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Bishapur


Relief 4 at Bishapur. Photo Marco Prins.
The embassy's Persian guide
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 IV

The fourth Sasanian rock relief at Bishapur -chronologically, the fifth- was made for king Bahram II (276-294) and shows how he receives a delegation of Arabs. The course of the old aqueduct, which has damaged three of the reliefs on this side of the river, is clearly visible.
Ancient-Warfare.com, the online home of Ancient Warfare magazine
Relief 4 at Bishapur. Photo Marco Prins.
Bishapur, Relief IV

The fourth relief is very interesting because it is the only Sasanian monument that shows an embassy. It is brought to the king by a Persian nobleman with a long sword. The fact that it is an Arabian embassy is a testimony for the fact that this nation was becoming better organized, and commanded sufficient respect to be recognized as allies by the Sasanian kings.

Relief 4 at Bishapur. Photo Marco Prins.
Dromedaries

Something similar happened to the west, in the Roman Empire, where the oasis of Palmyra, together with a federation Arabs, created an empire of their own, which held out as a buffer between Rome and the Sasanians from 260 to until 272. The Sasanians and Romans would increasingly often use Arabian tribal warriors. The rise of Islam was still in the future, but the first signs of the expanding power of the Arabs were there.

Relief 4 at Bishapur. Photo Marco Prins.
Bahram II

The Arabs are recognizable on this relief because they are accompanied by a dromedary. There's also a horse. (Camels are absent, which is one indication that this animal was still uncommon.) King Bahram II can be recognized by looking at his winged crown.

We do not know what subject the king of kings discussed with the Arabian ambassadors, nor do we know which tribe(s) they represented. However, in the West, the Romans were stronger than they had been for a long time, and it is possible that the Arabs were invited to join the war. If so, it did not work out well: in 287, Bahram was defeated by the Roman emperor Diocletian, the Sasanians lost control of Armenia, and Bahram never managed to recover what he had lost.

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

Like two other monuments on the north side of the Tang-e Chowgan gorge, the fifth relief was damaged when an aqueduct of stone was constructed along the rock. This was removed in the 1970s.

Literature

Louis Vanden Berghe, Reliefs rupestres de l' Iran ancien (1983 Brussels), #69.


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: 7 Dec. 2009
Livius.Org Anatolia Carthage Egypt Germ. Inf. Greece Judaea Mesopotamia Persia Rome Other