Zoroastrian and Mithraic Sites of the Caucasus

The Caucasus has acted a vital conduit between the Iranian plateau-Eastern Anatolia axis and Eastern Europe. The photo survey below illustrates the legacy of Iran’s ancient Zoroastrian religion and the Cult of Mithras in the Caucasus.

Baku Fire Temple-UNESCO[Click to Enlarge] The main fire altar at the Atash-kade (Zoroastrian Fire-Temple) of Baku in the Republic of Azerbaijan (known as Arran and the Khanates until 1918) (Picture Source: Panoramio). This site is now registered with UNESCO as a world heritage site. 

 

Garni Temple-Armenia[Click to Enlarge] The Temple of Garni in Armenia. An example of Classical Armenian architecture bearing a Hellenic inspiration, this Temple was first ordered to be built in dedication to Mithras by Tiridates I in approximately 66 CE. The god Mithras in time became merged with the Sol Invictus (Unconquered Sun) of the Roman Empire (Picture Source: Skyscraper City).

 

Tbilisi Ategsha (Fire Temple)[Click to Enlarge] Remains of an “Atash-kade” (Zoroastrian fire-temple) undergoing repairs in Georgia. The cultural ties between Iran and the Caucasus  stretch back for thousands of years (Picture courtesy of Dr. David Khoupenia with caption from Kaveh Farrokh’’s lectures at the University of British Columbia’s Continuing Studies Division – also presented at Stanford University’s WAIS 2006 Critical World Problems Conference Presentations on July 30-31, 2006). For more on the topic of Zoroastrian fire temples in Georgia see Payvand News of Iran: The Northernmost Zoroastrian Fire Temple in the World (in the Republic of Georgia).

 

Baku Fire Temple-UNESCO-2[Click to Enlarge] Another view of the UNESCO registered Atash-kade (Zoroastrian Fire-Temple) of Baku (Picture Source: TravelPro).

 

Citadel of ArmaziA close-up view of the ruins of the citadel of Armazi in Georgia. It is possible that the term “Armazi” is derived from Iranic “Mazda” or “Ahura-Mazda”, the primary spiritual deity of the Zoroastrian faith (Picture Source: Iranboom).

 

Armenian Church built on Fire Temple[Click to Enlarge] Pictures of a Medieval Armenian Church at Goshavank sent to Kavehfarrokh.com by Professor George Nercessian (see article: “Professors Curatolia and Scaria: Dome Architecture and Europe“). This was built on the remains of cyclopean walls, where a Zoroastrian fire temple (Armenian Atrushan =Iranian Atar-Roshan) originally stood. There are many similar sites in Armenia where Churches were built on top of Zoroastrian fire temples (Pictures courtesy of Professor George Narcessian). For more on the topic of Armenian-Zoroastrian fire temples consult CAIS: The Armenian Fire Temple of Ani.

Kaveh Farrokh Presentation at University of Yerevan November 2013

Kaveh Farrokh provided a presentation at (بخش ایران شناسی دانشگاه دولتی ایروان) the University of Yerevan Iranian Studies Department at the “Shirvan, Arran, and Azerbaijan: A Historical-Cultural Retrospective” conference (kindly click here for more information on all conference participants and their topics).

YSUFrontal view of the State University of Yerevan, host to theShirvan, Arran, and Azerbaijan: A Historical-Cultural Retrospective” conference  on Nov. 1-2, 2013. The university is host to an excellent Iranian Studies program, staffed by exemplary researchers such as Professor Garnik S. Asatrian (Chair, Iranian Studies Dept., Yerevan State University; Editor, “Iran and the Caucasus”, BRILL, Leiden-Boston) and Professor Victoria Arakelova (Associate Professor, Department of Iranian Studies, Yerevan State University; Associate Editor, “Iran and the Caucasus”, BRILL, Leiden). The conference has been made possible through the works of Professors Asatrian and Arakelova.

YSU-Committee-2013-1Cover page, dedication and list of organizers of the conference. Kindly note that Kaveh Farrokh was one of the members of the organizing committee for the conference at Yerevan State University (Click to enlarge to see list of organizers). For more information on the conference kindly click here for more information on all conference participants and their topics.

Kaveh Farrokh’s presentation and abstract for the conference was as follows:

Cultural Links between Iran and Arran (Modern Republic of Azerbaijan) from Antiquity to the 1900s” (November 2, 2013)

This paper will provide an overview of the cultural and historical links between ancient Albania/Arran and Iran from antiquity to the early twentieth century. A comprehensive series of Classical and pre- Islamic Iranian sources as well as archaeological studies are referenced for the pre-Islamic (Medo-Achaemenid and Partho-Sassanian) era. Examples cited include discoveries of Achaemenid palaces in the region as well as the role of the Albanian knights in the Sassanian army (Spah). The post-Islamic era is discussed with respect to Islamic and European primary sources and cartography with references to languages, the Safavid and post-Safavid eras to the early 1900s.

Zoroastrians-BakuModern-day Zoroastrians from Iran at the Baku Atash-kade (Zoroastrian Fire-Temple) being led in religious ceremonies by Mobed Kourosh Niknam (Source: Image by Farroukh Aliev with this first appearing in Fravahr.org).

تالار فردوسی - ایران شناسی- دانشگاه دولتی ایروانThe Hall of Firdowsi at (تالار فردوسی در بخش ایران شناسی دانشگاه دولتی ایروان)  the Iranian Studies department of Yerevan State University.

After the conference, Farrokh delivered an additional lecture on November 4, 2013 at the University of Yerevan entitled:

Cultural Links between Iran, Armenia and Georgia from Antiquity to the early 1800s 

This lecture will provide an overview of the cultural and historical links between ancient Iran, Armenia and Georgia,notably with respect to the Achaemenid, Parthian and Sassanian eras. The role of Northern Iranian peoples in the Caucasus and their impact upon the Caucasus is also examined. Topics addressed the role of the Naxarar Armenian knights in the Sassanian Spah (Army) and the role of Armenia and Georgia in cultural contacts between the Iranian Plateau and Eastern Europe. The discussion will conclude with the promotion of Persian language and literature in the Caucasus during the post-Islamic era up to the early 1800s.

Surva-Zorvan-BulgariaThe Surva festival in Bulgaria. Local traditions ascribe this festival to the ancient Iranian cult of Zurvan (Master of Time); the Caucasus has long acted as a conduit between Eastern Europe and the Iranian plateau.

The “Shirvan, Arran, and Azerbaijan: A Historical-Cultural Retrospective” conference has been dedicated to the memory of the late Professor Enayatollah Reza.

Prof Enayatollah RezaThe late Professor Enayatollah Reza (1920-2010).

Battle Simulation: Celtic Warrior versus Iranian Immortal Guard

One primary that has been not been asked in depth by military historians (and historians in general) is what would have happened if the armies of Xerxes had succeeded in conquering Greece in 480 BCE?

If Greece had fallen, the gates of Europe (Oropia in Greek) would have flung open to conquest by Achaemenid armies. Eastern Europe and parts of the Balkans were already settled by Iranian-speaking peoples kindred to the Medes and the Persians. These were the ancient Scythians (Saka Paradraya or “Saka beyond the Sea” in Old Persian). As noted by Cotterell:

“…the close relations of the Scythians with the Persians is perhaps most illustrative…in the… fact that…Scythians and Persians spoke closely related languages and understood each other without translators” (Cotterell, A. (2004). The Chariot: The Astounding Rise and Fall of the World’s First War Machine. London, England: Pimlico, p.61).

Saka ParadrayaThe Scythians or Saka Paradraya in Eastern Europe (circa 4th century BCE). As noted by Newark: “They [Scythians] were Indo-European in appearance and spoke an Iranian tongue that bought them more closely to the Medes and Persians” (Source: Newark, T. (Historian) & Mcbride, A. (Historical Artist) (1998). Barbarians. London: Concord Publications Company, p.6; Color Plate p. 7).

The professional military backbone of the Achaemenid army was composed of Persians, Medes and Scythians (symbolic of their authority is the fact that all three peoples are seen carrying the ceremonial Akenakes dagger at the depictions at Persepolis).

 Pic7-Saka MedeMede and  Saka Tirgrakhauda (Old Persian: Saka with pointed hat) at Persepolis, note the ceremonial Akenakes dagger worn by both Iranian figures (Source: Kaveh Farrokh, 2001).

The Achaemenid military was instrumental in facilitating the expansion of the empire into not only the entire ancient Near and Middle East but also into Central Asia, the northwest portion of the Indian subcontinent, Africa (into ancient Egypt), and (at its maximum extent in 480-479 BCE) across the Hellespont into Europe. Only the militarily efficient and professional Greek Hoplites stood between the Achaemenid military machine and the European continent.

achaemenid Elite Immortal Guards

Reconstructions and depictions by Ardashir Radpour of Immortal Guardsmen of the Achaemenid military (Source: Ardashir Radpour & Holly Martin Photography).

Who would Achaemenid troops have faced in battle if Greece had been conquered by the empire? By 480 BCE, much of the interior of Europe had fallen under the sway of the mighty Celtic warriors. The Celts are known to be among ancient history’s most formidable and robust warriors, who at the height of their power even challenged Rome itself.

Celtic raid into Greece

Celts attack the Greeks in 3rd Century BCE: (Left) Celtic raid into northern Greece (right) Celtic chieftain Brennus (Celtic: King) and his warriors engaged in the sack of the Temple of Apollo in Delphi, Greece (3rd Century BCE) (Source: Newark, T. (Historian) & Mcbride, A. (Historical Artist) (1997) Hong Kong: Concord Publication Company, pp. 12, 14, Color Plates 5-6). The Greeks eventually prevailed and ejected the Celts with Brennus then reputedly taking his own life. A fearsome warrior race, Celtic warriors were of large stature and build, wielding the longsword and Celtic lance.

It was through the hard campaigning of Roman General, Consul and Statesman, Julius Caesar (100-44 BCE) and his successors when Rome finally gained military superiority over the various Celtic tribes of Gaul and Brittania in Western Europe.

 Celtic Europe

Map of Europe at the height of Celtic power. Roman conquests, Germanic expansion and Celtic infighting led to the demise of the Celts. A number of Celtic raiders arrived into Anatolia, with numbers of Galatian Celts settling in the region of modern-day Ankara, capital of the Turkish Republic. The Celtic legacy endures in Wales, Scotland, Ireland and northern France (Brittany).

How would Achaemenid troops have fared against the tough, dour and robust Celtic warriors of Continental Europe? Without Greece to bar the Empire, the scenario of Achaemenid troops (especially the elite Immortal guards) facing the Celts in battle could have been a distinct possibility. The economic powerhouse of Continental Europe would probably have been too enticing for the commercially-minded Achaemenids to resist.

The first serious study of warfare between the Celts and the Achaemenids was recently addressed in the TV Program Deadliest Warrior. The weapons, personnel and training of Achaemenids and Celts were examined and compared, followed by 1000 computer simulations. The outcomes yielded interesting results: out of one thousand battle simulations, the Celts won 311 engagements, with the Achaemenid Immortals winning 689.

Immortal Guards

(number of kills)

Celtic Warriors

(number of kills)

Bow & Arrow

180

1

Sling

Spear

247

126

Lancea (javelin)

Chariot (Scythed)

135

14

Burda (Celtic Club)

Sagaris (Persian Axe)

127

170

Long Sword

Total Kills

689

311

Total Kills

The results suggest that despite the physical advantages of the Celts, they most likely would have been militarily overcome by the Achaemenids. The Immortals achieve kills in the triple-digit range with all of their major weapons: archery, spears, scythed chariots and the Sagaris Persian battle axe.

The Celts’ best weapons, the Lancea (javelin) and the Long Sword, achieved the highest kills against the Achaemenids. Surprisingly the deadly Burda (battlefield club) which could literally explode heads when wielded by a large and powerful Celt, proved of little effectiveness. The major reasons for the success of the Immortals in the simulations was attributed to rigorous training, fighting as a cohesive unit and the overall effectiveness of their major weapons. The below video clip provides a summary of this discussion.

Video clip of “Deadliest warrior: Celtic warrior versus Persian Immortal”. The comparisons and simulations of Celtic vs. Immortal weapons systems, training and battle tactics suggest that the Immortals would have militarily prevailed over the Celts by a wide margin. 

While more studies are required to reach a definitive conclusion, it would appear at this juncture that had the Immortal Guards faced the Celts in battle, the Achaemenid Empire would most likely have gained territory at Celtic expense, in continental Europe. How far the Achaemenids would have advanced into Europe can only be guessed.

 

New Course: Forgotten Gifts of Persia

Kaveh Farrokh, an instructor at the University of British Columbia’s Continuing Studies Division is offering a new course entitled:

The Forgotten Gifts of Persia

Below is the official course description:

Learn about the forgotten contributions of Persia to world civilization in the realm of technology and architecture. Topics include the world’s first movies, the artificial eye, the battery, aqueducts, refrigeration and air-conditioning systems, windmills, pontoon bridges and the world’s first hospital and medical university, as well as examples of the influence of Persian architecture in China, India, Rome, Western Europe, and throughout the Middle East.

Astrolabe-Persian-18-century1

[Click to enlarge] An 18th century Persian Astrolabe  housed in Cambridge Museum’s History of Sciences section Picture source: Fouman.com).

For details consult The Forgotten Gifts of Persia | UBC Continuing Studies (pdf):

  • Format: In Class
  • Code: UP723 W13 A
  • Start: Weds Mar 13, 2013
  • Schedule: Weds  1pm – 3pm
  • Location: Tapestry at Wesbrook Village (University of British Columbia Point Grey campus)

artificial-Eye

[Click to Enlarge] (RIGHT) Iranian researcher examining the artificial eye found at Shahr e Sookhteh – further tests are being conducted in Iran to determine the exact chemical composition of the prosthetic (LEFT) A curious feature of the “eye” are parallel lines that have been drawn around the pupil to form a diamond shape …READ MORE

There is also a determined drive from the Asian Studies department of the University of British Columbia to establish a full-time Iranian Studies program.

Professor Harjot S. Oberoi of the UBC Asian Studies program introduces “An Evening with Dr. Kaveh Farrokh – Sassanian Architecture” (Monday March 12, 2011). This talk was given as part of the overall drive to promote support for the University of British Columbia’s Iranian Studies and Persian language initiative.

1-Persian-at-UBC1

New Book: Anahita-Ancient Persian Goddess & Zoroastrian Yazata

 

Iranian.com has announced the publication of a new book entitled “Anahita: Ancient Persian Goddess & Zoroastrian Yazata”. See also the news release of this new book by the CAIS venue.

 Anahita-Text

This new  book is the most comprehensive study of the Goddess Anahita  in recent years. The text is unique as it contains research findings that had never before been published.  This book is a seminal resource for all those interested in not only the history and mythology of Anahita but the wider arena of ancient Iran, her mythology and the broader spectrum of such topics in civilization.

This book will be available after February 23, 2013 from local bookshops as well as Amazon. It can be pre-ordered directly from the publishers: Avalon Books.

One of the academic contributors to the book is Kaveh Farrokh who wrote the following topic:

Exploring the Possibility of Relationships between the Iranian Goddess Anahita and the Dame du Lac of the Arthurian Legends (Persian translation will appear in the Marlik (مارلیک) journal in the summer of 2013)

Farrokh has offered a course entitled “Persia’s Silent Legacy in Christianity & European Culture” at the University of British Columbia’s Continuing Studies Division, where Anahita and the Iranian pantheon’s cultural connections with Europe were examined.

Anahita and Bahram Chobin

[Click to Enlarge] Recreation of the facade of a Sassanian palace and Bahram Chobin receiving a diadem (possibly representing the Farr  or “Divine Glory”) from a priestess of the Anahita temple (Source: Kaveh Farrokh, Elite Sassanian Cavalry, 2005 –اسواران ساسانی).

The editor of the book is Payam Nabarz who is the editor of the journal Mithras Reader An academic and religious journal of Greek, Roman, and Persian Studies, Volume 1 (2006), Volume 2 (2008), and Volume 3 (2010). He is also the author of number of related books, for further info visit Amazon.

Below is the content breakdown of the topics of the new book as described in Iranian.com:

Part 1 Academic Papers

Dr. Israel Campos Méndez is Assistant Professor in Ancient History at the University of Las Palmas of Gran Canaria (Canary Islands, Spain). His lines of research are related to the History of Religion, and in particular to the Cult of Mithra in Ancient Iran and the Roman Empire. His PhD thesis was entitled: The God Mithra: Analysis of the processes of adjustment of his worship from the social, political and religious frame of the Ancient Iran to that of the Roman Empire. He has written two books in Spanish about the cult of Mithra in Ancient Persia, and many others papers and articles about the Zoroastrian Religion and the Mithraic Mysteries.

Kaveh Farrokh (PhD) is at University of British Columbia -Continuing StudiesHistory Lecturer, & Reader Head of Department of Traditions & Cultural History – WAALM School of Cultural Diplomacy (nominated for Nobel Peace Prize 2011). He is a Member of Stanford University’s WAIS (World Association of International Studies) and Member of Iranian Studies for Hellenic-Iranian Studies.

Dr. Matteo Compareti studied oriental languages in the University of Venice and after graduation he obtained his PhD from the University of Naples, L’Orientale. He specializes in the art history of Iran and Central Asia. His latest publications are Samaracanda Centro del Mondo – Proposte di Lettura del Ciclo Pittorico di Afrasiyab, Minesis, (2010), and Iranians on the Silk Road: Merchants, Kingdoms and Religions by Touraj Daryaee, Khodadad Rezakhani, and Matteo Compareti, Publisher: Afshar Publishing, Beverly Hills, California (2010). He is an independent scholar not affiliated to any institution, Italian or foreign.

Sheda Vasseghi has a Masters in Ancient History – Persia and a Masters in Business Administration.  Ms. Vasseghi focuses on Iranian national identity.  Her special interest encompasses Iranian philosophy as it applies to modern day social, political and religious issues.  She believes history provides the answers to current problems, and lack of knowledge in the field leads to poor decision-making by citizens and policymakers.  Ms. Vasseghi is a regular contributor to political and history publications on Iran’s affairs.  She is an adjunct Professor of History at the Northern Virginia Community College.  Ms. Vasseghi is also on the Board of the Azadegan Foundation and a member of www.persepolis3D.com.

D.M. Murdock is an independent scholar of comparative religion and mythology, specializing in nature worship, solar mythology and astrotheology. An alumna of Franklin & Marshall College and the American School of Classical Studies at Athens, Greece, Murdock is the author of several controversial books about the origins and relationship of religious ideas dating back thousands of years to the earliest known evidence. Her work can be found at TruthBeKnown.com and StellarHousePublishing.com.

Sam Kerr is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Medicine (London) and of several Colleges of Surgery. A Zoroastrian by birth, he migrated to Australia in 1968. He was Surgeon/Lecturer at the University of New South Wales and its College Hospitals, Sydney, Australia from 1968 to 2003. He is now Emeritus Surgeon at the University and its College Hospitals.

Rahele Koulabadi, has an MA in Archaeology, and is based at the University of Sistan and Baluchestan, Iran.

Dr. Seyyed Rasool Mousavi Haji was born on December 30, 1967, in Savadkouh, Iran. He received his PhD in Archaeology in 2003 from Tarbiat Modarres University of Iran. He is teaching as an Associate Professor in the Archaeology Department in the University of Sistan and Baluchestan. He also is the Dean of the Faculty of Art and Architecture. He has published four books and several articles about the archaeology of the Sassanian and Islamic periods. His main fieldworks are: Archaeological survey in Sistan plain in 2007 and 2008, archaeological survey in Zahedane Kohne (capital of Sistan during 5 to 9 A. H.) in 2002 and excavation to estimate size of the Zahedane Kohne in 2007.

Morteza Ataie has an M.A. in Archaeology, and is based at the University of Sistan and Baluchestan, Iran.

Seyyed Mehdi Mousavi Kouhpar is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Archaeology at Tarbiat Modares University.

Seyed Sadrudin Mosavi Jashni is an Assistant Professor in the Research Institute of Imam Khomeini and the Islamic Revolution.

Farhang Khademi Nadooshan is an Associate Professor in the Dept of Archaeology, Tarbiat Modares University, Tehran, Iran.

Hassan Nia is an academic member of the Islamic Azad University Savad Koh unit, Iran.

Masoud Sabzali is a Post graduate student, in the Dept of Archaeology, Tarbiat Modares University, Tehran, Iran.

Dr. Masato Tōjō Born in Niigata City, Japan in 1957. Earned his PhD in Information Technology from the Dept. of Information Technology (now Information Science), Graduate School of Engineering, University of Tokyo in 1985. Japanese committee member of ISO/IEC JTC1 SC18 WG9 from 1992 to 1996. Chairman of Mithraeum Japan (Founded in 1997). Author of books: Qewl – Holy Book of Mithra (MIIBOAT Books, 2006), Mithraic Theology (Kokushokankōkai, 1996), Dictionary of Gods of the World (Gakken, 2004), Esoteric Astrology of Mithraism (MIIBOAT Books, 1998), Let’s Read the Secret Doctrine (Shuppanshinsha, 2001), Encyclopedia of Tarot (Kokushokankōkai, 1994). Consult Dr. Masato Tōjō Official Site

Behzad Mahmoudi is a Post Graduate student, Islamic Azad University, Central Tehran Branch, Iran.

Amir Mansouri is a Post Graduate student, Islamic Azad University, Central Tehran Branch, Iran.

Dr Kamyar Abdi is an Iranian archaeologist.  He received his M.A. from the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Cultures, University of Chicago, and his PhD in Archaeology/Anthropology from the University of Michigan.

Dr Gholamreza Karamian is an Associate Professor at Dept of Archaeology, Islamic Azad University, Central Tehran branch.

Saman Farzin M.A is based at Iranology Department of History, University of Shiraz, Iran.

Maryam Zour M.A. is based at Archaeology University of Sistan and Baluchistan Zahidan-Iran.

Babak Aryanpour M.A. is based at Iranology, University of Shiraz, Iran.

Reza MehrAfarin is an Associate Professor, University of Sistan & Baluchestan.

In Part 2 Arts.

Akashanath is a Ceremonial Magician with a background in Thelema and the Golden Dawn system. He is also a Sanyasin of the Adinath Sampradaya and a practitioner of English Rune Magick.

Shapour Suren-Pahlav Co-founded The Circle of Ancient Iranian Studies (CAIS) in 1998, as an independent not-profit educational programme, with no affiliation to any political or religious group, dedicated to the research, protection, preservation of the pre-Islamic Iranian civilisation.

Ana C. Jones was born in Brazil, she is trained as a teacher and electrical engineer. In 1989 she came to live in England with husband and their three children. Her interest in Traditional Astrology led her to complete C. Warnock’s Renaissance Astrological magical course, plus two others of the same calibre. At the moment she is studying Alchemy from Adam McLean courses, Hermetic Magic with the OMS as well as Mithraism. She practices Traditional British Witchcraft and Stregoneria. She finds inspiration among her studies and practices to express herself through her drawings, paintings and sculptures.

In Part 3 Religious Articles, Poetry, Stories.

Katherine Sutherland is a poet and author, her collection Underworld, a reworking of the Persephone myth, was recently published (Web of Wyrd Press, 2010). She has papers published in the following anthologies: Both Sides of Heaven: Essays on Angels, Fallen Angels and Demons(Avalonia, 2009), From a Drop of Water (Avalonia, 2009), Hekate: Her Sacred Fires (Avalonia, 2010).