Ancient Persia: From 550 BC to 650 AD by Josef Wiesehofer

By Josef Wiesehofer

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The unique images are found on gems, cylinder and stamp seals, and less frequently as effigies on the tombs of local princes. ‘Thus it is not a question of the difference between “large” and “smallscale” art, rich and poor, court and provinces, or the like, but of unique images serving as individual distinction versus images of royal representation’ (Calmeyer). Within the latter group, the Bisutun relief also owes its particular significance to the fact that ‘its iconographic legibility and iconological position within the framework of monarchic propaganda’ (Calmeyer) is most effectively secured by the inscription.

As a bowman I am a good bowman both afoot and on horseback. As a spearman I am a good spearman both afoot and on horseback. Already at Bisutun, Darius had proclaimed his endeavours towards justice, but had at the same time made it clear that he expected unconditional loyalty from his subjects. Unlike the followers of Zarathustra, for whom ‘truth’ (OP rta) and ‘lie’ (drauga) were moral concepts according to which they tried to organize their lives, Darius indeed considered drauga as anything directed against his own god-given and dynastically legitimized reign – that is, any kind of rebellion or usurpation.

The sovereign sitting on his throne, a huge piece of furniture (Greek diphros, OP gaθu ) supported by representatives of the empire’s peoples (Plate V), is another eye-catching theme of Persepolis relief art and, like the ‘giftbearers’, symbolizes royal authority in the empire as a whole. ’ look at the sculptures [of those] who bear the throne [gaθu], then shalt thou know, then shall it become known to thee: the spear of a Persian man has gone forth far; then shall it become known to thee: a Persian man has delivered battle far indeed from Persia.

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