landscape, in which none has survived today, as they have been flattened, manily by the Islamic Republic’s Jihad for Agriculture. If the permission for the new construction is not revoked, the destruction of Gunde Shapour is ensured. 

The Historical Background
The ancient city of Jondi-Shapur (also Jondishapur – Middle-Persian Gondêšâpur), situated in Khuzestan province, southern Iran. The city was founded by the Sasanian emperor Shapur I (r. 241-272 CE) after the victory over the Romans which resulted in capturing Valerian. It has been argued that Jondi-Shapur might have had an Arsacid dynastic (248 BCE-224 CE) antecedent, which was rebuilt by Shapur II (r. 309-379). This argument is based on the mention in two Greek inscriptions from Susa of the term Gondeisos as the name of a waterway. The name would seem to represent an Iranian gund-dêz "military fortress," which led to pose the hypothesis that Gond-dez was the original Iranian name of the place; later gund-dêz-ī Šāpūr, hence the military fortress of Shapur. 

The ancient city became the world’s capital of knowledge and culture during the Sasanian dynasty (224-637 CE). Its university, as the oldest university in world was renowned for science, astronomy and philosophy, while its medical centre has been credited with establishing the modern hospital system. It is known that the origin of Academic dress dates back to that university, which evidence suggests that both the faculty and the student body of this university wore special apparel more than 1700 years ago to indicate institutional deference. The tradition was largely revived in 12th century Europe, where universities as we know them today, were taking form.

Jondi-Shapur became the capital city of Emperor Shāpur II, and it gained its claim to fame during the reign of Khosrow I Anushirvan (Anūšakrūwān - the immortal soul), and her university, continued as an important centre of science, philosophy, and medicine in the ancient world. It is recorded that the Emperor had a keen interest in the sciences and gathered a large group of scholars in his city. It was by his decree that the famous physician Borzuyeh was sent off to India to gather the best minds and sources of knowledge of the day. Borzuyeh is famous for having translated the ancient text “Panchatantra” from Sanskrit into Persian, renaming it as “Kalilah and Dimnah. 

The city finally was captured and plundered by the Arab Muslims, and its library either burnt down or dumped in the rivers. The destruction of the Persian libraries throughout the Sasanian realm came directly from Umar. 

After the fall of Ctesiphon, the capital of the Sasanian Empire, when the Arab commander Sa`d ibn Abi Waqqas was faced with thousands of literary works, at the Ctesiphon Library, asked Umar, what he should do with them. He ordered him: “The blasphemous books are not needed, as for us only Quran is sufficient.” Thus, the generations of the Persian scientific and scholarly works were burned or thrown into the Euphrates. Despite that, the city's academy survived and persisted for several centuries as a Muslim institute of higher learning. 

The most prominent feature of Jondishapur from the 9th century onwards was the tomb of the founder of Saffarid dynasty, Ya'qub b. Layth. A little shrine located on the outskirts of the Shahabad village has long been the focus of attention. Today, the identification of this shrine as the tomb of Ya'qub is so widely believed that some refer to it as "Emamzada Ya'qub b. Layth".


Yaqub-e Layth (r. 867-79), was a Persian nationalist from Sistan, who by uniting Iranians against the Arab invaders, formed the Saffarid Dynasty. He is considered to be the "Father of the New-Persian Language" (pedar-e zabān-e Pārsī) as he declared New-Persian (Pārsī) as the official language of his empire. He banned the use of the invaders’ language and had the court poets composing Persian verses for the first time since the fall of Sasanian Empire in 651 CE. Soon, the plebeian Saffarids were also equipped with an Imperial Iranian genealogy. Yaqub indeed, pioneered the renaissance of a specifically Irano-Islamic culture based on the 'national' aspirations of the Islamised Iranians, who had continued to be aware of their pre-Islamic Iranian identity and culture during two centuries of Arab domination.


Yaqub ended his days reigning over a vast swathe of territory stretching from today's Iraq to the borders of India and China. 



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