CROWN ii. From the Seleucids to the Islamic conquest



ii. From the Seleucids to the Islamic conquest

In 312/11 B.C.E. Alexander’s general Seleucus I took control of Iran, Mesopotamia, much of Asia Minor, and northern Syria, which remained under Seleucid rule until the mid-2nd century B.C.E. There are few surviving representations of the headgear of the Seleucid monarchs and their queens, except on coins, where they are portrayed as Greek rulers, their heads encircled by the Greek diadem: a fillet tied at the back with two ribbons. A variation with pointed solar rays, also derived from classical models, occurs on coins of Antiochus IV (175-64 B.C.E.) and Antiochus VI (145-42 B.C.E.; Sear, 1982, p. 653 nos. 6987, 6995; p. 661 nos. 7072, 7074). Queens wore a Hellenistic style of headdress, consisting of a veil with a simple diadem or a more complex stephane with projecting upper border (Le Rider, pls. II/17-19, III/28-33; Bieber, figs. 141-43, fig. 327; Sear, 1979, pp. 670 no. 7134, 668 nos. 7135, 7137).

The Parthian period (ca. 250 B.C.E.-226 C.E.)

Headdresses of male rulers. The early Parthian monarchs, as foreign invaders, chose to portray them­selves as heirs to the power of the Seleucids, adopting the Greek diadem tied at the back with ribbons (Sellwood, pp. 38 fig. 12.2, 36 fig. 11.1, 42 fig. 13.5; Wroth, pls. II, III). It continued to be worn even after the introduction of the characteristic tall miter by Mithradates II (ca. 123-88 B.C.E.; Figure 15; see below). Hubertus von Gall has traced the development of the royal fillet from simple to more complex forms in numismatic and sculptural representations (1969­-70, pp. 302-05, 301 fig. 2). Mithradates III (d. ca. 58­-53 B.C.E.) occasionally doubled the diadem and wore it with longer ribbons (Wroth, pl. XIII/2-3), and under Pacorus I (d. ca. 39 B.C.E.) and Phraates IV (ca. 40-30 B.C.E.) the diadem consisted of multiple bands wrapped around the long, square-cut Parthian hair style (Figure 16; Wroth, pl. XVIII/12, 16,17). Under Vonones I (ca. 8-11/12 C.E.) the multiple ribbons of the diadem were tied in large loops at the back (Wroth, pls. XXIV/7, XXV/5-6). Later Parthian kings wore the multiple fillet tied with short ribbons in conjunction with a curled topknot and globular bunches of hair over the ears, prefiguring Sasanian royal hairstyles (Figure 17; Wroth, pls. XXX/7-14; see below).

Both the classical single fillet and the later multiple form, which appears to have evolved among Iranians, are represented in Parthian sculpture (Ghirshman, 1962, p. 27 fig. 36; Colledge, fig. 17; von Gall, 1969-70, pp. 315 fig. 6, 304 fig. 4). The former, with an eagle in front, is depicted on the statue of Sinatruces (Sanaṭrūq) of Hatra (Ghirshman, 1962, p. 94 fig. 105). In the opinion of Denyse Homès-Fredericq the diadem was derived from the circlet crown of the Seleucids, a symbol of monarchy, and the eagle was the symbol of the principal gods of the city (p. 18, pl. V/2). A simple fillet encircling a large topknot with globes of hair over the ears also occurs on figures carved on bone plaques of the 1st and 2nd centuries C.E. from Olbia, north of the Black Sea (Ghirshman, 1962, p. 271 fig. 352; cf. female figures of late Parthian date, Perkins, p. 105, pl. 46; Colledge, p. 117 fig. 44; Ghirshman, 1972, p. 77 fig. 2).

The multiple diadem occurs on a bronze statue from the shrine of Šāmī dated ca. 50 B.C.E.-150 C.E. (Colledge, figs. 12a-b; EIr. V, p. 737 pl. LXVII); the absence of long ribbons at the back is probably an indication that the figure was merely a local chieftain or vassal of the Parthian king (Ghirshman, 1962, p. 96 fig. 107).

A second type of royal headdress, briefly popular early in the Parthian period, was the Persian kyrbasía (Ir. *kurpāsa) or bashliq (Turk. bašlïq), described by Trudy Kawami (p. 3) as a soft helmet or hood and distinguished from the so-called “Phrygian cap” in Parthian Mesopotamia and Syria. Mithradates I (ca. 171-38 B.C.E.) is portrayed on his early coins clad in a felt or leather bonnet with a floppy point. The earflaps were tied under the chin or hung loose, and the bonnet was encircled with a diadem, the ties hanging over a neck guard (Sear, 1979, p. 691 no. 7328; Colledge, pl. 38h). This headgear had already ap­peared on coins of the early rulers of the Persis, a semi-independent Parthian vassal state encompassing the ancient Achaemenid cities of Pasargadae and Persepolis, in the 2nd-1st centuries B.C.E. Probably originating as a simple nomadic headgear in the Achaemenid period (Sellwood, p. 10), this bonnet, variously identified by scholars as a satrapal headdress (Sear, 1979, p. 572) or Persian cap (Colledge, p. 105), took on a royal character when bound with the diadem. The earliest version, worn by Artaxerxes I and Autophradates I (Hill, pl. XXIX), flopped forward at the peak and was tied under the chin; under Darius (?) it had earflaps tied behind and a flattened upper surface surmounted by an eagle or crescent (Hill, pl. XXX). The rulers of Persis, however, soon abandoned the bonnet in favor of the Greek diadem (Colledge, p. 105, pl. 38e), and it was also given up by later Parthian kings.

The rulers of Persis wore a second type of royal headdress that reflected imperial aspirations. They consciously continued Achaemenid traditions, adopt­ing the names of Achaemenid monarchs and represent­ing themselves on their coins wearing the triple-stepped crenellated crown of Achaemenid kingship (Figure 18; Frye, pp. 195, 196; Sear, 1982, p. 588 no. 5935; see i, above). The stepped crenellations were larger and less numerous than those of the Achaemenid versions, but the type was clearly borrowed from such proto­types. The classical diadem that encircled the crown also recalls the Achaemenid fashion of binding the battlemented crown with a fillet of ribbons (Amiet, 1973, p. 195 fig. 575).

The most characteristic “crown” of the Arsacid rul­ers was a tall, rounded headdress, which has been called both a miter and a tiara and appears to have been derived from the preceding type with earflaps and neck guard. Warwick Wroth noted that the helmet or ceremonial tiara appeared for the first time in the late coinage (ca. 100 B.C.E.) of Mithradates II (Figure 19, Wroth, p. lxxvi, pl. VIII/1-2) in a version outlined either by rows of pearls or bands of scallops and decorated on the side with a six- or eight-pointed star. It was always encircled by the diadem (von Gall, 1969­-70, p. 302). Sellwood argues (p. 10) that this headgear was an original creation of Mithradates, and indeed it appears to have no exact parallel. He was also the first Parthian monarch to adopt the Achaemenid title “king of kings,” reflecting a tendency among Parthian rulers in the 1st century C.E. to emulate Achaemenid antecedents (Neusner, p. 46). Although Mithradates was represented on his early coinage wearing the Seleucid fillet, perhaps in order to emphasize his seizure of his predecessors’ power, his later choice of a new and distinctive headdress, suggests a claim to rule by right of ancient inheritance. A limestone head of a king from Hamadān is shown wearing the helmet (with the top broken off) with ear and neck flaps, tied with a diadem; Kawami has suggested that it may be a representation of Mithradates II (pp. 52, 240-241 figs. 4, 5, pls. 8-9).

Although the form of the miter and the use of the diadem remained constant, they underwent various other transformations, particularly in the crests and the devices on the side, at the hands of different rulers. Von Gall believes that these miters, like the crowns of the Sasanians (see below), were personalized, rather than hereditary; if a form was repeated, the color would be changed, in order to individualize it (1969­-70, pp. 299, 300). Warwick Wroth traced the horn emblem and crest of tiny stag protomes on the head­dress of Phraates III (ca. 71-57 B.C.E.) to an origin in the “east” (Central Asia?), where the stag was a sym­bol of power, and argued that the crest symbolized the king’s prowess as a hunter (p. lxxvi, pl. XI). The tall miter was then abandoned until the reigns of Vardanes (Wardān) II (ca. 55 C.E.) and Pacorus II (ca. 77-96, interrupted; Wroth, p. lxxvi, pls. XXIX/15-18, XXXI/1-4); it continued to be worn by later Arsacid kings (Wroth, pls. XXXII/1-12, XXXIV, XXVI/8-13). Vologeses II (ca. 77-79) did not wear the ear and neck flaps, but under Osroes (ca. 108-28) and Volageses III (ca. 104-47, interrupted) they were merged into a single large neck guard (Wroth, pls. XXXII/1-4, 6-14, XXXIV/1-4).

Just as the diadem binding the king’s hair had be­come more complex in the later Parthian period (see above), so the fillet adorning the miter was also elabo­rated (Wroth, pls. XXI/1, XXXII/6-12, XXXV/14-15, XXXVI/8-13). A miter decorated with an emblem and bound by a double fillet on a relief from Masjed-e Solaymān is comparable to those found in later coin portraits (Kawami, pl. 32; von Gall, 1980, p. 242 fig. 1, pl. I). Roman Ghirshman believed that the double band stood for the double kingdom of Susiana and Elymais or the combination of kingly and priestly duties; Kawami favors the latter interpretation (p. 85). It appears, however, that the double fillet was simply an elaboration of the diadem that appears on later coinage and was multiplied even further by the end of the period. As for the emblem, Kawami has argued that it was derived from the Seleucid anchor and may have referred to Parthian control, as on the coins of Elymais (p. 85). On a relief from the sanctuary at Bard­-e Nešānda (EIr. V, p. 738 pl. LXVIII) the principal figure, wearing the miter without earflaps, has been identified as an Arsacid king by virtue of the diadem ending in long, pleated ribbons (Kawami, p. 75, pl. 26). When the diadem was absent then the personage depicted was of high but not royal rank (Kawami, p. 84, pl. 30).

Petty rulers subject to the Arsacids also adopted the miter, probably as a show of loyalty. That the rulers of Elymais had adopted it by the 1st century C.E. is clear from the rock reliefs of Tang-e Sarvāk, where the local king is depicted in ritual activities (Kawami, pp. 252­-53 figs. 16-17, 93-96, pls. 39-40). In the 2nd century the Elymaean kings were depicted wearing it on their coinage (Sear, 1982, p. 583 nos. 5892, 5895, 5899), as were the rulers of Edessa (Sear, 1982, p. 565 no. 5746) and Persis (Sear, 1982, pp. 589 no. 5949, 590 nos. 5959, 5963). The kings of Characene, at the head of the Persian Gulf, did not adopt it until ca. 143 C.E. (Colledge, p. 106; Hill, pl. XLV/7, 12; see characene and charax). In the east the Kushan rulers borrowed the miter with local variations, including a diadem with long ties and decorated with emblems, which John Rosenfield has interpreted as monograms con­noting leadership, rank, or family (p. 148, pls. III/46-­57, XV).

A late dated example of the royal headdress, on a relief of Artabanus IV (ca. 213-24) handing the ring of power to Khwasak, satrap of Susa (215 C.E.; plate xvi), somewhat resembles in its flame-shaped outline and medial band the tiara worn by Artabanus IV in his coin portraits. The relief may in fact be a simplification of such depictions. The tall miter with a flame-shaped medial crest occurs on a royal statue from Hatra (Ghirshman, 1962, p. 91 fig. 102), but the ribboned diadem has been replaced by two rows of gems defin­ing a simple band above a guard that covers ears and neck (Homès-Fredericq, p. 18). The statue of Uthal, king of Hatra, wears a similar miter, though it appears narrow and almost pointed from the front (Ghirshman, 1962, p. 89 fig. 100). Homès-Fredericq (p. 47) believes the Hatran miter was made of a soft material and attributes it to a Semitic origin; the comparable Parthian headdress depicted on coins must certainly, however, have been made of a rigid fabric, reflecting its possible origins as a helmet (Homès-Fredericq, p. 18).

The most characteristic Parthian royal headdress was thus neither the classical diadem nor the Persian hood but, rather, the tall, rounded miter decorated with various crests and emblems and always bound by a fillet.

Headdresses of royal women. Parthian queens and princesses seem not to have chosen the Hellenistic stephane and veil; rather, they wore a great variety of headgear. A type of crown with battlements is de­picted on a carved marble female head found at Susa and dated to the late 1st century B.C.E. (plate xvii; Cumont, pls. I, facing p. 336, II). Its triple-stepped crenellations recall Achaemenid prototypes (see i, above), perhaps originally derived from mural crowns worn by Neo-Elamite and Assyrian queens in the 9th­-5th centuries B.C.E. (Porada, pp. 66, 234 n. 46; Azarpay, p. 109; Kawami, p. 54; Vanden Berghe, 1978, pp. 137, 138; Amiet, 1966, p. 560, pl. 427A-B; Parrot, pp. 118 fig. 133, 51, 52 fig. 60). Under the Achaemenids the crenellated crown was worn by the ruler (for representations of Darius I and his successors, see Porada, p. 159 fig. 85; Vanden Berghe, 1978, pp. 136, 137, 144 fig. 2; idem, 1983, pl. 8; von Gall, 1974, pp. 145-61, pls. 34/1-2, 35/3), though on some seals and seal rings it is worn by figures variously identified as queens or the goddess Anāhitā (q.v.; Amiet, 1973, p. 195 figs. 570, 575; Dalton, pl. XVI nos. 103-04). Louis Vanden Berghe (1978, p. 143) has argued, however, that the Achaemenid stepped crown was an innovation, related only generally to the turreted version found on Assyrian, Elamite, and classical monuments. The crown on the Susa head differs from Achaemenid models in the inclusion of a veil covering the rear half and descend­ing to the shoulders in the fashion of Hellenistic veiled diadems depicted on coins (Cumont, p. 333; Grose, pl. 364 no. 3). Franz Cumont (p. 337) identified the Susa head as that of Thea Musa, a slave girl given by the Roman emperor Augustus to the Parthian king Phraates IV; she bore him a son, Phraataces (ca. 3 B.C.E.-5 C.E.), and later became his queen. Ghirshman (1962, p. 96) and Kawami (pp. 55, 56) have accepted this identification, but Malcolm Colledge (p. 83) and Vanden Berghe (1978, p. 140) believe the head to be that of a classical Fortune or Tyche. In the Parthian period Tyche was normally represented with the clas­sical mural crown, with heavy walls and turreted towers, rather than the ancient Near Eastern stepped crenellations, and it therefore seems possible that the marble head from Susa does indeed depict a Parthian queen (Hopkins, p. 221; Ghirshman, 1962, fig. 1, facing p. 1, p. 107 fig. 123). Nevertheless, Thea Musa is depicted on coins wearing a different royal head­dress (Figure 20), a crown of three graduated tiers, each adorned with large gems, the whole encircled by a fillet secured at the back with two large loops, from which two ribbons hang over a loose chignon and down the back of the neck (Wroth, pl. XXIV/1-3). The only related depiction of a crown, though smaller and undecorated, is found on a coin of Gotarzes II (ca. 43­-51 C.E.), possibly representing his queen (Wroth, pl. XXVII/18).

Tall, conical headdresses, some tiered, are repre­sented on statues of princesses from Hatra in northern Mesopotamia, dated to the 2nd century C.E. Rather than being bound with a diadem they are draped with a long veil. Some are wide (Colledge, pl. 13b), others narrow and decorated with jewels, banded in tiers, or adorned with an image of a solar deity (Ghirshman, 1962, pp. 95 fig. 106, 93 fig. 104). Homès-Fredericq (pp. 20, 48) has described this headgear as made from horizontal bands of fabric wrapped around a tall arma­ture and decorated; she has traced it to Hittite styles (though the connection seems too distant) and related it to hats worn at Dura Europos and Palmyra. The hats portrayed at Dura, though sometimes richly ornamented, are, however, clearly not royal but worn by women of wealth (Rostovtzeff, pl. XIV, facing p. 76; Breasted, pl. XIV; cf. Segal, p. 39, pls. 1, 3). J. B. Segal believes that the taller the hat, the higher the rank of the woman (p. 39).

These distinctive Parthian hats do not seem to have had earlier parallels. They are perhaps eastern ver­sions of the tall, cylindrical Greek polos worn with or without a veil by goddesses or women participating in ritual scenes. The polos does not, however, taper toward the top or appear highly decorated (Richter, p. 171 fig. 249; Bieber, fig. 653). The influence of Hellenism can be seen in a second royal crown, from Elymais. Queen Anzaze was depicted on her husband’s coins (ca. 82-80 B.C.E.) wearing a classical stephane and diadem below a tall, elaborate chignon (Sear, 1979, p. 570 no. 6171).

Parthian queens and princesses were thus repre­sented wearing a variety of crowns and headdresses, some of which can be traced to ancient Near Eastern sources in the 9th-7th centuries B.C.E., others to the classical West. Certain royal miters and hats seem to have been of local origin and do not reflect foreign prototypes. Colledge has remarked that in representa­tions of Parthian females the head is more completely covered than in those of males (p. 132).


The Sasanian period

Crowns for rulers. It was under the Sasanian mon­archs that the crown, quintessential symbol of royal power, received its most elaborate and varied forms. Robert Göbl (p. 7) has noted that “each Sasanian king had his own crown which was designed especially for him.”

From the earliest representations it is clear that new shapes were not adopted immediately; rather, the royal headgear of the conquered enemy was at first contin­ued. Ardašīr I (226-41) chose to be depicted on his first coins, issued between 220 and his coronation in 227, wearing the tall Parthian miter outlined with pearls and decorated on the side with a variety of devices, the eight-pointed star being the most com­mon; it had ear and neck flaps and was tied with a long ribboned diadem (Lukonin, 1968, pp. 106-17 fig. 1, pl. XXII/1-3, 7). Göbl (p. 7) believes that this headgear was a copy of the tiara of Mithradates II, the great builder of the Parthian empire (see above), with whom Ardašīr wished to be linked. It appears, however, to be merely a generic copy or adaptation of the Parthian style (Lukonin, 1968, p. 114). On a rock relief at Fīrūzābād, in which a battle or joust is depicted, Ardašīr’s long hair is bound with a fillet of crimped ties and arranged in a large globe of curls (corymbus) on top of his head, another style reminiscent of Parthian male and female styles and Sasanian depictions of royal females (see below; Ghirshman, 1962, p. 126 fig. 164; cf. Göbl, pl. 1/16-17). Ardašīr next wore the Parthian miter encircled by the Achaemenid stepped crenellated crown. The miter is also found on early depictions of royal personages at Persepolis; it was not worn by succeeding Sasanian rulers but became the prerogative of queens and royal princes, as well as of high officials (Harper and Meyers, pp. 55 fig. 19, 210, pl. 9; Lukonin, 1968, p. 113; Bivar, pl. 3AD/1; Hinz, 1969, pp. 141 pl. 73, 181 pl. 106, 196 pl. 117).

Ardašīr’s most characteristic crown was battle­mented, with a simple diadem through which a globe of heavy curls was pulled; it appears on rock reliefs, where he is shown being invested with sovereignty by the supreme god, Ahura Mazdā. It was based on a skullcap with or without ear and neck flaps; the diadem terminated in long ribbons, and the corymbus was covered with thin cloth, probably silk, and bound with a short fillet (plate xviii; Hinz, 1969, pl. 56; Herrmann, 1969, pl. III, pp. 83-84, for identification of Ardašīr; for opinions that it is Šāpūr I [240-70], see Hinz, 1965, pp. 148-60, pl. XLVI; Lukonin, 1968, fig. 1, pls. XXII/6, XXIII/1). The adoption of this version signaled abandonment of Parthian symbols of royalty in favor of a truly Sasanian crown (Lukonin, 1968, fig. 1, pls. XXII/4-5, XXIII/3). Although Sasanian mon­archs evolved different forms, the particular version with mural crown and uncovered curls eventually came to be reserved for deities (Calmeyer, pp. 186-87).

The complex development of Sasanian crowns has been described fully by Kurt Erdmann (1951, p. 123 fig. 18) and Robert Göbl (see especially pp. 6-14, 42-55) and cannot be fully reviewed here. Because each king had an individual crown, royal headgear as de­picted on coins in combination with the rulers’ names has become the chief means of identifying royal repre­sentations in other Sasanian media. This method has pitfalls, as well as advantages, for some kings had more than one crown type, and later rulers tended to repeat earlier types (Harper and Meyers, p. 9).

In general the crowns of the early Sasanian monarchs were simple in form, each including a single divine attribute and bound with a long ribboned diadem and surmounted by the corymbus. Bahrām I (273-76) adopted the solar rays of Mithra (cf. rayed diadems on Greco-Roman and Seleucid coins; plate xix), Bahrām II (276-93) the eagle wings of Vərəθraγna, and Narseh (293-302) the stylized leaves of Anāhitā (Ghirshman, 1962, pp. 167-168 fig. 211; Göbl, pls. 3/40-53; Hinz, 1969, pp. 225 pl. 137, 202 pl. 123; Göbl, pls. 3/48-53, 5/73-79; see also anāhīd). Guitty Azarpay (p. 114) believes that the corymbus had a Zoroastrian significance, linked to the xᵛarnah, the royal glory bestowed on each Sasanian king at the time of his investiture. The covered globe of hair, and by extension the crown as a whole, would thus symbolize the glory and power of Persian kingship, which could be interrupted (e.g., by usurpation) but could also be symbolically rein­stated by adoption of a new crown (for a comparable explanation of multiple crown types, cf. Göbl, p. 11; although no document survives, Göbl believes that a strict law regulating crowns must have been in force).

The crown of Ardašīr’s successor, Šāpūr I (241-72), was based on the crenellated crown (briefly adopted by his father) depicted on Ahura Mazdā with the corymbus uncovered and on Anāhitā in investiture reliefs (Vanden Berghe, 1978, p. 143; Herrmann, 1969, pl. IV; Ghirshman, 1962, pp. 131 fig, 167, 176 fig. 218; Fukai and Horiuchi, pls. XIV, LXXV). On Šāpūr’s crown the large corymbus is covered, the three-stepped crenellations larger than those of the original Achaemenid prototypes. The diadem with floating pleated ribbons remained a constant element on crowns throughout the period (plate xx), in contrast to the ribboned diadem on Parthian royal miters, which was never shown flying out at the sides but always hanging straight down; in the Parthian period floating ribbons seem to have been an attribute of deities, as depicted on the rock reliefs at Tang-e Sarvāk, of the 1st-2nd centu­ries (Kawami, pls. 37-38; Ghirshman, 1962, pp. 152-­55 figs. 196-197, 161 fig. 205; Göbl, pl. 2/21-32). One aberrant crown form was a bonnet culminating in an eagle’s head holding a jewel suspended from its beak; it is believed to have referred to Šāpūr’s investiture by Anāhitā (Göbl, p. 9, pl. 2/34). Another zoomorphic headdress was described by Ammianus Marcellinus (19.1.3) as a battle helmet worn by Šāpūr II (309-79): “The king himself upon a chargeṛ . . . wearing in place of a diadem a golden image of a ram’s head set with precious stones. . . .” Very similar headdresses were worn by Bahrām II’s queen and crown princes (see below).

Some kings chose the crowns of illustrious name­sakes; for example, Šāpūr II (309-79) chose a version of the crenellated crown associated with Šāpūr I (Fukai and Horiuchi, pl. LXVI; Göbl, pl. 6/88-106), and Ardašīr II (379-83) chose the skullcap first adopted by Ardašīr I (Fukai and Horiuchi, pl. LXXIV).

Beginning in the 5th century the simpler early crowns gave way to more complex versions, with multiple symbols of gods (Göbl, pp. 8-9; Erdmann, 1951, p. 123 fig. 18) and the corymbus correspondingly diminished. By the reign of Yazdegerd II (439-51) the globe was separated from the head, cradled within a crescent and later supported by a pearl or stalk, as on the crowns of Kavād I (488-97) and Ḵosrow I (531-79; Erdmann, 1951, p. 123 fig. 18). Clearly it was no longer a cluster of curls covered by cloth but a separate element, probably of a rigid material. In depictions on metal­work it may be decorated with vertical grooves, which Prudence Harper has suggested might be related to contemporary Kushan representations, though she has also mentioned Ernst Herzfeld’s belief that it was a Sasanian battle fashion (Harper and Meyers, pp. 61-62 pl. 15, 216-17 pl. 16; Fukai and Horiuchi, pl. XXXVII). The globe was replaced by a star in the crescent on the crowns of Ḵosrow II (591-628), except in his investi­ture scene at Ṭāq-e Bostān (Figure 21; Fukai and Horiuchi, pl. VII). Hormoz V (631-32) and Yazdegerd II (632-51) adopted this form as well (Erdmann, 1951, p. 123 fig. 18; Göbl, pl. 15/230-31, 234-35).

As crowns became more complex they also became less individualized; after the reign of Pērōz (459-84) earlier crown forms were repeated and new ones rarely introduced (Harper and Meyers, pp. 66, 125) argues that the dynasty itself had become more important than a single ruler, though she notes textual evidence that crowns were still personalized through changes in color (Harper and Meyers, p. 65 n. 130). These later, elaborated crowns became so heavy that the monarchs could no longer support their weight. Ḵosrow I “used to sit in his audience-hall [at Ctesiphon] where was his crown, like a mighty bowḷ . . . set with rubies, emer­alds and pearls, with gold and silver, suspended by a chain of gold from the top of an arch in this his audience-hall, and his neck could not support the crown” (Ettinghausen, p. 28 and n. 2, citing early writers on the ”hanging crown”; Erdmann, 1951, pp. 114-17). According to later accounts, the practice was extended to any setting in which the monarch ap­peared, including his deathbed; a crown was also suspended during the birth of a royal heir. The custom of the hanging crown was adopted at the Byzantine court as well (Ettinghausen, 1972, p. 29).

The symbolically important crowns of the Sasanian monarchs were copied, adapted, and transformed by the Kushano-Sasanians (3rd-4th centuries) and the Kidarites (2nd quarter of the 4th century; Harper and Meyers, p. 43; Bivar, 1968, pls. II/2, IV/7, VIII, X).

Headdresses of royal women. Like the Parthians the Sasanians have left relatively few representations of royal women. Again, no single crown form predomi­nates as an indication of royalty. One of the earliest depictions is of the queen of Ardašīr I in the investiture scene at Naqš-e Rajab (Herrmann, 1969, pp. 63-88, pl. III); she stands at the right wearing a tall, rounded miter with ear and neck guards, bound with a diadem of long ribbons, clearly derived from the miter of the Arsacid kings. The same headgear, but with long pleated ties, is worn by Queen Šāpūrdoḵtak in the relief of Bahrain II (276-93) at Naqš-e Rostam (Herrmann, 1970, pp. 165-71, pl. VId; cf. Colledge, pl. 31b). She wears a more elaborate version on a silver-gilt cup from Sargveshi, in the Tbilisi museum (Harper and Meyers, p. 25; Lukonin, 1967, pl. 207): The ear and neck guards are covered with a stippled pattern. The image of Šāpūrdoḵtak was also carved on the relief at Sar-Mašhad, where she is depicted wearing a tall, curved hat, adorned with a vertical band (?) and bound by a fillet with long, crimped ribbons but with­out ear or neck flaps, a version of the tiara seen on Parthian reliefs and coin portraits (plate xxi; Ghirshman, 1962, pp. 173 fig. 215, 175 fig. 217; Hinz, 1969, p. 220 fig. 135; Trümpelmann, pp. 3-12, pls. 1, 6a, 7). On coin portraits with the king she wears a variety of caps, including the most characteristic tall bonnet with earflaps decorated with rosettes above a jeweled diadem (Göbl, pl. 4/57) and a sort of helmet terminating in a boar’s or griffin’s head (Göbl, pls. 4/58-59, 67-70, 5/71). The latter type appears to have been a Sasanian creation, reflecting in silhouette the forward-pointing “Phrygian cap.” It is always tied with a diadem and seems to have been also the head­dress of the royal princes, topped by a variety of animal and bird forms, undoubtedly divine attributes (Göbl, pl. 4/55-56, 58-59, 63-70; Hinz, 1969, pl. 120; Herrmann, 1970, pls. V, VId).

An alternative fashion to the tall headdress chosen by Sasanian queens was a complex hairstyle bound with the royal fillet. Georgina Herrmann has pointed out that the diadem (Mid. Pers. dydym) with ribbons was a royal prerogative, which she traces back to Alexander the Great and earlier, quoting the report by Xenophon (Cyropaedia 8.3.13) that Cyrus wore a fillet around his tiara (1969, pp. 68-69 n. 35). Queens wore this rib­boned diadem with two distinct hairstyles, which Harper has dated to the 3rd-4th centuries (1981, pp. 32, 34). On the relief at Barm-e Delak the figure of the queen has short hair, but longer tresses are pulled up on top of the head and secured by short ribbons; wide pleated ties and narrow ribbons bind a diadem around the forehead (Harper and Meyers, p. 34 fig. 9; Erdmann, 1945-50, pl. 2). A similar diadem with long ribbons binds the short hair of the queen on the Tang-e Qandīl relief; the cluster of curls on top of the head is tied with short ribbons (cf. Parthian depictions of both males and females; Hinz, 1973, pp. 201-12, pls. 46, 48; Vanden Berghe, 1980, p. 271 fig. 1). The second hairstyle consists of longer locks (Harper and Meyers, pp. 33-35). One of the earliest representations is on the seal of queen Dēnak, wife of Ardašīr I (226-41), whose diadem appears to be beaded or jeweled (Lukonin, 1967, pl. 59). Two related depictions occur on silver bowls in The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, and the Iran Bastan Museum, both dated by Harper to the last decade of the 3rd or the first decade of the 4th century (Harper and Meyers, pp. 34, 208 pl. 7; plate xxii). Although on both bowls the short ribbons and the longer ties of the diadem are pleated, the fillet ribbons on the Tehran bowl are shorter. Harper be­lieves that the shorter ribbons signify lesser rank, perhaps identifying the female figure as belonging to the wāspuhrān, those with close ties to the royal family but not true queens (Harper and Meyers, p. 39). A unique female crown is found on the coinage of Bōrān (630-31; Figure 22). As the only queen to rule in her own name, she wore a crown resembling those of late Sasanian kings, rather than the headgear of other royal female figures. It consisted of a cap with rosettes or jewels above a jeweled diadem, surmounted by a pair of wings framing a small globe in a crescent. Pendant chains of gems suspended from the diadem frame the face and hang down behind.

Other types of crown were reserved for the goddess Anāhitā, both the mural crown derived from Achaemenid prototypes (see above) and another that was vegetal in form and decoration (Harper and Meyers, p. 35 fig. 11; Harper, pp. 109 no. 42, 142 fig. 1; Vanden Berghe, 1978, pl. IV, p. 142 fig. 1; Fukai and Horiuchi, pl. XXII). The inclusion of a diadem, often jeweled, and the occasional appearance of the corymbus link these crowns with those of Sasanian queens. Dancing female figures, still not identified with certainty, are portrayed on silver vessels, each wearing a jeweled diadem below a globe of hair (Harper, 1978, p. 60 no. 18; Lukonin, 1967, pls. 183-89). If these figures are indeed depictions of Anāhitā or priestesses enacting her role, the presence of the royal and divine attributes of diadem and corymbus would be explained.



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(Elsie H. Peck)

Originally Published: December 15, 1993

Last Updated: January 1, 2000

This article is available in print.
Vol. VI, Fasc. 4, pp. 408-418