The Izadkhast Fortress at Fars Province

The article below and the photographs originally appeared in the Historical Iran Blog.


The Fortress of Izadkhast is located in the Fars Province of Iran, roughly 135 km south of Isfahan. This historical complex has been situated on a natural base along with unique characteristics. The complex contains the castle of Izadkhast, one caravanserai and the Safavid-period bridge. The works inside of the castle belong to different periods from Sassanids to Qajars. The most important section of the complex is the castle that has been built on singular bedrock in a sand construction and close to the valley of Izadkhast. A bridge and a gate in the most accessible part of the complex made it possible to connect with the surrounding areas.

Izadkhast-1-old[Click to Enlarge] An old photo of Izadkhast (Picture source: Historical Iran Blog)

It is, in form of construction, unique but can be, from the-materials-used point of view, compared with Citadel of Bam, Rhine and many other citadels, castles built in provinces of Yazd and Kerman. The complex caravanserai can be compared with Safavid caravanserais especially the caravanserais in Isfahan-Shiraz Route.


Izadkhast-2[Click to Enlarge] Arched entrance way at Izadkhast (Picture source: Historical Iran Blog)

Inside the walls of the fortress, there are alleyways and passages that criss-cross it. Right by the front gate that goes over a moat, there are many homes that are now fully deserted while some are completely destroyed. According to the locals, as recent as the turn of the millennium, people still lived in the old part of Izadkhast but due to floods in the past two years, the homes were destroyed and people were forced to move. Most of the homes in the interior were constructed from wood and mud. The smallness of the bedrock led to agglomeration of built rooms. Hence, the smallness of rooms resulted in increase of floors, some as many as five stories high which in itself and considering the circumstances of its time is a remarkable architectural feat.


Izadkhast-3[Click to Enlarge] Walls and built-in tower structure at Izadkhast (Picture source: Historical Iran Blog)

The caravanserai at the castle dates back to the time of Safavid Dynasty (1502 – 1736). The front gate was burned down by Nader Shah’s soldiers camping there during a cold night as they were looking for firewood.


Izadkhast-4[Click to Enlarge] Panoramic view of Izadkhast (Picture source: Historical Iran Blog)

The bedrock on which the complex is situated on protected the castle from the foreigners’ attacks. The tall and almost perpendicular height, ranging from 6 to 15 meters, on three sides of the fortress made it almost impossible for enemies to gain access to the interior. And for further protection, on the fourth and shorter side, a moat 30 meters long, 4 meters across and 4 meters deep had been dug.


Izadkhast-5[Click to Enlarge] An overview of Izadkhast (Picture source: Historical Iran Blog & Abbas Soltani at

Many parts of the Izadkhast fortress have been destroyed as they have collapsed due to erosion and flooding. Inside the walled city, there are clear signs of damage from treasure hunters and unfortunately also graffiti on the walls.

Izadkhast-6[Click to Enlarge] An old alley at Izadkhast (Picture source: Picture source: Historical Iran Blog & Abbas Soltani at

Military Heritage article on Emperor Julian the Apostate

The Military Heritage Journal has published an article by Kaveh Farrokh:

Farrokh, K. (2015). Julian the Apostate. Military Heritage, March Issue, pp.8, 10-13.

Military Heritage-March 2015[Right] Cover of the March 2015 edition of the Military Heritage journal [left] Sample page of the article in the British Military History Monthly article.

 As noted in the beginning of the article: “when Emperor Julian had received the wound [in Persia], he filled his hand with blood, flung it into the air and cried, Thou hast won, O Galilean” (Theodoret, Ecclesiastical History, Book III). Emperor Julian (r. 361-363 CE) had received that fatal wound during his last duel with the Savaran armored knights of Persia…”. The article provides a detailed overview of the life and career of Emperor Julian the Apostate. Following his brilliant victories over the formidable Germanic warriors of Western Europe, the Emperor’s ultimate nemesis proved to be the Savaran Knights of Persia. The legacy of the Savaran Knights continued to endure centuries after the fall of the Sassanian Empire to the Arabo-Islamic invasions of 637-651 CE.
 Julian's failed invasion of Persia in 363 AD[CLICK TO ENLARGE]-Emperor Julian is killed during his failed invasion of Sassanian Persia in June 26, 363 AD. Above is a recreation of Sassanian Persia’s elite cavalry, the Savaran, as they would have appeared during Julian’s failed invasion. Note the heavily armored Sassanian elite guardsman (Pushtighban) whose lance has pierced a Roman infantryman. Further right is a Savaran officer whose sword is drawn in what is now known as the “Italian grip” but Sassanian in origin. To the far right can be seen a Zoroastrian or Mithraist Magus brandishing a Sassanian era symbol. Also of interest are the armored elephants in the background. Armored elephants were especially prized as their cabs afforded very high elevation over the battlefield, which was ideal for Sassanian archery ( Picture source: Farrokh, Plate D, Elite Sassanian cavalry, 2005).
 Elite Sassanian Cavalry-Amir Kabir Publishers-1

Bahrām V Gōr بهرام گور

The article below on Bahrām V Gōr بهرام گور was written by O. Klíma for the Encyclopedia Iranica in December 15, 1988 and was last updated in August 24, 2011. This article is available in the print volumes of the Encyclopedia Iranica (Vol. III, Fasc. 5, pp. 514-522).

Kindly note that the article below contains pictures and captions that do not appear in the Encyclopedia Iranica version.


Bahrām V Gōr, son and successor of Yazdegerd I, reigned from 420 to 438. His mother was said to have been Šōšanduxt, a daughter of the Jewish exilarch (Markwart, Provincial Capitals, par. 74). As a youth he was brought up at the court of the Lakhmid kings of Ḥīra, Noʿmān and his son Monḏer (he had probably been banished thither upon some disagreement with his father, see Nöldeke, Geschichte der Perser, p. 90 n. 2). Since the death of Šāpūr II in 379, nobles and priests had increased their prestige and power at the expense of central authority, electing, deposing and killing kings (among them Yazdegerd I) at will; and they now intended to exclude Yazdegerd’s sons from the succession (Christensen, Iran Sass., pp. 253ff.). The eldest son, Šāpūr, governor of Persarmenia, hurried to Ctesiphon to seize the throne but was murdered by the nobles, who elected a prince of Sasanian descent, Ḵosrow by name, as king (Nöldeke, op. cit., p. 91, n. 4).

H-Inv.S-252Bahrām V Gōr بهرام گور  on a camel firing his missiles at wild game; he is accompanied by the diminutive figure of Azadeh (Source: Hermitage Museum – Inv.S-252). Firdowsi’s (940-1020) post-Islamic epic of the Shahname Twritten in the late 10th to the early 11 centuries, narrates a story of the Sasanian king Bahram V (r. 420–38), who was challenged by his favorite female musician, Azadeh, to engage in fantastic feats of archery. This theme remained unknown in the few Sassanian works that survived the Arabo-Islamic invasions of the 7th century CE, however the discovery metalworks such as the above helped bring this aspect of the Sassanian martial tradition to light. There is another Sassanian metalwork plate (similar to the above sample at Hermitage) housed at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

Bahrām asked and received military assistance from Monḏer, and marched on the capital. Alarmed, the nobles negotiated with him and accepted his claim after exacting from him the promise that he would right his father’s misrule. According to the Persian tradition celebrated in the Šāh-nāma (Moscow, VII, pp. 296-303) and other Sasanian-based sources, Bahrām opted for an ordeal, suggesting that the royal crown and garb be placed between two lions, and whoever could retrieve them by killing the beasts should be acknowledged as the divinely favored king; and while Ḵosrow withdrew, Bahrām underwent the ordeal and won the throne. He left the task of administration to his father’s officials, especially to Mihr Narseh, grand minister (wuzurg framadār) of the empire. He also remitted taxes and public debts at festive occasions, promoted musicians to higher rank and brought thousands of Indian minstrels (lūrīs) into Iran to amuse his subjects, and he himself indulged in pleasure-loving activities, particularly hunting (his memorable shooting of a wonderful onager, gōr, is said to have given origin to his nickname Gōr “Onager [hunter]”). These measures made Bahrām one of the most popular kings in Iranian history.

Folio_from_a_Khamsa-cPortrayal of a Khamseh (quintet) by the Persian poetry of  Nizami (1141-1209) entitled “Bahram and the Indian princess in the black pavilion (Source: Public Domain); the artwork is dated to the mid 1500s, during the reign of the Safavids (1501-1722).

Right after his accession, he proved himself in battle against the White Huns (the Hephthalites) who had invaded eastern Iran. Leaving his brother Narseh as regent, Bahrām took the road from Nisa via Marv to Kušmēhan, where he fell upon the enemy, won a resounding victory, and obtained precious booty from which he made rich offerings to the fire temple of Ādur Gušnasp. On his return, he appointed Narseh governor of Khorasan. However, on the western front, Bahrām was less successful. Many Armenian Christians had appealed or defected to the Romans, and the refusal to surrender them resulted in open hostility in 421. Mihr Narseh led the Persian forces but engagements were indecisive, and finally a treaty was signed giving freedom of religion to the Christians in Iran and Zoroastrians in the Byzantine empire, and obliging the Romans to contribute financially to the defense of the Caucasus passes against the Huns. Bahrām then deposed the Armenian king, Artašeš (Ardašīr), son of Bahrāmšāpūr (Vrāmšapuh), and replaced him with a margrave (marzbān).

BahramVCoinHistoryofIranA gold coin depicting Bahrām V Gōr بهرام گور; note the fire temple on the reverse of that coin (Source: Public Domain).

Bahrām V is exceedingly popular in Iranian literature and art. His coins show him as wearing a crown with three-step crenellations and a large crescent of the moon; they also introduce certain novelties such as the appearance of the crowned king’s bust within the flames of the fire altar on the reverse (R. Göbl, Sasanian Numismatics, Brunswick, 1971, p. 49, pl. 9 nos. 153-58). No monument has survived of Bahrām V. His death is said in one tradition to have occurred during a hunt; according to another version, he died a natural death (summer of 438).


The main Sasanian-based account is given by Ṭabarī, tr. Nöldeke, pp. 85-112.

See also Dīnavarī, pp. 53ff.; Šāh-nāma, Moscow, VII, pp. 266ff.; Nehāyat al-erab apud E.G. Browne, JRAS, 1900, pp. 222ff.; Masʿūdī, Morūj II, pp. 157ff., 191; Ṯaʿālebī, Ḡorar, pp. 553ff.

For chronology see Nöldeke, op. cit., pp. 419ff. Concerning Bahrām’s love for music and the role of the minstrels see M. Boyce, “The Parthian gōsān and Iranian Minstrel Tradition,” JRAS, 1957, pp. 11, 30f.

Armenian, Syriac, and Byzantine references to Bahrām are listed in Justi, Namenbuch, p. 362 no. 14, and used by Nöldeke in his notes on Ṭabarī. Bahrām’s relations with the Christians are discussed by J. Labourt, Le christianisme dans l’empire perse, Paris, 1904, pp. 117ff.

Second Farrokh Book translated by Taghe Bostan Publishers into Persian

Kaveh Farrokh’s second text, Shadows in the Desert: Ancient Persia at War-Персы: Армия великих царей-سایههای صحرا (April 2007; 320 pages; ISBN: 9781846031083; Osprey Publishing) is the first text to specifically outline the military history of ancient Iran from the bronze age to the end of the Sassanian era. This book was recently translated for the second time into Persian by Taghe Bostan publishing which is affiliated with The University of Kermanshah:

Shadows in the Desert-Taghe Bostan Publishers-3

Farrokh’s second text translated into Persian for the second time. This version was translated by Bahram Khozai and published in Iran by the -طاق بستان- Taghe-Bastan company on January 21, 2012 (01 بهمن، 1390).

The second translation of the book into Persian cited above is independent of the first Persian translation by Shahrbanu Saremi (entitled -سایههایی در بیابان: ایران باستان در زمان جنگ-) which appeared through  Qoqnoos Publishers in 2011.


Shadows in the Desert Ancient Persia at War – The first Persian translation by Qoqnoos Publishers with the English to Persian translation having been done by Shahrbanu Saremi (LEFT),  The original publication by Osprey Publishing (CENTER) the Farrokh text  translated  into Russian (consult the Russian EXMO Publishers website) (RIGHT).

The Tehran Times on July 4, 2011 as well as The Times of Iran (July 4, 2011) announced the first translation of Farrokh’s book into Persian by Qoqnoos Publishers with the final report on this made by the official Mehr News Agency of Iran on September, 24, 2011 (see also earlier report by Mehr News in Persian –ناگفته‌هایی از قدرت سپاهیان ایران باستان در «سایه‌های صحرا» بازگو شد-). This has also been reported in Press TVKhabar Farsi,  Balatarin and the official Iran Book News Association (IBNA-سايه‌هاي صحرا؛ ايران باستان در جنگ منتشر شد -) on September 28, 2011.

Frye and Farrokh
Meeting his mentors: Farrokh greets the late Professor Emeritus Richard Nelson Frye of Harvard University in march 2008 (shaking hands with Farrokh) and world-renowned Iranologist, Dr. Farhang Mehr (at center), winner of the 2010 Merit and Scholarship award (photo from Persian American Society,March 1, 2008).  As noted by Mafie, Professor Frye of Harvard University wrote the foreword of Farrokh’s text stating that “…Dr. Kaveh Farrokh has given us the Persian side of the picture as opposed to the Greek and Roman viewpoint …it is refreshing to see the other perspective, and Dr. Farrokh sheds light on many Persian institutions in this history…” (consult Mafie, 2010, p.2).

Below are a number of reviews of the text:

The Persian translation has been very well-received in Iran as indicated by the November 2011 newspaper clip below:

Page 52 of hashahri javan vol 335-2011
 [CLICK TO ENLARGE] Page 52 of Hamshahri newspaper, volume 335, November 17, 2011. The article in Persian by Ehsan Rezai reads “History as narrated by the Sword”.
Shadows in the Desert: Ancient Persia at War has been awarded with the Persian Golden Lioness Award by the WAALM Society in London as the “Best History Book of 2008” on October 31st 2008. This was reported by major media outlets such as the BBC, Iran’s equivalent of the New York Times, The Kayhan Newspaper (the Iranian equivalent of the New York Times) and the widely The Farrokh text was also nominated as one of three finalists for the 2008 Benjamin Franklin Awards by the Independent Book Publisher’s Association.

Military History Monthly article on Sassanian Army (Spah)

The British Military History Monthly Journal has published an article by Kaveh Farrokh on the Sassanian army of ancient Iran (Spah):

Farrokh, K. (2014). Soldiers of the Sassanian Empire: Rome’s unbeaten rival in the East. Military History Monthly, November Issue 50, pp.62-66, 68.

Military History Monthly-November-2014

[Right] Cover of the November edition of the British Military History Monthly journal [left] Sample page of the article in the British Military History Monthly article. Note that the image of the Sassanian knight is by Ardeshir Radpour (photo credit: Ardeshir Radpour & Holly Martin).

As noted in the beginning of the article: “With all its success and brilliance in Europe, the Mediterranean, and North Africa, Rome never conquered the Spah (‘Military’) of the Sassanian Empire. Roman Emperors such as Alexander Severus, Valerian, and Julian the Apostate tried and failed to subjugate Persia. Thanks to European and Iranian military historians, as well as Classical, Iranian, and Islamic sources, we now have a clearer picture of the Sassanian Spah.

Julian's failed invasion of Persia in 363 AD

[CLICK TO ENLARGE]- Emperor Julian is killed during his failed invasion of Sassanian Persia in June 26, 363 AD. Above is a recreation of  Sassanian Persia’s elite cavalry, the Savaran, as they would have appeared during Julian’s failed invasion.  Note the heavily armored Sassanian elite guardsman (Pushtighban) whose lance has pierced a Roman infantryman. Further right is a Savaran officer whose sword is drawn in what is now known as the “Italian grip” which is Sassanian in origin. To the far right can be seen a Zoroastrian or Mithraist Magus brandishing a Sassanian era symbol. Also of interest are the armored elephants in the background. Armored elephants were especially prized as their cabs afforded very high elevation over the battlefield, which was ideal for Sassanian archery ( Picture source: Farrokh, Plate D, -اسواران ساسانی- Elite Sassanian cavalry, 2005).

The article provides an overview of the tactics, armaments and key characteristics of the Sassanian Spah.

45-North Iranian belt

[Click to Enlarge] Iranian belt from the Sassanian era found in the Caucasus (Picture source: Farrokh, page 214, Shadows in the Desert: Ancient Persia at War-Персы: Армия великих царей-سایه‌های صحرا-Picture printed in text was under the Courtesy of the Institute of Manuscripts, Georgian Academy of Sciences and printed specifically  with the permission of Dr. David Khoupenia) .

It is further averred in the article that: “Persia’s elite knights were not unlike later European chivalry and Japanese Samurai“.

Late Sassanian era swords-Kaveh Farrokh

Late Sassanian sword (Farrokh 2004; reprinted Hughes 2010, p.51). Entire sword from front [1] and back [2]; sword handle at front [3] and back [4]; sword mount at front [5] and back [6].

The legacy of the Spah centuries continued to endure centuries after the fall of the empire to the Arabo-Islamic invasions of 637-651 CE. One example of that legacy is cited as thus: “The Mongol armies of Genghis Khan perfected this stratagem with the dictum ‘march divided, attack united’…“.

Elite Sassanian Cavalry-Amir Kabir Publishers-1The most recent translation of Farrokh’s third text Elite Sassanian Cavalry (translated into Persian by Maysam Alaie), Sassanian Elite Cavalry made in 2014 by Amir Kabir Publishers (انتشارات امیرکبیر) of Iran. For more information see -خبرگزاری کتاب ایران- (Iran book News), and -خبرگزاری اریا- (Arya News).