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Naqš-i Rustam


The investiture of king Ardašir I. Photo Jona Lendering. Naqš-i Rustam: archaeological site in Fars (Iran), best known for its Achaemenid tombs and Sasanian rock reliefs.
   
History Photos

Relief of Ardašir I 

The Investiture Relief of the Sasanian king Ardašir I (224-241) is the oldest Sasanian monument at Naqš-i Rustam. Ardašir was the son of a Zoroastrian high priest from Istakhr, immediately north of Persepolis, where the ancient cults of the Achaemenid Empire were continued. Now, when Ardašir revolted against his Parthian overlord, he developed a new royal ideology. He more or less admitted that he had been rebel and had betrayed his master Artabanus V, but, he claimed, he had done so because the supreme god Ahuramazda (or Hormuzd, as he was often called in this age) had wanted him to do so. The relief of Ardašir fits into this propaganda and the site is logical: close to the ancient capital of the Achaemenids.
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Investiture of Ardašir I from Naqš-i Rustam. Photo Jona Lendering,
To the right, we can see Ahuramazda, who is handing over a ring to Ardašir, on the left. Both figures can be identified by their crowns. This ring, which is usually called cydaris, is the symbol of power. Both men are seated on horses and crush defeated enemies: Artabanus under Ardašir's horse and Ahriman under Ahuramazda's one. To the left is an attendant with a fly-whisk; this man is also seen on other reliefs of Ardašir (e.g., at nearby Naqš-i Rajab).

Ardašir, taking the ring with his right hand and saluting the god with his left fist and pointed index finger. Photo Jona Lendering.
Ardašir is shown accepting the ring of power with his right hand, while saluting the god with his left fist and pointed index finger. This gesture can be seen on many Sasanian rock reliefs and is still made by the nomads of the Zagros. His crown has a rather unusual globe, which is called korymbos

The Investiture Relief of Ardašir I is extremely important, because it marks the beginning of the Sasanian royal art. Other investiture reliefs by Ardašir are found at nearby Naqš-i Radjab and, at some distance, near Firuzabad. The equestrian type, however, became very popular. Later kings ordered identical reliefs to be made (e.g., at Naqš-i Radjab [Shapur I] and Bishapur V [Bahram I]).


Ahuramazda. Photo Jona Lendering.
From the holy book of Zoroastrianism, the Avesta, we know that the bundle of sacred twigs in Ahuramazda's left hand is called the barsom. When this relief was cut, this symbol of religious power already had a very long history; they are already depicted on Achaemenid reliefs (e.g., Dascylium). Behind Ahuramazda's head is a ribbon, usually called diadem, a symbol of power.

The Dutch traveler Cornelis de Bruyn has recorded that in the early eighteenth century, the local people believed that the people on this relief represented Darius III Codomannus, who handed over his power to Alexander the Great.

Literature

Louis Vanden Berghe, Reliefs rupestres de l' Iran ancien (1983 Brussels), #53.

Ahriman on the Investiture Relief of Ardašir I from Naqš-i Rustam. Photo Jona Lendering, Kartir on the Investiture Relief of Ardašir I from Naqš-i Rustam. Photo Jona Lendering, Crushed enemies. Photo Jona Lendering.
Artabanus and Ahriman The man with the fly-whisk The two horses

History Photos
Jona Lendering for
Livius.Org, 2004
Revision: 4 Aug. 2012
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