Rustam (Persian: نقش رستم [ˌnæɣʃeɾosˈtʰæm])
is an ancient necropolis located about 12 km northwest of
Persepolis, in Fars Province, Iran. In Naghsh-e Rostam we can see four
tombs and one building from
Achaemenid dynasty with a group of ancient
Iranian rock reliefs cut into the cliff, from
Sassanid dynasty; the
last important relief is from
Elam dynasty and it dates back to 1000
Rustam is the necropolis of the
Achaemenid dynasty (500–330
BC), with four large tombs cut high into the cliff face. These have
mainly architectural decoration, but the facades include large panels
over the doorways, each very similar in content, with figures of the
king being invested by a god, above a zone with rows of smaller
figures bearing tribute, with soldiers and officials. The three
classes of figures are sharply differentiated in size. The entrance to
each tomb is at the center of each cross, which opens onto a small
chamber, where the king lay in a sarcophagus.
Well below the
Achaemenid tombs, near ground level, are rock reliefs
with large figures of
Sassanian kings, some meeting gods, others in
combat. The most famous shows the
Shapur I on
horseback, with the Roman Emperor Valerian bowing to him in
Philip the Arab
Philip the Arab (an earlier emperor who paid Shapur
tribute) holding Shapur's horse, while the dead Emperor Gordian III,
killed in battle, lies beneath it (other identifications have been
suggested). This commemorates the
Battle of Edessa
Battle of Edessa in 260 AD, when
Valerian became the only Roman Emperor who was captured as a prisoner
of war, a lasting humiliation for the Romans. The placing of these
reliefs clearly suggests the
Sassanid intention to link themselves
with the glories of the earlier
Panorama of Naqsh-e Rustam
Map of the archaeological site of Naqsh-e Rustam
1.2 Ka'ba-ye Zartosht
1.3.1 Investiture relief of Ardashir I, c. 226-242
1.3.2 Triumph of Shapur I, c. 241-272)
1.3.3 "Grandee" relief of Bahram II, c. 276-293
1.3.4 Two equestrian reliefs of Bahram II, c. 276-293
1.3.5 Investiture of Narseh, c. 293-303
1.3.6 Equestrian relief of Hormizd II, c 303-309
3 See also
6 External links
Upper register of the
Achaemenid Tomb of Xerxes I
The oldest relief at Naqsh-e
Rustam dates back to c. 1000 BC.
Though it is severely damaged, it depicts a faint image of a man with
unusual head-gear, and is thought to be Elamite in origin. The
depiction is part of a larger mural, most of which was removed at the
command of Bahram II. The man with the unusual cap gives the site its
Rustam Relief" or "Relief of Rustam"), because
the relief was locally believed to be a depiction of the mythical hero
Four tombs belonging to
Achaemenid kings are carved out of the rock
face at a considerable height above the ground. The tombs are
sometimes known as the Persian crosses, after the shape of the facades
of the tombs. The entrance to each tomb is at the center of each
cross, which opens onto a small chamber, where the king lay in a
sarcophagus. The horizontal beam of each of the tomb's facades is
believed to be a replica of a Persepolitan entrance.
One of the tombs is explicitly identified, by an accompanying
inscription (“parsa parsahya puthra ariya ariyachitra”, meaning,
“a Parsi, the son of a Parsi, an Aryan, of Aryan family), as the
Darius I (c. 522-486 BC). The other three tombs are
believed to be those of
Xerxes I (c. 486-465 BC), Artaxerxes I
(c. 465-424 BC), and
Darius II (c. 423-404 BC) respectively.
The order of the tombs in Naqsh-e
Rustam follows (left to right):
Darius II, Artaxerxes I, Darius I, Xerxes I. The matching of the other
kings to tombs is somewhat speculative; the relief figures are not
intended as individualized portraits.
A fifth unfinished one might be that of Artaxerxes III, who reigned at
the longest two years, but is more likely that of
Darius III (c.
336-330 BC), the last king of the
Achaemenid Dynasts. The tombs
were looted following the conquest of the
Achaemenid Empire by
Alexander the Great.
Cube of Zoroaster, a cube-shaped construction in the foreground,
against the backdrop of Naqsh-e Rustam
Main article: Ka'ba-ye Zartosht
Ka'ba-ye Zartosht (meaning the "Cube of Zoroaster") is a 5th-century
Achaemenid square tower. The structure is a copy of a sister
building at Pasargadae, the "Prison of Solomon" (Zendān-e Solaymān).
It was built either by
Darius I (r. 521–486 BCE) when he moved to
Artaxerxes II (r. 404–358 BCE) or
Artaxerxes III (r.
358–338 BCE). The building at
Pasargadae is a few decades older.
There in inscription in three languages from
Sassanian time on the
walls of this place, its considered as one of the most important
Several theories exist regarding the purpose of the Ka'ba-ye Zartosht
Seven over-life sized rock reliefs at Naqsh-e
Rustam depict monarchs
Sassanid period. Their approximate dates range from 225 to 310
AD, and they show subjects including investiture scenes and battles.
The investiture of Ardashir I
The triumph of
Shapur I over the Roman emperors Valerian and Philip
Investiture relief of Ardashir I, c. 226-242
Main article: Ahura Mazda and Ardashir I
The founder of the
Sassanid Empire is seen being handed the ring of
kingship by Ohrmazd. In the inscription, which also bears the oldest
attested use of the term Iran, Ardashir admits to betraying his pledge
Artabanus IV (the Persians having been a vassal state of the
Arsacid Parthians), but legitimizes his action on the grounds that
Ohrmazd had wanted him to do so.
The word ērān is first attested in the inscriptions that accompany
the investiture relief of
Ardashir I (r. 224–242) at Naqsh-e Rustam.
In this bilingual inscription, the king calls himself "Ardashir, king
of kings of the Iranians" (Middle Persian: ardašīr šāhān šāh ī
ērān; Parthian: ardašīr šāhān šāh ī aryān).
Triumph of Shapur I, c. 241-272)
This is the most famous of the
Sassanid rock reliefs, and depicts the
Shapur I over two Roman emperors, Valerian and Philip the
Arab. Behind the king stands Kirtir, the mūbadān mūbad ('high
priest'), the most powerful of the Zoroastrian Magi during the history
of Iran. A more elaborate version of this rock relief is at
"Grandee" relief of Bahram II, c. 276-293
The grandee relief of Bahram II
On each side of the king, who is depicted with an oversized sword,
figures face the king. On the left, stand five figures, perhaps
members of the king's family (three having diadems, suggesting they
were royalty). On the right, stand three courtiers, one of which may
be Kartir. This relief is to the immediate right of the investiture
inscription of Ardashir, and partially replaces the much older relief
that gives the name of Naqsh-e Rustam.
Two equestrian reliefs of Bahram II, c. 276-293
The first equestrian relief, located immediately below the fourth tomb
(perhaps that of Darius II), depicts the king battling a mounted Roman
enemy. The second equestrian relief, located immediately below the
tomb of Darius I, is divided into two registers, an upper and a lower
one. In the upper register, the king appears to be forcing a Roman
enemy, probably Roman emperor
Carus from his horse. In the lower
register, the king is again battling a mounted enemy wearing a
headgear shaped as an animal’s head, thought to be the vanquished
Sassanian ruler Hormizd I Kushanshah. Both reliefs depict a
dead enemy under the hooves of the king's horse.
First equestrian relief.
The two-panel equestrian relief.
Hormizd I Kushanshah
Hormizd I Kushanshah on the lower panel.
Investiture of Narseh, c. 293-303
The investiture of Narseh
In this relief, the king is depicted as receiving the ring of kingship
from a female figure that is frequently assumed to be the divinity
Aredvi Sura Anahita. However, the king is not depicted in a pose that
would be expected in the presence of a divinity, and it is hence
likely that the woman is a relative, perhaps Queen Shapurdokhtak.
Equestrian relief of Hormizd II, c 303-309
The equestrian relief of Hormizd II
This relief is below tomb 3 (perhaps that of Artaxerxes I) and depicts
Hormizd forcing an enemy (perhaps Papak of Armenia) from his horse.
Immediately above the relief and below the tomb is a badly damaged
relief of what appears to be
Shapur II (c. 309-379) accompanied by
Ka'ba-ye Zartosht in foreground, with behind the Tomb of Darius II
Sassanid equestrian relief of Bahram II.
In 1923, the German archaeologist
Ernst Herzfeld made casts of the
inscriptions on the tomb of Darius I. Since 1946, these casts have
been held in the archives of the
Freer Gallery of Art
Freer Gallery of Art and the Arthur
M. Sackler Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, in Washington, DC.
Rustam was excavated for several seasons between 1936 and 1939
by a team from the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago,
led by Erich Schmidt.
Essaqwand Rock Tombs
Qadamgah (ancient site)
Pasargadae and Tomb of Cyrus the Great
Taq-e Bostan (rock reliefs of various
List of colossal sculpture in situ
Valley of the Kings
^ a b Cotterell, 162; Canepa, 57–59, 65–68
^ Herrmann and Curtis; Canepa, 62, 65–68
^ "I am Darius".
^ Rome in the East: The Transformation of an Empire. Warwick Ball.
page 120. Psychology Press, 16 Jan 2001.
^ a b Encyclopedia Iranica HORMOZD KUŠĀNŠĀH article
^  E. F. Schmidt,
Persepolis III: The Royal Tombs and Other
Monuments, Oriental Institute Publications 70, University of Chicago
Press, 1970, ISBN 0-226-62170-7
Canepa, Matthew P., "Topographies of Power, Theorizing the Visual,
Spatial and Ritual Contexts of Rock Reliefs in Ancient Iran", in
Harmanşah (2014), google books
Cotterell, Arthur (ed), The Penguin Encyclopedia of Classical
Civilizations, 1993, Penguin, ISBN 0670826995
Herrmann, G. & Curtis, V. S. (2003). "Sasanian Rock Reliefs".
Encyclopedia Iranica. Costa Mesa: Mazda.
Hubertus von Gall "NAQŠ-E ROSTAM" in Encyclopædia Iranica 
Lendering, Jona (2009). "Naqsh-i Rustam". Amsterdam: Livius.
Unknown (2005). "Naghsh-e-Rostam".
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Naqsh-e Rustam.
Ernst Herzfeld Papers, Series 5: Drawings and Maps, Records of Naqsh-i
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