Pasargadae: the Tomb of Cyrus the Great

Pasargadae is the site of the first capital of the Achaemenid Empire (c.550-330 BCE). Founded by Cyrus the Great (575-530 BCE).  Readers are invited to consult the below article with respect to the legacy of the Cyrus:

The term “Pasargadae” is generally believed to be the Greek phonological derivation of the Old Persian term Pathragada, which may have meant “Camp of the Persians” but this is no longer agreed upon by all specialists of ancient Iranian languages.

The construction of the Pasargadae complex drew upon artisans of not only Iranian origin (Medo-Persian), but also from Anatolia (i.e. Ionia) and Mesopotamia. These arrived at a unique architectural and civil engineering style of synthesis, one that was to herald the construction of the Persopolis city-palace. The synthesis of various artistic, architectural and engineering styles in northern, western and southern Iran however can be dated to the Elamites, the Medes as well as Luristan.

The site of Pasargadae is well known as housing the tomb of Cyrus and is also known as one of the genesis points for the Persian Gardens of old.

The Tomb of Cyrus at Pasargadae which has been listed as a World Heritage site by UNESCO.

The Pasargadae tomb – a reconstruction by Stronach.

The Tomb of Cyrus: Architecture and Engineering

The design of Cyrus‘ tomb is fascinating as it appears to incorporate aspects of both Elamite and Mesopotamian influences. The Elamites had been fusing with the Iranian peoples in south and southwest Iran, especially the Persians (called Parsuash by the Assyrians).

Reconstruction of Pasargadae by the Persepolis-3D website – For more details on the architecture of Pasargadae, see Stronach and Gopnik: Pasargadae.

There are three sections of interest in the tomb of Cyrus. The first is an elevated podium 21.9 meters high and whose base is 13.2 x 12.2 meters. Of particular interest is the use of large blocks in the building of the podium and the tomb itself (see description of this on the History Channel program “Engineering an Empire: The Persians” below:

 

The blocks at Pasargadae were cut very precisely and placed without the use of mortars. Reinforcement was provided by a unique system of clamps or staples.

Staples or clamps used to secure the blocks at Pasargadae.

It is very likely that the techniques for masonry at the tomb have significant influences from the Ionians and Lydians. These influences may be explained by Cyrus’ defeat of King Croesus of Lydia (reigned 560 to 546 BC) who was King Alyattes II (619-560 BC) son and successor. Cyrus also conquered the Ionians along the western coast of Anatolia (modern western Turkey). These conquests resulted in the arrival of Ionian and Lydian artisans who bought these particular features to site at Pasargadae.

An Ionian as depicted in the city-palace complex at Persepolis

The second section is a small chamber, which appears to have some Urartian influences. Urartu located towards northwest Iran and the Caucasus (roughly where Armenia is today) had already witnessed a symbiotic relationship between its own arts and architecture and those of the Medes, although this is a domain that requires more research and excavation work. The tomb itself has the following measurements: it stands at 2.11 meters in height is also 2.11 meters wide and is 3.17 meters in length. Western researchers have noted that these dimensions resemble those found at the tomb of King Alyattes II (619-560 BC) of Lydia. While this is true, it is possible that the inspiration for this may have been derived from the underground tombs of Luristan that have similar type of roofs. Luristan has been a seminal nexus point for the genesis and synthesis of various forms of artistic, metallurgical and building techniques that were to influence the Iranian plateau and northwest Iran.

The Uratian Erebuni Fortress in modern Yerevan, Armenia.

The third section of the structure is a roof and could resemble Phrygian type designs from ancient Anatolia.

A Phrygian Tomb at Midas City dated the 6th Century BC, near modern Eskishehir, Turkey.

The arrival of Alexander

Alexander (356-323 BC) who conquered the Achaemenid Empire, held a profound sense of admiration and respect for Cyrus the Great. When Alexander arrived at the tomb of Cyrus at Pasargadae, he is described as having paid his respects at the site and also ordered the tomb repaired and its contents restored (i.e. Arrian, XXIX, 1-11; Quintus Curtius, VII, 6.20).

Alexander (356-323 BC) not only spared the Tomb of Cyrus but ordered it to be repaired and restored to its original state.

It is believed that the items found by Alexander at the site included a carpet (possibly of the Pazyryk type), a golden coffin, bejeweled decorations, a couch with covering (or perhaps quilt of some kind) a table set with drinking goblets (possibly resembling the rhython seen in the photo below).

An Achaemenid Rhython.

This tomb continues to inspire the admiration of western researchers to this day.

The Arabian arrivals

When the Arabs conquered the Sassanian Empire (224-651 CE) and entered Iran they first planned to destroy the tomb of Cyrus at Pasargadae. Legends detail the story of how the locals dissuaded the Arabs from demolishing the site by recounting to them that it actually housed the remains of the mother of Solomon. This explains why the inscription at the site today states “Qabr e Madar e Soleiman” [The grave/tomb of Solomon’s mother].

A photograph of Pasargadae in the latter days of the Qajar Dynasty.

The tomb of Cyrus is now a UNESCO world heritage site, but has been beset by a number of controversies.

Controversies aside, one element is for certain: the legacy of Cyrus‘ humility endures to this day. An ancient inscription (now lost) is believed by many to have stated the following:

“O man, whoever thou art… I am Cyrus, Grudge me not, therefore, this little earth that covers my body.”

Further readings:

Bussagli, M. (2005). Understanding Architecture. London: I.B.Tauris.

Chahin, M. (1975). Ararat the ancient kingdom of Armenia. History Today, XXV (6), pp. 418-427.

Curtis, J. (1990). Ancient Persia. Boston: Harvard University Press.

Daniel, E.L.  (2001). The History of Iran. Greenwood Press.

Ferrier , R.W.(1989) The Arts of Persia. Yale University Press

Moorey, P.R.S. (1974). Ancient Bronzes from Lursitan. London: British Museum.

Stronach, D. (1985). Pasargardae. In I., Gershevitch (Ed.), Cambridge History of Iran: Vol.2 The Median and Achaemenean Periods, Great Britain, Cambridge University Press, pp. 838-855.

 

Dr. Mohammad Ala Winner of 2018 Cinema Vérité Award

The winner of popular film viewers’ award for the 12th Iran International Documentary Film Festival, known as Cinema Vérité, was presented to Dr. Mohammad Ala, the producer of the documentary movie “The Spider-tailed viper“.

Dr. Mohammad Ala receiving the Cinema Vérité Award on December 16, 2018.

The award ceremony for the 12th Iran International Documentary Film Festival, known as Cinema Vérité, was held at Andisheh Hall in Tehran on Sunday night (December 16, 2018). The event which kicked off on Dec. 9, 2018, showcased over 80 documentaries from 2000 submission with as many as 33 countries across the world participating in this festival.

The popular film viewers’ award was presented to the producer of Spider-tailed viper, Dr. Mohammad Ala (centre) – the director of the picture was Fatholah Amiri, with the viper having been located by Mahmoud Mansouri.

Note that Dr. Ala has also won the following Awards:

The Panda Award on October 19, 2018 (for more click here…)

The Grand Prix Film Italia Award in June 19-23, 2013 (for more click here …)

Dr. Mohammad Ala delivering his speech at the Cinema Vérité Award ceremonies on December 16, 2018.

UNESCO: Shushtar Historical Hydraulic System

The article below “Shushtar Historical Hydraulic System” is written by UNESCO. Kindly note that two of the photos below are not from the UNESCO site regarding the Shushtar hydraulic system.

For more on these topics consult:

Learning, Science, Knowledge, Technology & Medicine

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Shushtar, Historical Hydraulic System, inscribed as a masterpiece of creative genius, can be traced back to Darius the Great in the 5th century B.C. It involved the creation of two main diversion canals on the river Kârun one of which, Gargar canal, is still in use providing water to the city of Shushtar via a series of tunnels that supply water to mills. It forms a spectacular cliff from which water cascades into a downstream basin. It then enters the plain situated south of the city where it has enabled the planting of orchards and farming over an area of 40,000 ha. known as Mianâb (Paradise). The property has an ensemble of remarkable sites including the Salâsel Castel, the operation center of the entire hydraulic system, the tower where the water level is measured, damns, bridges, basins and mills. It bears witness to the know-how of the Elamites and Mesopotamians as well as more recent Nabatean expertise and Roman building influence.

The historical Hydraulic System of Shushtar (Source: Darafsh in Public Domain); note waterfalls and dams remaining operational despite the passage of centuries.

The Shushtar Historical Hydraulic System demonstrates outstanding universal value as in its present form, it dates from the 3rd century CE, probably on older bases from the 5th century BCE. It is complete, with numerous functions, and large-scale, making it exceptional. The Shushtar system is a homogeneous hydraulic system, designed globally and completed in the 3rd century CE. It is as rich in its diversity of civil engineering structures and its constructions as in the diversity of its uses (urban water supply, mills, irrigation, river transport, and defensive system). The Shushtar Historical Hydraulic System testifies to the heritage and the synthesis of earlier Elamite and Mesopotamian know-how; it was probably influenced by the Petra dam and tunnel and by Roman civil engineering. The Shushtar hydraulic system, in its ensemble and most particularly the Shâdorvân Grand Weir (bridge-dam), has been considered a Wonder of the World not only by the Persians but also by the Arab-Muslims at the peak of their civilisation. The Gargar canal is a veritable artificial watercourse which made possible the construction of a new town and the irrigation of a vast plain, at the time semi-desert. The Shushtar Historical Hydraulic System sits in an urban and rural landscape specific to the expression of its value.

The Shushtar Hydraulic System is testimony to a remarkably accomplished and early overall vision of the possibilities afforded by diversion canals and large weir-dams for land development. It was designed and completed in the 3rd century CE for sustainable operation and is still in use today. It is a unique and exceptional ensemble in terms of its technical diversity and its completeness that testifies to human creative genius.

The UNESCO Map of Shushtar (Source: UNESCO).

The Shushtar Historical Hydraulic System is a synthesis of diverse techniques brought together to form a remarkably complete and large-scale ensemble. It has benefited from the ancient expertise of the Elamites and Mesopotamians in canal irrigation, and then that of the Nabateans; Roman technicians also influenced its construction. Its many visitors marvelled at it and were in turn inspired. It testifies to the exchange of considerable influences in hydraulic engineering and its application throughout antiquity and the Islamic period under the various Iranian dynasties.

Shushtar is a unique and exceptionally complete example of hydraulic techniques developed during ancient times to aid the occupation of semi-desert lands. By diverting a river flowing down the mountains, using large-scale civil engineering structures and the creation of canals, it made possible multiple uses for the water across a vast territory: urban water supply, agricultural irrigation, fish farming, mills, transport, defense system, etc. It testifies to a technical culture dating back eighteen centuries serving the sustainable development of a human society, in harmony with its natural and urban environment.

Integrity and Authenticity

The integrity of the hydraulic footprint is good, but its functional integrity compared with the original model is only partial and reduced, notably for the dams; it remains good for irrigation and water supply. The authenticity of elements reduced to archaeological remains is certain, but has been affected by 20th century works and materials so far as the civil structures and sites still in use are concerned. Efforts directed to the restoration of attributes that demonstrate authenticity must be pursued.

Archways in the Roman style at at the historical hydraulic system at Shushtar (Source: 4Gress.com).

Management and protection requirements

The components of the management plan are satisfactory, but they need to be improved in terms of the interpretation of the sites and the involvement of the local population.

Two New courses for Fall 2018

Kaveh Farrokh is offering two new courses for the of Fall 2018 at the Paris-based Methodologica Universitas at the Départment de Méthodologie des Sciences Historiques.  See also the Institution’s Encyclopedic project:

Analytica Iranica: The Multidisciplinary Journal of Iranian Studies … Kaveh Farrokh is one of the Academic Advisors of this Encyclopedia project …

The first of these is the first course offered on the military history of ancient Iran or Persia:

Course HIS/CP/202: The Military History of Ancient Iran: 559 BCE-651 CE [Fall 2018, Methodologica Universitas, Départment de Méthodologie des Sciences Historiques]Click here for Registration Information

The course description for the above is as follows (HIS/SP/202):

This course examines Iran’s pre-Islamic military history with respect to political relations, wars, battles with Greece, Rome, Central Asia. These topics are examined in the Achaemenid (559-333 BCE), Parthian (250 BCE-224 CE) and Sassanian (224-651 CE) epochs. Methodology of the course utilizes scientific methodology in archival analysis (primary and secondary sources), numismatics (study of coins), archaeological analysis (analysis of equipment and technology), and statistical methodology (e.g. compiling data for analysis, factor analysis, etc.). The strengths and weaknesses (military, political and social) of each dynasty is examined up to the downfall of ancient Iran to the Arab conquests of Iran (637-651 CE). Detailed analysis is made of developments from the early Achaemenid era to the end of the Sassanian era with respect to equipment, technology, military architecture, military doctrine, and martial culture. Influences upon and from Greece, Rome, Central Asia and Eastern Europe are also examined. The course concludes with a survey of post-Islamic sources reporting of the extensive military literature pertaining to Sassanian weapons and tactics (battlefield tactics, siege craft, etc.) and its influence upon Islamic warfare.

Kaveh Farrokh meeting the late Professor Ehsan Yarshater (1920-2018) during the Honoring ceremony for the late Professor Emeritus Richard Nelson Frye (1920-2014) in the Greater San Francisco area in 2008.

The second is a comprehensive course on the History of ancient Iran or Persia, which will incorporate modern research and academic methodologies incorporating anthropology, archaeology, the study of sources, numismatics, etc:

Course HIS/CP/203: The History of Ancient Iran: 559 BCE-651 CE [Fall 2018, Methodologica Universitas, Départment de Méthodologie des Sciences Historiques]Click here for Registration Information

Three Books published in 2017-2018 on the military history of Ancient Iran or Persia (from left to right): The Armies of Ancient Persia: the Sassanians (2017; see book review by the Military History Journal in 2018); A Synopsis of Sassanian Military Organization and Combat Units (Kaveh Farrokh, Katarzyna Maksymiuk & Gholamreza Karamian, 2018); and The Siege of Amida (Kaveh Farrokh, Katarzyna Maksymiuk & Javier Sánchez-Gracia, 2018).

The course description for the above is as follows (HIS/CP/203):

Course begins with the pre Indo-European era of ancient Iran and the rise of proto-Iranian peoples and arrivals onto the Iranian plateau. Recent archaeological works and research of pre Indo-European Iran, such as the Burnt City and Elam are surveyed. This is followed by detailed historical surveys of the three epochs of ancient Iran: Achaemenids (559-333 BCE), Parthians (250 BCE-224 CE) and Sassanians (224-651 CE). Course material is integrated with methodology utilizing scientific methodology in archival analysis (primary and secondary sources), numismatics (study of coins), archaeological analysis (analysis of equipment and technology), and statistical methodology (e.g. compiling data for analysis, factor analysis, etc.). The political relations and cultural exchanges of the Achaemenid, Parthian and Sassanian dynasties with the Greco-Roman, Central Asian, Indian subcontinent, Caucasian, European and Chinese realms are examined. Each epoch is also examined with respect to developments in legal systems, societal development and the role of women, the arts, architecture, learning, medicine, technology, theology and religious philosophy, communications, shipping, commerce and the Silk Route.

[Above] Kaveh Farrokh’s second textShadows in the Desert: Ancient Persia at War-Персы: Армия великих царей-سایه‌های صحرا-” cited by the BBC-Persian service as theBest History Book of 2007(November 5, 2008), as well as the by Kayhan News Service of London (November 12, 2008). The text was nominated by the Independent Book Publishers’ Association (Benjamin Franklin Award) among the top finalists for the Best textbooks of 2008. The book has been recognized by world-class scholars such as the late Professor Emeritus Richard Nelson Frye (1920-2014), Harvard University, Dr. Geoffrey Greatrex, Department of Classics and Religious Studies, University of Ottawa, Dr. Lloyd Llewellyn-Jones, School of HistoryUniversity of Edinburgh and Dr. Patrick Hunt. The book was reviewed in the world-class academic (peer-reviewed by top Iranian Studies scholars) Iranshenasi journal in 2010: Shadows in the Desert: Ancient Persia at War, by Dr. Kaveh Farrokh. Iranshenasi, Volume XXII, No.1, Spring 2010, pp.1-5 (see document in pdf). [Below] Translations of Shadows in the Desert [A] Persian translation by Taghe Bostan Publishers (2009) [B] Persian translation by Qoqnoos Publishers (2009) [C] the original textbook (2008) and [D] Russian translation by EXMO Publishers.

UNESCO: Sassanian Archaeological Landscape of the Fars Region

In a report provided by UNESCO on Jul, 2, 2018, eight Sassanian archaeological sites have been officially identified as heritage sites. These are located in three geographical regions in Iran’s Fars Province: Firuzabad, Bishapur and Sarvestan.

Aerial view of Ardashir’s Firuzabad palace. Note circular pattern for defense and town planning (Picture source: Historical Iran Blog).

These UNESCO sites are Sassanian fortified structures, palaces, as well as city plans. These are chronologically dated from the early to late Sassanian eras (224-651 CE).

These sites include the original capital of Ardashir Papakan (founder of the Sassanian dynasty), as well as the city and architectural structures of his son and successor, Shapur I.

Structures at the site of Shapur I’s palace at Bishapur (Photo: Pentocelo in situ [Bishapur, Iran] April, 2006).

As averred further by UNESCO:

The archaeologic landscape reflects the optimized utilization of natural topography and bears witness to the influence of Achaemenid and Parthian cultural traditions and of Roman art, which had a significant impact on the architecture and artistic styles of the Islamic era.