This article has been written by Nabil Rastani and originally posted in Iranian.com on July 25, 2010. Nabil Rastani notes in his original posting in Iranian.Com:
Kindly note that the version printed below is different from that of Iranian.com in that the pictures and captions used are from Kaveh Farrokh’’s lectures at the University of British Columbia’s Continuing Studies Division and Stanford University’s WAIS 2006 Critical World Problems Conference Presentations on July 30-31, 2006. The video insert of Terry Jones was originally made by Nabil Rastani in the Iranian.com version.
The glorious Achaemenid Persian empire dominated all of the Middle East commencing from 550 to 330BC , Alexander the great conquered the Persian kingdom and destroyed the capital city of Persepolis .By all means the Sassanians (who were the descendants of the Achaemenid Empire) wished to revive the former glory of the Achaemenid Empire, this included their structural design, the Greek conquest of Persia inaugurated the spread of Hellenistic art into Western Asia; but if the East accepted the outward form of this art, it never really assimilated its spirit.
Remains of the Archway of Ctesiphon, capital of the Sasanian Empire (224-651 AD). Picture and caption from Kaveh Farrokh’’s lectures at the University of British Columbia’s Continuing Studies Division and were also presented at Stanford University’s WAIS 2006 Critical World Problems Conference Presentations on July 30-31, 2006).
In the Parthian era (250BC-224AD) Hellenistic art was being interpreted freely by the peoples of the Near East and throughout the Sassanid period there was a continuing process of reaction against it. Sassanid art revived forms and traditions native to Persia; and in the Islamic period these reached the shores of the Mediterranean Sea.
We are provided with a vivid idea of architecture within the palaces of the Sassanian kings some excellent examples include those at Firouzabad and Bishapur in modern day Fars province. The palaces all included barrel vaulted Iwan introduced in the Parthian period but by now they reached massive proportions, particularly at Ctesiphon the royal capital. These magnificent structures fascinated architects in the centuries that followed and has always been considered as one of the most important pieces of Persian architecture. Many of the palaces contain an inner audience hall which consists, as at Firuzabad, of a chamber surmounted by a dome. The Persians solved the problem of constructing a circular dome on a square building by the squinch. This is an arch built across each corner of the square, thereby converting it into an octagon on which it is simple to place the dome.
Carving on the walls of Taq e-Bostan and Naqsh-e Rustam gives us the idea that heavy influence of Sassanian art came from their Achaemenid predecessors. These gigantic and enigmatic carvings depict the kings and nobles of the Sassanian Empire. During the “dark ages” under Khosrau II Parvez (590-628) expanded the Sassanian empire west towards Anatolia and even southern Egypt. These military exploits provided the king with enough money to create vast amounts of depictions of the king. One of the most impressive in Taq e Bostan one of the most impressive reliefs inside the largest grotto or Ivan is the gigantic equestrian figure of him mounted upon his favorite horse Shabdiz. Both horse and rider are arrayed in full battle armor. The arch rests on two columns that bear delicately carved patterns showing the tree of life or the sacred tree. Above the arch and located on two opposite sides are figures of two winged angles with diadems. Around the outer layer of the arch, a conspicuous margin has been carved, jagged with flower patterns. These patterns are also found in the official costumes of Sassanid kings. Equestrian relief panel measured on 16.08.07 approx. 7.45m across by 4.25 m high. Other carvings and figures in Taq-e-Bostan include Crowning ceremony of Shapur III and the coronation ceremony of Ardashir I of Persia.
The Partho-Sassanian circular defense system