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Naqš-i Rustam


Relief of the Sassanid king Shapur, receiving the submission of the Roman emperor Valerian. Naqsh-i Rustam (Iran). Photo Marco Prins. Naqš-i Rustam: archaeological site in Fars (Iran), best known for its Achaemenid tombs and Sasanian rock reliefs.
   
History Photos

Relief of Shapur I 

The triumph relief of Shapur I (241-272), the most famous Sasanian rock relief from Naqš-i Rustam, is very close to the tomb of Darius I the Great. It shows how king Shapur has defeated two Roman emperors.
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Relief of the Sassanid king Shapur, receiving the submission of the Roman emperor Valerian. Naqsh-i Rustam (Iran). Photo Marco Prins.
The historical events depicted are these. In 244, the Roman legions invaded Mesopotamia and besieged the Sasanian capital Ctesiphon, but the war lasted long, and the Roman emperor Gordian III was replaced by Philippus Arabs, who was forced to conclude a peace treaty with Shapur. Philip even paid a ransom and was happy to return alive, allowing Shapur to present the events as if the new Roman ruler owed the throne to the Sasanian king. So, we can see the emperor Philip kneeling in front of the king's horse.

The standing man, seized by the hand by Shapur, is the Roman emperor Valerian, who was taken captive in 260. This monument, therefore, has to be dated after this event. A more elaborate version of these monument, which also shows a dead Gordian, can be seen at Bishapur (relief II).

Kartir on the Victory Relief of Shapur I from Naqš-i Rustam. Photo Jona Lendering,
Behind the triumphant Shapur, we can see his high priest, Kartir, who is saluting the king with the gesture of the fist and index finger. (This gesture can be seen on many Sasanian rock reliefs and is still made by the nomads of the Zagros.) This relief was added during the reign of Bahram II (276-293).

Kartir had been able to promote Zoroastrianism, which was made into the Sasanians' state religion. He was also responsible for the persecution of Christians, Jews, and Buddhists, and instigated the death of the prophet Mani, thus giving Manichaeism its first martyr. The scissor-shaped emblem on his cap allows us to identify him. He can also be seen on the Audience Relief of Bahram II, among the dignitaries represented at Sarab-i Bahram, and at the relief at Sar Mashhad.

Shapur victorious. Photo Marco Prins.
It is interesting to notice that Shapur's own account of this war was inscribed on the Ka'bah-i Zardusht, just opposite the relief.

Literature

Louis Vanden Berghe, Reliefs rupestres de l' Iran ancien (1983 Brussels), #57, 74.

Relief of the Sassanid king Shapur, receiving the submission of the Roman emperor Valerian. Naqsh-i Rustam (Iran). Photo Marco Prins. Cameo showing the Sassanid king Shapur defeating the Roman emperor Valerian. Relief of the Sassanid king Shapur, receiving the submission of the Roman emperor Valerian. Naqsh-i Rustam (Iran). Photo Marco Prins.

Cameo showing the Sasanid king Shapur defeating the Roman emperor Valerian  (!!!)


History Photos
Jona Lendering for
Livius.Org, 2004
Revision: 24 Feb. 2013
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