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).