The Palace of Xerxes (the Hadiš)

The article below by the late Shapour Shahbazi on the The Palace of Xerxes (the Hadiš) was first posted on the Encyclopedia Iranica as part of a larger article on the Persepolis city-palace.


Xerxes’ private residence (called hadiš in one of its inscriptions) was twice the size of the Tačara and stood on a platform hewn from the natural bedrock 18 m. higher than the level of the plain. It had a thirty-six columned square hall connected by a doorway to a long balcony on the south which gave a panoramic view of the plain from behind four-stepped crenellations, by another pair to a twelve-columned portico on the north, and by two more to flanking apartments each consisting of a four-columned hall, storage and guardrooms, and a tower. The hall had also nineteen windows and four niches, each hewn from a monolith, and a complete system of drainage. Two double reversed staircases bearing sculptures similar to that of the Tačara ascended the Hadiš from the western and eastern courtyards, while two unadorned staircases on either sides of the balcony (the eastern one was restored in 1978) led down to the Harem. The fine but brittle stone used in this palace was severely burned during Alexander’s fire, making it very difficult to protect the little that has survived.

1-view-from-xerxes-palace-shirazExcellent photo of Xerxes’ palace by TravelPod Member “Skiwiman” (Source:

The sculptures on the doorjambs of the main hall show Xerxes, wearing a tall plain cylindrical crown, and accompanied by two attendants (depicted on a much smaller scale), a parasol-holder, and a towel or a flywhisk carrier. Trilingual inscriptions carved on the folds of the royal garment and above the parasol identify the king, and similar ones are inscribed on the frames of windows and niches. The more detailed trilingual texts on the pillars of the northern portico are essentially the same as those on the pillars of the Tačara portico. In 1978 this writer discovered that an Old Persian inscription carved above the king’s parasol on the eastern jamb of the northwestern doorway of the Hadiš named the royal personage as “Darius the king” instead of “Xerxes the king” (Shahbazi, 1985, pp. 11-12, Pls. XI-XII). This proved that Xerxes had started the Hadiš while he was Darius’ co-regent. The inner faces of the windows of the Hadiš are sculptured with representations of people carrying utensils or leading wild goats or similar animals. This is a variation in Persepolitan sculptures and has no parallel elsewhere.


Shahbazi, Sh., Old Persian Inscriptions from PersepolisPlatform, Corp. Inscr. Iran I/1.1, London, 1985.

Farroukh Jorat: The Atashgah (Fire temple) of Baku

The article below “Zoroastrians of Apsheron: from Sassanians to present days” is written by Farroukh Jorat from the Republic of Azerbaijan (formerly known as Arran and the Khanates until May 1918).


 Baku is the capital of the Azerbaijan Republic, which called by poets as “Land of flames”. This country was the part of Great Iran from ancient times until XIX century. In this article I will briefly talk about Zoroastrian history of Baku and Apsheron peninsula.

Before Sassanians

The earliest mention of Persians in the Caucasus is found in the Greek historian Herodotus’ account of the Achaemenid expansion of 558-330 BC, during which they annexed Transcaucasia (South Caucasus) as the X, XI, XVIII and XIX satrapies of their empire [1].

Archaeological material uncovered in present-day Azerbaijan, Armenia and Georgia include Achaemenid architecture, jewelry and ceramics [2].

Beginning of Sassanian times

Earliest mentions of a Zoroastrianism in Transcaucasia dates back to the Sassanians, who founded here the fire temples. Mobed Kartir (III c.) write in “Kabah of Zartusht”:

“And from earliest times onward for the sake of the Yazads and noble lords and for my own soul’s sake, I, Kartir, saw much trouble and toil. And I made prosperous many fires and magi in the empire of Iran. And I also, by command of the King of Kings, put in order those magi and fires which were for the territory outside Iran, wherever the horses and men of the King of Kings arrived the city of Antioch and the country of Syria and what is beyond Syria, the city of Tarsus and the country of Cilicia and what is beyond Cilicia, the city of Caesarea and from the country of Cappadocia to Galatia, and the country of Armenian and Georgia, and Albania, and from Balaskan to the Alans’ pass. And Shahpuhr, King of Kings, with his own horses and men visited with pillaging, firing, and havoc. But I did not allow damage and pillaging, and whatsoever pillaging had been made by any person, those things I had taken away and returned to their own country” [3].

Movses Khorenatsi in V century in the description of Bhagavan on the Caspian coast mentioned about Sanctuary with seven worshiped holes and referred to the establishment of the Shah Ardashir I (227-241) fire temples in Bhagavan [4]. Bhagavan (Bagavan) is one of medieval names of Baku. Ghevond Alishan described them as seven holes with burning oil which were called “Azer Pehram” [5].

Obviously, we are talking about a fire temple “Ateshgah” in the village of Surakhani (near Baku) where burned seven eternal flames.


Fire temple Ateshgah (Source: Farroukh Jorat).

Also there is another tower fire-temple called “Maiden Tower”. Nezami Ganjevi in his poem “Eskandar Nameh” wrote:

In that place was a fire built round with stone

Which the fire-worshipper used to call – “Khudi-soz”

For it, were a hundred priests (erbadan) of the fire-temple with collar of gold.

“Khudi-soz” (“Burning itself”) refers to the burning of natural oil or gas fires. “For it, were a hundred priests (erbadan)” – to stand before the sacred fire so many erbads could only in very large temple.

Such large tiered fire temple with premises able to accommodate a hundred erbads could be the Baku temple tower known as the Maiden’s Tower. Having examined the mortar with which the tower was built, scientists have concluded that it was built between the I and X centuries AD, i. e. in Sassanian times.


“Maiden’s tower” in Baku (Source: Farroukh Jorat).

Towering fire temple of Sassanian times existed in Ardasher-Khwarrah in the province of Pars (now Firouzabad). This fire temple was built by shah Ardeshir I and was located at the center of the city and it was a 30 m high and spiral in design. This architectural type influenced on architecture of Great Mosque of Samarra in Iraq.


Draft of towering fire temple in Ardasher-Khwarrah (now Firouzabad), Iran (Source: Farroukh Jorat).

In 1964, in front of the “Maiden’s tower” archaeologists found altar of fire, which, unfortunately, was soon destroyed. Altar had three-tier octagonal base, each step was 22-25 cm tall at the center of the upper base has been installed an octagonal tower height of 110 cm and 45 cm at the top of the column is clearly seen traces of fire and oil. The column had no openings for gas, oil burned in the bowl, which is not fully preserved. Place reliance shallow bowl was round a spherical cavity on the top of the column. The whole height of the altar was approximately 225-235 cm.


Altar of fire near the “Maiden’s tower” in Baku (Source: Farroukh Jorat).

Sketch of the reconstructed ancient altar of the fire is shown. The altar of this type has been widely distributed by the Medes and Sassanian Iran, where the altars were low (below human growth). Their images carved on coins.


Altar of fire. Coin of shah Ardashir I (Source: Farroukh Jorat).

Arabian invasion. VII-XII AD

In 642, in the Caucasus invaded by an army of the Arab Caliphate, began a violent Islamization. However, despite this, the majority of the population remained Zoroastrians a few centuries after the Arab conquest. Estakhri (X century) mentioned that not far from Baku (i.e., on the Apsheron Peninsula) lived fire worshippers [6]. This was confirmed by Movses Kaghankatvatsi in his reference of the province of Bhagavan (“Fields of the Gods” i.e., “Fire Gods”) [7] and by Aboulfeda [8].

At the same time group of Zoroastrians from Sanjan (now in Turkmenistan) migrated to India. It was the beginning the history of Parsi community.

It is known that when referring to Zoroastrians, Muslims used the word “Gabri”. To the west of Baku is located a desert area, which until the 1940’s was called “Gabristan”. In the 1940’s,after the discovery of rock paintings, this place has become famous, and the name “Gabristan” was deemed invalid because of its consonance with the word “gabir” (“grave” in Azeri) and the district was renamed the “Gobustan”. However, as noted archaeologist Gardashkhan Aslanov, in fact stated, the name Gabristan has no relation to the word “grave” and actually means “Country of Gabris”. It is likely that this desert area was a place for Zoroastrians who were trying not to attract the attention of Muslim rulers. Now the new name “Gobustan” stuck and few people know the old name of the area.

Middle ages. XV-XVII AD

From XV-XVI centuries diplomatic and trade relations between India and Shirvan were expanded. Surakhani Ateshgah was used as sanctuary of Hindus, Sikhs and Zoroastrians.

In 1683 German traveler Engelbert Kämpfer visited Surakhani and mentioned about “seven holes with eternal fires” [9]. “Surakhani” in Persian of Caucasus (language of Surakhani) means “hole with the fountain”. In other words, “Yotnporakyan Bagink” and “Surakhani” is practically calques.


Seven fire holes, picture by Kaempfer, 1683 (Source: Farroukh Jorat).

Chardin in the 17th century reported about Persian Guebres, which worshiped forever burning fire that was in two days’ journey from Shemakha (on the Apsheron) [10].

Engelbert Kaempfer wrote that among people who worshiped fire, two men are descendants of Persians who migrated to India.

French Jesuit Villotte, who lived in Azerbaijan since 1689, reports that Ateshgah revered by Hindus and Guebres, the descendants of the ancient Persians [11].

German traveler Lerch who visited the temple in 1733, wrote that here there are 12 Guebres or ancient Persian fire worshipers» [12].

Around the fire altar (“Chahar-tag”) were cells for pilgrims and guest room (“balakhani”), located at the entrance to the courtyard. According to travelers in the cells as small fires burned.


Ateshgah of Baku, XVIII-XIX centuries (Source: Farroukh Jorat).

Despite the fact that the temple was primarily used by a Hindus and Sikhs too, it represents the Sassanian “Chahar-tag” style. Fire temples of this type were in Niasar and other areas of Iran [13].

“Chahar-tag” fire temple in Niasar (Iran) (Source: Farroukh Jorat).

On the walls of cells were encrypted dedicatory inscriptions (14 Hindu, 2 Sikh and one Persian inscriptions).


Persian (Zoroastrian) inscription in Ateshgah (Source: Farroukh Jorat).

آتشی صف کشیده همچون دک

جیی بِوانی رسیده تا بادک

سال نو نُزل مبارک باد گفت

خانۀ شد رو سنامد (؟) سنة ۱۱۵٨

ātaši saf kešide hamčon dak

jeyi bavāni reside tā bādak

sāl-e nav-e nozl mobārak bād goft

xāne šod ru *sombole sane-ye 1158

Fires stand in line

Esfahani Bavani came to Badak

“Blessed the lavish New Year”, he said:

The house was built in the month of Ear in year 1158.

In the first line of inscription author talks about of a number of fires burning in the cells around the temple.

Jorat-Baku-10Worshiped fire and small fires stand in line in the background cells (1865) (Source: Farroukh Jorat).

In the second line the author says that he was from Isfahan and Bavan and reached the city of Badak. “Jay” is form of “Gay”, one of the earliest names of Isfahan. Bavan (modern Bavanat) is the village near Esfahan. [14, 15]. The word Badak is a diminutive of Bad-Kubeh. (The name of Baku in the sources of the 17th and 18th centuries was Bad-e Kube).

The 1158 year corresponds to 1745 AD. At the end of the reference is the constellation of Sombole /Virgo (August-September). In the name of the month the master mistakenly shifted the “l” and “h” at the end of the word. According to Zoroastrian calendar Qadimi New Year (Novruz) in 1745 AD was in August.

J. Hanway visited Baku in 1747 and left few records of Ateshgah. People, who worshiped fire in Ateshgah he calls “Indians”, “Persians” and “Guebres”. [16].

S. Gmelin, who visited Ateshgah in 1770, wrote that in the present Ateshgah lived Indians and descendants of the ancient Guebres [17].


As said M. J. Saint-Martin, French orientalist of early XIX century: “The city of Baku is regarded by Parsis as a holy place due to many sources of naphtha with natural burning fire and in many places worshiping a eternal fire”. (La ville de Bakou est regardée par les Parsis comme un lieu saint, à cause du grand nombre de sources de naphte qui s’y enflamment naturellement, et qui, en plusieurs endroits, y entretiennent un feu perpétuel.) [18].

In 1820 the French consul Gamba visits the temple. According to Gamba here lived Hindus and Persian guebres, the followers of Zoroaster. [19].

In 1840 Avraham Firkowicz, a Karaite collector, wrote about his meeting in Darband in 1840 with fireworshiper from Baku. Firkowicz asked him “Why do you worship fire?” Fireworshiper replied that they do not worship fire at all, but the Creator, which is not a person, but rather a “matter” (abstraction) called Q’rţ’, and symbolized by fire. Term Q’rţ’ (“kirdar”) means in Pahlavi and Avestan as “one who does”, “creator” [20].

The Englishman Ussher visited Ateshgah in September 19, 1863. He calls it “Atesh Jah” and said that there are pilgrims from India and Persia [21].

German Baron Max Thielmann visited the temple in October 1872 and in his memoirs he wrote that Parsi community of Bombay sent here a priest who after a few years will be replaced. His presence is necessary, because here come the pilgrims from the outskirts of Persia (Yazd, Kerman) and from India and remain in this sacred place for several months or years. [22].

In 1876 English traveler James Bruce visited Ateshgah. He noted that the Bombay Parsi Punchayat provides a permanent presence in the temple of their priest [23].

E. Orsolle, who visited the temple after Bruce, said that after Parsi priest died in 1864, the Parsi Punchayat of Bombay a few years later sent another priest here, but the pilgrims who came here from India and Iran have already forgotten the sanctuary, and in 1880 there was nobody [24].

O’Donovan visited the temple in 1879 and refers about religious worship of Guebres. [25].

In 1898 in the “Men and Women of India” magazine was published an article entitled “The ancient Zoroastrian temple in Baku”. Author calls Ateshgah as “Parsi temple” and notes that the last Zoroastrian priest was sent there for about 30 years ago (that is, in the 1860s.) [26].


Henry in 1905, in his book also noted that 25 years ago (i.e. about in 1880) in Surakhani died last Parsi priest. [27].

In 1855, with the development of oil and gas fields the natural flames of Ateshgah began to fade. In 1887, Ateshgah had greatly weakened flames and was visited by the Emperor Alexander III. The temple flames finally extinguished January 6, 1902.

In 1925 the Azerbaijan Soviet Socialist Republic at the invitation of the “Community for the survey and study of Azerbaijan” visited the famous Bombay Zoroastrian scholar and professor J. J. Modi. Modi claimed that the ancient texts say about the Parsi fire temples on the shores of the Khazar (Caspian) Sea.

Parsi scientist visited completely abandoned Ateshgah, but due to the large number of attributes of the Hindu religion (the inscriptions, trishul) he ranked Ateshgah to Hindu temples. In the Persian inscriptions he was able to partially disassemble only the first and last row.

He visited the “Maiden’s tower”, which he considered as “ancient Ateshkade” (fire temple), and suggested the architectural similarity of the tower, discovered during excavations of the ancient city of Taxila, near Rawalpindi (now Pakistan). It should be noted that Modi’s assumption had remained unconfirmed [28].


J. J. Modi, Baku, November, 1925 (Source: Farroukh Jorat).

He gave lectures in Baku on the two subjects: “The Parsees” and “The Importance of Azerbaijan from a Parsee Point of View”. His objective was to create an interest in our religion among the local learned people.

After J. J. Modi’s visit Ateshgah 50 years was in oblivion. But since 1975, after the restoration it was re-opened to the public. Flames of Ateshgahs burn again.


Since the 1991 Zoroastrian community of Iran began missionary work outside of Iran. One of the objectives of Zoroastrians of Azerbaijan is the recognition of Zoroastrianism by society and the State as one of the traditional religions of Azerbaijan. Zoroastrians of Azerbaijan, as well as from Iran and India carried out in Ateshgah religious ceremonies.


Iranian Zoroastrians in Ateshgah (Source: Farroukh Jorat).

In July 2009, Ilham Aliyev, the President of Azerbaijan announced a grant of AZN 1 million for the upkeep of the shrine.


Ateshgah at present days (Source: Farroukh Jorat).


Ateshgah and balakhani (house above the entrance) at present days (Source: Farroukh Jorat).


[1] Herodotus, The Histories, Book III (Thaleia) 92, 94.

[2] Kroll Stephan. “Medes and Persians in Transcaucasia: archaeological horizons in north-western Iran and Transcaucasia”, in : G. B. Lanfranchi, M. Roaf, R. Rollinger, eds., Continuity of Empire (?) Assyria, Media, Persia. Padova, S.a.r.g.o.n. Editrice e Libreria, 2003, pp. 281-287. History of the Ancient Near East / Monographs – V.

[3] Royal inscription found on the Kabah of Zartusht. An account of how Zoroastrianism was propagated beyond Iranian territories during the Third Century, and other religions suppressed.

[4] Movses of Chorene “The History of Armenia”.

[5] Alishan. Hin Havatk gam Hetanosagan gronk Hayots (“Ancient Beliefs, or Pagan Religions of Armenia”], pp. 55-56, Venice, 1895).

[6] Abu Ishaq Ibrahim ibn Muhammad al-Farisi al Istakhri. Ketāb al-masālek wa’l-mamālek.

[7] History of the Caucasian Albanians by Movses Dasxuranci. Translated by C. J. F. Dowsett. London, 1961.

[8] Geographie d’Aboulfeda traduite de Parabe en francais et accompagnee de notes et d’eclaircissements par M. Reinaud, t. I-II, Paris, 1848-1883.

[9] E. Kämpfer. Amoenitatum exoticarum politico-physico-medicarum fasciculi V, quibus continentur variae relationes, observationes et descriptiones rerum Persicarum et ulterioris Asiae, multa attentione, in peregrinationibus per universum Orientum, collecta, ab auctore Engelberto Kaempfero. Lemgoviæ : Typis & Impensis Henrici Wilhelmi Meyeri, Aulæ Lippiacæ Typographi , 1712, p. 253—262.

[10] Chardin J. Voyages en Perse et autres lieux de 1’Orient. Vol. II. Amsterdam, 1735. p. 311.

[11] J. Villotte, Voyage d’un missionnaire de la Compagnie de Jésus en Turquie, en Perse, en Arménie, en Arabie et en Barbarie, Paris, 1730.

[12] Лерх Иоанн. Выписка из путешествия Иоанна Лерха, продолжавшегося от 1733 до 1735 г. из Москвы до Астрахани, а оттуда по странам, лежащим на западном берегу Каспийского моря. «Новые ежемесячные сочинения», ч. XLIV, февраль, СПб., 1790 г., с. 75.

[13] Fire Temple at Niasar.

[14] Bavan on Google maps.

[15] Ali Akbar Dehkhoda. Loghatnameh, (in Persian), Tehran.

[16] Jonas Hanway. An Historical Account of the British Trade Over the Caspian Sea, 1753.

[17] Samuel Gottlieb Gmelin. Reise durch Russlaud zur Untersuchung d. drei Naturreiche, p. 45.

[18] Saint-Martin M. J. Mémoires historiques et géographiques sur l’Arménie I, Paris, 1818, p. 153-154.

[19] Jean Françoise Gamba. Voyage dans la Russie meridionale. II. Paris. 1826. P. 299.

[20] Dan Shapira. A Karaite from Wolhynia meets a Zoroastrian from Baku. Iran and the Caucasus, vol. 5, no. 1, 2001, pp. 105-106.

[21] Ussher. A Journey from London to Persepolis. pp. 208-207, London, 1865.

[22] Thielmann, Journey in the Caucasus, Persia, and Turkey in Asia, Eng. tr. by Heneage, 2. 9-12, London, 1876.

[23] James Bryce. Transcaucasia and Ararat: Being Notes of a Vacation Tour in the Autumn Of 1876.

[24] E. Orsolle. Le Caucase et la Perse. Ouvrage accompagné d’une carte et d’un plan. Paris, E. Plon, Nourrit et cie, 1885, pp. 130-142.

[25] O’Donovan E. Merv Oasis: Travels and Adventures East of the Caspian during the years 1879-80-81. 2 vols. New York, 1883.

[26] Men and Women of India. Vol. 1, no. 12, p. 696, Bombay, Dec. 1898.

[27] J. D. Henry, Baku, an Eventful History, 1906.

[28] Maari Mumbai Bahaarni Sehel – Europe ane Iran-nee Musaafari-naa 101 Patro. 1926, p. 266-279 (English translation: “My Journey outside Mumbai – 101 letters of my Europe and Iran Journeys.” by Ervad Shams-Ul-Ulama Dr. Sir Jivanji Jamshedji Modi. Translated from Gujarati by Soli P. Dastur in 2004.

Display and Reconstruction of Remains of 7000 Year Old Woman in Iran

The Tehran Times on January 8, 2016 has reported of the remains of a 7-millennia-old woman that will remain on display at the National Museum of Iran in Tehran (see Tehran Times report for more details regarding the exhibition “Molavi Street Discoveries and Tehran 7,000-Year-Old Woman”).

1-7000 yrd old woman Iran

The 7000 year old remains on display at the National Museum of Iran in Tehran (Source: Tehran Times).

The discovery of the remains of the 7000 year old woman was made in November 2014 by Iranian archeology student Mahsa Vahabi whose keen observation of her surroundings led to the discovery of ancient stone foundations, samples of pottery, human bones. This is all the more remarkable as Mahsa Vahabi had made this discovery as she was walking along Tehran’s Molavi Street near the city’s Grand Bazaar. She found the items situated at the bottom of a construction site excavated by a Tehran-based Water and Wastewater Company. Mahsa Vahabi rapidly reported her discovery Siamak Sarlak a well-known Iranian archaeologist. Vahabi and Sarlak then successfully appealed to the Water and Wastewater Company to suspend its works in order to allow for a professional excavation to take place. 

The bones discovered by Vahabi have been scientifically proven to have been the skeleton of woman who lived sometime 7,000 years ago. Mehr News reported in mid-June 2015 that the face of the skeleton had been reconstructed with the help of 3D imaging technology by Mohammad Reza Rokni of the Archaeology Research Center and his research team.

2-7000 yr old woman-Iran

3D imaging Reconstruction of the 7000 year old woman discovered in the construction site along Tehran’s Molavi street in November 2014 by Mahsa Vahabi (Source: As reported by Mehr News Agency Mohammad Reza Rokni’s team based the appearance of the woman’s hair on the pottery images from Cheshmeh Ali (dated to the late Neolithic and Chalcolithic village, situated in northern Iran)

For more on a thousands year old civilization based in Iran, consult The World in Between

Bruno Jacobs: Achaemenid Rule in the Caucasus

The posting below by Bruno Jacobs’ discussion on Achaemenid Rule in the Caucasus was originally published in the Encyclopedia Iranica on August 15, 2006. Kindly note that the pictures/illustrations and their accompanying descriptions do not appear in the original Encyclopedia Iranica article.


Achaemenid rule in the Caucasus region was established, at the latest, in the course of the Scythian campaign of Darius I in 513-12 BCE. The Persian domination of the cis-Caucasian area (the northern side of the range) was brief, and archeological findings indicate that the Great Caucasus formed the northern border of the empire during most, if not all, of the Achaemenid period after Darius.

After the conquest of Armenia (OPers. Armina), which is recorded as a province (OPers. dahyu-) of the Achaemenid empire in the Bisotun inscription, the realm of Cyrus the Great already must have reached considerably to the north. The Little Caucasus, the line of the Phasis/Rion and Cyrus/Kura rivers, and the Great Caucasus all offer themselves as natural frontiers, but it is not possible to reconstruct in more detail the boundary line of that time.

ShamkhirAn Iranian legacy in the Caucasus. To the south of the Republic of Georgia is Shamkhir located in the Republic of Azarbaijan (ROA) (known as Arran until 1918). Shamkhir is located some 350 kilometres west of Baku near the Armenian border to its west. The CAIS website hosted by Shapur Suren-Pahlav reported on August 28, 2007 that Archaeologists from the ROA, Georgia and Germany unearthed ruins of a monument dated to the Achaemenid dynasty in the town of Shamkhir. The head of the archaeology team stated that: “During the excavation, we found traces of a 2500 year old historical structure…which has one 1000 square meter chamber surrounded by several smaller rooms…The ruins indicate that this area was once an important Achaemenid centre in the northern provinces in the Caucasus” (Picture and caption from Kaveh Farrokh’’s lectures at the University of British Columbia’s Continuing Studies Division and were also presented at Stanford University’s WAIS 2006 Critical World Problems Conference Presentations on July 30-31, 2006).

In the classical sources referring to the Achaemenid period, the Caucasus region is widely neglected (Lordkipanidze, 2000, pp. 4-7). So historians felt obliged to speculate about the border of the empire in that region during the approximately 200 years of Achaemenid rule that followed. Hewsen (1983, p. 128) expresses doubts that the Achaemenid empire ever extended beyond the Armenian plateau. Lordkipanidze (2000, pp. 9-11) concedes that Kachetia may have belonged to the Persian empire, but not Caucasian Iberia north of the Kura. Gagoshidze (1996, pp. 125 f.), however, is of the opinion that the territory of modern Georgia as a whole belonged to the Achaemenid empire, perhaps as an autonomous region (also Knauss, 1999b, p. 220).

It is not possible to reach a definite conclusion on the incorporation of areas between the Black and the Caspian Seas into the empire during the time of Darius I on the basis of Herodotus’s so-called “satrapy list” (Hdt., 3.90-94, esp. 93-94), as is done by Hewsen (1983, pp. 125 f.) and Ter-Martirosov (2000, pp. 246-50), because this catalogue is not appropriate either for the reconstruction of the imperial administration or for historical geography. Clearer insights are gained from the Scythian campaign of Darius I in 513-12 BCE, which involved military operations in the Caucasus region and the territory north of it.

Achaemenid Palace at QarajamirliExcavation of the Achaemenid building at Qarajamirli. The researchers Babaev, Gagoshidze, Knauß and Florian in 2007 (An Achaemenid “Palace” at Qarajamirli (Azerbaijan) Preliminary Report on the Excavations in 2006. Ancient Civilizations from Scythia to Siberia, Volume 13, Numbers 1-2,, pp. 31-45(15)) discovered the remains of a monumental building as well as a number of fragments of limestone column bases. This follows closely the plan of an Achaemenid palace featuring a Symmetrical ground plan for the building as well as architectural sculpture. The pottery found on floor closely follow Persian models from the Achaemenid era. Similar structures have been excavated from Sary Tepe (Republic of Azerbaijan) and Gumbati (Georgia). The Sary Tepe, Gumbatii and Qarajamirli buildings can be interpreted as residences of Persian officials who left the region when Achaemenid Empire collapsed.

At that time Darius attacked the Scythians in a “pincer” movement with two battalions, one coming from the west after the crossing of the Bosporus and Danube, and the other passing over the Caucasus and invading the region north of the Pontus from the east (Jacobs, 2000, pp. 95-99). In spite of the sophisticated tactics, the undertaking did not succeed, and both armies had to retreat—the western one across the Danube and the eastern one across the Oarus, which the Persians secured with fortresses (Hdt., 4.124) in order to save at least a limited territorial gain. Herodotus (4.123) tells us that the Oarus empties into Lake Maietis/Sea of Azov; only the Sal River can be identified with the Oarus, because this river joins the Tanais/Don shortly before it empties into the Sea of Azov (Haussig apud Horneffer et al., 1963, p. 694, n. 120). How far the Persian rule in cis-Caucasia extended to the east is completely uncertain. After the conquest, the region must have been included as an administrative sub-unit (Colchis) of the satrapy of Armenia (Jacobs, 1994, p. 184). Reports of the plans of operation formulated by the Scythians and Lacedaemonians against the Achaemenid empire may belong to this same period when the cis-Caucasian territories were under Persian rule: the Lacedaemonians planned to invade Asia Minor starting from Ephesus, while the Scythians were to attack Media following the Phasis (Hdt., 6.84).

Certainly the occupation of cis-Caucasia as well as the Thracian territory was short-lived. The exact time it ended is unknown. Possibly the repercussions from the defeat of the Persians in Greece and from the successful rebellion of the Thracians were also felt on the east side of the Sea of Azov. A corresponding retaliation on the side of the Scythians could have chased out the Persians, resulting in the displacement of the border to the south. Herodotus’s claim (3.97) that the empire’s border was formed by the Caucasus—by this he probably means the Great Caucasus—may refer to this period.

Silver Rhython-Armina-Achaemenid EraA Silver Rhython of the Achaemenid type from Yerznka, Armenia (5th Century BCE) (Source: Public Domain).

A clue to the contours of the border in later times is given by Xenophon in his report on the return of the “10,000” after the battle of Cunaxa. Marching in the direction of the Black Sea coast, the Greeks passed close by the territory of the Colchians, the border of which could not have run far to the east of Trapezous/Trabzon. Nothing indicates that the Greeks, at that point, might have been near the border of the realm (Xen., Anabasis 4.8). On the contrary, the Colchians were settling on imperial territory; and, since their estates, as Herodotus and others relate, were situated at the Phasis, the river could not have marked the border; thus the next natural barrier to the north, i.e., the Great Caucasus, recommends itself as the border of the empire (Hdt., 4.37; cf. 1.2 and 104; Nonnos, 13.248-52; Strabo, 11.2.17 [C 498]). Regarding the sequel, the fourth century BCE, the sources are completely silent.

The altogether sparse written sources are supplemented by the strikingly rich archeological evidence from the region south of the Great Caucasus. The quantity of Persian objects of luxury is considerable (Smirnov, 1934, pls. 3.24-25; 8-11; 61-65; Gagoshidze, 1964, pl. 12.74; idem, 1996, pp. 126 f.; Davlianidze, 1976; see also the glass bowls from Sairche and from the Algeti valley in Makharadze and Saginašvili, 1999; Gagoshidze and Saginašvili, 2000, p. 72, fig. 3). However, these do not necessarily signify political sovereignty of the Persians, because it is rarely possible to decide whether they document Persian presence, or bear witness to commercial relations, or reached the area as diplomatic presents. Also, local imitations of sumptuous tableware from Persia (Furtwängler, 1995, pp. 195-203, figs. 13.3, 15.6, 17.8; Gagoshidze, 1996, pp. 127 ff.) may point only to the influence of Persian prototypes exerted across the frontier.

georgian-achaemeneanAncient Georgian Column Capital discovered in Tsikha Gora (Courtesy of Gagoshidze and Kipiani). Note the striking resemblance to the column capital from Persepolis below (Picture and caption from Kaveh Farrokh’s lectures at the University of British Columbia’s Continuing Studies Division, Stanford University’s WAIS 2006 Critical World Problems Conference Presentations on July 30-31, 2006, University of Southern California and the University of Yerevan (Iranian Studies Department).

The case of architecture is entirely different; it reflects the influence of the Achaemenid residence with an intensity that is hardly imaginable without Persian presence during a longer period. This opinion is not so much based on the ground plans of buildings, because these either cannot be determined with certainty (Sari-Tepe: Knauss, 1999a, p. 96; cf. Kipiani, 1993, pl. I) or are only partially preserved (Gumbati: Furtwängler and Knauss, 1996, pp. 367-76, fig. 4; Knauss, 1999a, pp. 86-92). More instructive is the formation of individual architectural elements, particularly column bases and capitals, in the region of modern Georgia and through Armenia to Azerbaijan. Here we can mention: (1) a capital with antithetic bull protomes from Zichia Gora and a fragment of a bell-shaped column base that presumably belongs with it (Kipiani, 1993, p. 62, pls. II-V; Lordkipanidze, 1991, p. 152, pl. 40.2-3; Zkitischwili, 1995, pp. 88 f. figs. 5-6; Gagoshidze, 1996, pp. 132 f., fig. 4; Gagoshidze and Kipiani, 2000, pp. 62-64 figs. 1,7-8; 2-3); (2) fragments of another capital with bull protomes from Sairche (Kipiani, 1987, p. 63, pls. VI-IX; Gagoshidze, 1996, p. 133, fig. 5,, pl. 13.2); (3) fragments of at least six bell-shaped column bases from Gumbati (Furtwängler, 1995, pp. 188-94, figs. 10-11; Furtwängler and Knauss, 1996, pp. 374-76; Knauss, 1999a, p. 90; idem, 2000, pp. 121-27, figs. 3-4.2); (4) column bases and similar fragments from Benjamin (Zardarian and Akopian, 1994, p. 185, fig. 6; Gagoshidze and Kipiani, 2000, p. 60, fig. 1.5), Sari Tepe (Kipiani, 1987, pp. 72 f., pls. I-VII, XV f.; Gagoshidze and Kipiani, 2000, fig. 11), and Qaracamirli Köyi (Furtwängler and Knauss, 1996, pp. 374-76, fig. 9; Gagoshidze and Kipiani, 2000, fig. 1.6). This evidence supports the assumption that the region belonged to the Achaemenid empire for a longer period and testify to the orientation of the ruling class toward the forms of representation originating from the center of the empire.

achaemenid-achaemenean-persepolis-georgianThe double-bull motif column capital typical of Achaemenid-era architecture in sites such as Persepolis and Susa. Note the vivid parallels in style, construction and motifs to its Georgian counterpart shown further above. Architecture is only one of the many facets in which the ancient Caucasus and Persia have enjoyed mutual influences (Picture and caption from Kaveh Farrokh’s lectures at the University of British Columbia’s Continuing Studies Division, Stanford University’s WAIS 2006 Critical World Problems Conference Presentations on July 30-31, 2006, University of Southern California and the University of Yerevan (Iranian Studies Department).


Abbreviation. AMIT – Archäologische Mitteilungen aus Iran und Turan.

Ts. Davlianidze, Adreantikuri khanis dzeglebi kvemo kartlidan (Early antique monuments in Kvemo Kartli), Skartvelos sakhelmtsipo museumis moambe 32-B, T’bilisi, 1976, pp. 118-47. A. E. Furtwängler, “Gumbati. Archäologische Expedition in Kachetien. 1. Vorbericht,” Eurasia Antiqua 1, 1995, pp. 177-211.A. E. Furtwängler and F. S. Knauß, “Gumbati. Archäologische Expedition in Kachetien. 2. Vorbericht,” Eurasia Antiqua 2, 1996, pp. 363-81. J. Gagoshidze, Adreantikuri khanis dzeglebi ksnis kheobidan (Early antique monuments from the Ksani valley), T’bilisi, 1964. Idem, “The Achaemenid Influence in Iberia,” Boreas 19, 1996, pp. 125-36. J. Gagoshidze and G. Kipiani, “Neue Beobachtungen zur achaimenidischen Baukunst in Kartli,” AMIT 32, 2000, pp. 59-65. J. Gagoshidze and M. Saginašvili, “Die achaimenidischen Glasgefäße aus Georgien,” AMIT 32, 2000, pp. 67-73. R. H. Hewsen, “Introduction to Armenian Historical Geography – II. The Boundaries of Achaemenid ‘Armina’,” REArm. 17, 1983, pp. 123-43. A. Horneffer, W. Haussig, and W. F. Otto, Herodot – Historien, Stuttgart, 1963. B. Jacobs, Die Satrapienverwaltung im Perserreich zur Zeit Darius’ III., Beihefte zum TAVO Reihe B Nr. 87, Wiesbaden, 1994. Idem, “Achaimenidenherrschaft in der Kaukasus-Region und in Cis-Kaukasien,” AMIT 32, 2000, pp. 93-102.

G. Kipiani, Kapiteli, T’bilisi, 1987 (Georgian with Russian summary). Idem, Arkhitektura Grusii antichnovo perioda – Arkhitekturnyie detali (The architecture of Georgia in the ancient period – architectural details), T’bilisi, 1993 (Georgian with Russian summary). F. S. Knauss, “Achämeniden in Transkaukasien,” in S. Lausberg and K. Oekentorp, eds., Fenster zur Forschung – Museumsvorträge der Museen der Westfälischen Wilhelms-Universität Münster, Worte – Werke – Utopien, Thesen und Texte Münsterscher Gelehrter 9, Münster, 1999a, pp. 81-114. Idem, “Ein silbernes Trinkhorn aus Mtisdziri – Die Kolchis zwischen Achämeniden und Griechen,” in R. F. Docter and E. M. Moormann, eds., Classical Archaeology towards the Third Millennium: Reflections and Perspectives. Proceedings of the XVth International Congress of Classical Archaeology, Amsterdam, July 12-17, 1998, Allard Pierson Series, Amsterdam, 1999b, pp. 218-22. Idem, “Der ‘Palast’ von Gumbati und die Rolle der Achaimeniden im transkaukasischen Iberien,” AMIT 32, 2000, pp. 119-30. O. Lordkipanidze, Archäologie in Georgien – Von der Altsteinzeit zum Mittelalter, Quellen und Forschungen zur Prähistorischen und Provinzialrömischen Archäologie 5, Weinheim, 1991. Idem, “Introduction to the History of Caucasian Iberia and its Culture of the Achaemenid and Post-Achaemenid Periods,” AMIT 32, 2000, pp. 3-19. G. Makharadze and M. Saginashvili, “An Achaemenian Glass Bowl from Sairkhe, Georgia,” Journal of Garden History 41, 1999, pp. 11-7. I. I. Smirnov, Der Schatz von Achalgori, T’bilisi, 1934. F. I. Ter-Martirosov, “Die Grenzen der achaimenidischen Gebiete in Transkaukasien,” AMIT 32, 2000, pp. 243-52. M. H. Zardarian and H. P. Akopian, “Archaeological Excavations of Ancient Monuments in Armenia 1987-1990,” Ancient Civilizations from Scythia to Siberia 1, 1994, pp. 161-93. G. Zkitishwili, “Der frühhellenistische Feuertempel von Kawtishkewi,” Archäologischer Anzeiger, 1995, pp. 83-98.

Record Flight of Iranian Bell helicopter in 1975

A little known fact of the aviation history of helicopters is the record flight taken by an Iranian army Bell 214 helicopter with respect to (a) altitude and (b) time to height categories. The reports of these achievements were reported in the Flight International Journal (March, 9, 1975). Below is the page from the Flight International journal which provided this report.

Bell_Helicopter_Iran2The International Flight journal of March 9, 1975 with the report on the Iranian Bell 214A helicopter.

The Journal reported the following statistics. The first was Maximum altitude achieved at 29,750 feet. This broke the previous record set in 1964 for 25,418 feet set by a UH-D. The other  statistics are cited below:

  • Maximum sustained altitude in horizontal flight – 29,500 feet: 90 seconds
  • Time to 3,000 meters – 9,842 feet: 2 minutes 25 seconds
  • Time to 6,000 meters – 19,685 feet: 5 minutes 55 seconds
  • Time to 9,000 meters – 29,527 feet: 15 minutes 38 seconds

The commanding pilot who set this world record was Major General Manouchehr Khosrowdad (General of Iranian Army aviation). His co-pilot was Clem A. Bailey (Bell assistant chief helicopter test pilot).

Iranian Army Bell 214 helicopterAn Iranian army Bell 214 helicopter in the 1970s (Source: کروچیف). By March 1975, Iran had received a total of 287 Bell 214 helicopters from the United States.