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Investiture of Ardashir by Ahura Mazda

Investiture of Ardashir by Ahura Mazda

The founder of the Sasanian dynasty, Ardashir I (226-242 CE), had this relief carved at Naqsh-e Rustam in Iran, where earlier Persian dynasties had commemorated their kingship and exploits. The relief shows Ardashir mounted on his horse on the left, with his hair tied up and covered by a silken wrap to form a ball, symbol of Iranian monarchs. The Zoroastrian god Ahura Mazda, on the right, also mounted, hands Ardashir a ring symbolizing his divine sanction for Ardashir’s rule as king. Beneath Ahura Mazda’s horse, the body of the evil god Ahriman is being trampled, while Ardashir’s enemy Artabanus, whom he had defeated to become king, is being trampled beneath Ardashir’s horse.  The relief thus proclaims Ardashir’s victory over his enemy and asserts his claim to be ruling in accordance with divine mandate. It also communicates the ultimate victory of good over evil, a central concept of Zoroastrian belief. The fact that the figure of the king is almost as large as the figure of the god suggests that the king has almost divine status, as well as divine favor. The standing figure on the left is usually interpreted as an attendant.

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