8 December 2009
The statue in Shapur's cave
Today, I moved the pages of Bishapur, one of the places I like most in Iran. During my first visit, we were especially interested in locations that were Alexander-related, so we visited a lot of Achaemenid sites; yet, we all agreed that Sasanian Bishapur, for which we had not been prepared, was among the highlights of our trip. The six rock reliefs and the city are really spectacular. I already blogged about the recently reopened museum.
I’ve returned several times, and on each occasion, I discovered something new or met someone interesting. But the best memories belong to the climb to the cave with Shapur’s statue, one of the most splendid places in the world – not the cave with the statue, which is interesting but not very special, but the valley. It is the most beautiful place of Fars. You’ve just not been in Iran if you haven’t climbed that rock and enjoyed the scenery.
The Bishapur pages are something of a jubilee: Livius.org has now reached its 3500th page. I also added a very brief article on the Persepolis Treasury Tablets, and a third page of Amsterdam stone tablets, which brings the grand total to 3502.
And because there’s something to celebrate, here is the last version of my Google Earth markers (1437 sites).
17 October 2009
I was writing my book on Alexander the Great when I visited Iran for the first time. We had already visited Susa and our next stop was Shiraz, which we wanted to use as base to visit Persepolis, Pasargadae, and the Persian Gate (near modern Yasuj). We planned to visit Bishapur, but it was not our priority. The splendid reliefs and the remains of the city, therefore, were a complete surprise. Next years, I visited the place two times, better prepared.
The only thing that is unique at Bishapur is, of course, the cave with Shapur’s statue (which may have been the king’s tomb); Sasanian walls, rock reliefs, and palaces can be seen on other sites in Iran. Yet, the place is dear to me, and I was disappointed that the museum was closed for some time. It has a small collection, but it really adds something to the ruins – and I do not mean the shade that the visitor so desperately needs in Bishapur.
Today, however, we found it reopened. The small room has been replaced with a very big one, which still smelt of fresh paint. The explanatory signs are, for the time being, only in Farsi, and the displays are a bit too large. Some of them are still waiting to be filled with objects. The collection can still grow, and I expect that this will happen pretty soon, because excavation was resumed about three months ago. So far, there are no spectacular results and the Ramadan – or Ramezan, as the Iranians say – intervened, but the archaeologists will return, and the museum will no doubt benefit.
30 August 2008
Investiture of Ardašir I (from Naqš-i Rustam)
The Sasanian Rock Reliefs belong to the most beautiful monuments I have ever seen in Iran. Unlike Achaemenid court art, which is dignified and static, Sasanian art is dynamic and almost expressionist. And where the Achaemenids wanted to express that their monarchy was eternal and therefore refrained from individualism, the Sasanian sculptors show us particular kings and noblemen, who can be identified from their crowns and badges.
The reliefs can be found on several places in Iran: for example, in Bishapur, Sarab-i Bahram, Taq-e Bostan, Barm-e Dilak, Naqš-e Rajab, Guyum, Firuzabad, and especially Naqš-i Rustam. The standard book on the subject is Louis Vanden Berghe’s Reliefs rupestres de l’ Iran ancien (1983 Brussels).