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Šurkutir (Shushtar)


The river crossing at Shushtar. Photo Marco Prins.
The river crossing at Shushtar
Šurkutir: town in ancient Elam, modern Shushtar.

The ancient Royal road between Susa, the capital of Elam, and Persepolis, the capital of Achaemenid Persia, crosses the large river Pasitigris (modern Karun) at Shushtar. From the Persepolis Fortification Tablets, we know that the old, Elamite name of Shushtar was Šurkutir. Quintus Curtius Rufus, one of the historians of Alexander the Great, describes how the Macedonian king crossed the river on this site in the last month of 331 BCE.

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The bridge of Valerian at Shushtar. Photo Marco Prins.
The bridge of Valerian

Almost six centuries later, when Persia was ruled by the Sasanians, king Shapur I defeated and captured the Roman emperor Valerian, something he celebrated on several reliefs.

Countless Roman soldiers were taken captive as well. They were ordered to build a bridge at Shushtar and the city of Bishapur. This happened in 260. The Band-e Qaisar ("emperor's bridge") was almost 550 meters long and could also serve as a barrage. The design is Roman. In fact, it is the most easterly bridge constructed by Roman engineers.
The bridge of Valerian at Shushtar. Photo Marco Prins.
Perhaps, the bridge was built by soldiers of the Sixth legion Ferrata, because this unit disappears from our sources after Valerian's defeat. A satellite photo of the bridge can be seen here.

The monument made it a lot easier to travel from Persia to the west. Six years later, Shapur founded Bishapur ("beautiful city of Shapur") along the road between the Persian heartland and Mesopotamia. The bridge has been repaired several times.
The bridge of Valerian at Shushtar. Photo Marco Prins.
In Late Antiquity, the city was an important center of Christianity.

During the Sasanian period, many watermills were constructed at Shushtar (satellite photo). Water was led to them through underground tunnels, which were used to capture the city the Arabs, who besieged Shushtar for two years in the 630s.
© Jona Lendering for
Livius.Org, 2004
Revision: 20 July 2009
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