Naqsh-e Rostam
نقش رستم (Persian)
Naqsh-e Rostam
Naqsh-e Rostam is located in Iran
Naqsh-e Rostam
Naqsh-e Rostam
Shown within Iran
LocationMarvdasht, Fars Province
Coordinates29°59′20″N 52°52′29″E / 29.98889°N 52.87472°E / 29.98889; 52.87472
PeriodsAchaemenian, Sassanian
ManagementCultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Organization of Iran
Architectural stylesPersian

Naqsh-e Rostam (lit.'mural of Rostam'; Persian: نقش رستم, Persian: [ˌnæɣʃeɾosˈtæm]) is an ancient archeological site and necropolis located about 13 km northwest of Persepolis, in Fars Province, Iran. A collection of ancient Iranian rock reliefs are cut into the face of the mountain and the mountain contains the final resting place of four Achaemenid kings, notably king Darius the Great and his son, Xerxes. This site is of great significance to the history of Iran and to Iranians, as it contains various archeological sites carved into the rock wall through time for more than a millennium from the Elamites and Achaemenids to Sassanians. It lies a few hundred meters from Naqsh-e Rajab, with a further four Sassanid rock reliefs, three celebrating kings and one a high priest.

Naqsh-e Rostam is the necropolis of the Achaemenid dynasty (c. 550–330 BC), with four large tombs cut high into the cliff face. These have mainly architectural decoration, but the facades include large panels over the doorways, each very similar in content, with figures of the king being invested by a god, above a zone with rows of smaller figures bearing tribute, with soldiers and officials. The three classes of figures are sharply differentiated in size. The entrance to each tomb is at the center of each cross, which opens onto a small chamber, where the king lay in a sarcophagus.[1]

Well below the Achaemenid tombs, near ground level, are rock reliefs with large figures of Sassanian kings, some meeting gods, others in combat. The most famous shows the Sassanian king Shapur I on horseback, with the Roman Emperor Valerian bowing to him in submission, and Philip the Arab (an earlier emperor who paid Shapur tribute) holding Shapur's horse, while the dead Emperor Gordian III, killed in battle, lies beneath it (other identifications have been suggested). This commemorates the Battle of Edessa in AD 260, when Valerian became the only Roman Emperor who was captured as a prisoner of war, a lasting humiliation for the Romans. The placing of these reliefs clearly suggests the Sassanid intention to link themselves with the glories of the earlier Achaemenid Empire.[2]

Map of the archaeological site of Naqsh-e Rostam


Panorama of Naqsh-e Rostam. Rock carved tombs from left to right: Darius II, Artaxerxes II, Darius the Great, Xerxes I.
Upper register of the Achaemenid Tomb of Xerxes I

The oldest relief at Naqsh-e Rostam dates back to c. 1000BC. Though it is severely damaged, it depicts a faint image of a man with unusual headgear, and is thought to be Elamite in origin.[3]

Achaemenid tombs

Four tombs belonging to Achaemenid kings are carved out of the rock face at a considerable height above the ground.

Tomb of Darius the Great

One of the tombs is explicitly identified, by an accompanying inscription (“parsa parsahya puthra ariya ariyachitra”, meaning, “a Parsi, the son of a Parsi, an Aryan, of Aryan family),[4] as the tomb of Darius I (c. 522–486 BC).

Other tombs

The other three tombs are believed to be those of Xerxes I (c. 486–465 BC), Artaxerxes I (c. 465–424 BC), and Darius II (c. 423–404 BC) respectively. The order of the tombs in Naqsh-e Rostam follows (left to right): Darius II, Artaxerxes I, Darius I, Xerxes I. The matching of the other kings to tombs is somewhat speculative; the relief figures are not intended as individualized portraits.[1]

Darius I inscription

Main article: DNa inscription

A 17th-century drawing of Naqsh e Rostam, by Jean Chardin

An inscription by Darius I, from c.490 BCE, generally referred to as the "DNa inscription" in scholarly works, appears in the top left corner of the facade of his tomb. It mentions the conquests of Darius I and his various achievements during his life. Its exact date is not known, but it can be assumed to be from the last decade of his reign.[5] Like several other inscriptions by Darius, the territories controlled by the Achaemenid Empire are specifically listed, which formed the largest empire during antiquity. His empire encompassed Macedon and Thrace in Europe, Egypt in North Africa, Babylon and Assyria in Mesopotamia, the steppes of Eurasia, Bactria in Central Asia, up to Gandhara and the Indus in the Indian Subcontinent which were annexed during the Achaemenid conquest of the Indus Valley.[6]

Darius I inscription
(DNa inscription)
English translation Original

A great god is Ahura Mazda, who created this earth, who created yonder sky, who created man, who created happiness for man, who made Darius king, one king of many, one lord of many.

I am Darius the great king, king of kings, king of countries containing all kinds of men, king in this great earth far and wide, son of Hystaspes, an Achaemenid, a Persian, son of a Persian, an Aryan, having Aryan lineage.

King Darius says: By the favor of Ahuramazda these are the countries which I seized outside of Persia; I ruled over them; they bore tribute to me; they did what was said to them by me; they held my law firmly; Media, Elam, Parthia, Aria, Bactria, Sogdia, Chorasmia, Drangiana, Arachosia, Sattagydia, Gandara [Gadâra], India [Hiduš], the haoma-drinking Scythians, the Scythians with pointed caps, Babylonia, Assyria, Arabia, Egypt, Armenia, Cappadocia, Lydia, the Greeks (Yauna), the Scythians across the sea (Sakâ), Thrace, the petasos-wearing Greeks [Yaunâ], the Libyans, the Nubians, the men of Maka and the Carians.

King Darius says: Ahuramazda, when he saw this earth in commotion, thereafter bestowed it upon me, made me king; I am king. By the favor of Ahuramazda I put it down in its place; what I said to them, that they did, as was my desire.

If now you shall think that "How many are the countries which King Darius held?" look at the sculptures [of those] who bear the throne, then shall you know, then shall it become known to you: the spear of a Persian man has gone forth far; then shall it become known to you: a Persian man has delivered battle far indeed from Persia.

Darius the King says: This which has been done, all that by the will of Ahuramazda I did. Ahuramazda bore me aid, until I did the work. May Ahuramazda protect me from harm, and my royal house, and this land: this I pray of Ahuramazda, this may Ahuramazda give to me!

O man, that which is the command of Ahuramazda, let this not seem repugnant to you; do not leave the right path; do not rise in rebellion!

— DNa inscription of Darius I.[7][8][9]
Darius I inscription (the DNa inscription) on the upper left corner of the facade of his tomb.

The nationalities mentioned in the DNa inscription are also depicted on the upper registers of all the tombs at Naqsh-e Rostam.[10][11] One of the best preserved is that of Xerxes I.

DNf inscription. There are various and contradictory reports about how this inscription was discovered. According to Mrs. Khadija Totunchi, she took a photo of this inscription in 2017. But she did not find a suitable person to translate and read the inscription. Also, according to Ebrahim Rustaei, in 2018, in cooperation with Abdul Majid Arfai, he presented an article about the inscription to the International Conference on History and Culture of Southern Iran (Historical Persia), in which a reading of the inscription was presented. However, this reading is very basic and has many flaws. But finally, the DNf petroglyph, which had been hidden in the shade and under algae and sediments for 2500 years, was officially and scientifically recorded by Mojtaba Doroodi and Soheil Delshad in February 2019.[3][12]

Babylonian Transliteration: 1- [mx-x-x(-x) LÚ

pa-id-di-iš-ḫu]-ri-iš ˹a˺-˹na˺ m da-a-ri-i̭a-˹muš˺ LUGAL i-GA-ir-ra-bi

Translation (based on the Babylonian version): [Personal Name, Pati]schorian, invokes blessing upon Darius the King.[13]

Ka'ba-ye Zartosht

Cube of Zoroaster, a cube-shaped construction in the foreground, against the backdrop of Naqsh-e Rostam

Main article: Ka'ba-ye Zartosht

Ka'ba-ye Zartosht (meaning the "Cube of Zoroaster") is a 5th-century B.C Achaemenid square tower. The structure is a copy of a sister building at Pasargadae, the "Prison of Solomon" (Zendān-e Solaymān).

Several theories exist regarding the purpose of the Ka'ba-ye Zartosht structure.[14]

Sassanid reliefs

Seven over-life sized rock reliefs at Naqsh-e Rostam depict monarchs of the Sassanid period.

The investiture of Ardashir I
The triumph of Shapur I over the Roman emperors Valerian and Philip the Arab

Investiture relief of Ardashir I, c. 226–242

Main article: Ahura Mazda and Ardashir I

The founder of the Sassanid Empire is seen being handed the ring of kingship by Ohrmazd.

Triumph of Shapur I, c. 241–272)

The most famous of the Sassanid rock reliefs, and depicts the victory of Shapur I over two Roman emperors, Valerian and Philip the Arab. Behind the king stands Kirtir, the mūbadān mūbad ('high priest'), the most powerful of the Zoroastrian Magi during the history of Iran.[15]

In an inscription, Shapur I claims possession of the territory of the Kushans (Kūšān šahr) as far as "Purushapura" (Peshawar), suggesting he controlled Bactria and areas as far as the Hindu-Kush or even south of it:[16]

I, the Mazda-worshipping lord, Shapur, king of kings of Iran and An-Iran… (I) am the Master of the Domain of Iran (Ērānšahr) and possess the territory of Persis, Parthian… Hindestan, the Domain of the Kushan up to the limits of Paškabur and up to Kash, Sughd, and Chachestan.

— Naqsh-e Rostam inscription of Shapur I[16]

"Grandee" relief of Bahram II, c. 276–293

The grandee relief of Bahram II

On each side of the king, who is depicted with an oversized sword, figures face the king.

Two equestrian reliefs of Bahram II, c. 276–293

The first equestrian relief, located immediately below the fourth tomb (perhaps that of Darius II), depicts the king battling a mounted Roman enemy. The second equestrian relief, located immediately below the tomb of Darius I, is divided into two registers, an upper and a lower one. In the upper register, the king appears to be forcing a Roman enemy, probably Roman emperor Carus from his horse. In the lower register, the king is again battling a mounted enemy wearing a headgear shaped as an animal’s head, thought to be the vanquished Indo-Sassanian ruler Hormizd I Kushanshah.[17]

Investiture of Narseh, c. 293–303

The investiture of Narseh

In this relief, the king is depicted as receiving the ring of kingship from a female figure that is frequently assumed to be the divinity Aredvi Sura Anahita.

Equestrian relief of Hormizd II, c 303–309

The equestrian relief of Hormizd II

This relief is below tomb 3 (perhaps that of Artaxerxes I) and depicts Hormizd forcing an enemy (perhaps Papak of Armenia) from his horse.


Ka'ba-ye Zartosht in foreground, with behind the Tomb of Darius II above Sassanid equestrian relief of Bahram II.

In 1923, the German archaeologist Ernst Herzfeld made casts of the inscriptions on the tomb of Darius I. Since 1946, these casts have been held in the archives of the Freer Gallery of Art and the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, in Washington, DC.

Naqsh-e Rostam was excavated for several seasons between 1936 and 1939 by a team from the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago, led by Erich Schmidt.[18]

See also


  1. ^ a b Cotterell, 162; Canepa, 57–59, 65–68
  2. ^ Herrmann and Curtis; Canepa, 62, 65–68
  3. ^ [1] Morteza KHANIPOOR et al, The reliefs of Naqš-e Rostam and a reflection on a forgotten relief, Iran, Historia i Świat, iss. 6, pp. 55-68, 2017
  4. ^ "I am Darius".
  5. ^ Orientalia Lovaniensia Periodica (in French). Instituut voor Oriëntalistiek. 1974. p. 23.
  6. ^ Briant, Pierre (2002). From Cyrus to Alexander: A History of the Persian Empire. Eisenbrauns. p. 173. ISBN 9781575061207.
  7. ^ Tolman, Herbert Cushing (1893). A guide to the Old Persian inscriptions. New York, Cincinnati [etc.] American book company. p. 146.Public Domain This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  8. ^ "DNa - Livius".
  9. ^ Alcock, Susan E.; Alcock, John H. D'Arms Collegiate Professor of Classical Archaeology and Classics and Arthur F. Thurnau Professor Susan E.; D'Altroy, Terence N.; Morrison, Kathleen D.; Sinopoli, Carla M. (2001). Empires: Perspectives from Archaeology and History. Cambridge University Press. p. 105. ISBN 9780521770200.
  10. ^ The Achaemenid Empire in South Asia and Recent Excavations in Akra in Northwest Pakistan Peter Magee, Cameron Petrie, Robert Knox, Farid Khan, Ken Thomas p.713-714
  11. ^ NAQŠ-E ROSTAM – Encyclopaedia Iranica.
  12. ^ Delshad, Soheil. "کتیبه‌ای در سایه (کتیبه نویافته هخامنشی موسوم به DNf)". ویژه نامه فرهنگستان - زبانها و گویش‌های ایرانی. 11: 3–28.
  13. ^ Delshad, Soheil (5 March 2019). "DNf : A New Inscription Emerges from the Shadow". Arta.
  14. ^ "Welcome to Encyclopaedia Iranica".
  15. ^ Rome in the East: The Transformation of an Empire. Warwick Ball. page 120. Psychology Press, 16 Jan 2001.
  16. ^ a b Rezakhani, Khodadad (2021). "From the Kushans to the Western Turks". King of the Seven Climes: 202–203.
  17. ^ a b Encyclopedia Iranica HORMOZD KUŠĀNŠĀH article
  18. ^ [2] Archived 2011-02-05 at the Wayback Machine E. F. Schmidt, Persepolis III: The Royal Tombs and Other Monuments, Oriental Institute Publications 70, University of Chicago Press, 1970, ISBN 0-226-62170-7