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Sassanian Rock Relief Essay

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The Sassanian rock relief of the Triumph of Shapur I at Naqsh-e Rustam defines a major point in Sassanid history in which Shapur I defeated the Emperor Valerian in 257 A.D. After the First Roman War, Shapur I then went on to destroy the entire Roman Army in the Second Roman War during the early 250s A.D. This major event forms the basis of this rock relief, which shows the surrender of Emperor Valerian and Philip the Arab. This conquest is yet another example of the success of Shapur I to defeat the Roman Empire, which became part of a public event showing the power of the king over his enemies:
The mood between them is calm: the Roman stands straight, the king sits straight and they look each other in the face. In contrast, there is tension
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This is, once again, a form of royal triumphalism that Shapur I emulates in this massive carving at this location. Certainly, the interrelationship between the successions of Sassanid kings provides a context for these public presentations of high relief stone carvings, which would have also been a public event for those witnessing king Shapur I during this historical period.
The investiture relief at Naqsb-i Rustam of Ardashir I is yet another aspect of the public ceremony of royal triumphalism in the way that gods, such as Ahura Mazda, are shown giving the beribboned investiture ring to Ardashir I. Ardashir I’s coronation as the King of Sassanid Empire in 224 B.C. reveals the god-like qualities given to the king through the gift of kingship presented by Ahura Mazda. Naturally, this iconographic presentation of investiture was most likely part of a much larger public ceremony, which had become immortalized by this rock carving of the event:
The installment of Ardashir as king of Persis is the subject of the relief at Naqsh-i Radjab. Such an official ceremony would normally be a fairly "public" event (Overlaet, 2013,
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