Naghsh-e Rostam

At the heart of a great cliff lies the rock cut tombs of four kings and a separate building similar to the sepulture of Cyrus the great.

This construct known as “Ka’beh-e Zardusht” or “the Cube of Zoroaster” is made of black and white stones some 12.6 meters high, which was probably built by Darius after his succession, imitating the royal temple of Pasargadae. The blind windows create the illusion of a three story building although it is a high windowless room reached by an external staircase. There are a number of Sassanian inscription in Pahlavi, Sassanian, Parthian and Greek including a detailed description of Shapur’s victories by Kartir, the high priest of many Sassanian Kings. in this inscription, Kartir refers to the building as “this foundation house” which doesn’t shed any light on the function of it. Some believe the cube has been a religious edifice, others say it’s been a fire temple containing the sacred, eternal fire, many consider it as a provisional tomb until the permanent one was made, and some mention that it might have been a repository for royal standards or sacred texts.



Of the four rock-cut tombs, only one is identifiable because of its inscription and that is the tomb of Darius, his tomb is the third from the left as you face the cliff. Although there is no inscription in the remaining three tombs, they are believed to belong to Darius II, Artaxerxes I and Xerxes I. all the tomb display the same façade which from distance looks like a cross. A closer look shows semi-engaged columns with bull protome capitals, like those found in all Achaemenian palaces. The bas-relief above the tomb shows Darius standing on a platform in front of an altar, facing Ahura Mazda, being carried by members of vassal nations. Inside the tomb there are 9 other rock-cut tombs that are said to belong to Darius’s family.



Fist one from the left belongs to Ardeshir I, in the bas-relief both the king and the deity are mounted, the deity holding the barsom of sacred twigs in one hand and offering the royal diadem with the other; and Aramaic inscription appears on the shoulder of the latter’s horse. Ardeshir’s beard is fastened by a ring and he is trampling the defeated Parthian king and Ahura Mazda (the deity) in return is trampling Ahriman (the epitome of Evil).



If you look below the tombs, on the curve of the rocks there is a relief belonging to Bahram II with his family. His relief was carved over an Elamite one. Little can be seen from the Elamite relief beside the figure of a man standing on the right and a sitting queen wearing battlemented crown on the far left. The relief celebrates Bahram’s victory over his enemies.



The other relief is a battle between two unidentified combatants that nothing much can be said about them since the lack of inscription makes it difficult to guess who the people in the relief are. The next relief is carved to the left of Darius’s tomb and shows Shapur on his horse behind the king appears the head and shoulders of Kartir, the high priest, before Shapur there is a standing figure with his arms raised and seized by Shapur who is probably Valerian, the Roman Emperor, there is another figure kneeling before the king who is believed to be Phillip the Arab. The last relief shows the investiture of Narseh, standing on the left with the goddess Anahita offering the diadem. Behind the king, who was Bahram II’s uncle, is a dignitary with an unfinished figure behind him.