A Sassanid city


Shapur I, the second king of Sassanid monarchy, built Bishapur city in about 300 AD. To be specific, the remains of this well designed city are in almost 120 km away from Shiraz. Bishapur lies in an area of approximately 200 hectares. Without Surprise, Bishapur is named after its establisher, the king. In fact, He decided to build this city in honor of his triumph against the Romans. Yet the fun fact is that Bishapur city has a Roman base plan. Bishapur is near the ancient capital of Sassanid Empire, Istakhr. We also need to mention that Bishapur is on the path of the Royal Road which connects two important Achaemenid capitals, Susa and Persepolis. As well as that it connects Istakhr and Ctesiphon, the Sassanid capitals. Also, Bishapur kept expanding at the pro-Islamic period mostly towards south.  

Bishapur City

Two main straight roads cross the land of the city. Bishapur has 4 gates each on the end of the mentioned roads. The west gate is the main entrance of the city. Like every other town, it consists of two parts. First, the royal or governmental area and an area for citizens’ residence. The latter part contains common civil facilities as houses, Bazaar, caravansary, bath house and etc.  The royal part includes a palace, a royal hall, the mosaic loggia, two monumental columns and the magnificent Anahita Temple. As a matter of fact the main material used in construction of Bishapur is stone. In the past, the city was guarded by a moat around it. As well as every other city, they built it near a river to provide water supply.

Monumental columns

As you pass through the city paths, two 9 meter columns are still standing straight in the lands of Bishapur. They are located on the edge of one of the main city roads next to each other. The builders carved two inscriptions  on these columns. These inscriptions are Shapur’s words that introduce himself as a religious person and that the monarchy is related to gods. Archeologists assume that a stone statue of Shapur must have been in the middle of two columns. Some experts claim that it must have been a place to perform religious rituals as well.   

The Royal Hall

The ceremonial royal hall has an area of 781 square meters. It’s one of the most important Sassanid architecture that contains a dome. The hall has a central part that the dome is over it. And square parts on its each side. The beauty of the royal hall is that it’s decorated with shelves as many as 64 with plaster patterns on them. The patterns were inspired by nature that shows the gentle spirit of Sassanid artists.   

The musaic loggia

This 25 m long loggia is probably the most gorgeous monument left from Sassanid era. Its floor used to totally be covered in tiny colorful mosaics like a Persian carpet. After all these years there is still a narrow line of these mosaics at the edge of the floor, near the walls. They keep some mosaic pieces of this loggia in in Iran and Paris’ museums.

Mosaic Details

Shapur Cave

only 6 Km away from ancient Bishapur city, shapur cave lies in Zagros mountains. After a worthy climbing and entering the 30 meter entrance of the cave, your eyes will find the huge glorious 7 -meter statue of king Shapur 1. They have sculpted it with artistic details. Some claim that his body is burried in the cave as well. 

Anahita Temple

Definitely Anahita Temple is by far the most prominent part in Bishapur. They built it in honor of Anahita, the deity of water. It has a magnificent structure and in some ways is different from other Sassanid monuments. This temple is noticeable not only for its architectural appearance but also for its water system engineering.

Anahita temple is roofless and is 6 meters underground. It has an area of 23*27 m and is totally made of stone. The builders attached all the stone cubes skillfully and neatly together by metal clamps. The base factor in the appearance of this temple was water. They built the temple underground and provided water through artificial water courses from Shapur river. The water then would flow from tops of the temple and beautifully stream throughout the temple. There are water places and narrow and wide water courses all over the place except with no water at present time.

Eventually, what’s considerable is the intelligent technique they came up with to maintain a water cycle in Anahita Temple. They skillfully dug a well so that the water at the end of its cycle reaches it and be used again.

Is it worth visiting?

We assure that you won’t regret paying a visit to this historical Sassanid city. While passing through its roads and walking among its remains you might imagine how life must’ve been like back then. It is also near Naghshe-Rostam necropolis, Percepolis and Chogan valley, Therefore you can pay them all a visit in a day or two. Bishapur is a UNESCO world heritage therefore it undoubtedly is worth a visit.

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