Sassanian Relief at Salmas (ancient Shapur)

Salmas (ancient Shapur) in Iran’s West Azerbaijan province is an ancient heritage settlement. Notable are the ties of the Sassanian rock reliefs of the Khantakhti region of Salmas: these depict Shapur I (r. 240-270 CE) and his father Ardashir I Babakan (r. 224-242 CE), the founder of the Sassanian dynasty (224-651 CE). Khantakhti is located approximately 15 kilometres from the Shapur-Urmia highway.

Scholars in general are of the opinion that the reliefs represent the military victory of Ardashir I over the Roman Empire in Armenia. This thesis is mainly based on crown depictions seen on Sassanian reliefs and coins.

1-Sass Relief-SalmasThe mounted figures of Ardashir I (to the front) facing a standing figure and Shapur I (behind Ardashir) (Source: Azariha). It is possible that this relief commemorates a Sassanian military victory in Armenia. The first captive held by Ardashir may be Armenian king Khosrov (Persian: Khosrow) with the captive to the rear held by Shapur I apparently being the Armenian Vizier.

Father and son, Ardashir I and Shapur I, fought hard against multiple powers, notably the Roman Empire, to maintain the independence and territorial integrity of the newly founded Sassanian dynasty.

2-Sass Relief-SalmasClose-up of Ardahsir I at Khantakhi (Source: Azariha). Note the monarch resting his hand over his scabbard-slide sword, like his son Shapur I behind him. This type of scabbard-sword pose is seen in several Sassanian sites, notably at Nagshe Rustam and Bishapur. 

Sassanian military parity with Rome was assured by the victories of Shapur I over the armies of Roman emperors Gordian III (r. 238-244 CE) at Misiche (modern Anbar, north of the Sassanian Ctesiphon) in 244 CE, Philip the Arab (r. 244-249 CE) at Barbalissos in c. 256 CE, and Valerian (r. 253-260 CE) who was defeated and captured in c. 260 CE.

3-Sass Relief-Salmas-Shapur_IClose up of Shapur I at Khantakhti (Source: Public Domain). Shapur was to follow up the military successes of his father Ardashir I by scoring victories over three Roman emperors. 

Interestingly after more than 1800 years, the local Iranian Azeri populace at Salmas remain cognizant of the region’s original name of “Shapur”.

4-Khantakhti PlaquePlaque for visitors and tourists at Khantakhti (Source: Azariha).