CROWN iv. Of Persian rulers from the Arab conquerors



iv. Of Persian rulers from the Arab conquerors

Despite the collapse of the Persian empire in 30/651 and the abhorrence of imperial titles and regalia in early Islamic traditions (Madelung, p. 84), Omayyad and ʿAbbasid governors, as well as the rulers of Ṭabarestān, continued to employ on their coins the iconography of the coins of the Sasanian rulers Ḵosrow II (590-628) and Yazdegerd III (632-51), thus perpetu­ating familiarity with Sasanian imperial crowns for a further two centuries (see arab-sasanian coins). On coins the Muslim caliphs and governors were usually depicted wearing turbans (Pers. dastār; Ebn Esfandīār, I, p. 283), for example, the reverse of two coins of ʿAbd-al-Malek from about 75/695 (Walker, p. 25; Miles, 1975, p. 365, pl. 25 no. 5; EIr. II, p. 226, pl. II/3, 9). Occasionally a curved cap with a pellet project­ing from the top (as on a coin of the late 7th century; Walker, p. 24, pl. XXXI/5; Miles, Camb. Hist. Iran, pl. 25/4; EIr. II, p. 226, pl. II/10) was worn. In northern and eastern Iran local dynasts continued to wear mod­est versions of the Sasanian crown. Examples include depiction of a 9th-century Sogdian king wearing a round cap adorned with wings and topped by a cres­cent, on a silver plate in the Hermitage, St. Petersburg (plate xxvi; Survey of Persian Art, pl. 218; Azarpay, pp. 171-72 fig. 61); representation of a Sogdian king, possibly Dēvāštīč (early 8th century), wearing a winged diadem around a tall hat bearing a device reminiscent of a fire altar, on a fragmentary mural from Panjīkant (Azarpay, fig. 30); another representation of a king wearing a stepped crown ornamented with a surmounting diademed globe, on a silver plate (with a Pahlavi inscription) found at Maltzeva, Perm (now in the Hermitage, St. Petersburg, Survey of Persian Art, pl. 208B; Harper, pp. 140-41 fig. 47); depiction of an enthroned Sogdian ruler wearing a low cap with wings flanking a crescent on a large stone, on a silver plate also in the Hermitage (Survey of Persian Art, pl. 208A; Bahrami, pp. 14-15 fig. g); the image of a king wearing a crown resembling that of Ḵosrow II but without the globe, on a silver plate from Qazvīn (now in the Iran Bastan Museum, Tehran; Bahrami; 1946, pp. 73-76; Harper, pp. 115-17, pl. 43); representation of a king with a low, stepped crown bearing a crescent in the center (Survey of Persian Art, pl. 230B; Erdmann, p. 104, pl. 68); and a dirham minted at Ḵᵛārazm in the name of the governor Fażl [b. Yaḥyā the Barmakid], with an image on the obverse wearing a diadem of precious stones tied with ribbons falling behind and, above it, a crown formed from a wide band, probably of metal, latticed and bordered in pearls, ca. 179/795 (plate xxvii; Miles, Camb. Hist. Iran, p. 366, pl. 26/1, facing p. 377). In addition, in literary sources there are references to the crowns (tāj) of a dynast from Gorgān in 98/716 (Ṭabarī, II, p. 1326) and of the Samanids (Ṭabarī, III, p. 2204) and to an “imperial crown” (tāj-e šāhanšāhī) sent by al-Manṣūr to Espahbad Ḵoršīd of Ṭabarestān (ca. 131/748; Ebn Esfandīār, I, p. 175). The Zaidis of Ṭabarestān wore the traditional hat of nobility (kolāh; Ebn Esfandīār, I, pp. 282-83, 293). The Ghaznavid sultan Masʿūd I (421-32/1030-41) was invested by a representative of the ʿAbbasid caliph with a crown (tāj), a necklace (ṭawq), and a sword (šamšīr; Bayhaqī, ed. Fayyāż, pp. 52-53). The Ghaznavids wore crowns under their turbans (Bayhaqī, ed. Fayyāż, pp. 423-24), but the shapes are not known.

The Daylamite Mardāvīj b. Zīār, who attempted to “restore the Persian empire” (Ṣūlī, apud Madelung, p. 86) and ordered the preparation of the ayvān of Ḵosrow at Ctesiphon (see ayvān-e kesrā) for his habitation, adopted a crown like that of Ḵosrow I Anōšīravān (531-79; Masʿūdī, Morūj IX, pp. 27-28; ed. Pellat, secs. 3599-3600), “a great crown studded with gems” (Margoliouth and Amedroz, Eclipse IV, p. 359) and “topped with the most beautiful pearls and sapphires” (Ṣūlī, apud Madelung, p. 86). He was murdered in 323/935, but his goals were partially achieved by his kinsmen, the Buyids, whose commemorative coins and medallions attest their political ideology. For example, on the reverse of a silver piece minted in Moḥammadīya (Ray) in 351/962 Rokn-al-Dawla (335­-66/947-77) is represented wearing a bejeweled diadem with a huge rosette in the center, surmounted by a globe embraced by a pair of eagle’s wings; he is identified by a Pahlavi inscription (plate xxviii; Miles, 1964). A medallion of ʿAżod-al-Dawla (338-72/949-83) bears “striking” analogies to Sasanian portraiture in both imagery and titulary (Sourdel-Thomine and Spuler, pp. 226-27 no. 203; cf. art in iran vii, p. 607a). On another medallion, known only from a cast, a ruler is shown enthroned and flanked by two attendants; his crown is low and crenellated (plate xxix; Bahrami, 1952, p. 18, pl. I.3), an early version of an ultimately Sasanian type that would become most characteristic of early Islamic rulers. The medal­lion, issued in Baghdad in 364/975, bears the names of the ʿAbbasid caliph al-Ṭāʾeʿ (363-81/974-91) and the Buyid prince ʿEzz-al-Dawla Baḵtīār (356-67/967-78). Rokn-al-Dawla and other Buyid rulers are also de­picted on “portrait” coins with crowns similar to those mentioned above (Miles, Camb. Hist. Iran, pp. 375-­76).

A small, decorated, and slightly pointed cap en­circled by a band with large stones on the front covers the head and long braids of Saljuq and Ḵᵛārazmšāh princes represented on pottery and metalwork and in miniature paintings (e.g., Survey of Persian Art, pls. 243, 516, 517, 651, 661, 667, 668, 673B, 707, 773, 1308, 1316, 1339; see iii, above). In only one instance is such a figure identified as a prince, however, a representation on the famous “Freer battle plate” of Sultan Jalāl-al-Dīn Ḵᵛārazmšāh on horseback among his magnates (all identified) in combat with the Mongols at a city gate (ca. 625/1230; plate xxx).

After the Mongol invasion. The Mongols introduced cone-shaped hats with two slits at the base, which allowed the sides to be turned up as brims of various sizes, exposing the interior fabric and color (e.g., Survey of Persian Art, p. 2239 fig. 746, pl. 851). At the same time the turban remained fashionable, as is at­tested in miniature paintings (e.g., Survey of Persian Art, pls. 843, 845, 848, 850, 851). Mongol rulers are represented fairly realistically in Chinese portraits (e.g., Morgan, pp. 58: Čengīz, 113: Ögedei, 119: Qubilai) but anachronistically in illustrated Persian manuscripts, particularly of Tārīḵ-ejahāngošā (ed. Qazvīnī, I, opposite p. 146: enthronement of Ögedei, II, opposite p. 252: enthronement of Möngke; Eqbāl, pp. 148: Ögedei and two of his sons, 156: Mögke, Qubilai, and Hülegü, 158: Tolui, 182: Hülegü; Mor­gan, pp. 164: Abaqa and his son Arḡūn, 166: Geiḵātū, 168: Ḡāzān). Heroes from the Šāh-nāma (Survey of Persian Art, pls. 827, 829, 835, 836B, 837, 838, 850) are also depicted as contemporary rulers, wearing the turban ornamented with pearled bands, a cap with an arcaded half-crown in front (originally the upturned brim), or Chinese-inspired winged headdresses (plate xxxi). Crowns were sent by Georgian kings as gifts to the Il-khanid court, and a crown said to be more magnificent than that of Abaqa was ordered by the historian Jovaynī while he was governor of Iraq (Spuler, Mongolen 3, pp. 367, 348). A Turkic hat with extended brims surmounted by a pearled and feathered apex is worn by Tīmūr in a painting from Samarqand (ca. 808-12/1405-09; Lentz and Lowry, p. 102 fig. 37; cf. the posthumous portrait of Tīmūr from a Zafar-­nāma manuscript illustrated in Shiraz in 839/1439; Lentz and Lowry, p. 105 no. 30). Oloḡ Beg, son of Šāhroḵ, is shown wearing a similar crown in a painting from Samarqand (early 15th century; Lentz and Lowry, p. 90 fig. 33). Bāysonḡor is depicted in a copy of Kalīla wa Demna made in Herat in 833/1429 (Lentz and Lowry, pp. 67, 111 no. 21) with the “arcaded” crown surmounted by a heart-shaped apex. On the other hand, from the beginning of the 16th century there is a portrait of “Solṭān-Ḥosayn Mīrzā,” perhaps intended as a representation of Solṭān-Ḥosayn Bāyqarā in his earlier role as crown prince (Lentz and Lowry, p. 243 no. 136; see EIr. V, p. 783 pl. XCVII), wearing a turban wrapped around a low cap adorned with feath­ers. This type of headgear had already been fashion­able for court officials in the 15th century; the caps were often red (Lentz and Lowry, pp. 61 no. 5.17, 110­-11 no. 21, 105 no. 30, 250, 283 no. 140, 264, 266 no. 147; Survey of Persian Art, pl. 851).

From the early Safavids to the Qajars. During the struggle for political and ideological supremacy in Persia Solṭān-Ḥaydar and later his son Shah Esmāʿīl I (907-30/1501-24) endowed the red felt cap with a new significance: The opening was narrowed to fit snugly around the forehead and the tip (gol “flower”; for a naturalistic form of the gol, see Survey of Persian Art, pl. 902) elongated into a “bottleneck”; the inside was often reinforced with metal (to serve as a helmet); twelve vertical gores (tark), symbolizing devotion to the twelve Shiʿite imams, encircled the hat; and a white turban of silk or wool was then wrapped around it in twelve bands. This entire headgear was called tāj, and only the military followers of the early Safavids were entitled to wear it; they were accordingly called Qezelbāš (lit., “red heads”). Various ornaments such as plumes and feathers were added to the tāj, as befitted the wearer’s position (for details, see Falsafī, 1332 Š./1953, I, pp. 159-60, 209-12). From the Safavid period on, the portraits of Persian kings were painted by contemporary Persian, Indian, and European art­ists. The Safavid shahs wore the Qezelbāš tāj, often with elaborate ornaments (for contemporary portraits of Shah Esmāʿīl and Shah Ṭahmāsb [930-84/1524-76] painted by Cristofano dell’Altissimo before 1568 and now in the Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence, see Falsafī, Čand-maqāla, facing pp. 40, 16 respectively). Shah ʿAbbās I (996-1038/1588-1629) wore (usually back to front!) a simple white turban on private occasions but either a green tāj or a boat-like hat with heavy feather ornamentation on official and festive days (plate xxxii; cf. Falsafī, 1332 Š./1953, II, facing pp. 16, 17, 136, 264, III, facing pp. 2, 80, 136, 168, IV, facing pp. 1, 88, 96, 136; for a portrait of Ṣafī I [1038-52/1629-­42] wearing a bejeweled turban, see Falsafī, Čand maqāla II, facing p. 216; for one of Shah ʿAbbās II [1052-77/1642-661 with the Qezelbāš tāj, see II, fac­ing p. 308).

Before ascending the throne Nāder Shah (1148-60/1736-47) wore a silk turban around a tall hat, which tapered slightly and was pleated in such a way that four triangular tips projected (Falsafī, Čand-maqāla, fac­ing p. 160). After his conquest of Delhi he wore it encrusted with rows of pearls and large stones (Falsafī, Čand-maqāla, facing p. 184; Robinson, p. 225 [pl. 3/19). Karīm Khan Zand (1163-93/1750-79) and his successors wore a turban (called šāl) adorned with jewels around a tall kolāh (Diba, p. 247 fig. 5).



G. Azarpay, Sogdian Painting. The Pictorial Epic in Oriental Art, Berkeley, 1981.

M. Bahrami, “Some Objects Recently Discovered in Iran,” Bulletin of the Iranian Institute 6-7, 1946, pp. 71-77.

Idem, “A Gold Medal in the Freer Gallery of Art,” in Archaeologica Orientalia in Memoriam Ernst Herzfeld, Locust Valley, N.Y., 1952, pp. 5-20.

L. Diba, “Lacquerwork,” in R. W. Ferrier, ed., The Arts of Persia, New Haven, Conn., 1989, pp. 243-53.

ʿA. Eqbāl, Tārīḵ-emofaṣṣal-e Īrān az estīlā-ye Moḡol tā eʿlān-e mašrūṭīyat I. Az ḥamla-ye Čengīz tā taškīl-e dawlat-e tīmūrī, 2nd ed. Tehran, 1341 Š./1962.

K. Erdmann, Die Kunst Irans zur Zeit der Sasaniden, Berlin, 1943.

Naṣr-Allāh Falsafī, Čand-maqāla-ye tārīḵī adabī, Tehran, 1342 Š./1963.

Idem, Zendagānī-­e Šāh ʿAbbās-e awwal, 4 vols., Tehran 1332-53 Š./1953-74.

R. Ghirshman, Persian Art. The Parthian and Sassanian Dynasties, 249 B.C.-A.D. 651, New York, 1962.

H. Goetz, “The History of Persian Costume,” Survey of Persian Art V, pp. 2227-56.

P. O. Harper, Silver Vessels of the Sasanian period I. Royal Imagery, New York, 1981.

T. W. Lentz and G. D. Lowry, Timur and the Princely Vision. Persian Art and Culture in the Fifteenth Century, Washing­ton, D.C., 1989.

W. Madelung, “The Assumption of the Title Shahanshah by the Buyids,” JNES 28, 1969, pp. 84-108.

G. Miles, “A Portrait of the Buyid Prince Rukn al-Dawla,” ANSMN 11, 1964, pp. 283-93.

Idem, “Numismatics,” in Camb. Hist. Iran IV, pp. 367-77.

D. Morgan, The Mongols, Somerset, Eng., 1986.

B. W. Robinson, “Painting in the Post-Safavid Period,” in R. W. Ferrier, ed., The Arts of Persia, New Haven, Conn., 1989, pp. 225-31.

M. Rogers, “Ce­ramics,” in R. W. Ferrier, ed., The Arts of Persia, New Haven, Conn., 1989, pp. 255-70.

J. Walker, A Catalogue of the Muhammadan Coins in the British Museum I. A Catalogue of the Arab-Sassanian Coins, London, 1941.

(A. Shapur Shahbazi)

Originally Published: December 15, 1993

Last Updated: November 2, 2011

This article is available in print.
Vol. VI, Fasc. 4, pp. 421-425

Cite this entry:

A. Shapur Shahbazi, “CROWN iv. Of Persian rulers from the Arab conquerors,” Encyclopaedia Iranica, VI/4, pp. 421-425, available online at (accessed on 30 December 2012).