A Review of Sassanid Images and Inscriptions
By: Asghar Mahmoudabadi
At the right side 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 shown under the feet of Shapour's horse and another man is lying under the feet of the grand mubid. Between the king Philip the Arab, the Roman emperor, is kneeling on the ground.
The pieces worn by the figures in the image point to the date of the image which refers the 243 A.D. wars and coronation of the king. The image was engraved on the rock after the Shapour's coronation and during Nowruz, the Iranian new year.
In the past it was thought that the inscription was related to Shapour's war with Roman emperor Philip, the Arab, and his victory over that emperor.
Scene of Victory
Shapour's victory over the Roman emperor has been engraved in two big images at Shapour Mountain (Bishapour, Fars) but 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. At the left and right side two rows of Iranian infantrymen are portrayed showing different categories of Iranian soldiers and 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 horse and Valerianus, the Roman emperor, is standing bareheaded in front of the king begging for forgiveness. The king is mounted on a fat horse and tramples upon a man who has fallen under his horse.
Siriadis is standing in front of the king . He has lifted his right hand and swears to remain faithful to the Shapour's heir apparent and the king is caressing his bare head. Opposite the king a man is standing who looks like a Roman. In front of the king 240 Roman officers are standing 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.
Bahram I, mounted on a horse, is standing on the right side. He stretches his right hand to pick up the royal ring from the grand mubid. The following is inscribed in Middle Persian on Bahram's chest:
"This is Nersi, the Mazda worshipper 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.
The images of Bahram the Second can be easily divided into two parts: an earlier inscription and a later inscription. The scene of victory in Bishapour 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 A.D. but was severely defeated and his title which was Sekestanshah and the regent, was transferred to Bahram Jr., son of Bahram II. From that date 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 the 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 who are 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 Sekestan.
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.
In the middle of the image the crown of Ardeshir I is portrayed. Roman emperor Gordianus III is seen under the huff of the king's horse. Two elders are portrayed in front of the king. On the left side the royal guard and elders and courtiers and on the right side the Roman army are portrayed. Form the royal crown one can deduce that the two images portray the victory of Ardeshir the First over Gordianus and the war between Iran and Rome. The special lace on the king's beard shows that the image was engraved during Ardeshir's reign or at the beginning of the reign of Shapour I or before the latter's coronation in April 243 A.D.
In the past the image was ascribed to the victory of Shapour I.
This image is divided into two parts:
The upper part. In this part the chief lady (Shapour Dokhtak) is portrayed with pleated dress stretching her hand to receive a flower from one of the elders who wears an elliptic cap, royal dress and sword.
At the lower part Bahram II is portrayed stretching his hand to receive the royal ring from the same person who is engraved in the upper part.
In the coronation image (upper image) Shapour Dokhtak, the elder wife of Bahram II, is portrayed and the coronation of Bahram is shown in the lower part. In both these images the royal insignia is not presented by the grand mubid Mazda worshipper but by Mubid Kertir, his representative on earth.
The date of the image can be traced in the coins of Bahram II. In these coins Shapour Dokhtak is portrayed without a cap and royal crown and the crown of Bahram II resembles those which are printed in petty coins or coronation coins. These prove that the image was engraved around 276 A.D.
The date and particulars of the reign of Bahram II with Izad Anahita, his wife, are portrayed in the image.
The king and his court:
In this image in Sarab Bahram (Mamasani) Bahram is standing in front of his royal throne surrounded by two elders at his two sides. On the left side mubid Kertir (who can be known from his cap) is standing and the two figures to the right seem to be Farmzar and Hoonam.
The image was engraved before 283 A.D. because the image does not show the king's successor.
Koyom, The Image of Bahram II
The image has been engraved at Koyom village, 39 km from Shiraz and near Qasroldasht, but regretfully it is so damaged that the details have been destroyed.
Bahram II is shown in full length lifting his right hand as a sign of prayer and holding a sword in his left.
The crown shown in that image are printed in his coins which prove that the image was related to the beginning of his rule.
Bahram's Hunting Scene
Sarmashhad is a village west of Jarreh and south of Kazeroon and near Abgineh bridge. From that village the road leads to Famour and from there to Balladeh and Jarehta, 30 km from Mashhad. This is a difficult mountainous passage which must be crossed either by horse or foot. The plain at Sarmashhad stretch from south to north and its distance from east to west is about 10 kilometers and is surrounded by high mountains.
There is a Pahlavi script at the western mountain of Sarmashhad at a an elevation of 25 meters on the mountain breast. The image is 5 x 2.5 meters in size and portrays Bahram II. The inscription is one of the four Pahlavi inscriptions from Kertir, the grand mubid, and the subject is the same as in Naqsh-e Rostam. The grand mubid describes his efforts to consolidate the Zoroastrian religion and his success in that direction. He also speaks about punishment of sinners and praise of the virtuous and discovery of things which were revealed to him in a dream.
Herzfeld was the first scholar who discovered this inscription in 1924 and published a short article about that in 1926 in Zimg, a German newspaper. In his subsequent trips to Iran Herzfeld conducted a more careful study of the images and recorded his observations in his book called Iran in the Ancient East which was published in 1941.
Bahram II is cutting a lion into two halves with his sword. Another lion has fallen under the feet of the king. Apparently these lions had attached his wife and child because by his left land Bahram is holding Shapour Dokhtak, his wife. Kertir and his elders are standing behind the king.
The exact date of engraving seems to be in the ninth decade of the third century A.D. (390 A.D.) because here Bahram, his wife and successor are portrayed. Bahram's wife is wearing the same cap but his child is wearing the insignia of Sekestanshah.
Haji Abad Inscription
Haji Abad inscription belongs to Shapour I and is written in 115 letters in Sassanid Pahlavi and Parthian Pahlavi languages, but so far it has not been fully deciphered. Translation of the 15 lines is as follows:
"This image shows throwing an arrow by me, Shapour, the king of kings, the king of Iran, an image of God, son of Ardeshir, the king of kings of Iran and the grand son of Papak Shah. I hurled this bow in front of my elders and army commanders. When I descended into this valley I threw an arrow but there was no place where a target could be set. I ordered that a target should be set up at a farther distance and those who succeeded in hitting the target are considered good archers."