Darius I Stele Discovered in Southern Russia

The report below (originally released by Russia’s TASS News agency) was provided by the Russia beyond the Headlines (RBTH) news outlet on August 5, 2016 originally titled “Darius I stele found in southern Russia may become world sensation. Kindly note that a number of images and their accompanying captions do not appear in the original report.

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Archeologists doing excavations in the area of the antique town of Phanagoria in the Temryuk district of Russia’s southern Krasnodar Territory have discovered fragments of a marble stele carrying an inscription of the ancient Persian King Darius I, the press service of the Volnoye Delo foundation said in a press release on Aug. 5.

1-Darius stele in Southern Russia

The stele of Darius I being excavated by Russian archealogists in southern Russia (Image Source: RBTH & Press Photo).

The find has good chances of becoming a world sensation, said the foundation, which is run by businessman Oleg Deripaska. According to the press release:

The decoded inscriptions state someone made them in the name of the Persian King Darius I … The stele has an inscription in the ancient Persian language. The approximate assessment dates the find to the first half of the 5th century B.C.

Apart from the stele, the archeologists have found in the acropolis the remainders of ancient fortress walls, which in itself is an important even in classical archeology, the foundation said.

4- Darius-Parsa

The relief of Darius the Great (reigned 522-486 BCE) at Persepolis (Source: درفش کاویانی in Public Domain).

The stele was found in the seams that can be attributed to the 5th century B.C. The text contains a word unregistered before and roughly interpreted as the place name Miletus, one of the biggest cities in Ionia, a region known as Asia Minor now. As noted in the press release:

Miletus stood at the head of the so-called Ionian uprising of Greek city states against Darius I … It was suppressed in 494 B.C. Researchers believe the king put up a marble stele in the city after his victory over the Greeks. The monument had a text on it – for instance, reporting on the king’s triumph.”

Later on, a fragment of the overturned and broken stele got to Phanagoria – quite possibly, as ballast on a ship that called into the Phanagoria port, since there is no natural stone of the kind on the Taman peninsula.

At present, the stele is undergoing scrutiny at the restoration laboratory of the Phanagoria Research and Cultural Center.

4-Khayyam-Astrakhan-Russia-Tass

Modern Russia (and much of Eastern Europe) often acknowledge the cultural legacy of ancient  Iran – above is the first monument in Russia dedicated to the Persian poet Omar Khayyam (1048-1131), unveiled in Astrakhan (Source: RBTH & Dmitry Rogulin/TASS); for more information consult RBTH report “Russia’s first statue of Persian poet Omar Khayyam unveiled in Astrakhan“.

Darius I (b. 550, d. 486 B.C.), a Persian ruler from the Achaemenian dynasty considerably expanded the territory of his country with the aid of wars against the Getae, Thrace, Lemnos, Imbros, and Macedonia. He was buried in the mausoleum built on the cliffs at Naqsh-e Rustam near Persepolis on his order and decorated with sculptures.

5-Tomb of darius-Naqshe Rustam

Darius the Great’s tomb at Nagshe Rustam in southwest Iran (Source: درفش کاویانی  in Public Domain).

Italian AGON Journal article: Ties of Greco-Roman civilization with ancient Iran

The AGON academic Journal of Italy (Università degli Studi di Messina; chief editors: Professor Massimo Lagana & Professor Salvatore Albanese) has published an article by Kaveh Farrokh which examines historical ties between Greco-Roman civilization and ancient Iran. The article can be downloaded in full from Academia.edu below:

Farrokh, K. (2016). An Overview of the Artistic, Architectural, Engineering and Culinary exchanges between Ancient Iran and the Greco-Roman World. AGON: Rivista Internazionale di Studi Culturali, Linguistici e Letterari, No.7, pp.64-124.

The article in AGON (Rivista Internazionale di Studi Culturali) begins as thus:

Apharban, the Persian ambassador representing Sassanian king Narses (r. 293-302 CE) during negotiations with the Roman general Galerius1 in the aftermath of his victory over Sassanian forces in 291-293 CE stated the following to his Roman hosts:

It is clear to all mankind that the Roman and Persian empires are like two lights, and like (two) eyes, the brilliance of one should make the other more beautiful and not continuously rage for their mutual destruction” [Peter the Patrician, fragment 13; translation made by Canepa (2010, p. 133)].

The article examines the process and history of the long-standing relations between the Greco-Roman and ancient Iranian civilizations, notably during the during the Achaemenid (559 BCE-333 BCE), Parthian (250 BCE-224 CE) and Sassanian dynasties (224-651 CE). Works of researchers such as Professor Nik Spatari, whose works examining East-West ties in the context of ancient Calabria in southern Italy are also cited:

Spatari-Assitite

Professor Nik Sparati (Left) and his book “L’ enigma delle arti Asittite della Calabria Ultra-Mediterranea” (Published by: MuSaBa: Santa Barbera Art Foundation & Iiriti Editore, 2002). Note that the book jacket features the superimposed images of Darius the Great and Persephone (also known as Kore), the Mediterranean Goddess: Spatari has discovered Achaemenid-Persian artistic influences upon the Persephone (Kore) image. Among other ancient Iran-Italy ties, Spatari and his team have also discovered strong parallels between Sassanian architecture and the Basilica di Massenzio.

Architecture is one of the areas examined in detail from the time of the Achaemenids to the end of the Sassanian era. As noted by Professors Curatola and Scarcia a common theory postulates that:

“…domed spaces in Christian buildings in Europe derive from the Armenian model, which, in turn, comes from Sassanian Persia: This can be attributed to geographic proximity and also to the fact that for long periods Armenia was contained within Eranshahr. “ (Curatola & Scarcia, 2007, p. 92).

Sarvistan-S-Paolo

The Sarvistan palace built in the 300s AD [1], floor plan of Sarvistan by Nik Spatari [2] reconstruction of Sarvistan by Oscar Reuther, “Sasanian Architecture,” in Survey of Persian Art, Figure 152). [3] the Basilica di S. Marco in Veneziana built in the time period of 1100-1300 AD [4] and floor plan of the Basilica di S. Marco (Pictures used in Kaveh Farrokh’’s lectures at the University of British Columbia’s Continuing Studies Division and Stanford University’s WAIS 2006 Critical World Problems Conference Presentations on July 30-31, 2006.

Sassanian Iran was to leave a profound legacy on Romano-Byzantine architecture during its tenure in 224-651 CE. As noted in the paper however, architectural influences from ancient Iran can be traced back to the earlier Parthian and Achaemenid eras.

Farrokh Lecture-UBC-Tirgan-YSU

A lecture slide used in instruction for Kaveh Farrokh’s lectures at the University of British Columbia’s Continuing Studies Division (this was also presented at Stanford University’s WAIS 2006 Critical World Problems Conference Presentations on July 30-31, 2006, the annual Tirgan event at Toronto (June, 2013) and at Yerevan State University’s Iranian Studies Department (November, 2013) (Slide is Copyright of University of British Columbia and Kaveh Farrokh). The above slide discusses the parallels discovered by Professor Nik Spatari with respect to the “tri-chamber” design at Firuzabad and the Basilica di Massenzio. The floor plan of Ardashir’s palace and the “tri-chamber” (note yellow arrows) have been outlined by the Calabria research teams who noted of the parallels with the Basilica in Rome.

The ties of the Greco-Romans and ancient Iran are examined in a variety of other contexts besides architecture, notably the arts (Darius-Persephone motif, silverware, motifs such the Senmurv, etc.) and technology (communications, Qanat aqueducts, windmills, etc.).

Slide1

An example of technology exchanges: an old water wheel in Tehran (Image: Farda News) [at Left]; reconstructed water wheel based on the ancient Persian model from Cordoba, Spain (Image: Graham Beards in Public Domain). The Greco-Roman and ancient Iranian civilizations often engaged in the exchange of technologies in antiquity. The Persian water wheel spread from ancient Iran to Rome (which introduced this technology into Europe) as well as China in antiquity (Kurz, 1985, p.563)

The culinary arts (transmission of cooking styles, exchange of nuts, fruits, etc. ) are also examined. The pistachio plant for example, was first located in the Khorasan and Soghd regions; these were first cultivated in West Khorasan and were unknown by other peoples until the Achaemenid era.

Pistachio_macro_whitebackground_NS

The Achaemenids were the first to commercially grow the pistachio in ancient Iran and export this to neighboring countries more than 2500 years ago (Image: Public Domain). By the Sassanian Era the pistachio was considered a delicatessen (mostly used in baking and in cookies). Pahlavi texts dating to the Sassanian era mention the Gorgani pistachio as especially famous at the time. The Roman world not only adopted the pistachio (already known by Greco-Iranian contacts) and spread this to the European peoples.

The “Wings of Ahura Mazda” perpetuated in the design of the Armenian Khatchkar and other East Christian Crosses

The article below on the “Wings of Ahura Mazda” perpetuated in the design of the Armenian Khatchkar and other East Christian Crosses was written by Masis Panos and originally posted on March 8, 2015 in Understanding of Our Past.

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Introduction

Back in 2010 I had the opportunity to visit the Republic of Armenia. One of the places I visited was the Church of Surp Nshan (Holy Seal) in the town of Aparan in the Aragatsotn province. The Basilica, imbued with the piety of the worshippers that I saw on the Sunday I visited (21/11/10) had some very old stone sculptures in the vicinity. One of the sculptures that caught my eye had a Cross within a circle, with two figures to either side. I wrote about this in 2011. As mentioned in that article, it seemed in style to resemble the Sasanian Drafsh.

Aside from that example, I visited other sites in the Republic of Armenia that year (one of which was Dsegh mentioned in part 1) and in 2011 and encountered other examples of Crosses of a “Drafsh style” and further, were upon Wings.

What is the significance of Wings on such an emblem?

Its significance was clear to me from having read the book published by Osprey, “Rome’s Enemies (3) Parthians and Sassanid Persians” by Peter Wilcox with superb illustrations by the late Angus McBride.
Both on its cover and inside is shown a Plate by Angus with a Sasanian cavalryman carrying a Drafsh. It has Wings on it, said to represent Ahura Mazda, and is surmounted with a Sun upon a Crescent.
The Standard (Drafsh) is said to be of Fars, the heartland of the Sasanian dynasty.

Since my teenage years I had been aware of the Khatchkar and its own significance in Armenian culture, how even after the Armenian community would have gone, these edifices would somehow survive to testify of the culture that made it. Of course such edifices cannot resist well planned destruction as was meted out to the remaining Armenian Khatchkars of Julfa, now part of the Republic of Azerbaijan, by its own soldiery.

Seeing such early depictions of a Cross and ones with Wings, I began to realise that the “stereotypical” Khatchkar we Armenians think of, with its rich interlacing framing an ornate Cross with what to me looked like “flourishes” under the Cross, had evolved from these early depictions I had seen. The “flourishes” on the early examples were depicted as Wings.

Part 1

In August of 2010 I went with my cousin and his friends on a very quick, unplanned, tour around the Aragatsotn province, stopping at a site for ten minutes on average.

One of the places we visited the Church of Mughni.

Due to the tour being spur-of-the moment I only had my Mobile Phone to take photos with.

Below is a photo I took on my phone showing a section of a Pillar, outside the Church of Mughni.
Also a sketch I made of the Pillar, with the basic shape shown in grey with the Cross/Drafsh shown in black. Itself is upon a Pedestal which also has a Cross/Drafsh on it. Both are hewn from a dark coloured Tufa.

1-Mughni

2-Mughni SteleLater that year, in November, I visited the Lori province.

One of the places visited was Dsegh.

In this remote region we walked for a while and then came across an very old cemetery with a few ancient monuments still standing.

This one, according to the Armenian Ministry of Culture‘s website as well as the SOSCulture website, is dated to between the 5th – 7th centuries yet it has an inscription on its southern side dated to the 13th century in the name of an unchronicled “Vahram Mamikonian“. A Khatchkar nearby, dated to the 13th century, is said in both websites to have been sculpted by a “master Vahram”. Very confusing. There was a “Prince Mamikonian” who ruled the area in the 13th century. The reference both in the Armenian Ministry of Culture and SOSCulture websites to a “master Vahram” for the 13th century Khatchkar may be that it is dedicated to the Prince and what is insribed on the 5th – 7th monument may be attempting to link it to his family. Suffice to say, the monument that interests us is officially dated to between the 5th – 7th centuries.

3-Dsegh Vartan monument 3The Dsegh Vartan monument (Source: Masis Panos)

4-Dsegh Vartan monument 2Another view of the Dsegh Vartan monument (Source: Masis Panos)

This is a close up of the Cross of the base. Note how like the Pillar at Mugni, this Cross/Drafsh is on a three-stepped base and also has a “Latin” type Cross like the Pedestal of the Mughni monument.

5-Dsegh Vartan monumentClose up of the Dsegh Vartan monument (Source: Masis Panos).

6-Dsegh CrossDrawing of the Dsegh Cross (Source: Masis Panos).

In 2011 I again visited the Republic of Armenia.

One of the places I visited was Talin and its ancient Cathedral. There was also a small Chapel, dedicated to the “Mother of God” and was built either in 639 or 689 AD by Prince Nerseh Kamsarakan. Outside the Chapel there a monument, made from a dark Tufa, with the base restored, one of the sides depicts Mary with Jesus, surrounded by Angels.

7-Nerseh Chapel 4The Nerseh Chapel (Source: Masis Panos).

8-Nerseh Chapel 3Another view of the Nerseh Chapel (Source: Masis Panos).

This may be a tomb as well as a monument, perhaps to Nerseh. On one side of the pillar is depicted a man, wearing a Kaftan or Chokha. His costume and manner is similar to the depiction of King Cyaxares at his tomb in Qizqapan (Surdash, Dukan district, As Sulaymaniyah province, Autonomous Kurdish Region, Iraq).

9-CyaxaresDepiction of King Cyaxares at his tomb in Qizqapan (Surdash, Dukan district, As Sulaymaniyah province, Autonomous Kurdish Region, Iraq) Source: Masis Panos).

Hardly likely a fluke that they are depicted in a similar way, even if 1,200 years seperated them.
The Kamsarakan were of Parthian origin. An Iranian people. Cyaxares was king of the Medes, an Iranian people. What we see is Nerseh, proud of his roots and a wish to be depicted in a traditional manner.

There is more depicted on this monument outside the Chapel.

10-Talin Nerseh ChapelTalin Nerseh Chapel (Source: Masis Panos).

11-Nerseh Chapel 2-1Close-up of the base of monument at Talin Nerseh Chapel (Source: Masis Panos).

Here we again see a Cross with two Wings under it, very like the example on the 5th- 7th century Dsegh Cemetery monument.
Part 2
What is the significance of two Wings and why under the Cross? We saw in”Rome’s Enemies (3) Parthians and Sassanid Persians” by Peter Wilcox and Angus McBride the “Standard of Fars” on the cover, being carried by a Sasanian cavalryman.
Khusro II wore a crown that bore two Wings with a Star upon a Crescent, obviously the “Standard of Fars”, seen on all his coins.
12-Khusro II
Sketch of the crown of Khosrow II (Source: Masis Panos).
Below is a Stucco decoration with the name of a Sasanian King upon a Crescent on two Wings. The name, in Sasanian Pahlavi, is Shapur. There were four Kings with that name (Shapur I, II, III and IV). However, since Shapur II reigned the longest (309-379) it is likely from his reign.

Below is a Stucco decoration with the name of a Sasanian King upon a Crescent on two Wings. The name, in Sasanian Pahlavi, is Shapur. There were four Kings with that name (Shapur I, II, III and IV). However, since Shapur II reigned the longest (309-379) it is likely from his reign.

13-Sass StuccoStucco decoration with the name of a Sasanian King upon a Crescent on two Wings (Source: CAIS).

A stucco roundel of a Ram, from the Sasanian era found in the ancient city of Kish in Iraq. The Ram was associated with the god of Victory, Verethragna.

13a-Sassanian StuccoSassanian stucco roundel of a Ram, from the Sasanian era found in the ancient city of Kish in Iraq (Source: Pinterest).

Below is a drawing I made of a Drafsh shown in a fragment of a Wall Hanging depicting figures in Persian Dress, dated to the late 6th–early 7th centuries AD. Made in the Eastern Mediterranean. Now housed in the Benaki Museum, Athens.

13b-Sass fragmentDrafsh depicted in a fragment of a Wall Hanging with figures attired in Persian Dress, late 6th–early 7th centuries AD (Source: Met Museum).

14-Detail from textileDrawing of the Drafsh  in the fragment housed in the Benaki Museum, Athens (Source: Masis Panos).

So the Wings represent Ahura Mazda, the “Standard of Fars” was totemic of the Sasanian dynasty and their firm adherence to the worship of Ahura Mazda above any other deity.

To try and make some dative sense of these examples:
The example of the “Stucco of Shapur“, above, dates either from:
240-272 (Shapur I) or 309-379 (Shapur II) or 383-388 (Shapur III) or 420 (Shapur IV)

Khusro II was the first Sasanian king to wear the “Standard of Fars” on his coinage.
His reign was from 590 – 628 AD.
The Drafsh shown in the textile from the Benaki museum, dated to between 580 – 620 AD (late 6th–early 7th centuries) and likely to be from the reign of Khusro II and may be a variation of the “Standard of Fars”.
The fragment of a pillar outside the Church of Saint George in Mughni, is likely older than the Church (dated to the 14th Century) from its archaic style. It may or may not have come from its vicinity. The Wings look like Wings, with little stylisation.
The Dsegh Cemetery monument (or tomb) is offically dated to between the 5th- 7th centuries. 
The Wings still look like Wings, with some slight stylisation.
The monument (or tomb) dedicated by Prince Nerseh Kamsarakan is dated to either 639 or 689 AD.
The Wings have taken on some stylisation, they have a “flourish” to them.
Why are these ancient Crosses in the Republic of Armenia using Sasanian emblemology?
Part 3
The said Christianisation of Armenia is given as the year 301 AD, and this would post-date the fall of the Arsacids in Iran to the Sasanians in 224 AD. Therefore all the Crosses that are depicted with Wings would date from the Sasanian era.
The two Wings would become very stylised in the Khatchkar designs of subsequent centuries, with their meaning perhaps being lost in the process.
Some examples:
A Khatchkar from the vicinity of the Church of Saint Gayane. The Church was founded in 630 AD. However in comparison to the Khatchkar of Nerseh Kamsarakan (639 – 689 AD) the Wings on this Khatchkar are stylised.

15-Saint Gayane EtchmiadzinKhatchkar in vicinity of Church of Saint Gayane (Source: Masis Panos).

A Khatchkar from inside the Cathedral of Aruch, dated to between 661-682 AD. Note the similarity of the “Ribbons” under the Wings to the those on the Stucco Ram in Part 2.

16-Aruchavank Khatchkar from inside the Cathedral of Aruch (Source: Masis Panos).

A Khatchkar from the Dadivank Monastery Complex. Said to have been founded by Saint Thaddeus in the 1st century, the actual complex was built between the 9th and 13th centuries. Note how the Wings have become stylised.

17-Dadivank KhtachkarKhatchkar from the Dadivank Monastery Complex (Source: Masis Panos).

Three Khatchkars from the Noratus cemetry complex. Though it dates at least to the 10th century most of the Khatchkars date from the 16th century when the region was under the control of the Safavid Persian Empire. Note the elaborate designs, the Wings have become plant like.

18-NoratusKhatchkars from the Noratus cemetry complex (Source: Masis Panos).

What these examples show is a gradual stylisation of the Wings through the centuries as the original meaning of them is forgotten.

The East Syriac and Nestorian Churches also have examples of Crosses with “Wings” under them.
It is worth noting that these Churches had been for the most part developed and spread in the Sasanian Empire.

19-Kottakkavu_Sliva_founded_by_Mar_Sabor_and_Mar_ProthThe Persian Cross in the Mar Thoma Church of North Paravur in Kerala (Source: Masis Panos).

Above is what is known as a “Persian Cross” that is said to have been carved by Mar (Saint) Sabor and Mar Proth, two East Syriac Monks who arrived, by invitation, in the southern Indian Kingdom of Quilon in 825 AD. More can be read about them by clicking the link to the Wikipedia page to save digressing. This style, in a circle, is similar to the Cross outside the Basilica of Surp Nshan mentioned in the introduction and also on the Pillar in the vicinity of Mughni Church. An example is shown below of a similar Cross, this is from what is known as the “Main Church” of the ancient city of Petra.

20-Petra churchCross at the Church from Petra (Source: Nabataea).

Whilst the Aramaic was the language of Petra, the city, in its time under Christianity, was ruled by the Roman Empire. In the Cathedral of Etchmiadzin in the Republic of Armenia is a very early Christian sculpture, with Greek verses, showing the Chi-Rho within a circle.

21-Etchmiadzin_Cathedral_cross_relief_with_Greek_inscriptionsThe cross relief with Greek inscriptions at Etchmiadzin Cathedral (Source: Masis Panos).

Until the year 405 AD, when it got its own Alphabet, the Kingdom of Armenia used either Aramaic or Greek for its inscriptions. So this relic in Etchmiadzin might date no later than 405 AD.
The circle is likely a stylised Wreath. An example below shows a Roman Ivory carving, circa 350 AD with the Chi-Rho within a Wreath. In pre-Christian Greece and Rome the Wreath signified Victory. (Note also the two Doves to either side in both the Etchmiadzin and Ivory carving examples.)

22-Anastasis_Pio_Christiano_Inv31525Roman Ivory carving, circa 350 AD with the Chi-Rho within a Wreath (Source: Masis Panos).

In the same region of India where the “Persian Cross” is to be found, the Cross that is known as the Saint Thomas Cross is very common.

23-Mar_Thoma_SlivaSaint Thomas Cross (Source: Public Domain).

he Wings have become two Lotus Flowers in “a nod” to the dominant Vedic religion of the region as well as Buddhism. Also the Ribbon seen on the Stucco Ram and Cross of Aruch has become stylised.
Note also how it is upon a three stepped base, as seen in the Cross/Drafsh of Mughni and Dsegh in the Republic of Armenia in Part 1.
Though this Christian activity in Kerala seems to date from the 9th century it seems that the East Syriac Monks who would have come from Iraq, during the Abbasid Caliphate, took with them a style of Cross that had an long heritage in the region. Though it seems that after two hundred years after the fall of the Sasanian dynasty the meaning of the Wings had been forgotten.
As has been already mentioned, the East Syriac Church historically had been for the most part under the rule of the Sasanian Empire until the invasion by the Arab Caliphate. The Nestorian Church also found refuge in the Sasanian Empire and flourished within it, even spreading beyond it to the east.

Below are some examples of East Syriac Crosses found by the excavation work carried out by the St. Louis Community College. This is a fragmented Stucco panel found in 1995 by Hadar Selou, 100 cm deep, at the site of Tell Tuneinir, near al-Hasakah in Syria.

24-crossHadarsPhotoFragmented Stucco panel discovered at the site of Tell Tuneinir, near al-Hasakah in Syria (Source: stlcc.edu).

The Cross is described “resembles a Medieval Khatchkar, Armenian stone cross” but from what is being demonstrated here, there is a reason for this similarity, this style likely originates from the region, during the Sasanian Empire, than been brought exclusively from Armenia.

Al-Hasakah is by the Khabur river, a tributary of the Euphrates. This would have been a border region between the Roman and Sasanian Empires from the 4th-7th centuries.

Another relic found in the excavations at Tell Tuneinir, found at the site of the monastery of Beth Kadeshy in 2001 by the St. Louis Community College.

25-TNRArea9CrossRelic found in the excavations at Tell Tuneinir (Source: stlcc.edu).

Below is the description given:

Broken fragments of a molded stucco footstone associated with the burial of a bishop or abbot in the center of the main entrance of the monastery.”

Professor Michael Fuller interprets the image on the footstone as the Cross of Christ with a piece of fabric blown around its base. This would apply to the story of the resurrection of Christ and the empty burial shroud left behind in His tomb. The imagery is of the cross and resurrection.”

However, we see the precedents of this style of Cross. What is thought of as a shroud could be stylised Wings. Another find from the excavations:

26-redCrossRightwaysThe above is described as: “Painted cross fragment from Square 16, locus 02 (stone registry number 1162); discovered by James Walker during the 1999 field season. The surviving fragment measures 14.5 cm in length, 9.2 cm in width, and 1.1 cm thick. It weighs 284.4 grams.” (Source: stlcc.edu).

Further afield, in modern China, is a monument created by the Nestorian community in 781 AD during the Tang Dynasty, known simply as the “Nestorian Stele”. Atop of the edifice is a Cross.

27-Nestorian CrossSketch of the Nestorian Cross in China (Source: Masis Panos). Here is how it is described in “By Foot To China” by John M. L. Young, 1984: “The Cross sculptured on the famous Nestorian Monument-at Hsi-an-fu. It stands in the middle of a dense cloud which is symbolic of Muhammadanism, and upon a lotus, which symbolises Buddhism; its position indicates the triumph of the Luminous Religion of Christ over the religions of Muhammad and the Buddha. The sprays of flowers, one on each side, are said to indicate rebirth and joy.” Again, seeing the precedent of the “Standard of Fars” of the Sasanian era, the “dense cloud” could be stylized Wings.

Below is a sketch of a stucco Cross found during the excavations at Failaka, a small island near Kuwait in 1989. The find site is known as “the southern Chapel”.

28-SketchSketch of a stucco Cross found during the excavations at Failaka (Source: pazhayathu.blogspot).

Some of the Christian communities, such as in Qatar, ended by the late 7th century but in the region of Kuwait it is thought to have survived into the 9th century. In the above example we can see how the Wings on this Cross have become stylized.

Conclusion

The type of Cross within a stylised Wreath may derive from the missionary activity from the Roman Empire. That Cross derives from the Chi-Rho monogram.

The use of the Ahura Mazda Wings on Cross emblems stems from those regions being under the rule of the Sasanian Empire. (It is more likely this type of emblemology was used to show loyalty to the Sasanian Empire than to show rebellion.). These two types, surviving examples to be found in the modern Republic of Armenia, to me demonstrates the political and military “tug of war” that took place over the Kingdom of Armenia from the 3rd to 7th centuries by Rome and Persia.

It is not exclusive to the Armenian region, as examples show this style of Winged Cross in the East Syriac communities of Iraq and their own activities into India and China.

So how could the “Wings of Ahura Mazda” be used on the Cross, associated with Jesus Christ?
Ultimately it may have been about showing the Magi and the Sasanian rulers that Jesus was about Goodness and was compatible with the Zoroastrian state religion.

Christians in the Sasanian Empire had to prove that they were not a “fifth column” for the Christian Roman Empire and so a use of a Zoroastrian emblem in depicting the Cross may have been a way of showing this loyalty. The part of Armenia that had come under Sasanian rule and also the numerous Christian communities of Iraq would have (and did) create such a “hybrid” motif as has been shown in this article.

After the fall of the Sasanian Empire, in the mid 7th century, these Christian communities would continue to make stone Crosses and use the Wings but gradually the meaning of the Wings was lost and their depiction became ever more stylised to the extent that modern research puzzles over their meaning, such as “Lotus Flowers” for the St. Thomas Cross or on the Nestorian Stele, or a “Shroud” in the Cross excavated at Tell Tuneinir in Syria.

Certainly in the case with the famous Armenian Khatchkar, stylisation went far indeed, as shown in a final photo below. This is a row of Khatchkars of various styles from the Kecharis Monastery in the Republic of Armenia.

The Monastery was founded by the Pahlavuni family in the 11th century. Note the Khatchkar on the left where the Wings have turned into arms, hands at the end hold Crosses.

29-Kecharis Row of Khatchkars of various styles from the Kecharis Monastery in the Republic of Armenia (Source: Masis Panos).

This finding should not imply that the Wings of Ahura Mazda do not belong on a Christian edifice but that Armenians and East Syriac Christians can take pride in the rich heritage of their Christian culture and that the Sasanian Empire was not as anti-Christian as is often made out in the Christian propaganda that I have read, as an Armenian of the Armenian Apostolic Church (as for example in the legend of St. Sarkis).
Rather they were capable of coexistence.

A lesson indeed for the modern world.

Palaces of the Achaemenid Empire found in Arran (modern Republic of Azerbaijan)

The article below on the palaces of the Achaemenid Empire discovered in Arran (modern Republic of Azerbaijan since 1918) was posted in the Awti website.

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The discovery of the great palace of the Achaemenid Empire – the largest outside of Iran, was announced by the Academy of Sciences of Azerbaijan with reference to the Russian magazine “Science and Life.”

In the large hall, opposite the entrance to the palace, is the place throne – it was first discovered in 2006 by the rising in the central part of the building (the first Achaemenid throne was found in in Pasargadae in the 1960s, by the British team of archaeologists led by D. Stronach). From the main entrance to the palace in the village “Garadzhamerli”, porticoes and columns (propylene) were found extending to the north and south exterior wall. During the excavations of the palace ceramic vessels, glass bowls and some ceramic sink for water (drainage) were found with portions of pluming. Two inscriptions probably written in Aramaic one of the Empire’s languages for communication at the time were also found. Archaeologists are now waiting for the finds of written sources – the cuneiform inscriptions on the pillars. Perhaps the signs are in three languages: Old Persian, Akkadian, Elamite. It is also possible that there may be archives of clay tablets.

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 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 the 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, Gumbati and Qarajamirli buildings can be interpreted as residences of Persian officials who left the region when Achaemenid Empire collapsed.

Based on archaeological findings, the palace lasted about 200 years, and then was abandoned and stood empty for a long time. All the valuables were collected and removed from the palace in advance (Power of the Achaemenid ceased to exist after the Battle of Gaugamela, which took place October 331 BC). After the departure of the Persians, some residents still resided in the halls of the palace, as evidenced by the findings of local production of table ware. Starting from the II century BC People broke away stones from the remains of the palace for the construction of their buildings.

ShamkhirAn Iranian legacy in the Caucasus. To the south of the Republic of Georgia is Shamkhir located in the Republic of Azerbaijan (ROA) (known as Arran until 1918). Shamkhir is located some 350 kilometers 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 center 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).

Today, archaeologists know about the 6 Achaemenid palaces in the South Caucasus:

  • Benjamin” is known for the palace in Armenia
  • Tsaritepe Garadzhamerli” in Azerbaijan
  • Another unnamed palace is located on the border of Azerbaijan and Georgia
  • The most northern point of this path of palaces in Georgia” a palace near the village of “Samadlo” and the other one in the village of “Humbatov

The distance between the palaces is about 30 km. After the discovery of half of these findings, the archaeologist Ideal Narimanov Azerbaijani suggested that the chain relates to the palaces of Derbent, perhaps these were palaces of Darius I (the great) built to establish bases close to the Scythians and confront possible threats from the north.

Photographs from Ancient Kahib, Daghestan in the Caucasus

The photographs below of ancient Kahib in Daghestan were forwarded by Guseyn Guseynov to Kavehfarrokh.com on March 1, 2015. Additional photographs of Kahib will be posted in October 2015.

Ancient Mountain Village: Overview

The below photographs are of the ancient mountain village at Kahib, Daghestan in the Caucasus.

Kahib-Dagestan-4A view of the ancient village of Kahib, note the tower (Source: Guseyn Guseynov).

Kahib-Dagestan-1The tower at Kahib. It is not clear what function this tower served; perhaps this an observatory and/or served some type of religious function (Source: Guseyn Guseynov).

Kahib-Dagestan-8Walled settlement at Kahib (Source: Guseyn Guseynov).

Kahib-Dagestan-11Pathway in Kahib (Guseyn Guseynov).

Archway

There is an archway at Kahib which bears strong parallels to architecture of the Sassanian era (224-651 CE).

Kahib-Dagestan-6This archway bears an almost exact resemblance to one of the archways at the ancient Ādur-Gushnasp or Shiz (modern-day Takhte Suleiman) Fire-Temple in Iran’s Azarbaijan province (Source: Guseyn Guseynov). The Ādur-Gushnasp sacred fire was dedicated to the Arteshtaran (Elite warriors) of the Sassanian Spah (Modern Persian: Sepah = Army). For more on Ādur-Gushnasp, read here…

The photograph below shows the parallels between Sassanian architecture and that of ancient Kahib, in Daghestan of the Caucasus.

Takhte-Suleiman-2The archway at the ancient Ādur-Gushnasp or Shiz (modern-day Takhte Suleiman) Fire-Temple in Iran’s Azarbaijan province (Source: World Historia).

Symbols Carved upon Stone Bricks

The stones of the ancient village often feature various symbols and depictions; again their meaning and symbolism remain open to speculation but were evidently part of an ancient culture indigenous to the Caucasus.

Kahib-Dagestan-9Five-pointed star and upside down bird (Source: Guseyn Guseynov).

Kahib-Dagestan-2Eroded “Chevron” motifs (Source: Guseyn Guseynov).

Kahib-Dagestan-3Left stone brick depicting a dog and possibly a horse (?); right stone brick with a “Plus” sign, possibly a pagan cross (?) (Source: Guseyn Guseynov).