Recorded: May 20, 2022
Event: The World of Ancient Iran and the West
Citation: Mousavi, Ali. "Takht-e Sōleymān, Sasanians, Romans, and Mongols: Reflections on the Life and Afterlife of a Sacred Place." Pourdavoud Center: The World of Ancient Iran and the West (May 20, 2022).
by Ali Mousavi (University of California, Los Angeles)
Ali Mousavi is a Senior Pourdavoud Research Scholar and Adjunct Assistant Professor of Iranian Archaeology in the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Cultures. He studied in Lyon, France, and took his B.A. in Art History, and his M.A. in Archaeology from the University of Lyon, France. He obtained his Ph.D. in Near Eastern archaeology from the University of California, Berkeley. He excavated in France, Turkey, and Iran, and contributed to the inclusion of a number of archaeological sites and monuments on the World Heritage List of the UNESCO. He is the author of a book on the site of Persepolis, namely, Persepolis: Discovery and Afterlife of a World Wonder (de Gruyter, 2012), and co-editor of two books: Ancient Iran from the Air (Philippe von Zabern, 2012) and Excavating an Empire (Mazda Publishers, 2014). He has published on various aspects of Iranian art and archaeology, and holds a particular interest in the archaeology of Iranian empires, from the Achaemenids to the Sasanians, as well as the history of archaeology in Iran and the Near East. He worked as a curator of Ancient Near Eastern Art at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art from 2006 to 2013. He teaches Iranian art and archaeology at UCLA and serves as the director of the UCLA Archaeological Gazetteer of Iran project at the Pourdavoud Center.
Takht-e Sōleymān, Sasanians, Romans, and Mongols: Reflections on the Life and Afterlife of a Sacred Place
The most venerated fire temple of the Sasanian empire was located at the present-day site of Takht-e Sōleymān. Built in the course of the fifth and sixth centuries CE, Takht-e Sōleymān, considered the holy place of the empire on account its association with the sacred fire Ādur Gušnasp, was plundered in 642 by an East Roman army, an event that put an end to the use and importance of the place as a fire temple. However, the sack of the sanctuary marked the beginning of the site’s afterlife. An interval of six centuries separates the site’s Sasanian period from its transformation under the Mongols—when it was known as Saturiq—in the course of which a variety of legends became associated with the mysterious ruins. Prominent historians such as Abu Dulaf, Ibn Khordādbeh, Masʿudi, Tabari, and Yaghut refer to the ruined fire temple and its importance while the site’s symbolism influenced Armenian and Christian legends. Chosen as a summer residence by the Ilkhans of Persia in the thirteenth century, it experienced a short period of revival and architectural activities, followed by centuries of abandonment until the archaeologist’s spade revealed its less fabulous but still engaging history as the site of the royal fire Ādur Gušnasp. The present survey of Takht-e Sōleymān attempts to show to what extent legends and realities are therein intertwined.