Obviously Achaemenid dynasty was the greatest monarchy of Persia. Consequently, it makes one curious about the eternal lying spot of those honorable rulers. Only about 80 km outside of Shiraz, the tombs of 4 Achaemenid kings form Naghshe-Rostam. Their tombs are just in a short distance from their glorious ceremonial capital, Persepolis. These magnificent tombs beside several Sassanid and one Elamite stone reliefs and another monument, all together constitute the historical site of Naghshe-Rostam. Naghshe-Rostam contains monuments of various periods from 1200 BC to about 600 AD, hence it has major historical value.
Certainly, the novel structure of these 4 tombs in Naghshe-Rostam were Darius the Great’s idea. These tombs were definitely their first ones of the kind. Darius I, Xerxes I, Artaxerxes I and Darius II each have a persepolitan tomb in Naghshe-Rajab. They are skillfully carved on and through the rocks of Se Gonbadan mountain at about 26 m above ground.
Each of the tombs in Naghshe-Rostam have a cross like outline. The entrance to them is in the center of the chalipa (Persian cross). Above the entrance, there is a bas relief that illustrates the power of the monarchy. The king is standing on top of a flat throne while the sacred fire is in front of him. 28 people from all around of their vast territory are carrying the throne. On top of all these, they carved Faravahar, which is a well-known Zoroastrian symbol. There are carvings of typical Achaemenid pillars on the cross as well. Particularly, the details of the reliefs are delicate and noticeable.
The entrance opens to a small chamber that leads to one or three rooms, each containing three simple sarcophaguses. Eventually, they fully polished the lower part of the cross to prevent any intruding. After all, these 4 tombs slightly differ in size, inner parts, details, faces of the kings and delicacy.
Most noteworthy, Darius the Great left two very important inscriptions on his tomb in Naghshe-Rostam for the world! One of them is general in which he introduces himself and names the parts of his territory. He of course reminds the importance and power of supreme being, Ahura Mazda. The other one is surprisingly personal. He says statements that show his belief in Ahura Mazda and what a moral, ethical and open minded person he was!
In front of the tombs in, on the ground, there is a nice cubed monument in Naghsh e Rostam. It has about 14 m height and a stairway leads to its door. It’s made of light-color stone bricks. As well as what we see in other Achaemenid monuments, the stones are attached together with metal clamps. unfortunately, its exact construction time and usage is not clear. Archeologists have different theories about its usage that we’re going to mention. Some claim that it is a tomb. Some think it was a fire temple. And some guess that they used to keep the holy bible, scripts and documents in there. Kabe-ye-Zartosht means a zoarostrian symbol. It’s a recent name given to this place which lacks strict evidence.
Three inscriptions are carved on this cube in Naghshe-Rostam during Sassanid era. Two of them are related to Sassanid kings and one is about Kartyr. He was a Zoroastrian priest with absolutely high position for years during that period. Archeologists assume these 3 inscriptions to be the most important ones of that time.
Sassanid Bas Reliefs
As we mentioned before, Naghsh e Rostam contains several Sassanid reliefs as well. It indicates that this religious and royal site remained important even until Sassanid period. It also shows the Sassanid king’s respect for Achaemenid monarchy. And that they intended to pursue the same governing protocol, rules and methods.
One of the major reliefs of Sassanid era is the coronation of Ardeshir I, the founder of the empire. He is sitting on a horse receiving the sacred crown from supreme being, Ahura Mazda. In this carving the god is shown as a human dressed similar to the king and riding a horse. The last king of the previous monarchy is carved under the legs of the Ardeshir I’s horse. On the other hand, a picture of the devil is carved under the legs of god’s horse. This relief also includes two inscriptions.
The relief that is about Shapur I’s victory over Roman Caesars has major value. In this precise relief, the king is sitting on a horse while Valerian is begging in front of him on the floor. The king is holding a hand of Philip the Arab as a sign of his captivity.
The relief showing coronation of Narseh is again noticeable. It differs from other investiture scenes because he is receiving the sacred crown from a female figure. She is assumed to be Anahita, the deity of water, fertility and warfare.
Others are kings with their courtiers or their equestrian reliefs. But one of them is carved over another relief in Naghshe-Rostam. It shows Bahram II and his courtiers. The older BAS relief is hardly visible. However, archeologists claim it’s a scene of two Elamite deities sitting on chairs which dates back to 1200 BC. There are also two male and female figures each on one side of the gods. We guess that they were Elamite king and queen who respected the carved gods. These two were carved later and date back to about 800 BC.
Is it worth visiting?
Naghsh e Rostam and Naghsh e Rajab together are on tentative list of UNESCO world cultural heritage. Visiting this place is highly recommended in order to find out much more about the two greatest empires of Iran. Make sure to visit Naghshe-Rostam ,this rich historical site, beside your visit to Persepolis.