The Ancient City of Bishapur
The ancient city of "Bishapour" is located south of the river "Shapour", about twenty kilometers north of the city of Kazeroun
The ancient city of "Bishapour" is located south of the river "Shapour", about twenty kilometers north of the city of Kazeroun, its contemporary in age, both very old since they bear marks of Elamite and Parthian occupation. Extending on a plain surrounded by mountains, it ends at the edge of a regional desert crossed by the river Shapour which flows into the Persian Gulf.
Formerly, this ancient city was connected on the one hand to the cities of Firouzabad and Estakhr, two important ancient cities, and on the other hand, to Mesopotamia, Susa and the Sassanid capital, Ctesiphon. This combined with the geographical location of this city, with waterways to the high seas, attracted the attention of Shapour I, Sasanian emperor, who ordered the Roman army prisoner to turn it into a metropolis rivaling Antioch.
Under the impetus of the Roman craftsmen sent by Philip the Arab as part of the peace treaty signed in 244, the new plan given to this Parthian city turned it into a patchwork of various architectural styles, from Roman to Sassanid, through the Achaemenid Parthian style and Mesopotamian influences. The plan of this city is not that of the Parthian cities, with the districts circulaturally arranged, but the Hippodamian plan, kind of checker rather primary including a quadrilateral with the three sides protected by cliffs or ditches.
The city had various neighborhoods and the great patrician houses were built inside large parks. His dwellings possessed certain architectural features of which remains today vestiges:
- The ceremonial hall, shaped like a cross, which was new in Sasanian architectural art. The plan of this hall spread quickly and became a model. This room had four symmetrical iwans, placed face to face, and was decorated with frescoes and bas-reliefs. The colors ocher, yellow, black, and blue were often used. Thus, the room had 64 niches.
-The mosaic iwan which was connected to the ceremonial hall by the east and west vestibules of the hall. There were two iwans, with arched ceilings, decorated with frescoes and moldings, and floors made of mosaics, depicting nature and men.
This city, because of its antiquity has a treasure almost inexhaustible antiquities. Among the architectural works of this city, one can refer to the temple of Anahita. This cube-shaped building, 14 meters high, is decorated with four ox reliefs symbolizing Anahita, the goddess of water and fertility. This building is notable not only for its archaeological and historical significance but also for its water supply system. The attention paid to the circulation of water suggests the value given to this goddess in the Sassanid dynasty. The first king of this dynasty was the descendant of the great mage Sassan and at the beginning of the founding of this dynasty, the kings Artaxerxes and Shapour were personally responsible for this temple.
We can also refer to the Valerian Palace, which was transformed into a religious school during the Bouyid era.
Some of the ancient monuments are more famous such as the bas-reliefs in Tang-e Chogan, northeast of the ruins of BiShapour. There are six in all, located on both sides of the river Shapour.
All these bas-reliefs depict images of victorious Sassanid kings with their enemies at their feet and the most famous of these bas-reliefs are those which expose the triumph of Shapour I to the Roman emperor Valérien. The second of these bas-reliefs is more detailed than the first and we see an angel fluttering around the head of Shapour, giving him the symbol of triumph. Around this image, there are niches on which we see jewels, soldiers and riders.
On the left bank of the river, there is the ceremony of the victory of Shapour I on Valérien. On the one hand, the Roman soldiers and captives are represented, on the other hand the Iranian conquerors. We distinguish Valerian, kneeling before Chapur, holding out a supplicating hand, and two men wearing the high Iranian headgear offering him a crown.
The second series of engravings on the left bank depict the victory ceremony of Bahram the Second, the feather in the hat, the captives bringing him camels and horses. There is also a bas-relief depicting the coronation ceremony of Bahram I (273-277). He takes his crown from the hands of the representative of Ahura Mazda.
The last engraving shows Shapour the Second, a sword in his hand, leaning against his throne. On his right, the grandees of the court and on his left, the vanquished.
Finally, we can recall the existence of a statue of Shapour I in the basement of Tang-e Chogan, some six kilometers further north. This statue, which is one of the masterpieces of the Sassanid era, is seven meters high.
To conclude, it must be said that Bishapur is a unique city of the Sassanid era. Why less famous than Persepolis? Nobody knows. But for visitors, Bishapur remains a city not to be missed.