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The Sassanid ensemble in Firoozabad

Here we are again, together we will get familiar with another part of Iran’s history. This time we are going to deal with one of the most important places during Sassanid dynasty. It was once a place of glory and power. So suppose yourself traveling trough the history, going back to 1800 years ago. Once upon a time…

Ardeshir, the founder of Sassanid dynasty, had been appointed as the governor of the south of Iran by Artabanus the 5th, the Arsacids or Parthian king. Ardeshir’s father, Papak, was a mages, a Zoroastrian priest, in Istakhr. Their family always claimed to be the descendent of Achamanids and to have the right heir to the throne and being the king.

During the 3rd century A.D Ardeshir which was the governor of the south, ordered to build a city. It was known as Ardeshir khoreh, meaning the grandiose city of Ardeshir. Moreover he ordered to build a fortress, a palace and minted coin on his name. All of these actions meant that he had the tendency to announce his independency. Then Ardeshir revolted against his Parthian overlord, Artabanus the 5th, defeated him in a battle and a bit later he conquered the capital, Ctesiphon and officially he enthroned and found a new dynasty known as Sassanid.

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The city
Surprisingly the city had an exact round plan and was divided into different parts with geometric proportions. In order to understand how it was difficult, imagine 1800 years ago without having any suitable technology they did that. The city had four gates with specific names related to Zoroastrianism. The names were Bahram, Mithra, Hormoz and Anahita. In addition at the center of the city there was a minaret or a tower. It had 30 meters height with a spiral, square plan. At the top a fire was lighted. Some historians believe that it was the Zoroastrian holy fire, but this theory is declined because they always put the holy fire in a building with four entrances and a dome at the top, known as “chahar taqi” or quarto vaults. So what was the function? It could be used as a directing tower. When a traveler or a stranger came to the city, marked the tower and found his or her direction, or it could be used for warning. For instance, by putting fire in the distances they alarmed and warned each others.

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Ardeshir’s palace

To the northwest of the city, there is the Palace of Ardeshir. As other Sassanid buildings it is constructed with stones joining together with gypsum, plaster, mortar. Besides it was decorated with stucco works, some relieves on them and paintings. In addition they used mosaic works.
The entrance of the palace is a portico, Ivan, with a huge vault. It has about 16 m width, 19 m length and 18 height. In both sides of the entrance there are 6 rooms, probably guard rooms and servicing rooms. After the entrance we will reach to the main hall of the palace, the architecture of this part is similar to the architecture of fire temples, quarto vaults with a dome. Actually in this part there are three domed buildings, one is collapsed. Skillfully they build a round dome on a square building. How? Actually by the help of squinches in the corners gradually the form had changed to a round plan. In this part you can see the remains of stucco works which are similar to gates of Persepolis. Around the dome there are some small rooms that might be used by guards. And the third part of the palace is a courtyard. In fact it is a central courtyard with rooms around it and two porticos. Some historians say it is possible that the rooms were used by courtiers. Any way this style, a central courtyard surrounded by rooms, has continued and copied in the architecture of mosques. Above all, the function of the building is a controversy. Someone believes that here was not a palace and it was a fire temple, due to the existence of a spring near the palace and the architecture of the main hall, which is similar to fire temples. But as it has a symmetrical plan here could be a palace as well. So, according to some historians it could be a fire temple changed to a palace.

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Daughter castle

About 3 km to north of Ardeshir’s palace, there is another Sassanid monument. It is known as daughter castle or in Persian “Qaleh Dokhtar”. The castle is located in a strategic place, at the top of a hill surrounded by river, now it is dried. It is built in 3 levels and the only access is to the south. In order to do that you have to ascend stairs and you will reach the entrance which is the lowest part. The entrance is a vault and towers are around it, probably protected by guards. Then by ascending steps which are, somehow spiral, you can reach the second level. The sketch of this part is rectangular, there are rooms around a central courtyard. This part might be used by soldiers. The third level is the most important part of the building. There you will meet the main hall. It’s a rectangular building with a dome at the top. In fact the premier plan of the main hall was round. But they couldn’t build a round dome on a round structure, so first they changed it to a square plan and then by some squinches, they built the round dome on it. In addition based on some theories Ardeshir before building his palace in his city, was settled here.
About the name there are some opinions. It could be influenced by this feature that the castle was absolutely difficult to conquer, so it is related to the virginity of girls and called daughter castled, while historians have another views. They say that it is related to the goddess of beauty, fertility and water, Anahita, as it was surrounded by river.


The bas relieves

Like other Sassanid cities there are some relieves. Near daughter castle, there are two Sassanid bas- relives showing an investiture and a battle.

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The first relief is known as the investiture relief of Ardeshir. In this relief Ahuramaza, God, is depicted to the left offering the ring of power to Ardeshir. In front of Ahuramaza, Ardeshir is receiving the ring while with the other hand respecting to Ahuramaza, with his index finger. Between these two relieves an altar can be seen. Moreover some courtiers are depicted behind Ardeshir, they are also respecting.

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The second one is known as Cavalry battle, shows the equestrian battle among Sassanids and Parthians. In the middle Ardeshir is fighting against the Parthian king Artabanus the 5th. To the right the struggle between Shapur, the son of Ardeshir, and a Parthian courtier, probably the chef advisor. And to the left “Dad Bunyad” an important nobleman has a combat against a Parthian commander. This part has a difference, Dad Bunyad is wrestling against his enemy, he is slapping him to the ground. In addition it is easy to recognize that each horse has a significant decoration. In fact these are their specific sign, each courtier at the Sassanid court has its own special emblem.

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The bridge

Important places keep their importance trough the history. As near the investiture relief of Ardeshir the remains of a bridge. It dates back to the 5th century A.D that by the order of the famous Sassanid minister, Mehr Nerseh, they build a bridge on the river, which is dried because of building a dam. This bridge is ruined but archeologist has found an inscription on it which says: “ this bridge was built by Mehr Nerseh, if one destroy it the curse of Ahuramaza, God, will be upon him”.

Again the tragedy of the history happened. After the conquest of Arabs the city, the palace and the castle started abandoning and after a while have forgotten.

About the author

Hamid Noori is a local tourist guide in Iran. He borned in 1991 june 22end. First he studied industrial engineering at Shiraz university and worked in that field for a while but later he decided to pursue his dreams dealing with history. Now Hamid is a professional tourist guide.

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