Document Type : Research Paper


1 M.A in Restoration, School of Architecture and Urban Planning, Islamic Azad University, Central Tehran Branch

2 Associate Professor, School of Architecture and Art, University of Kashan


Due to the written history of urbanization, the City of Bishapur is counted as one of the Sassanid era's valuable examples. Through this city, valuable buildings and monuments were obtained, including the temple of Anahita, hall of Chalipa, eastern and western Ivans (loggias), and related ornaments such as stucco and mosaic. The eastern mosaic Ivan (loggia) is one of the fundamental discoveries and components of the Bishapour royal citadel (Figure5), built in front of Anahita temple, Valerian palace, and hall of Chalipa. This Ivan has the most sets of intact mosaics. It is believed that the Roman prisoners (captured during the battle of Shahpour I and Valerian) were among the first people to teach the Iranians the art of mosaic imagery. May we emphasize that this story cannot be accepted for certain and requires further research. Today, studying the images on mosaics and comparing them with available historical and religious data gives us a new opportunity to interpret them differently than what our ancestors have been telling us for all these years and centuries. Comparing these images with those engraved on Sasanid plates tells us how Anahita (Persian goddess of fertility and wisdom) provides blessings and wisdom for kings and emperors. There is a strong possibility that these mosaics are dated back to Narseh's reign, 7th Sasanid king, and Shahpur I son.
The Bishapur eastern mosaic porch (Ivan) is the precious remnant of the Sassanid era in which the greatest amount and most intact mosaics were obtained. The art of creating images using mosaic was pretty much rare in Iran. It is considered that this art found its way to Iran through Roman captivity after the war of ShapurI and Valerian. The study of the mosaic Ivan ornaments is important because it helps us know more about the city's use and historical interventions in it. Neglecting some of the details in motifs and attribution of making these decorations to Roman captives made it necessary to re-examine mosaics and their details. A review of the mosaic motifs and comparing them with historical and religious documents represent a new interpretation that can lead to a more understanding of the construction time and a clearer view of eastern Ivan's role within the royal palace.
The purpose of this article is to re-read the mosaic motifs of the eastern Ivan to understand the architectural use of the mosaic Ivan, the possible period of construction, and understanding the story told by mosaics. This historical and descriptive study was conducted by comparing the images and motifs. Based on the results and findings of comparing mosaic motifs with reliefs and the same motifs on dishes and containers, the mosaics' images can be considered a glorious ceremony of giving splendor by the goddess Anahita to an important person (Figure 7). But who is this person?
Considering the incompleteness of the mosaic motifs in the northwest and southwest fronts of the Ivan, it is impossible to express the person's identity in question (Figure 9). Still, by reviewing historical events and examining the fundamental changes in the art of this period during different years, perhaps a new hypothesis can be put forward about the possibility of building an Ivan by someone other than Shapur I. The first step is to search among the people who showed the most attention towards the goddess Anahita and showed her their support. The importance of this goddess is evident in the Sassanid Dynasty. But what is the reason for not attributing the mosaics to the Shapur I?
With Shapur I's arrival, the image of Anahita was removed from coins and was replaced by Ahura Mazda. While even the quality of implementation of motifs is not the same as the similar examples built by the Romans in Antioch (Figure 4), how can solely because of the presence of Roman captives at Bishapur, assign the construction of mosaics to them? Also, Ivan's space in Bishapour is different from the Ivans in other royal buildings in the Sassanid period (Figure 1). Neither of these two porches is located along the principal axes of the Chalipa Hall. This is so obvious that Girshman does not consider the period of construction of the mosaic Ivan and the hall of Chalipa to be simultaneous. Sarfaraz has also found another layer of red mortar under the mosaic layer of the mosaic courtyard (western mosaic Ivan), which was thought to be the oldest flooring layer.
Before examining Anahita's clothing, it is necessary to return to the issue of the dissimilarity of the Ivan with other spaces called Ivan in royal palaces. Lionel Bier believes that the discovered parts are a small part of a larger building. Azarnoush also considers the two buildings of the west and east Ivans along with the Chalipa Hall as a temple for the worship of Anahita. According to this, the Bishapour royal citadel plan was compared with the plan of an important religious complex such as Takht-e Soleiman. The number of similar cases in terms of plan form and the arrangement of spaces and structure is so numerous that the possibility of religious use for Bishapour can be considered probable (Figure 2).
Furthermore, during the first Hormozd, Anahita's dress was different on the coins than the clothes in the mosaics of Bishapur. In the coins related to the second Bahram, her crown lacks a bullet above the head. So, the first similarities in the motifs of mosaics with Anahita are visible from the period of Narseh. According to Girshman, in the third century AD, the Sassanids' woolen and silk fabrics rarely had a pattern. We should consider that the use of patterns on the fabric has probably become common with the construction of weaving centers in Khuzestan by Shapur II (Table1). In terms of clothes, hair, and narrated subjects, mosaics' motifs have tremendous similarities with relief and motifs of coin attributed to the Anahita in the next periods. Also, there are some similarities in the description of the fifth Yasht regarding Anahita's appearance with a piece of the mosaic decorated with the woman lying on the pillow. Therefore, it should be studied in the history between 276 to 379 AD from Bahram II to Shapur II. Finally, by comparing the motifs of Mosaic Ivan with other remaining motifs of the goddess Anahita on the coins of the Sassanid period, the motifs attributed to Anahita on the carvings and sculptures discovered from the Arbabi mansion of Hajiabad, it was concluded that the motifs implemented on the mosaics are completely Iranian in terms of faces, clothes, and sitting posture. The weakness in the implementation of the motifs and the method of preparing the Bishapour mosaics is probably due to the implementation of those who learned this art from Roman captives in the past and later performed it at the request of the king. During these 100 years, one of the people who explicitly mentions the goddess Anahita is Narseh, Shapur I's son. Since his monarchy has been taken away, he clearly turns to Anahita and receives the ring of power from her (Figure 6). Narseh owes this victory to the goddess Anahita's support, so he wants to show the power, glory, and support of Anahita. The best place for this is his hometown, which was established by the order of the powerful Sassanid king, Shapur I. According to the issues mentioned above, it is more likely that the mosaics were made by order of Narseh to thank the goddess Anahita and to show her support in a city that is probably a collection for the worship of this goddess.


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