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Naghsh i Rajab

The third
The oldest relief
The second relief
The Zoroastrian high-priest Kartir
The archaeological site known as Naqš-e Rajab is just 3 kilometers north of the ruins of Persepolis. The name means something like "The carvings of Rahab", and is a little joke about the nearby Naqš-i Rustam, the carvings by the great hero Rustam. Rajab was an inn-keeper. Another name was Naqš-e Qahraman, "Carvings of the heroes".
As you can see on the map, there are four early Sassanid rock reliefs in this gully.

The oldest relief was made by king Ardašir I (224?-241), the founder of the Sassanid empire. His father Pâpak had defeated his overlord, the Parthian king Artabazus V, but died not much later. His son Ardašir, however, was now inaugurated as king and captured the Parthian capital Ctesiphon. This relief shows the investiture. To the left is a later addition, to be discussed below).
The relief itself shows, to the right, Ahuramazda (or, as he was called back then, Hormuzd), who hands over a ring to Ardašir, on the left. This ring, called cydaris, is the symbol of power. Ahuramazda carries the barsom, a bundle of sacred twigs. Both men wear diadems. The lower part of this relief is not completely finished.
There are several people standing to the left and right of the two central figures. To the left, one can see a courtier making a gesture of admiration and another one carrying a fly-whisk.

The female figures to the right seem to be walking away from the central scene. The right-hand one appears to be Ardašir's queen, the other one can be identified as a noble lady.
Next to this relief was an inscription that says "The Zoroastrian faith had died out, but I, the king of kings, restored it."

Between Ardašir and Ahuramazda, we can see two small figures. The left one, near the feet of the king, is often identified with the crown prince Shapur. He expresses his respect to the other man, who can not be identified, but seems to be a deity with a barsom.
The central scene again: Ahuramazda giving the ring of power to the king. There is another investiture relief of Ardašir in nearby Naqš-i Rustam,. The difference is that on this second relief, the god and the king are shown as horsemen. This was to become the normal type of investiture relief. The Naqš-e Rajab remains unique.

Ardašir's son and successor Shapur I (241-272) ordered the second, very simple relief. It shows his investiture (on 20 March 242) and is inspired by the investiture relief of Ardašir at Naqš-i Rustam.
There are no other figures, we can only see how Shapur receives the ring of power from his god. The faces of the two figures -this is the king- are unfortunately very damaged.
And this is Ahuramazda's, whose face was smashed by someone who did not like Zoroastrianism.

The third relief shows the same king, Shapur I, on horseback. Behind him are nine people, who may have been important courtiers or members of the dynasty. They can not be identified, except for the one immediately behind the king, who is probably identical to crown prince Hormuzd.
King Shapur. There are no defeated enemies below the horse's feet, which suggests that this relief (and the preceding one) were made before 244: in that year, he defeated the Roman emperor Gordian III and put Philippus Arabs on the Roman throne. This is celebrated on the first relief of Bishapur. The inscription in front of his horse says that "this is a figure of the Mazda-worshipping demigod, lord Shapur, the king of kings in Iran and abroad, who received his face from God, son of the Mazda-worshipping demigod, lord Ardašir, the king of kings who received his face from God, and the grandson of lord Papak, the king".
During the reign of king Bahram II (276-293), this small relief was added to the left of the first relief. It shows the Zoroastrian high-priest Kartir, who makes a gesture of admiration and loyalty to king Ardašir. This man made Zoroastrianism the state religion and organized persecutions of adherents of other faiths.
In 224 CE, a Persian nobleman named Pâpak, son of Sassan, dethroned the lawful ruler in Persia, Artabazus V. As capital the new ruler chose Istakhr, not far from ancient Persepolis, the capital of the Achaemenids, with whom the new, Sassanid dynasty, identified itself. The Achaemenid royal tombs of Naqš-i Rustam are not far from Istakhr too.
The city was left after the fall of the Sassanid empire (the people went to Shiraz), and today, Istakhr is nothing but a plain full of sherds, and a few ruins, like this building, which is probably a gate. The site was older and antedates the Achaemenid age. The Sassanid town measures 1,400 x 650 meters and was surrounded by a ditch.

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