Iran City Guides - Kermanshah
Similar to the Ganj Nameh inscriptions in Hamadan, the carvings at Bisotun are set high in the rock face by an important trade route for all travellers to see. The site is 30km from Kermanshah City near the village of Bisotun.
Bisotun is the Arabic equivalent of the Old Persian name "Bagestan" which means "place of the gods". The site is located near to a spring where caravans would stop to gather water while on the way to or from Afghanistan or the Mediterranean.
The route between these two areas had been used from as early as 10,000 BC and was especially important for the trade of lapis lazuli and soapstone. The inscription is approximately 15m high by 25m wide at a very inaccessible 100m above ground level.
Presumably this was in order that the inscription be safe from tampering hands. It shows a life sized bas relief of Darius I with two attendants leading away 10 smaller figures chained at the neck, representing defeated enemies.
The winged god Ahuramazda floats above giving his blessing to the King, confirming that Zoroastrianism was the faith of Darius and the nation. The accompanying text is in the same three languages as the Ganj Nameh inscriptions in Hamadan, Old Persian, New Elamite and New Babylonian and was as instrumental in the deciphering of cuneiform, a previously lost script.
It was a British army officer, Sir Henry Rawlinson who undertook the challenge, first translating a list of the names of kings in 1835 with the help of a parallel text by the Greek historian Herodotus. On a second visit in 1843, Rawlinson braved the chasm to reach the Elamite and Babylonian sections and the translations were made known to European academics by 1846.
The text itself tells the story of the accession of Darius to the throne after he foiled the attempted intrigue of a high-ranking priest who claimed to be younger son of Cyrus the Great and usurped the Achaemenid throne. Darius defeated the impostor, quelled subsequent rebellions and proclaimed himself king of the Empire, having the Bisotun inscriptions carved in 520 BC as a statement to this effect. Later, in the time of the Seleucids, another statue was carved lower down the rock face, this time of the Greek hero Hercules.
He is shown reclining with his right hand on his knee and a cup of wine in his left, wearing a lion skin to denote power. His mace lies to his right and there are olive trees carved into the rock face behind him. According to evidence found at the site, the Hercules statue dates back to 148BC.
There are also other carvings at the site dating back to the period of the Arsakids. One represents King Mithradates II (123-83BC) with many subjects paying tribute to him. Other features of the Bisotun area include caves formed during the Mesolithic Period (40,00035,000 BC) and the remains of a Sassanid palace and garden.
Taq-e Bostan, Kermanshah, Iran
Located 4km north of Kermanshah City, the gardens of Taq-e Bostan have a 2,000 year history. According to archaeological evidence it was first constructed during Parthian times between 250224 BC and was used as a recreational hunting ground for noblemen. The name Taq-e Bostan means "arch of the garden" and refers to two large caves cut into the rock face of the neighbouring mountainside carved with bas reliefs.
The more interesting of the two reliefs depicts King Khosro II (591-628), known as Khosro Parvis ("Khosro the Victorious"), receiving the ring of power from the Zoroastrian god Ahuramazda and a second ring from the water god Anahita. The lower part of the relief shows a powerful representation of the King on horseback and in full battle dress. This larger arch was carved during the period 591628 when the armies of Khosro II had taken Jerusalem and it seemed as though the glory of the Achaemenid Empire had been restored in Sassanid times.
On the side walls of the arch are reliefs of hunting scenes which are likely to be representations of Khosro Parviz hunting in this garden. The left wall shows the king hunting wild boar from a boat with members of his retinue including musicians and elephant handlers in attendance. Also on the left is a relief showing the king having finished the hunt with a light shining from behind his head. The right hand wall shows gazelles which have been speared being carried on the backs of camels.
In the small town of Kangavar, located on the road between between Hamadan and Kermanshah are the ruins of a temple to Anahita, goddess of water and fertility, dating back to the 2nd century BC. The temple was built on a raised stone platform 4.5m above ground level. This and the architectural style mirror many of the monumental buildings of the period. Historians of the ancient era describe the temple here as one of great importance and magnificent treasures.
Indeed, modern investigation has revealed that the site covered an area 210m by 230m and that the pillars of the main hall once stood over 35m tall. The area is scattered with the remains of walls, staircases and pillars.
There are daily flights from Kermanshah to Tehran.
Will Yong and Kazem Vafadari
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