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Bishapur


Bishapur, relief II. Photo Marco Prins. Bishapur: important Sasanian city in Iran, founded by king Shapur I, and built by Roman POWs.
    
History Castle City Palace "Temple" Cave
Relief I Relief II Relief III Relief IV Relief V Relief VI

Relief II

Compared to the first relief of Bishapur, the second is far more complex and, fortunately, a lot better preserved. Another difference is that the first monument commemorates Shapur's investiture and his first victory, which he presents as gifts from Ahuramazda; in this relief, we see just a triumphant king, adored by his subjects. The only sign of divine help is a winged figure that brings the ring of power (cydaris) and the diadem.
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The horse of Shapur tramples Gordian III. Relief at Bishapur (Iran). Photo Marco Prins.
Gordian III, dead
Bishapur, relief II. Photo Marco Prins.
Bishapur, relief II. Photo Marco Prins.

Philippus Arabs begs the Persian king Shapur for mercy. Bishapur (Iran). Photo Marco Prins.
Philip, begging
Shapur had already defeated a Roman army, which he had commemorated on the first relief. In 244, the emperor Gordian III had been killed, and his successor Philippus Arabs owed the throne to Shapur. On the second relief, we can see the dead Gordian underneath the victor's horse.

In front of this horse, we can see Philip, Gordian's praetorian prefect, kneeling and begging to be spared. Indeed, he was recognized as emperor by Shapur and the Senate. On his second relief, Shapur reminded the viewers of his earlier success. However, in 260, the Sasanian king had defeated another Roman emperor, Valerian, and had even taken him captive. The main theme of the second relief was the glorification of the king's second victory. An interesting detail on the picture to the left is Philip's sword, which is a correct rendering of a Roman weapon.

Shapur and the captive emperor Valerian. Relief at Bishapur. Photo Marco Prins.
Valerian, captured

Here, we see how the king seizes the captured emperor Valerian by the hand. This is also shown on a monument at Naqš-i Rustam, where the triumph is depicted in a similar fashion. Valerian's men, of which a substantial part appears to have belonged to the Sixth legion Ferrata, were forced to build the bridge at Shushtar and the city of Bishapur.

Behind Philip, to the right, two important courtiers can be seen. One of them may be the high priest Kartir, who made Zoroastrianism the state religion and organized persecutions of adherents of other faiths. The other one, who carries a large sword, may or may not be the Surena, an important commander. We cannot be certain, because the badges on their caps, which usually help to identify the people depicted on the reliefs, are absent.

Relief II at Bishapur. Photo Marco Prins.
On both sides of the central scene, subjects of the king are depicted: two groups of cavalry to the left, five groups of infantry to the right. They salute the king with their right fist and a pointed index finger. This gesture can be seen on many Sasanian rock reliefs, and is still made by Bakhtiari nomads.

Today, the relief is protected by a fence, but it has become a favorite pick nick spot for many families.

Map of Bishapur's reliefs. Design Jona Lendering
The six reliefs in the Tang-e Chowgan

Literature


Relief II at Bishapur. Photo Marco Prins. Relief II at Bishapur. Photo Marco Prins. Relief II at Bishapur. Photo Marco Prins.
A group of cavalry admiring the king Standard bearers Soldiers, carrying long swords
Relief II at Bishapur. Photo Marco Prins. Relief II at Bishapur. Photo Marco Prins. Relief II at Bishapur. Photo Marco Prins. Relief II at Bishapur. Photo Marco Prins.
Another group of admiring cavalry A second group of soldiers. They have different headgear. These people are unarmed and the first one of them seems to present a torque to the king. This is not an unusual tribute. Finally, people carrying unidentified objects. The man in the middle may be a Magian with a barsom, a bundle of sacred twigs.

History Castle City Palace "Temple" Cave
Relief I Relief II Relief III Relief IV Relief V Relief VI
Jona Lendering for
Livius.Org, 2004
Revision: 6 Dec. 2009
Livius.Org Anatolia Carthage Egypt Germ. Inf. Greece Judaea Mesopotamia Persia Rome Other