is an archaeological site located about 12 km northwest of Persepolis, in Fars province, Iran. Naqsh-e Rustam lies a few hundred meters from Naqsh-e Rajab.
The oldest relief at Naqsh-e- Rostam is severely damaged and dates back to ۱۰۰۰ BC. It depicts a faint image of a man with unusual head-gear and is thought to be Elamite in origin. The depiction is part of a larger mural, most of which was removed at the command of Bahram II. The man with the unusual cap gives the site its name, Naqsh-e Rostam, “Picture of Rostam”, because the relief was locally believed to be a depiction of the mythical hero Rostam.
Four tombs belonging to Achaemenid kings are carved out of the rock face. They are all at a considerable height above the ground.
The tombs are known locally as the ‘Persian crosses’, after the shape of the facades of the tombs. The entrance to each tomb is at the center of each cross, which opens onto to a small chamber, where the king lay in a sarcophagus. The horizontal beam of each of the tomb’s facades is believed to be a replica of the entrance of the palace at Persepolis.
One of the tombs is explicitly identified by an accompanying inscription to be the tomb of Darius I the Great ( 522-486 BC). The other three tombs are believed to be those of Xerxes I ( 486-465 BC), Artaxerxes I ( 465-424 BC), and Darius II ( 423-404 BC) respectively. A fifth unfinished one might be that of Artaxerxes III, who reigned at the longest two years, but is more likely that of Darius III ( 336-330 BC), last of the Achaemenid dynasts.
The tombs were looted following the conquest of the Achaemenid empire by Alexander Macedonian
۷ oversized rock relief at Naqsh-e rostam depict monarchs of the sassanid period.
The investiture relief of Ardashir I
The founder of the Sassanid Empire is seen being handed the ring of kingship by Ahura Mazda. In the inscription, which also bears the oldest attested use of the term ‘Iran’, Ardashir admits to betraying his pledge to Artabanus IV (the Persians having been a vassal state of the Arsacid Parthians), but legitimizes his action on the grounds that Ahura Mazda had wanted him to do so.
The triumph of Shapur I
This is the most famous of the Sassanid rock reliefs, and depicts Shapur’s victory over three Roman emperors, Gordian III, Valerian and Philip the Arab. A more elaborate version of this rock relief is at Bishapur.
The grandee relief of Bahram II
On each side of the king, who is depicted with an oversized sword, figures face the king. On the left stand five figures, perhaps members of the king’s family (three having diadems, suggesting they were royalty). On the right stand three courtiers, one of which may be Kartir. This relief is to the immediate right of the investiture inscription of Ardashir , and partially replaces the much older relief that gives Naqsh-e- Rostam its name.
The two equesrian reliefs of Bahram
The first equestrian relief, located immediately below the fourth tomb (perhaps that of Darius II), depicts the king battling a mounted Roman soldier.
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 from his horse. In the lower register, the king is again battling a mounted Roman soldier.
Both reliefs depict a dead enemy under the hooves of the king’s horse.
The investiture of Nerseh
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. However, the king is not depicted in a pose that would be expected in the presence of a divinity, and it hence likely that the woman is a relative, perhaps Queen Shapurdokhtak.
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. Immediately above the relief and below the tomb is a badly damaged relief of what appears to be Shapur II ( 309-379) accompanied by courtiers.
Cube of Zoroaster
The Ka’ba-ye Zartosht meaning the “Cube of Zoroaster,” is a 5th century B.C.E. Achaemenid-era tower-like construction at Naqsh-e Rustam, an archaeological site just northwest of Persepolis, Iran. This enigmatic structure is one of many surviving examples of the achaemenid architectural design.
The name Ka’ba-ye Zartosht probably dates to the 14th century, The structure is not actually a Zoroastrian shrine, nor are there reports of it ever having been a pilgrimage site.
The structure, which is a copy of a sister building at Pasargadae, was built either by Darius I ( 521–۴۸۶ BCE) when he moved to Persepolis, by Artaxerxes II ( 404–۳۵۸ BCE) or Artaxerxes III ( 358–۳۳۸ BCE). The building at Pasargadae is a few decades older. The wall surrounding the tower dates to Sassanid times.
The square tower is constructed of white limestone blocks, that – unlike those of the sister building – are held in place by iron cramps. Mortar was not used in its construction. Each side of the building is 7.25 m wide. The 12.5 m high structure has a slightly pyramidal roof and stands on a 1.5 m high three-stepped plinth. Each face of the building is decorated with slightly recessed false windows of black limestone.
The structure has one square inner chamber, 5.70 m high and 3.70 m wide, access to which is through a doorway with a decorated lintel in the upper half of the tower. The chamber once accessible by a flight of steps, only the lower half of which has survived. The 1.70 m wide and 1.90 m high door was of solid stone that was originally firmly closed but has since disappeared.
From a reference to fire altars in a Sassanid-era inscription on the building it was inferredthat the structure was once a fire altar, or perhaps as an eternal flame memorial to the emperors whose tombs are located a few meters away. This theory has however since been rejected since the lack of cross-ventilation would have soon choked the flame, and in any case, the author of the inscription is unlikely to have known the purpose of the building seven centuries after its construction.
A later opinion suggested that both it and its sister building were safety boxes for the “paraphernalia of rule”
Today, scholars consider the structure to be an Achaemenid royal tomb, and it has been observed by F. Weissbach and A. Demandt that both the Ka’ba-ye Zartosht and its sister building at Pasargadae “more closely correspond to the description of Cyrus the Great’s tomb by Arrian (6.29) and Strabo (15.3.7) than does the monument in Pasargadae which is commonly attributed to this king.
The Sassanid-era wall surrounding the structure has four inscriptions dating to the 3rd century.
The trilingual inscription (‘KZ’) of Shapur I (241–۲۷۲) is on the eastern (Middle Persian text), western (Parthian text) and southern (Greek text) walls. A Middle Persian inscription of the high priest Kartir — the ‘KKZ’ inscription — is below Shapur’s on the eastern wall.
In 1923, the German archaeologist Ernst Herzfeld made casts of the inscriptions on the tomb of Darius I. Since 1946, these casts are held in the archives of the Freer Gallery of Art and the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, in Washington, DC.
Naqsh-e Rustam 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.