Monday, March 31, 2014

Cista (Shishta): Goddess of the Way


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“Cista (Shishta): Goddess of the Way, Mithra's companion (16th Yasht)…….Bahrām is the great warrior god of Zoroastrianism…. Together with Čistā, he is one of the principal companions of Mitra.” (Yt. 10.70)…..

“ČISTĀ and Čisti, Avestan derivatives of the verb cit “to notice, to understand.” Čistā is in many respects an enigmatic term. It designates a minor goddess mentioned only in Yt. 16, which is dedicated to her although it is known as the Dēn yašt, and once in Yt. 10.126. Her various epithets, the circumstances in which she is in­voked, and her association with the daēnā seem to indicate that she is closely related to the concept of the path, both the ritual path and the path of the hereafter, although the exact relationship eludes us (Benveniste and Renou). The word itself poses a grammatical problem. The common interpretation as an abstract noun in tā is difficult to reconcile with the fact that the suffix tā is never used for primary derivation. More probably čistā is the feminine of the participle čista “noticed, noticeable.” The name of Zarathustra’s younger daughter, Pouručistā, thus probably means “the one who is noticed by many people, the charming one,” not “the one who has many ideas” (AirWb., col. 899: “viel Einsicht besitzend”). The action noun čisti “intuition, idea” (cf. OInd. citti “thinking, understanding”) belongs to the special vocabulary of the Gathas and the Yasna haptaŋhāiti. In the younger Avesta (Yasna, Vispered, Vīdēvdād) Čisti occasionally appears as a divinity associated with Aṧi.”…..

A History of Zoroastrianism: The Early Period….edited by Mary Boyce

“With regard to the Shishtas both the Vashishtha Dharma Sutra and also the Baudhayana Dharma Sutra have taken particular care to define who can be regarded as Shishtas……The Vashishta Dharma Sutra says: "He whose heart is free from desire (is called) a Shishta". I-6. Baudhayana goes into much greater details about the qualification of the Shishtas. This is what he says:…..Shishtas, forsooth, (are those) who are free from envy, free from pride, contented with a store of grain sufficient for ten days, free from covetousness, and free from hypocrisy, arrogance, greed, perplexity and anger…… Those are called Shishtas who, in accordance with the sacred law, have studied the Veda together with its appendages, know how to draw inferences from that (and) are able to adduce proofs perceptible by the senses from the revealed texts. “…..


“A cista (kiste) in the classical world was generally a casket, used for example to hold unguents or jewels. More specifically, in the Mystery cult, a cista mystica (literally "sacred chest") is a basket or chest used to house snakes. Cistae mystica were used in the initiation ceremony of the cult of Bacchus or Dionysus, as well as an early gnostic sect called the Ophites. Cistae mysticae appear on ancient Roman and Greek coins.”

“Cista (or cista mystica), a basket used for housing sacred snakes in connection with the initiation ceremony into the cult of Bacchus (Dionysus). In the Dionysian mysteries a serpent, representing the god, was carried in a box called a cista on a bed of vine leaves. This may be the Cista mentioned by Clement of Alexandria which was exhibited as containing the phallus of Dionysus. The cista mentioned in the mysteries of Isis may also have held a serpent, the missing phallus of Osiris. The fertility festival of the women of Arretophoria included cereal paste images ‘of serpents and forms of men,’ in other words, phallic symbols…..Several ancient dignitaries put about the rumor that they had been fathered by a god in serpent form. The emperor Augustus was said to have been fathered by a snake, and his mother never afterwards lost the marks of its embrace. A serpent was said to have been found beside the sleeping Olympias, mother of Alexander the Great. Her husband, Philip of Macedon, is reputed never to have coupled with the 'Bride of the Serpent' again. Alexander is sometimes connected with the horned serpent. The healer god, Asclepios, is said to have fathered a son on a woman who is depicted in Asclepios's temple at Sicyon as sitting on a serpent. Barren women often sought help at the temples of Asclepios to sleep in the precincts of the abaton. So the Idolatry involved is that of fertility, to the land or to the Empire, or Emperor.”….

Cista Ficoroni…..end of 4th, beginning of 3rd century BC…..Author: Unknown Etrurian.

“…. much of the concrete information about the Eleusinian Mysteries was never written down. For example, only initiates knew what the kiste, a sacred chest, and the kalathos, a lidded basket, contained. The contents, like so much about the Mysteries, are unknown. However, one researcher writes that this Cista ("kiste") contained a golden mystical serpent, an egg, a phallus, and possibly also seeds sacred to Demeter.”

cistâ ….insight (Hum2 199), knowledge, wisdom (orig.); the Yazad that presides over religious knowledge (k183)
cisti = cistâ

“Cista…..Persia…..A goddess of the morning star”

Religion and Women…..edited by Arvind Sharma

I. Gershevitch, The Avestan Hymn to Mithra, Cambridge, 1959, pp. 166-67.
M. Boyce, Zoroastrians. Their Religious Beliefs and Practices, London, 1979
Thieme, Paul (1960), "The 'Aryan' Gods of the Mitanni Treaties", Journal of the American Oriental Society 80
West, Edward William (1880), Marvels of Zoroastrianism: The Bahman Yasht
Zaehner, Richard Charles (1955), Zurvan, a Zoroastrian dilemma


Sunday, March 30, 2014

Verethragna & Bahrām … The Great Warrior God


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“Bahrām is the great warrior god of Zoroastrianism…. Together with Čistā, he is one of the principal companions of Mitra.” (Yt. 10.70)…..

“Verethragna (vərəθraγna) is an Avestan language neuter noun literally meaning "smiting of resistance" (Gnoli, 1989:510; Boyce 1975:63). Representing this concept is the divinity Verethragna, who is the hypostasis of "victory", and "as a giver of victory Verethragna plainly enjoyed the greatest popularity of old" (Boyce, 1975:63)…..Verethragna is related to Avestan verethra, 'obstacle' and verethragnan, 'victorious'. (Gnoli, 1989:510) In Zoroastrian Middle Persian, Verethragna became Warahran, from which Vahram, Vehram, Bahram, Behram and other variants derive. Verethragna descends from an Indo-Iranian god known as *vrtra-g'han- (virtually PIE *wltro-gwhen-) "slayer of the blocker”…..The name and, to some extent, the deity has correspondences in Armenian Vahagn and Vram, Sogdian Wshn, Parthian Wryhrm, and Kushan Orlagno. While the figure of Verethragna is highly complex, parallels have also been drawn between it and (variously) Vedic Indra, Puranic Vishnu, Manichaean Adamas, Chaldean/Babylonian Nergal, Egyptian Horus, Hellenic Ares and Heracles.”….

“Kushan Gold Coin…..Kushan Empire…….Kanishka I (c. AD 100-126)
King, standing to front, head to l., wearing Kushan royal bonnet and diadem, holding spear and elephant goad, making an offering at a small altar…….Inscribed in Bactrian (Greek script): РΑОΝΑΝOΡΑOΚΑ—ΝhΡΚΙΚOΡΑΝO (king of kings Kanishka Kushan)
Reverse…..Kushan god Orlagno (war god, Verethragna), standing to front, head to r., wearing eagle-helmet and diadem, holding spear. Tamga to the r. Reverse Legend…..Inscribed in Bactrian (Greek script):ΟΡΛΑΓΝΟ”

“Bahrām ….. His Avestan epithets are: amavant- “strong, endowed with attacking might,” ahuraδāta- “created by Ahura,” barō.xᵛarəna- “bearing xᵛarənah-,” hvāxšta- “possessing good peace,” hvāyaona- “possessing a good place,” aršō.kara- “conferring virility,” maršō.kara- “rendering decrepit,” frašō.kara- “making wonderful.” The epithets hvāxšta- and hvāyaona- associate him with Čistā (Ē. Benveniste and L. Renou, Vṛtra et Vṛθragna. Ētude de mythologie indo-iranienne, Paris, 1934, pp. 58ff.) while aršō.kara-, maršō.kara-, and frašō.kara- relate him to Zurwān (H. S. Nyberg, “Questions de cosmogonie et de cosmologie mazdéennes,” JA 219, 1931, pp. 86ff.)…...

“Bahrām yašt (Yt. 14), dedicated to Vərəθraγna, belongs to the most ancient sections of the Younger Avesta or, at least, contains many archaic elements (A. Christensen, Études sur le zoroastrisme de la Perse antique, Copenhagen, 1928, pp. 7-8; M. Boyce, Zoroastrianism I, p. 63). Bahrām yašt is not one of the better preserved yašts, yet it gives us a vivid and exhaustive picture of the divinity. It first enumerates the ten incarnations, in both animal and human form, of Vərəθraγna. These recall, although exact correspondences are lacking, the avatāras of Viṣṇu in Purāṇic literature, or the ten incarnations of Indra (J. Charpentier, Kleine Beiträge zur indoiranischen Mythologie, Uppsala, 1911, pp. 25-68): an impetuous wind (Yt. 14.2-5); a bull with horns of gold (v. 7); a white horse with ears and muzzle of gold (v. 9); a camel in heat (vv. 11-13); a boar (v. 15); a youth at the ideal age of fifteen (v. 17); a falcon or bird of prey, vārəγna- (vv. 19-21); a ram (v. 23); a wild goat (v. 25); and an armed warrior (v. 27). It is interesting to note that the Avesta also attributed some of these metamorphoses to Tištrya (Yt. 8.13, 16, 20): the youth of fifteen, the bull with the horns of gold and the white horse; to Xᵛarənah (Yt. 19.35): the bird vārəγna-, and to Vayu: the camel (Dēnkard, ed. Sanjana, IX, 23.2-3; Benveniste and Renou, pp. 35f.). The first metamorphosis, the impetuous wind, also links the god of victory to Vāta (Vayu), another divinity endowed with warlike virtues in Iranian mythology (H. S. Nyberg, Die Religionen des alten Iran, Leipzig, 1938, p. 75; S. Wikander, Vayu I, Lund, 1942; G. Widengren, Les religions de l’Iran, Paris, 1968, pp. 33ff.)……..

“ … the Bahrām yašt goes on to list the favors and gifts bestowed by Vərəθraγna on Zaraθuštra and on those who worship him according to the cult. These gifts are victory in thought, in word, and in action, as well as in declamatory speech and in retort, in conformity with a conception dating back to the Indo-Iranian practice of verbal contest .”…..(F. B. J. Kuiper, “The Ancient Aryan Verbal Contest,” IIJ 4,1960, pp. 243, 246)….”…..

“Kushan Carnelian seal representing the Iranian divinity Adsho (ΑΘϷΟ legend in Greek letters), with triratana symbol left, and Kanishka's dynastic mark right. The divinity uses stirrups.”

“Vərəθraγna was one of the principal gods of the ancient Iranian pantheon and his cult was spread throughout the Iranian and Iranianized world, probably from the beginning of the Achaemenid era. This was due both to the survival of an ancient pre-Zoroastrian cult and to the high position given to the god in the new religion. As the divinity of war and victory, he was the protector of his people….”…..

“ The Greco-Babylonian-Iranian religious syncretism, which was also reflected by the spreading of astrological doctrines, something originally extraneous to Zoroastrianism, thus codified the correspondences Vərəθraγna-Nergal-Ares and transfused them into the great syncretistic phenomenon of the Mysteries of Mithra, in which the identification of Vərəθraγna with Herakles was also iconographically reflected (F. Cumont, Les mystères de Mithra, Brussels, 19022, pp. 18, 185; and, on the problems concerning the Iranian background of the religion of the Mithraic Mysteries, G. Widengren, “The Mithraic Mysteries in the Greco-Roman World with Special Regard to their Iranian Background,” in La Persia e il mondo greco-romano, Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei, Roma, 1966, pp. 433-55).”…..…..

“Eastern Iran. To the east of the Iranian world, Vərəθraγna, in the form ORLAGNO … (A. Maricq, “La grande inscription de Kaniska et l’étéo-tokharien, l’ancienne langue de la Bactriane,” JA 246, 1958, p. 426), appears in the monetary pantheon of the Kushans, where the god is represented with a winged headdress, a characteristic motif in Iranian symbolism, which likens him to Xᵛarənah, i.e., to the FARRO of the Kushans (J. M. Rosenfield, The Dynastic Arts of the Kushans, Berkeley and Los Angeles, 1967, pp. 95f.). The Avestan idea of the bird vārəγna- (see above), the incarnation both of Vərəθraγna and of Xᵛarənah, is likely to have been behind this symbolism (cf. F. Grenet, “Notes sur le panthéon iranien des Kouchans,” Studia Iranica 13, 1984, p. 256).”…..…..

“Bahrām was the name of six Sassanid kings…. Kartir called for the persecution of adherents of other religions, in particular Manichaeans, whose prophet Mani was sentenced to death by Bahram I (r. 271–274)….”

“The interpretation of the divinity was once one of the more widely debated fields in Zoroastrian scholarship since the theories of origin reflected a radical revolution in ethical, moral and religious values. (For a review, see Boyce, 1975:62-64)…..Primarily because the Avestan adjective verethragnan (victorious) had a corresponding Vedic term vrtrahan where it appeared "preponderantly [as] a qualification of Indra", one theory (Benveniste/Renou, 1934) proposed that in Indo-Iranian times there existed a dragon-slaying warrior god *Indra and that Avestan Verethragna derived from that divine figure…….The arguments against this theory are manifold: For one, there is no hint of Verethragna (or any other Zoroastrian divinity) having dragon-slaying functions. In the Avesta, it is the hero warrior-priest Thraetaona who battles the serpent Aži Dahāka (which, for the virtue of 'Azi' being cognate with Sanskrit 'Ahi', snake, is – by proponents of the theory - associated with Vedic Vritra). Moreover, in the Vedas, the epithet 'hero' (sura) is itself almost exclusively reserved for Indra, while in the Avesta it is applied to Thraetaona and other non-divine figures. The term "victorious" too is not restricted to Verethragna, but is also a property of a number of other figures, both divine and mortal, including Thraetaona. Then, while in the Vedas it is Indra who discovers Soma, in the Avesta it is humans who first press Haoma and Thraetaona is attributed with being the "inventor of medicine". In the Vedas, Indra strikes with vajra, but in the Avesta vazra is Mithra's weapon. Finally, and from a point of basic doctrine far more important than any of the other arguments, Indra is a daeva, precisely that class of divinity that Zoroaster exhorts his followers to reject. Indeed, Indra is explicitly named as one of the six evil demons in Vendidad 10.9 – directly opposing the Amesha Spenta Asha Vahishta, with whom Verethragna is associated.”…..

M. Boyce, Zoroastrians. Their Religious Beliefs and Practices, London, 1979
Thieme, Paul (1960), "The 'Aryan' Gods of the Mitanni Treaties", Journal of the American Oriental Society 80
West, Edward William (1880), Marvels of Zoroastrianism: The Bahman Yasht
Zaehner, Richard Charles (1955), Zurvan, a Zoroastrian dilemma


Monday, March 24, 2014

Shahr-e Sūkhté ... The Burnt City (3200 BC)


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“Shahr-e Sūkhté (Persian: شهر سوخته‎, meaning "[The] Burnt City"), also spelled as Shahr-e Sukhteh and Shahr-i Shōkhta, is an archaeological site of a sizable Bronze Age urban settlement, associated with the Jiroft culture. It is located in Sistan and Baluchistan Province, the southeastern part of Iran, on the bank of the Helmand River, near the Zahedan-Zabol road. A proposal is submitted to include it in the World Heritage List of UNESCO…..The reasons for the unexpected rise and fall of the Burnt City are still wrapped in mystery. Artifacts recovered from the city demonstrate a peculiar incongruity with nearby civilizations of the time and it has been speculated that Shahr-e-Sookhteh might ultimately provide concrete evidence of a civilization east of prehistoric Persia that was independent of ancient Mesopotamia……Covering an area of 151 hectares, Shahr-e Sukhteh was one of the world’s largest cities at the dawn of the urban era. In the western part of the site is a vast graveyard, measuring 25 hk.s. It contains between 25,000 to 40,000 ancient graves……The settlement appeared around 3200 BC. The city had four stages of civilization and was burnt down three times before being abandoned in 2100 BC……The site was discovered and investigated by Aurel Stein in the early 1900s.”

Shahr-e-Sookhteh (Burnt City)……located in Zabol city……. a city of Sistan va Baloochestan province…..this ancient city is located at a distance of 60 km. from Zabol and 6 km. from the Rostam Castle, and is comprised of hillocks with a maximum elevation of 50 m. This vicinity was one of the vital centers of Asian civilization in the bronze age, and dates to the 4th and 3rd millennium BC. Archaeological and scientific discoveries, have revealed a rectangular structure, with square chambers, a corridor, staircase and walls to the thickness of 3 m. to the rear of this archaic structure, that show the signs of a vast fire…..Colored earthenware found in Shahr-e-Sookhteh are related to the 4th, 3rd and 2nd millennium BC…..

“…resulted in identifying 810 prehistoric and historic sites in the region. Discovery of such a large number of historical sites indicates the existence of a historical site in each 5 to 6 kilometres of Sistan plain…….. 60 sites in Ghorghori, 2 sites in northern Zabol, 92 sites in Dust Mohammad Khan, 208 in district one of Zabol, 22 sites in district two of Zabol, 26 sites in Kuhak, 60 sites in Zahak, 35 sites in Mohammadabad, 60 sites in Sana Rud. Having 302 historical sites, Rostam Fort broke the record in number of historical sites.”….

"The Burnt City with a span of 150 hectares of land is the largest areas in the Middle East dating back to the Brass Age. It was founded in 3200 BCE and was ruined in 2100 BCE and in the course of its 1100-year life was witness to four civilization eras. It was burnt for three times and completely ruined in the third fire. That is the reason as to why the city is called the "Burnt City". Studies show that in the early stage of their settlement in the region (3200 to 2800 BCE) the people of the Burnt City had established contacts and entered into transactions with …. in the second phase of their settlement (2800 to 2500 BCE) the people halted their contacts with Khuzestan but preserved their ties with Central Asia. Seals that have been discovered in the Burnt City, Mishmahig (Bahrain), Kuwait and southern Khvarvaran (Iraq) lend further proof to such a theory. In the third phase (2500 to 2300 BCE) and even in the fourth phase (2300 to 2100 BCE) the inhabitants of the Burnt City had contacts with northern and eastern areas but gradually lowered the level of their relationship….. the Burnt City was the center of a civilization known as "Civilization of the Hirmand River Zone" that served as the capital of the civilizations that existed 5000 years ago. ….However, due to the displacement and drying up of the Hirmand River's delta, living in the region lost its charm. It is said that the Burnt City had about 70 villages that were highly active in agriculture and production of clay works.”….Dr. Sajjadi…..

Shahre Sukhteh Artifacts

“One of the other issues which have somehow puzzled archaeologists during the first phase of researches in Sistan plain, is existence of a historic gap between the years of 2000 to1500 BCE, since they have not found any historical evidence belonging to this period of history,” said Merafarin…..

“Shahr-e Sūkhté (Persian: شهر سوخته‎, meaning "[The] Burnt City"), also spelled as Shahr-e Sukhteh and Shahr-i Shōkhta, is an archaeological site of a sizable Bronze Age urban settlement, associated with the Jiroft culture. It is located in Sistan and Baluchistan Province, the southeastern part of Iran, on the bank of the Helmand River, near the Zahedan-Zabol road. A proposal is submitted to include it in the World Heritage List of UNESCO….The reasons for the unexpected rise and fall of the Burnt City are still wrapped in mystery. Artifacts recovered from the city demonstrate a peculiar incongruity with nearby civilizations of the time and it has been speculated that Shahr-e-Sookhteh might ultimately provide concrete evidence of a civilization east of prehistoric Persia that was independent of ancient Mesopotamia.”….

“In 2006, archaeologists working at Shahr-e Sūkhté in southeastern Iran found what appears to be a ~5000-year-old prosthetic eye, engraved and gilded to look like the sun……[The eye] has a hemispherical form and a diameter of just over 2.5 cm (1 inch). It consists of very light material, probably bitumen paste. The surface of the artificial eye is covered with a thin layer of gold, engraved with a central circle (representing the iris) and gold lines patterned like sun rays. The female remains found with the artificial eye was 1.82 m tall (6 feet), much taller than ordinary women of her time. On both sides of the eye are drilled tiny holes, through which a golden thread could hold the eyeball in place. Since microscopic research has shown that the eye socket showed clear imprints of the golden thread, the eyeball must have been worn during her lifetime. The woman’s skeleton has been dated to between 2900 and 2800 BCE.” (Text looks to come from Wikipedia.”….

“The Ancient Ruler of the Burnt City…..A little known report dated to January 31, 2005 cites the Iranian Cultural heritage News agency’s discovery of the world’s oldest known ruler. This was unearthed in 2005 at the Shahr e Sookhteh or Burnt City near Zabol in iran’s southeast province of Sistan-Baluchistan……The Burnt City, dated to 5000 years ago, is perhaps one of the ancient world’s most advanced urban centers. The site indicates that advanced urban centers and accompanying technology in Western Asia did not necessarily originate in the Mesopotamian and/or Levant arenas. Western scholars have worked alongside their Iranian colleagues for a number of years to conduct excavations at the Burnt City and elsewhere on the Iranian plateau….Dr. Mansour Sajjadi….precise systems of measurement indicates that the inhabitants of the Burnt City were highly advanced in the sciences, mathematics and civil construction works. The discovery of the ancient ruler is suggests that the inhabitants of the Burnt City probably had developed other precise measurement tools. The Burnt city has already yielded interesting finds such as an artifical eye, backgammon pieces, and an example of animation.”….

“Khorasan’ is derived from Middle Persian khwar (meaning "sun") and āsān (or ayan literally meaning "to come" or "coming" or "about to come"), hence meaning "land where the sun rises" …..Khorasan, also written as Khurasan (Middle Persian: Khwarāsān, Persian: خراسان بزرگ or خراسان کهن‎), is a historical region[1] lying in the northeast of Persia (Iran) that has been mentioned in various sources in the past. "In pre-Islamic and early Islamic times, the term "Khurassan" frequently had a much wider denotation, covering also parts of Central Asia and Afghanistan; early Islamic usage often regarded everywhere east of western Persia, sc. Djibal or what was subsequently termed 'Irak 'Adjami, as being included in a vast and ill-defined region of Khurasan, which might even extend to the Indus Valley and Sind." Before Islamization of the region, the inhabitants of Khorasan had mostly practiced Zoroastrianism, but there were also followers of Buddhism and other religions…..Khorasan in its proper sense comprised principally the cities of Balkh, Herat and Taloqan (now in Afghanistan), Mashhad, Nishapur and Sabzevar (now in northeastern Iran), Merv, Nisa and Abiward (now in southern Turkmenistan), and Samarqand and Bukhara (now in Uzbekistan). Some believe that at certain times Khorasan covered a wider area, which included parts of Transoxiana, Soghdiana, Sistan, and extended to the boundaries of the Indian subcontinent.”

Aurel Stein, Innermost Asia. Detailed Report of explorations in Central Asia, Kansu and Eastern Iran, Clarendon Press, 1928

Archaeological studies in the Seistan Basin of southwestern Afghanistan and eastern Iran. Anthropological papers of the AMNH ; v. 48, pt. 1 Fairservis, Walter Ashlin

Click on the map to enlarge


March 2014

John Hopkins....Northern New Mexico


Sunday, March 23, 2014

Lake Hamun: The Saoshyants @ Qal'a-e Sham


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“Anahita was said to have conceived the Mithras from the seed of Zarathustra preserved in the waters of Lake Hamun in the Persian province of Sistan.……. And when the world's end is at hand , three maidens will enter the lake, and afterwards will give birth to the Saoshyants who will then be the "final saviors" of mankind….”

“The fire temple is on a terrace behind high walls and is protected by two forts…. the ruins are called Qal'a-e Sam …. “Castle of Sam" ……The religion of Sham (Sam) was considered "pagan" by the early Christians and Muslims…….it was the cult of Sol Invictus (the Unconquered Sun), the worship of the divine spirit by whom the whole universe is ruled, the spirit whose symbol is the Sun.....also the Solar Cosmology of Mithra.”


"...the Saoshyant, the "future benefactor" who brings about the final renovation of the world."……"One passage of the Kālachakra (Śri Kālachakra I. 161) reads, "The Chakravartin shall come out at the end of the age, from the city the gods fashioned on Mount Kailasa. He shall smite the barbarians in battle with his own four-division army, on the entire surface of the earth."……

“In the first millennium A.D., Lake Hamun was a major stop on the southern branch of the Khorasan highway, the southern Iranian part of the Silk Road, providing shelter and protection to the passing caravans. Possibly it was the hub of local trade as well…..At first, Chinese raw silk was transported on this route. Later, from the second century A.D. onward, Indian goods such as precious stones, perfumes, opium, spices, and even eunuch slaves flowed in the direction of the West. In the opposite direction, Persian Gulf pearls, wheat, barley, turmeric, asafetide, and herbal medicines were carried by the caravans….aside from trade, Sistan, known as the birthplace of Rostam, has very strong associations with Zoroastarianism. In fact, according to Zoroastrian mythology, Lake Hamun was the keeper of Zoroaster's seed. And when the world's end is at hand , three maidens will enter the lake, and afterwards will give birth to the Saoshyants who will then be the "final saviors" of mankind…..According to the imminent Iranist Mary Boyce Lake Hamun was also a center of pilgrimage. The only other known location for pilgrimage in Zoroastrian times was Ray which is close to Tehran.”….

Kuh-e Khawja complex

“Mount Khwaja or Mount Khwajeh (locally: Kuh-e Khvājeh) …… a flat-topped black basalt mountain located 30 kilometers southwest of the town of Zabol, is a seasonal island in the middle of Hamoon lake, in the province of Sistan and Baluchestan. ..… The oldest and by far the most important structure of the site is an ancient fortress on its eastern slope, with various sections such as Ghagha Shahr, the Rostam Castle, the Kaferoon Castle, Sam Fortress and the Kohan Fortress. The remains of a fire temple attest to the importance of the island in pre-Islamic Iran. The fire temple is on a terrace behind high walls and is protected by two forts known as Chehel Dokhtaran and Kook Kahzad…..It is the only natural height left behind in the Sistan area, where a citadel with palace, fire temple, pilgrimage center and cemetery known to locals as the "Suren's resting place" reminiscent of the past are still in good condition. Also there are number of small temples, in particular a temple known to the locals as the "Koochak Chel Ganjeh", believed to have belonged to the cult of Mithra, which was the religion of Parthians. Some believe this section of the edifices were constructed during the Achaemenid dynastic Period.


“There is reference to Mithra as being born of "Anahita, the Immaculate Virgin Mother of the Lord Mithras". Anahita was said to have conceived the Mithras from the seed of Zarathustra preserved in the waters of Lake Hamun in the Persian province of Sistan. …. Lake Hamun was the keeper of Zoroaster's seed. And when the world's end is at hand , three maidens will enter the lake, and afterwards will give birth to the Saoshyants who will then be the "final saviors" of mankind. ….. This information comes from a Temple that bears this inscription dedicated to Anahita and dated to about 200 B.C.E.. “….

“…site in Lake Hamun, called Kuh-e Khwaja…… The site of Kuh-e Khwaja is located 30 kilometers southwest of Zabol in the eastern part of Sistan-Baluchestan Province, very near the Afghan border……The main ruins of the complex are situated on the southeastern promontory of a high hill overlooking the marshes of Lake Hamun in the delta where the ancient Hirmand River's journey comes to an end. This solitary high hill, or small mountain, juts out of the lake and for most of the year is an island…..The single path of access to the upper slopes of this hill is through the neglected ruins of this ancient town which was built on the only eroded part of the vertical volcanic ring that isolates the upper reaches of the hill…….The complex consists of a remarkable array of buildings and fortifications. For example, the citadel known as Ghagha-Shahr houses one of the only surviving fire temples within a major monument of pre-Islamic times. This temple is located on a terrace beyond high walls. It is protected by two forts, whose remains are known as Kok-e Zal and Chehel Dokhtaran… a structural complex with an intriguing range of Zoroastrian associations, Kuh-e Khwaja represents a unique repository of still inadequately documented architectural information, especially with reference to the transition from Sasanian to Islamic architectural forms…….In addition, the site was decorated with large murals depicting various figurative motifs and mud reliefs of human and equestrian figures. Some fascinating surviving pieces are housed in various museums such as Iran-e Bastan Museum in Tehran, New Delhi Museum, Berlin Museum, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.”…..

Mural from Lake Hamun's Kuh-e Khwaja complex, eastern Iran (circa 200-800 A.D.)

“….references to Kuh-e Khawja……the only direct reference is to be found in the anonymous Tarikh-e Sistan (History of Sistan) which dates back to the twelfth century AD.”

“ In 1910, G.P. Tate of the British Boundary Commission made detailed observations of the site. Then in 1915 Aural Stein was the first to conduct surface excavations. The results were published in his Innermost Asia in 1916 and subsequently, a later addition was published in 1928…..He was the first to identify that the fire sanctuary was the principal architectural unit of the Kuh-e Khawja complex. The fire temple had been covered extensively with wall paintings, which were discovered at the time of the excavations and were taken to the museum of New Delhi……Ernst Herzfeld (One of the persons who excavated Persepolis) inspected the site in 1925 and 1929. His findings were first published in 1932, and with a radically different conclusion in 1941……I should mention that Herzfeld had not published all of his documents in 1941. These records, which have been part of the Freer Gallery's collection, became the basis of a new report by Trudy Kawami which was published in 1987 (Metropolitan Museum Of Art Journal #22, 1987). Then in 1961, the site was examined for a third time by Giorgio Gullini, who published his results in 1964.”…..

“Lake Hāmūn (Persian: دریاچه هامون‎ Daryācheh-ye Hāmūn) or Hamoun Oasis is a term applied to wetlands in endorheic Sīstān Basin on the Irano-Afghan border… . The term Hāmūn Lake (or Lake Hāmūn) is equally applied to Hāmūn-e Helmand (entirely in Iran), as well to shallow lakes Hāmūn-e Sabari and Hāmūn-e Puzak, which extend into territory of present-day Afghanistan with latter being almost entirely inside Afghanistan. The Hamun is fed by numerous seasonal water tributaries; the main tributary is the perennial Helmand River, which originates in Afghanistan Hindu Kush mountains. …In Iran term Daryācheh-ye Sīstān (“Lake Sīstān”) is also used, with similar meanings, for lake Hāmūn-e Helmand…..

Archeological sites…..”The area has important archeological remains. The ruins of an ancient Achaemenid city Dahān-e Gholāmān (Dahāneh-ye Gholāmān) are located near the Hāmūn Lake 30.7653°N 61.6372°E……In 1975 the Hāmūn-e Helmand, together with Hāmūn-e Sabari, was designated a Ramsar site.

“Mount Khwaja or Mount Khwajeh (locally: Kuh-e Khvājeh) is a flat-topped black basalt hill rising up as an island in the middle of Lake Hamun, in the Iranian province of Sistan and Baluchestan…..Mount Khwaja is also an important archaeological site: On the southern promontory of the eastern slope, the ruins of a citadel complex - known as the Ghagha-Shahr - with its remains of a fire temple attest to the importance of the island in pre-Islamic Iran. According to Zoroastrian legend, Lake Hamun is the keeper of Zoroaster's seed. In Zoroastrian eschatology, when the final renovation of the world is near, maidens will enter the lake and then give birth to the saoshyans, the saviours of humankind…..The fire temple is on a terrace behind high walls and is protected by two forts, whose remains are respectively known as Kok-e Zal and Chehel Dokhtaran. Collectively, the ruins are called Qal'a-e Kafaran "Fort of Infidels" or Qal'a-e Sam "Fort of Sam," the grandfather of the mythical Rostam. Both names reflect pre-Islamic heritage. The walls of the temple were once extravagantly decorated with murals, some of which are now on display in museums in Tehran, Berlin, New Delhi and New York…..The citadel complex was first investigated by Marc Aurel Stein in 1915-1916. The site was later excavated by Ernst Herzfeld, and was again investigated in part by Giorgio Gullini in a short expedition of 1960. Initially, Herzfeld tentatively dated the palace complex to the 1st century CE, that is, to the Arsacid period (248 BCE-224 CE). Herzfeld later revised his estimate to a later date and today the Sassanid period (224-651 CE) is usually considered to be more likely. Three bas-reliefs on the outer walls that depict riders and horses are attributed to this later period. Beyond the citadel at the top of the plateau are several other unrelated buildings, of uncertain function and probably dating to the Islamic period.”…

The Mysteries of Mithras: The Pagan Belief That Shaped the Christian World…..edited by Payam Nabarz

Ramazan-nia, Nersi (1997), The treasures of Lake Hamun: An Interview with Soroor Ghanimati, Burlingame: The Iranian


Saturday, March 22, 2014

The Art of Anahita (400 BC)


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Aredvi Sura Anahita … Arədvī Sūrā Anāhitā … Ardwisur Anahid or Nahid … Anahit … Anaitis

"Anahita was the female protectress of Balkh … Anahita goddess of the Oxus, in Alexander’s day. Anahita’s magnificent gilded statue had been gifted by one of Darius’s predecessors, Artaxerxes II.... ‘High girdled one clad in a mantle of gold, on her head a golden crown with rays of light and a hundred stars clad in a robe of over thirty otter skins of shining fur’….There is a long-standing tradition that an ancient shrine of Anahita was to be found here, a temple so rich it invited plunder....Another source of spiritual home that made Bactria sacred was a great temple of the ancient Iranian goddess, Anahit (in Pahlavi or Middle-Persian) and Anahita (Ânâhitâ) in the Avesta hymns. The temple was so rich that often it attracted the needy Syrian kings who sat out to plunder it. In her name and honor, in Armenia, girls prostituted themselves. Anaitis was a Scythian goddess, but she is identified also as Assyrian Mylitta, the Arabian Alytta and the Greek Venus Urania. Artaxerxes Mnemon, one of the emperors of Achaemenid dynasty was among her devotees. She is also associated with the Persian Mithra. Her association with Zoroaster adds to her popularity.".....

Statue of Anahita w/ Chariot in Maragha, Iran.

"The words sūra and anāhīta are generic Avestan language adjectives, and respectively mean "mighty" and "pure" (or "immaculate"). Both adjectives also appear as epithets of other divinities or divine concepts such as Haoma and the Fravashis… .Both adjectives are also attested in Vedic Sanskrit.".....Boyce, Mary (1983), "Anāhīd", Encyclopædia Iranica, 1, New York: Routledge & Kegan Paul, pp. 1003–1009

"Anahita is the Old Persian form of the name of an Iranian goddess and appears in complete and earlier form as Aredvi Sura Anahita (Arədvī Sūrā Anāhitā); the Avestan language name of an Indo-Iranian cosmological figure venerated as the divinity of 'the Waters' (Aban) and hence associated with fertility, healing and wisdom. Aredvi Sura Anahita is Ardwisur Anahid or Nahid in Middle- and Modern Persian, Anahit in Armenian. An iconic shrine cult of Aredvi Sura Anahita, was – together with other shrine cults – "introduced apparently in the 4th century BCE and lasted until it was suppressed in the wake of an iconoclastic movement under the Sassanids."...

Temple d'Anahita - Site archéologique de Dohuk - Anahita's temple - Dohuk archaeological site - Dohuk - Dahouk - Dahuk" ... "Anahita, déesse de la mythologie perse, était la mère de Mithra le dieu-soleil."

“As a divinity of the waters (Abān), the yazata is of Indo-Iranian origin, according to Lommel related to Sanskrit Sarasvatī that, like its Proto-Iranian equivalent *Harahvatī, derives from Indo-Iranian *Saraswṇtī….. In its old Iranian form *Harahvatī, "her name was given to the region, rich in rivers, whose modern capital is Kandahar (Avestan Haraxvaitī, Old Persian Hara(h)uvati-, Greek Arachosia).”…..”Like the Indian Saraswati, [Aredvi Sura Anahita] nurtures crops and herds; and is hailed both as a divinity and the mythical river that she personifies, 'as great in bigness as all these waters which flow forth upon the earth'."

“Investiture scene: Anahita on the left as the patron yazata of the Sassanian dynasty behind Emperor Khosrau Parviz with Ahura Mazda presenting the diadem of sovereignty on the right. Taq-e Bostan, Iran…..Relief of Sasanian King Khosrow II, A.D. 6th - 7th century…..Bostan, Sassanids era, 224-651 CE Tagh-e Bostan, Sassanid Reliefs (224-651 BCE): The Sassanid kings chose a sensational setting for their rock reliefs Taghe-e-Bostan, four miles north-East of Kermanshah. A sacred spring gushes forth from a mountain cliff and empties into a large reflecting pool. In writer the entire scene is shrouded in mist and clouds.

A 4th century BCE depiction of Anahita, radiant and mounted on a lion, being worshipped by Artaxerxes II.

"The Aban Yasht, mostly in a very epical in style, has its roots deep in the pre-Zarathushtrian Aryan cult, which had, among other gods and goddesses, its male and female water deities. It presents Aredvi Sûrâ Anâhitâ, a specific river and a specific goddess. Grammatically the first word "Aredvi" is the name and the two following are the epithets. Again, since grammatically "water" is feminine in gender, the name and the two epithets are also feminine. ....The secondary meaning of "anâhitâ" as "undefiled" .... .....The Aredvi River... flows down with mighty volume from Mount Hukairya to the Vouru-kasha Sea....Several rivers of the Central Asia could be Aredvi. It could be Oxus, modern Amu Darya. It rises from the Pamirs and today flows into Lake Ural. But once, it poured into the Caspian Sea.....The odds are in favor of the Amu Darya, a river where the Indo-Iranians lived together before moving southward to split into two. There is a possibility that the upper roaring part of the river was called Aredvi and the lower lake-full as Harakhvaiti. The Avestan people, moving in almost the same terrain, retained the memory better and later applied her names to other prominent rivers along which they settled in due course. And for the early inland Aryan settlers, the Caspian was "Vouru-kasha," quite the "broad-shore" sea.".....

Head and left hand from a bronze cult statue of Anahita, a local goddess shown here in the guide of Aphrodite, 200-100 BC, British Museum

“Yazata is the Avestan language word for a Zoroastrian concept. The word has a wide range of meanings but generally signifies (or is an epithet of) a divinity. The term literally means "worthy of worship" or "worthy of veneration”…..Boyce, Mary (2001), Zoroastrians: Their Religious Beliefs and Practices, London: Routledge

“Aredvi Sura Anahita (Ardvisur Nahid) is both a divinity of the waters as well as a rushing world river that encircles the earth, which is blocked up by Angra Mainyu (Ahriman) thus causing drought. The blockage is removed by Verethragna (Vahram), and Tishtrya (Tir) gathers up the waters and spreads them over the earth (Zam) as rain. In stories with eschatological significance, Sraosha (Sarosh), Mithra (Mihr), and Rashnu (Rashn) are guardians of the Chinvat bridge, the bridge of the separator, across which all souls must pass.”

“Yazata- is originally an Avestan language adjective derived from the verbal root yaz- "to worship, to honor, to venerate". From the same root comes Avestan yasna "worship, sacrifice, oblation, prayer". A yazata is accordingly "a being worthy of worship" or "a holy being".

“As the stem form, yazata- has the inflected nominative forms yazatō, pl. yazatåŋhō. These forms reflect Proto-Iranian *yazatah and pl. *yazatāhah. In Middle Persian the term became yazad or yazd, pl. yazdān, continuing in New Persian as izad.
Related terms in other languages are Sanskrit yájati "he worships, he sacrifices", yajatá- "worthy of worship, holy", yajñá "sacrifice", and perhaps also Greek ἅγιος hagios "devoted to the gods, sacred, holy".
In Pokorny's comparative dictionary on Indo-European languages, the author considers Yazata-, yaz-, yasna, yájati, yajñá, ἅγιος hagios to all be derivatives of a Proto-Indo-European (PIE) root i̪agʲ- (i̪ag´-) "religiös verehren" ("religiously venerate"). However, some partially derivative authorities, such as Calvert Watkins' PIE Roots appendix to The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, give no indication that Greek ἅγιος hagios is still considered a reflex of this PIE root.”….

“Venerate me and make offerings.”

“ In the Gathas, the yazatas are effectively what the daevas are not; that is, the yazatas are to be worshipped while the daevas are to be rejected.”…

“There is reference to Mithra as being born of "Anahita, the Immaculate Virgin Mother of the Lord Mithras". Anahita was said to have conceived the Mithras from the seed of Zarathustra preserved in the waters of Lake Hamun in the Persian province of Sistan. …. Lake Hamun was the keeper of Zoroaster's seed. And when the world's end is at hand , three maidens will enter the lake, and afterwards will give birth to the Saoshyants who will then be the "final saviors" of mankind. …..In other, contradictory traditions, he is also born without any sex but from the rock wall of a cave. One must know that there were separate Mithra traditions that may have changed and been adapted over time. This information comes from a Temple that bears this inscription dedicated to Anahita and dated to about 200 B.C.E.. “….


Friday, March 21, 2014

Greek-Bactrian Art & Early Buddhist Representation (250 BC)


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The Shift from Aniconic to Anthropomorphic Buddha in Greco-Buddhist Iconography….

"One of the distinguishing features of the Gandharan school of art that emerged in north-west India is that it has been clearly influenced by the naturalism of the Classical Greek style. Thus, while these images still convey the inner peace that results from putting the Buddha's doctrine into practice, they also give us an impression of people who walked and talked, etc. and slept much as we do. I feel this is very important. These figures are inspiring because they do not only depict the goal, but also the sense that people like us can achieve it if we try" (His Holiness The 14th Dalai Lama… foreword to "Echoes of Alexander the Great", 2000.)

“The origins of Greco-Buddhist art are to be found in the Hellenistic Greco-Bactrian kingdom (250 BC- 130 BC), located in today’s Afghanistan,….The Greco-Bactrian Kingdom was — along with the Indo-Greek Kingdom — the easternmost part of the Hellenistic world, covering Bactria and Sogdiana in Central Asia from 250 to 125 BC. The expansion of the Greco-Bactrians into northern India from 180 BC established the Indo-Greek Kingdom, which was to last until around AD 10.”

“It was not until the Greek presence in South Asia after the conquests of Alexander the Great in 326 BC that the anthropomorphic representation of Buddha emerged (Krishan 29).After Alexander the Great had conquered Northern India, the Gandhara region became a melting pot for both Greek and Buddhist traditions…… The artists in the Gandhara region fused Greek realism which had Hellenistic origins with the more naturalistic inspired Indian mysticism. In essence, the art created in the Gandhara region during the Hellenistic period derived its content from Indian mysticism while the form was that of Greek realism. This true hybrid art form was the product of almost two centuries of interactions between Indo-Greek culture…….These diverse cultural interactions owe much of their credit to the Silk Road transmission of culture…..

“Gandhara is the name of an ancient kingdom (Mahajanapada), located in parts of modern-day northern Pakistan and eastern Afghanistan. The Kingdom of Gandhara lasted from the early first millennium BC to the eleventh century AD…..Gandhāran style flourished and achieved its peak during the Kushan period, from the first to the fifth century. It declined and suffered destruction after the invasion of the White Huns in the fifth century……Gandhāra is noted for the distinctive Gandhāra style of Buddhist art, which developed out of a merger of Greek, Syrian, Persian, and Indian artistic influence. The conquests of Alexander the Great in 332 BC lead to the development of Greco-Buddhist art…..Gandharan Buddhist sculpture displays Greek artistic influence, and it has been suggested that the concept of the "man-god" was essentially inspired by Greek mythological culture. It contributed to depicting wavy hair, drapery covering both shoulders, shoes, and sandals…..In Gandharan art, the Buddha is often shown under the protection of the Greek god Herakles, standing with his club resting over his arm…..Stucco as well as stone was widely used by sculptors in Gandhara for the decoration of monastic and cult buildings. Stucco provided the artist with a medium of great plasticity, enabling a high degree of expressiveness to be given to the sculpture.”…..

Kushans….”It was only after Greek rule in the Gandhara region had been superseded by the Kushans that artistic representations of Buddha emerged. Centuries of syncretism between the Indo-Greeks had created an artistic culture that contained elements of Greek realism and Indian mysticism. The Kushans readily assimilated to Greek ideals by adopting the symbol of Nike who represents the goddess of victory (Foltz 45). These iconographic portrayals of pride in geographical dominance were imprinted upon the coins during the Kushan dynasty which lasted from 30-375 CE (Krishan 34).”

“……some of the reasons regarding the aniconic portrayal of the Buddha in early Buddhist practice. Vedism by its very nature was aniconic because it considered the highest gods as ultimately transcendent and formless (Krishan 9). Therefore artistic portrayals of the highest deities were not forbidden by doctrine, rather they were contradictory to the message they set out to portray. The concept of being a formless, impersonal and unseen force of nature meant that the highest deities defied representation. One could liken this to a metaphor of the wind. Although wind exerts effects on objects, it cannot be perceived as a concrete object in and of itself. The Hindu conceptualization of the “Ultimate Being” is portrayed exactly in this way…….However, it was not until the Kushan period (1st to 2nd AD) that this Ultimate Being was anthropomorphically portrayed as Brahma, Vishnu and Siva (Pratapaditya 27). Each of these deities can be multiply realized into many forms called avatars. Avatars are descendents of the formless and intangible Ultimate Being who join the physical realm through instantiating themselves into one of the various forms depending on the intent of their purposes….When Buddhism was in its infancy, those who were faithful to the growing tradition were careful to act within to the Vedic tradition to avoid any normative displacement (Krishan 51)…..”….The Shift from Aniconic to Anthropomorphic Buddha in Greco-Buddhist Iconography: How Anthropomorphism Advanced Buddhism….David C. Puzak….York University

“…Achaemenian period. Soon after his conquest of Lydia and the Ionian cities in 547 B.C.E., Cyrus the Great decided to have their artists and artisans work at Pasargadae, his capital. These were soon joined by Mesopotamians, Phoenicians, and later by Egyptians, destined to carry out the imperial program as an image of the king’s power over a diversified and peaceful empire. To all the known monuments of Pasargadae, Ionian artisans contributed the techniques of stonework…”…..

“ …..the Heart Sutra, says: "There is no form, nor feeling, nor perception, nor impulse, nor consciousness, no eye, or ear, or nose, or tongue, or body, or mind, no form, nor sound, nor smell, nor taste, or touchable, nor object of mind...". It is worth noting that there are Greek texts that speak in a very similar voice, for example the following (probably Pyrrhonist) statement which is quoted by a commentator on Plato's Theatetus: "No form, no words, no object of taste, or smell, or touch, no other object of perception, has any distinctive character”….The Shape of Ancient Thought. Comparative studies in Greek and Indian Philosophies by Thomas McEvilley (Allworth Press and the School of Visual Arts, 2002)

“Aniconism in Buddhism….Wikipedia……Since the beginning of the serious study of the history of Buddhist art in the 1890s, the earliest phase, lasting until the 1st century CE, has been described as aniconic; the Buddha was only represented through symbols such as an empty throne, Bodhi tree, a riderless horse (at Sanchi), Buddha's footprints, and the dharma wheel.This reluctance towards anthropomorphic representations of the Buddha, and the sophisticated development of aniconic symbols to avoid it (even in narrative scenes where other human figures would appear), seem to be connected to one of the Buddha's sayings, reported in the Digha Nikaya, that discouraged representations of himself after the extinction of his body…..Although there is still some debate, the first anthropomorphic representations of the Buddha himself are often considered a result of the Greco-Buddhist interaction, in particular in Gandhara, a theory first fully expounded by Alfred A. Foucher, but criticised from the start by Ananda Coomaraswamy.”

Head from a bronze cult statue of Anahita, a local goddess shown here in the guise of Aphrodite, 200-100 BC.... British Museum, London.


Thursday, March 20, 2014

Cyrus the Great Cylinder (539 BC)


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“The Cyrus Cylinder (Persian: منشور کوروش‎) is an ancient clay cylinder, now broken into several fragments, on which is written a declaration in Akkadian cuneiform script in the name of the Persia's Achaemenid king Cyrus the Great. It dates from the 6th century BC and was discovered in the ruins of Babylon in Mesopotamia (modern Iraq) in 1879. It is currently in the possession of the British Museum, which sponsored the expedition that discovered the cylinder. It was created and used as a foundation deposit following the Persian conquest of Babylon in 539 BC, when the Neo-Babylonian Empire was invaded by Cyrus and incorporated into his Persian Empire. The text on the Cylinder praises Cyrus, sets out his genealogy and portrays him as a king from a line of kings. The Babylonian king Nabonidus, who was defeated and deposed by Cyrus, is denounced as an impious oppressor of the people of Babylonia and his low-born origins are implicitly contrasted to Cyrus's kingly heritage. The victorious Cyrus is portrayed as having been chosen by the chief Babylonian god Marduk to restore peace and order to the Babylonians. The text states that Cyrus was welcomed by the people of Babylon as their new ruler and entered the city in peace. It appeals to Marduk to protect and help Cyrus and his son Cambyses. It extols Cyrus as a benefactor of the citizens of Babylonia who improved their lives, repatriated displaced people and restored temples and cult sanctuaries across Mesopotamia and elsewhere in the region. It concludes with a description of how Cyrus repaired the city wall of Babylon and found a similar inscription placed there by an earlier king.”

Cyrus the Great…..”Cyrus II of Persia (Old Persian: KUURUUSHA….. Kūruš; New Persian: کوروش بزرگ c. 600 BC or 576 BC–530 BC), also known as Cyrus the Elder, was the founder of the Achaemenid Empire. Under his rule, the empire embraced all the previous civilized states of the ancient Near East, expanded vastly and eventually conquered most of Southwest Asia and much of Central Asia and the Caucasus. From the Mediterranean Sea and Hellespont in the west to the Indus River in the east, Cyrus the Great created the largest empire the world had yet seen. His regal titles in full were The Great King, King of Persia, King of Anshan, King of Media, King of Babylon, King of Sumer and Akkad, and King of the Four Corners of the World. He also proclaimed what has been identified by scholars and archaeologists to be the oldest known declaration of human rights, which was transcribed onto the Cyrus Cylinder sometime between 539 and 530 BC.”

“The Education of Cyrus (c. 365 BCE) is a narrative composed by Xenophon the Athenian, treating the life of the first king of the Persian Empire, Cyrus “the Great” (c. 600-530 BCE, more here), from his youth in the Persian educational system (agôgê) to his conquest of Babylon and establishment of one of the ancient world’s first large empires. Many throughout history have been interested in the Education of Cyrus, including Alexander “the Great”, the Roman general Scipio Africanus, Cicero, Machiavelli, Philip Sidney, and Thomas Jefferson, as well as several modern political scientists. In the past thirty years the work has seen a resurgence of scholarly interest, whether it is read as a handbook on leadership, a proto-novel, a relic of Achaemenid (early Persian) culture and Iranian folklore, a quasi-biography or history, a military treatise, an exploration of the emotions (e.g., romantic love, envy), or a philosophical engagement with many of the questions of childhood education, human psychology, justice, and the ideal society that were familiar to Athenians of the early fourth century like Plato and Isocrates.”……

“Xenophon’s Cyropaedia, the inspiration for US Constitution…..The Cyropaedia is a biography written in the early 4th century BCE by the Athenian Soldier Xenophon. The Latinized title of Cyropaedia derives from Greek Kúrou paideía (Κύρου παιδεία), meaning "The Teaching of Cyrus”…..Praised by the Bible, the Cyropaedia, and John Locke - their three most influential sources - America's Founding Fathers broke with tradition and adopted Cyrus's model of 'Benevolent Government' for their new nation, as it was the only alternative to Machiavelli's theory that "It is Better To Be Feared Than Loved.”….Cyrus's notions of human rights influenced the US Constitution. Many of the Founding Fathers of the United States of America sought inspiration from the Cyropaedia, and Thomas Jefferson had two personal copies of the book, " which was a mandatory read for statesmen. “

“The Cyrus cylinder was discovered in the ruins of Babylon in March 1879…..Discovery of the Cyrus Cylinder in Babylon … The Babylon excavation site. The Cyrus cylinder was found in the site marked E, the tell or mound of Amran which was later named the Esagila, the Marduk Temple complex.”

“Hormuzd Rassam - ….The person often credited with the discovery of the Cyrus Cylinder in 1879 is a man named Hormuzd Rassam. Rassam lived from 1826 to 1910. His native town Mosul - the city that gave its name to the muslin cloth - lies on the east bank of the upper Tigris River in Northern Iraq, on the frontier of Kurdish lands, and 18 km south of the ancient Assyrian capital Nineveh's ruins.”

“Akkadian cuneiform script …..Akkadian was a language spoken in Mesopotamia (modern Iraq and Syria) between about 2,800 BC and 500 AD. It was named after the city of Akkad and first appeared in Sumerian texts dating from 2,800 BC in the form of Akkadian names….A large corpus of Akkadian texts and text fragments numbering hundreds of thousands has been excavated. They include mythology, legal and scientific texts, correspondence and so on. During the 2nd millenium BC the Akkadian language developed into two variants, Assyrian and Babylonian, in Assyria and Babylon….Akkadian became the lingua franca of the ancient Near East, but started to be replaced by Aramaic by the 8th century BC. After that it continued to be used mainly by scholars and priests and the last known example of written Akkadian dates from the 1st century AD.”

“This very sophisticated description of Olmo Lungring has been tentatively related by some scholars to different geographical locations…… To some scholars the description seems to resemble the geography of the Middle East and Persia in the time of Cyrus the Great.”…..


John Hopkins.....Northern New Mexico….May 2014


Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Bas-Reliefs at Taq-e Bostan (c. 400 AD)


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“Some of the finest surviving rock carvings of the Sassanid period set in the rock face of the Zagros mountains that were on the Silk route & are next to a sacred spring filling a lake near the mountain base…..near Kermanshah is Taq-e Bostan, the UNESCO declared Heritage site of the Sassanid era in the Zagros mountains. It contains a beautiful bas-relief of the crowning of the Sassanid King Khosrow Parvez who is in the center with Ahura Mazda on the right & Goddess Anahita on the left. The mounted warrior on the bottom is the king himself in armor on his favorite horse Shabdiz.….

“The Large Iwan of Khusrow II…..The three figures on the back wall of the large iwan are usually considered to represent Khosrow Parviz flanked by Ahura Mazda and Anahita. They are placed above a mounted Persian knight, thought to be the Sassanid king Khosrau II (591-628 CE) mounted on his favorite charger, Shabdiz. There is, however, no unanimity about the exact identification of this late Sasanian king. The two attending figures are sometimes considered to be a priest and a priestess, rather than the gods Ahura Mazda and Anahita themselves….One of the most impressive reliefs inside the largest grotto or ivan is the gigantic equestrian figure of Both horse and rider are arrayed in full battle armor.

“The front of the rock-cut arch bears 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 women with diadems.

“Anahita is the Old Persian form of the name of an Iranian goddess and appears in complete and earlier form as Aredvi Sura Anahita (Arədvī Sūrā Anāhitā); the Avestan language name of an Indo-Iranian cosmological figure venerated as the divinity of 'the Waters' (Aban) and hence associated with fertility, healing and wisdom. Aredvi Sura Anahita is Ardwisur Anahid or Nahid in Middle- and Modern Persian, Anahit or Anaheed in Armenian. An iconic shrine cult of Aredvi Sura Anahita, was – together with other shrine cults – "introduced apparently in the 4th century BCE and lasted until it was suppressed in the wake of an iconoclastic movement under the Sassanids……Boyce, Mary (1983), "Anāhīd", Encyclopædia Iranica 1, New York: Routledge & Kegan Paul,.”….The Greek and Roman historians of classical antiquity refer to her either as Anaïtis or identified her with one of the divinities from their own pantheons.

“Taq va San or Taq-e Bostan….(Kurdish: تاق وه سان, "arch of Stone"),(Persian: طاق بستان‎, "arch of Bostan") is a site with a series of large rock relief from the era of Sassanid Empire of Persia, which ruled western Asia from 226 to 650 AD. This example of Sassanid art is located 5 km from the city center of Kermanshah in the heart of the Zagros mountains, where it has endured almost 1,700 years…..The carvings, some of the finest and best-preserved examples of Persian sculpture under the Sassanids, include representations of the investitures of Ardashir II (379–383) and Shapur III (383–388). Like other Sassanid symbols, Taq-e Bostan and its relief patterns accentuate power, religious tendencies, glory, honor, the vastness of the court, game and fighting spirit, festivity, joy, and rejoicing…..Sassanid kings chose a beautiful setting for their rock reliefs along an historic Silk Road caravan route waypoint and campground. The reliefs are adjacent a sacred springs that empty into a large reflecting pool at the base of a mountain cliff….Taq-e Bostan and its rock relief are one of the 30 surviving Sassanid relics of the Zagros mountains. According to Arthur Pope, the founder of Iranian art and archeology Institute in the USA, "art was characteristic of the Iranian people and the gift which they endowed the world with."

“Khosrau II….. (Chosroes II in classical sources, entitled "Aparvez"; later garbled into Parviz), "The Victorious" – (Middle Persian: Husrō(y); also Khusraw Parvēz, New Persian: خسرو پرویز Khosrow Parviz), was the last great king of the Sasanian Empire, reigning from 590 to 628….. He was the son of Hormizd IV (reigned 579–590) and the grandson of Khosrau I (reigned 531–579). He was the last king of Persia to have a lengthy reign before the Muslim conquest of Iran, which began five years after his death by assassination. He lost his throne, then recovered it with Roman help, and, a decade later, went on to emulate the feats of the Achaemenids, conquering the rich Roman provinces of the Middle East; much of his reign was spent in wars with the Byzantine Empire and struggling against usurpers such as Bahram Chobin and Vistahm.

“In works of Persian literature such as the Shahnameh and Khosrow and Shirin (Persian: خسرو و شیرین‎), a famous tragic romance by Nizami Ganjavi (1141−1209), a highly elaborated fictional version of Khosrau's life made him one of the greatest heroes of the culture, as much as a lover as a king. Khosrow and Shirin tells the story of his love for the Aramean princess Shirin, who becomes his queen after a lengthy courtship strewn with mishaps and difficulties.”

“In Kermanshah, near the border with Iraq, Maziar meditated for some time by the spring of Taq-e Bostan. Facing the spring were several reliefs carved into the rock, dating from the time of the Sassanid dynasty. The largest one depicted the last great king of that dynasty, Khosrow II Parviz, surrounded by Ahura Mazda and Anahita, and below him was a figure of a charging knight…..

“Bas-relief is a type of sculpture that has less depth to the faces and figures than they actually have, when measured proportionately (to scale). This technique retains the natural contours of the figures, and allows the work to be viewed from many angles without distortion of the figures themselves….Bas relief is created either by carving away material (wood, stone, ivory, jade, etc.) or adding material to the top of an otherwise smooth surface (say, strips of clay to stone). This is a technique as old as humankind's artistic explorations,….

“UNESCO World Heritage Site…Taq-e Bostan…This complex consists of a series of properties from prehistoric to historical periods such as Morad-Hassel Tepe, an ancient village, a Parthian graveyard and a Sassanid hunting ground. The most significant property of the complex belongs to the Sassanid one which comprises of two porticos (large and small Ivans) as well as outstanding bas-reliefs from the same period…….It is an incomparable site in terms of the number of bas-reliefs and the historical, political, religious, social, artistic values involved, but comparable with some works in Naqsh-e Rostam, Naqsh-e Rajab, Chogan Tepe and Firouzabad.”…..

“Ṭāq-e Bostān, or Tāq-i-Bustān, village in western Iran, just northeast of Kermānshāh city. It is known for its rock carvings (bas-reliefs) of Sāsānid origin (3rd to 7th century ad). The carvings, some of the finest and best-preserved examples of Persian sculpture under the Sāsānians, include representations of the investitures of Ardashīr II (reigned ad 379–383) and of Shāpūr III (383–388), the latter in a man-made cave carved in the form of an iwan (three-sided, barrel-vaulted hall, open at one end).”