Document Type : Research Paper


1 PhD student in Archeology, Faculty of Literature and Humanities, University of Tehran, Tehran, Iran.

2 PhD student in Archeology, Faculty of Literature and Humanities, University of Tehran, Tehran, Iran

3 PhD student in Archeology, Tarbiat Modares University, Tehran, Iran.


A clean-shaven person behind the king is shown in the four Ardashir Babakan's reliefs in Firuzabad, Naghsh-e Rostam, and Naghsh-e Rajab. The various approaches have been suggested about this person's identity, mentioned with various names and titles such as fly-whisk bearer eunuch, the servant or bodyguard of the king. The comparison of this type of iconography with those of the same preceding examples the Sasanid state in Iran during the Achaemenid and Assyrian periods shows that the shaving of the face is one of the common traditions among high-ranking clerics, which is most likely continued the later periods and especially, the Sasanid. Also, there is the possibility of belonging mentioned person to person other than the royal family based on the analysis of some of the available emblems and historical narratives.
The present study is based on historical and archaeological information, which has provided new information about a clean-shaven person behind the king, shown in the four Ardashir Babakan's reliefs in Firuzabad, Naghsh-e Rostam, and Naghsh-e Rajab. This paper examines the beardless person's figure in the Ardashir I's reliefs and similar examples in the archaeological evidence such as reliefs, seals, and historical narratives. Furthermore, we are trying to determine the identification and probable position of this person.
The most critical questions in this research are the following:
1- What is the identification of the beardless person in the Ardashir Babakan's reliefs?
2- What is the position of the beardless person in the Ardashir Babakan's reliefs?
Most researchers have used the titles such as whisk-bearer, eunuch, servants, or bodyguards of the king. Lukonin has described this person as the Karen dynasty representative and attributed the carved emblem on his kolāh to this dynasty (Lukonin, 2005: 309). Ghirshman identifies him as a Sasanid nobleman (Ghirshman, 2011: 125), and Hinz describes him as bitaxš of Ardashir (Hinz2006: 276). By studying Sasanid riders' descent in the relief of warrior's war in Firuzabad, Kalani considers this person as the representative of the Soren family by a special emblem on his kolāh (Kalani, 2017a: 90; Kalani, 2017b: 204). Mousavi Haji and Sarfaraz believe that this person has been a servant and bodyguard of the king (Mousavi Haji and Sarfaraz, 2017: 72). The presence of beardless persons (or clean-shaven?) has a long history among the civilizations of the Ancient Near East; for example, we can see the examples of these people in different periods, such as Assyrian and Achaemenid ones, and in the Sasanid period, on the reliefs and seals later. 
Specimens of beardless persons are seen in ancient Near East works such as the Achaemenid and Assyrian periods (Figure 1, 2, 3, 4). A tradition that seems to have lasted until the Sasanid period, like Kerdīr (Figure 12). He reached such a very high position in the Sasanids' political structure that Narseh mentioned his name in the inscription of "Paikuli" among his noblemen and loyalists. Also, a person without a beard is seen in Ardashir I's reliefs in Fars. We can quickly identify these people as servants. Indeed, holding a device such as fly-whisk (?) not only did not create a disturb and disorder in their task, but also they could reach a position that everywhere are portrayed behind the king, and their Specimens are visible in the reliefs of the Assyrian, Achaemenid, and Sasanid (including Kerdīr). It seems the person who has been portrayed without a beard in all of Ardashir I's reliefs in Fars is enjoying such a position (Figure 7, 8, 9, 10, 11).
Regarding all of Ardashir Babakan's reliefs, this beardless person is portrayed with a diadem and royal ribbons, so he cannot be one of the Sasanid kingdom people. We should search for his identity among non-royal family members. Among the courtiers of Ardashir are only Tansar and Abarsam, that different narratives exist about these two persons, especially in the Islamic sources are mentioned about their high position among the clerics. Tansar has not been mentioned in any sources contemporary with the Sasanid. Abarsam is mentioned in the inscriptions of the Shāpūr I's Ka'ba-i Zardusht among the Ardashir's courtiers, not as the clergy or Ardashir's vizier, but as one of the courtiers in the fifteenth row of this inscription.
Regarding this person in the relief of Ardashir's war with Ardawan IV and Ardashir's investiture from Ahura Mazda, he has been both the high political and the first rank of the clergy society. According to Ibn Balkhi's version about Ardashir's vizier called Nansar, some scholars consider Tansar and Abarsam one person. He is named as "Mobad-e Mobadan" in epic texts, such as Karname-ye Ardahsir, and mentioned in the Shahnameh Ferdowsi with various titles, such as "Dastūr", vizier, "Mobad" and "Kadkhodā or Kadiwar (alderman)". The likeness of this person with the great Sasanian cleric is that like Kerdīr carrying the sword in the reliefs of Sarāb-e Bahrām and Sarmashhad, this person also, in addition to fighting on the battlefield of Tangab-e Firuzabad with the Parthian rival, in other Ardashir's reliefs carries a sword indicating this person has had a strong political influence, in addition to the high ranking clergy, as well as Kerdīr. This is a crucial point in rejecting the approaches of those who regard this person as a simple servant or a eunuch holding a fly-whisk behind the king's head. Is it reasonable a servant who is only his duty to hold a fly-whisk (?) behind the king's head carrying the weapon with his own?
On the other hand, the carved emblem on his kolāh shows his descent and ancestry. Emblems related to the family of essential persons were carved on their kolāh, not a servant whose duty was only holding fly-whisk (?). Regarding the courtiers of Ardashir, Abarsam is the only person who has received the honorific title, "Ardashir's Farr" or Ardashir glory has been named in many sources as the senior clergy and grand vizier, so it seems has had a very high position. If we accept the view of the scholars that Parthian's adversary of the beardless person in the third scene of the relief of the warrior's war is the king of Ahwaz, or according to Henning, Ardawan V Elymais, probably can be more trusted in Tabari's version about the encounter king of Ahvaz with Abarsam who has attacked to the Ardashir Khorra in the absence of Ardashir, and should be considered the third scene of Firuzabad I's relief related to this battle and battle scene between the king of Ahwaz and Abarsam (Figure 7, 8). Probably a person portrayed without a beard in all of Ardashir's reliefs is Abarsam, who had both a very high political position because of his numerous services to Ardashir, and senior clergy of the Sasanid period appeared with this portrait and figure in the reliefs according to the tradition of shaving face among the clerics.


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