EXCURSIONS FROM SHIRAZ
The road which leaves Shiraz towards Bandar-e Bushehr, on the Persian Gulf, and Ahvz in Khuzestan, passes by the site of Bishapur, known for its bas-reliefs and the ruins of a Sassanian city. The trip through some superb mountain scenery with grandiose gorges and wooded valleys can easily be done as a days excursion from Shiraz (130 kilometres or 81 miles one way). The site of Bishpur itself is very attractive: the bas-reliefs are carved on the rock face overlooking the Shpur River and are surrounded by trees which provide welcome shade in summer.
The first two carvings are on the left bank of the river (on the right-hand side as one enters the gorge). Both represent Shapur victories over the Romans. The subject matter here is the same as at Naqsh-e Rostam but is treated slightly differently. The first bas-relief is badly damaged and the details no longer visible; the
second one, however, shows the king receiving the crown not from Ahura Mazda but from a putto, an element borrowed from Western iconography. Unusually, this scene is not restricted to the main protagonists but is accompanied on either side by several registers of figures in an overall design reminiscent of many Roman scenes of triumph.
To reach the carvings on the other bank, cross the river by the road bridge and follow the path which leads into the
woods. The third bas-relief once again shows Shapur's victory over the Romans: here, the two horses are trampling the bodies of Emperor Gordian III and the god Ahriman underfoot, while Philip the Arab kneels before the king. The absence of Valerian from this scene suggests that it was carved before the year 260 and that it therefore predates the two bas-reliefs on the other bank. The fourth carving shows Bahram II (276293 AD) accepting the submission of Arab nomads who have come with their horses and camels. This carving has been damaged by a later irrigation channel which was once attached to the rock face. The fifth bas-relief shows the investiture of Bahram I (273-276) in the now familiar composition, similar to the investitures at Naqsh-e Rostam and Naqsh-e Rajab.
The last relief is treated in a slightly different manner: the king, in the centre, is shown from the front, leaning on his sword On the left are two registers of court dig- nitaries and soldiers, while on the right stand prisoners and servants carrying booty. This scene, dated to the reign of Shapur I (309-379) is the latest one at the site.
On the heights above the river are the ruins of the ancient Sassanian royal city of Bishpur built from 266 AD by Shpur I. The excavations here were carried out by French archaeologists under the direction of Georges Salles and Roman Ghirshman in the 19305 and 19405 and then taken over by Iranian archaeologists. On approaching the city, one notices first of all the old stone walls with their semicircular towers. Behind them is the palatial complex and, below, a fire temple