Parthian artifacts housed in Istanbul’s Archaeological Museums

The Archaeological Museums of Istanbul in Turkey are among the world’s most important sites for the study of world history and civilization, on par with Museums such as the Hermitage (St. Petersburg, Russia), The British Museum (London, England), The Louvre (Paris, France), Iran Bastan Museum موزه ایران باستان (Tehran, Iran), Altes Museum (Berlin, Germany), Museo Nazionale Romano (Rome, Italy) and the Egyptian Museum المتحف المصري (Cairo, Egypt).

The Istanbul Archaeological Museums in Istanbul Turkey; [Top] Archaeological Museum, [Left] Museum of the Ancient Orient, [Right] Tiled Kiosk Museum (Source: VikiPicture in Public Domain).

The source of the information below on three Parthian items housed in Istanbul’s archaeological museums is from an article penned in the BBC on December 6, 2014 is from an article penned in the BBC on December 6, 2014 by Pejman Akbarzadeh entitled “ردپای فرهنگ ایران در موزه‌های استانبول” [The Footprint of Iranian Culture in Istanbul’s Museums]. Below are three Parthian items housed in Istanbul’s Topkapi Museum.

نقش‌های تزیینی معماری در دوره پارتیان – موزه باستان شناسی استانبول-Topkapi

Parthian architecture: decorative designs motifs (Source: BBC Persian & Pejman Akbarzadeh).

مجسمه‌ای از دوره اشکانی، ساخته شده از ماسه – موزه باستان‌شناسی استانبول-Topkapi

Depiction on a slab of a Parthian nobleman or prince with a scabbard slide sword (Source: BBC Persian & Pejman Akbarzadeh).

بخوردان‌های ماسه‌ای از دوران اشکانیان – موزه باستان‌شناسی استانبول-Topkapi

Incense burners  from the Parthian era (Source: BBC Persian & Pejman Akbarzadeh). It is not clear if the burning of incense pertained the Zoroastrian faith of the practitioners or whether these were part of other Iranian cults such as a possible (local) form of Mithraism.

Atropates

The article below on Atropates by M. L. Chaumont was originally published on December 15, 1987 and last updated on August 17, 2011. Chaumont’s article is also available in print (Vol. III, Fasc. 1, pp. 17-18).

Kindly note that the maps and accompanying descriptions for these do not appear in the original Encyclopedia Iranica article.

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Atropates (Āturpāt, lit., “protected by the fire,” cf. Av. Atərəpāta), the satrap of Media, commander of the troops from Media, Albania, and Sacasene at the battle of Gaugamela in 331 B.C. (Arrian, Anabasis 3.8.4). He remained faithful to Darius III until the latter’s death in 330, after which he went over to the Macedonian camp. Alexander, when passing through Ecbatana (Hamadān) earlier in the same year, had already transferred the governorship of Media to Oxydates (ibid., 3.20.3; Quintus Curtius, Historiae 6.2.11); but in 328-27 B.C. Alexander dismissed Oxydates, whose loyalty he no longer trusted, and reinstated Atropates (Arrian, 4.18.3; Quintus Curtius, 8.3.17, where Atropates is erroneously named Arsaces). As satrap of Media, Atropates delivered Baryaxes, a defeated rebel from that province, to Alexander at Pasargadae in 325-324 (Arrian, 6.29.3). He rose so high in the conqueror’s esteem that his daughter was soon afterward married to Alexander’s confidant Perdiccas (Arrian, 7.4.5; Justin, Historiae 13.4.13). He had a last interview with Alexander in Media in 324-323 (Arrian, 7.13.2, 6).

1-Map-HerodotusClose –up of the Achaemenid Empire region, the Caucasus and Central Asia on Charles Muller’s reconstruction of the world according to Herodotus (484-425 BCE); Note that Media, Armenia and the Caucasus regions are shown as distinct regions (Source: Source: Galichian, R., 2010, The Invention of History: Azerbaijan, Armenia and the Showcasing of Imagination, London, England: Gomitas Institute & Yerevan, Armenia: PrintInfo Art Books, p.163). At this time Media Atropatene had not been formed as Alexander had yet to invade the Achaemenid Empire. Media, Media Atropatene and the later post-Islamic historical designation for northwest Iran “Azerbaijan” was never located in the southern Caucasus, notably modern day Republic of Azerbaijan (founded in May 1918).

Under the territorial dispensation arranged at Babylon after Alexander’s death in 323, the satrapy of Media was divided into two parts, of which only Little Media (the northwestern part) was left to Atropates while Great Media (the eastern part) was assigned to Pytho (Diodorus Siculus, 18.3.3; Justin, 13.4.13). Eventually Atropates refused allegiance to any of the Macedonian generals and made his satrapy an independent kingdom (Strabo, Geography 11.13.1).

2-Ptolemy-Geographia-Third Map-Southern CaucasusPtolemy’s (c. 90-168 CE) map of the southern Caucasus during the Parthian era; from Ptolemy’s Tabula III Asiae of the Geographia printed in Ulm in 1482 (Source: Galichian, R., 2010, The Invention of History: Azerbaijan, Armenia and the Showcasing of Imagination, London, England: Gomitas Institute & Yerevan, Armenia: PrintInfo Art Books, p.19, Figure 1). Note that the region of modern-day Republic of Azerbaijan in the southern Caucasus was known as Albania; the historical Azerbaijan. This southern Caucasian region was never known as Media in antiquity nor was it known as “Azerbaijan” in the later post-Islamic era.

Thereafter this part of Media was known to the Greeks as Media Atropatene or simply Atropatene, like Parthian and Middle Persian Āturpātakān (whence Armenian Atrpatakan), later Ādurbādagān, NPers. Āḏarbāyjān.

10-Map-Whittow-Sassanian[Click to Enlarge] Sassanian Emperor, Shapur I (r. 241-270 CE)شاپور اول ساساني ] , cited Albania and Media Atropatene as two separate provinces of the Persian Empire. Professor Mark Whittow’s map of Oxford University clearly shows the historically attested distinction between ancient Arran/Albania and the original Azarbaijan in Iran. Note how the Araxes River separates Arran from the historical Azarbaijan (in Iran). Professor Whittow has clearly noted that: The oldest outside influence in Trans-Caucasia is that of Persia…many of its populations, including Armenians and Georgians, as well as Persians and Kurds, the Transcaucasus had much closer ties with the former Sassanian world to its south and east than with the world to the west(Whittow, M., 1996, The Making of Byzantium: 600-1025. Berkley: University of California Press, pp.203-204).

Atropates founded a dynasty which was to rule in Atropatene for several centuries (cf. Strabo, 11.13.1).

Bibliography

Sources: Arrian, Anabasis. Diodorus Siculus, BibliothecaHistorica, bk. 18. Strabo,Geography, bk. 11. Modern authors: H. Berve, Alexanderreich II, 1926, no.180.

A. von Gutschmid, Geschichte Irans und seiner Nachbarländer, Tübingen, 1888.

Justi, Namenbuch, p. 49.

J. Kaerst, “Atropates,” in Pauly-Wissowa, II/2, col. 2150.

Th. Nöldeke, “Atropatene,” ZDMG 34, 1880, pp. 692f.

On the name see M. Mayrhofer, Iranisches Personennamenbuch I/1, Vienna, 1977, p. I/29 no. 70.

The Temple of Anahita at Kangavar

The article below on the temple of Anahita in Kangavar near Kermanshah in Western Iran was originally published in the Historical Iran Blogspot.

Before proceeding to the posting, kindly note the following three points:

(1) Two of the photographs depicted below do not appear in  the original Historical Iran Blogspot article. All of the accompanying descriptions for the photographs are from Kavehfarrokh.com.

(2) At the end of the posting are photos provided by A. Parian from his article:

سنگهای شگفت انگیز – نگاهی به پرستشگاه کنگاور- ا. پریان – The Amazing Stones – An observation of the temple at Kangavar – by A. Parian (in Persian)

(3) The date of Kangavar’s construction is debated among scholars. The original consensus was that the structure had been built during the earlier Parthian era (c. 200 BCE). As noted by Mehrdad Kia (The Persian Empire: A Historical Encyclopedia, ABC-CLIO-Greenwood, 2016):

The identification of the Kangavar structure as a temple of Anahita is based on a statement made by the first-century BCE author Isidore of Charax. In his short biographical account titled Parthian Stations, Isidore referred to Kangavar as Concobar and identified the city as home to a temple of Anaitis (Anahita). He did not, however, mention the exact date of the temple’s construction” (Kia, 2016, p.23).

Edward J. Keall has identified the academic challenges of pinpointing precise date(s) for the temple’s construction (Keall, E.J., Architecture: Parthian, Encyclopædia Iranica,Vol. II, Fasc. 3, New York: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1986, pp. 327–329):

Under the Parthians any observable western influence can just as well be a survival from the Hellenistic period, which is why the monument at Kangāvar was once acceptably dated as early Parthian while recent investigations proved it to be late Sasanian” (Keall, 1986, p.328).

More recently, Warwick Ball (Rome in the East: The Transformation of an Empire, London & New York: Routledge, 2001) has stated:

Earlier studies favored a Seleucid date, with some suggesting an Achaemenid date for the platform. A date in the Parthian period has since been more generally favoured on stylistic grounds, but recent excavations found evidence for major Sassanian construction. However the colonnaded temenos is different in almost every respect to Sassanian architecture. Probably, the temple underwent numerous major reconstruction periods, with perhaps a 2nd-century AD date for the colonnaded temenos, and major Sassanian reconstruction of the sanctuary building inside” (Ball, 2001, p.332).

At this juncture, it would appear that Kangavar has witnessed various forms of construction spanning the the three major pre-Islamic eras of ancient Iran (Achaemenid, Parthian and Sassanian). What is certain is that Kangavar remains a critical historical site which requires more studies and excavations.

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The Anahita Temple is the name of an archaeological site in Iran popularly thought to have been attributed to the ancient deity Anahita. It is located at Kangavar in Kermanshah Province and is thought to be built by Achaemenian Emperor Ardeshir II (Artaxerxes II), 404 BC to 359 BC.

1-Kangavar-ColumnsA view of the columns at Kangavar (Source: Photographer Bahman Razei-IRNA in Payvand News). Kangavar’s remains reveal a combination of both Greek and Iranian elements. The edifice for example is Greek in style with the architecture showing Achaemenid designs.

The remains at Kangavar reveal an edifice that is Hellenistic in character, and yet display Persian architectural designs. The plinth’s enormous dimensions for example, which measure just over 200m on a side, and its megalithic foundations, which echo Achaemenid stone platforms, “constitute Persian elements”. This is thought to be corroborated by the “two lateral stairways that ascend the massive stone platform recalling Achaemenid traditions”, particularly that of the Apadana Palace at Persepolis.
The main structure of the Anahita Temple is a quadrilateral one. Its ramparts being 230 m. in length, and its thickness in most of the parts is 18 m. which reveals the archaic grandeur and magnificence of this structure. The stairway of the temple is bilateral and closely attached to the wall. The difference between the lowest and highest point of the structure is 30 m. and is in a form of steps, similar to the Achaemenian structures. At the foot of the eastern wall of the structure is a cemetery which is related to the Parthian era. It is noted that the deceased have been buried in such a way to face the Anahita structure.

2a-Kangavar stairwayStairway at Kangavar (Source: Behrah.com). There are two lateral stairways at Kangavar bearing parallels with that seen at the Apadana Palace at Persepolis.

In the nineteenth century, various Europeans investigated the ruins. Ker Porter in 1818 found them to form the foundations of a single huge platform – a rectangular terrace three hundred yards square, crowned with a colonnade. Professor Jackson in 1906 found one very well-preserved retaining wall at the northwest corner of the enclosure, probably part of the foundation of a single building; it was 12 to 15 feet high and runs north and south for more than 70 feet.

Excavation first began in 1968, by which time the large structure with its great Ionic columns set on a high stone platform had been associated with a comment by Isidore of Charax, that refers to a “temple of Artemis” (Parthian Stations 6). References to Artemis in Iran are generally interpreted to be references to Anahita, and thus Isidore’s “temple of Artemis” came to be understood as a reference to a temple of Anahita. Consequently, it has been commonly believed that the site was a “columnar temple dedicated to “Ardevisur Anahita,” the female guardian angel of waters. Some of the scholars who worked on the excavation believe it lacks the layout of a temple and must therefore be a palace.

2-Kangavar TempleA more panoramic view of the Anahita Temple at Kangavar (Source: Photographer Bahman Razei-IRNA in Payvand News). The very large dimensions for the plinth (platform for placing columns, monuments, statues, etc.) are 200 meters on a side, with stone platforms displaying Achaemenid Persian styles.

The temple was first plundered by Alexander in 335 BC, then further stripped during the reigns of Antigonus (BC 325-301) and Seleucus Nicator (BC 312-280). But when Antiochus the Great arrived at the city in 210 BC, he found columns covered with gold and silver tiles piled up in the temple, along with gold and silver bricks. From these he struck coinage amounting to about four thousand talents’ worth.
In 2005 archaeologists discovered four mines that provided the stones used in the construction of the Anahita Temple.

In an interview with the Persian service of the Cultural Heritage News (CHN) agency, Saeid Dustani (director of the Kangavar Cultural Heritage and Tourism Office) noted the following:

The mines are located in the National Garden in downtown Kangavar, Qureh-Jin and behind the Shahrak-e Vali-e Asr in the south (of the town), and Allah-Daneh district in the north. There is evidence that the mine had been utilized in ancient times. The vertical and horizontal incisions indicate that the stones had been cut for construction purposes. Even some unfinished columns and stone cubes were discovered in some of the mines”.

From the Northern Angle (photos by A. Parian)

These photos by A. Parian are of the north and northeast of the Temple, especially the wall, stairway and balcony facing the northeast.  These photos are from the following article:

سنگهای شگفت انگیز – نگاهی به پرستشگاه کنگاور- ا. پریان – The Amazing Stones – An observation of the temple at Kangavar – by A. Parian (in Persian)

Clothing Styles of Women in Ancient Iran

Below are creations of the dresses of the ancient women of Iran from the Median, Achaemenid, Parthian and Sassanian eras. The four reconstructions depicted here were made during the early 1970s and are posted in the Iran Matlab website article entitled “مدل لباس زنان در ایران باستان [Clothing of Women in Ancient Iran]”.

Iran Women-Dress-1-MedesMede era (c. 615-549 BCE) dress reconstruction based on the silver box discovered with the Oxus Treasure now housed at the British Museum (Source: Iran Matlab).

Iran Women-Dress-2a-AchaemenidReconstruction of  noblewoman based on the Achaemenid era (550-330 BCE) tapestry from Pazyryk housed at the Hermitage Museum at St. Petersburg (Source: Iran Matlab).

Iran Women-Dress-3-ParthianParthian era (c.247 BCE – 224 CE) dress from Hatra, based on the figurine housed at the Baghdad Museum (Source: Iran Matlab).

Iran Women-Dress-4-SassanianIranian queen from the Sassanian era (224-651 CE) based on  the silver plate housed at the Walter Art Gallery in Baltimore (Source: Iran Matlab).

Brief Notes on Spoons and Forks in Greco-Roman and Ancient Iranian Civilizations

Cutlery is one of the most important aspects of food consumption, as this technology helps limit the intake of bacteria and germs in the preparation, serving and eating of food. The end result of the benefits of cutlery is the increase of health which in turn results in higher human life expectancy. Spoons for dining dated to the 500s BCE (at the time of the Achaemenid dynasty) or earlier have been discovered in ancient Pasargadae, southwest Iran (currently housed at the National Museum of Iran).

Pasargadae Spoon

Achaemenid silver spoon with a curved swan’s head handle discovered at Pasargadae (mid-500s century BCE) (Source: David Stronach & Hilary Gopnik, Encyclopedia Iranica).

The cutlery discovered in Pasargadae appear to pre-date Greco-Roman cutlery by almost 1000 years.

Roman_Museum_099-Spoons

Roman spoons with swan heads (Source: Public Domain, photographed by Linda Spashett): note the remarkable resemblance between the Roman spoon and its Achaemenid predecessor.

The site of Pasargadae has also yielded evidence of the Achaemenids having used dining knives.

Dining knife-Pasargadae

Achaemenid silver dining knife discovered at Pasargadae (mid-500s century BCE), housed at the Uşak Museum of Archaeology in Turkey (Source: Ecuador-Comeze). Note that this, like the Achaemenid spoon, also has a swan’s (or duck’s) head.

The fork however is absent from the ancient Persian archaeological finds and is apparently a Romano-Byzantine invention dated to at least the 4th century CE. The fork then spread from the Romano-Byzantine Empire into Sassanian Persia. This brief description of the history of cutlery demonstrates the long-standing cultural links between the Greco-Roman and ancient Iranian civilizations.

Forks_Susa_Louvre_MAO421-422-431

Iranian bronze forks dated from the 8th – 9th centuries CE (post-Sassanian era) housed at the Louvre Museum in Paris (inventory MAO 421-422-431) (Source: Public Domain, photographed by Marie-Lan Nguyen).