i. Modern city and šahrestān.

ii. History and archeology.

iii. Rock reliefs.



The name Dārāb refers both to a šahrestān (subprovince) of Fārs province and to the chief city of that šahrestān. The subprovince is bound on the north by the šahrestāns of Neyrīz and Eṣṭahbānāt; on the east by Saʿādatābād, a baḵš (district) of Bandar-e ʿAbbās(ī) (q.v.); on the south by the šahrestān of Lār; and on the west by the šahrestāns of Jahrom and Fasā. Its central district (baḵš-e markazī) encompasses, beside the capital, several rural subdistricts (dehestāns), including Ābšūr, Īzadḵᵛāst, Rūdbāl, Hājīābād, Ḵosūya, Rostāq, Šāhījān, Fasārūd, Fūrk, Kūhestān, Qaryat al-Ḵayr, and Hašīvār (Farhang-e joḡrāfīāʾī, p. 24).

In the northern region of the šahrestān a continuation of the Zagros mountain range runs from northwest to southeast; the land slopes gradually toward the south and southwest. The three highest peaks are, from west to east, Kūh-e Namak (2,863 m), Kūh-e Panjšāh (2,765 m), and Kūh-e Barfdān (3,025 m). Owing to these and other, scattered mountains along its borders, the šahrestān enjoys cold winters and hot, dry summers, a more moderate climate than the hot neighboring regions. In 1354 Š./1975 temperatures measured in the city of Dārāb ranged between -0.8° and 45° C respectively (Saʿīdīān, p. 538). The recorded average, however, ranges from -0.4° to 46° C, with annual precipitation of 160 mm (Farhang-e joḡrāfīāʾī, p. 26).

The region is well watered, owing to abundant seasonal precipitation and a number of permanent springs and rivers, supplemented by qanāts and wells. The largest river is the Rūdbār, which rises in the southern mountains of Neyrīz and in various parts of its course is known as Rūdbāl, Rostam, Āb-e Šūr, and Tang-e Čarḵī. It flows into the Persian Gulf near Bandar-e ʿAbbās. As the soil of Dārāb is also fertile, agriculture is the primary source of livelihood in the šahrestān. The leading agricultural products and the main exports from the region include cotton (q.v.), wheat, citrus fruits (q.v.), dates (see DATE PALM), grapes (see ANGŪR), fresh vegetables, and roses. The cotton is usually ginned locally before being exported. In fact, cotton ginning and carpet weaving are the major industrial products of Dārāb. Among other crafts of economic importance is embroidery, characterized by floral designs on white cloth.

According to the census (q.v.) of 1365 Š./1986, the population of Dārāb šahrestān was 168,692 (30,755 family units, 84,834 men, and 83,858 women), with 27.4 percent living in urban areas. Of the total population 51.2 percent were below the age of fifteen years, 46.1 percent between fifteen and sixty-four years old, and 2.7 percent sixty-five years old or older (Markaz-e āmār, pp. 1, 10). This population consists mainly of Twelver Shiʿite Muslims whose first language is Persian, though Turkic languages and Arabic are also spoken.

The city of Dārāb, located in the Rūdbār valley 270 km southeast of Shiraz, at 28°45’ N and 54°33’ E and an altitude of 1,120 m (Farhang-e joḡrāfīāʾī, p. 26), is the capital of the šahrestān. Ruins of the ancient city of Dārābgerd, capital of the district of Dārābjerd, the easternmost of five districts of Fārs under the ʿAbbasid caliphate (Le Strange, Lands, pp. 288-89; corresponding to the independent province of Šabānkāra in the Mongol period; Bartol’d, tr., pp. 152-53, 161-62), lie 8 km south of the present city (see ii, below).



V. Bartol’d (W. Barthold), “Istoriko-geograficheskiĭ obzor Irana” (A historical-geographical survey of Iran), in V. Bartol’d, Sochineniya (Collected works), Moscow, 1971, pp. 31-225; tr. S. Soucek as A Historical Geography of Iran, Princeton, N.J., 1984.

ʿA. Bayāt, Kollīyāt-e joḡrafīā-ye ṭabīʿī wa tārīḵī-e Īrān, Tehran, 1367 Š./1988, pp. 341-43.

Farhang-e joḡrāfīāʾī-e Īrān (ābādīhā) CXIII, Tehran, 1367 Š./1988, pp. 24-27.

Moḥammad-Naṣīr Forṣat Šīrāzī, Āṯār-e ʿajam, Bombay, 1354/1935, pp. 92-100.

Markaz-e āmār-e Īrān, Natāyej-e sar-šomārī-e nofūs wa maskan. Mehr māh-e 1365. Šahrestān-e Dārāb, Tehran, 1368 Š./1989.

ʿA. Saʿīdīān, Dāʾerat al-maʿāref-e sarzamīn wa mardom-e Īrān, Tehran, 1360 Š./1981, pp. 538, 574-76.




The modern town of Dārāb, the center of the Ḵamsa tribe of Fārs (Oberling, pp. 123-70), lies on a slightly elevated plateau at the foot of the northern mountains (see i, above) and is separated from the plain to the south by a low mountain ridge (Gazetteer of Iran III, pp. 183-84, 372; Gītā Šenāsī).

There is an unusual Friday mosque, possibly of the 17th century; in contrast to the typical Persian courtyard mosque, with porticos, ayvāns (q.v.), and domed sanctuary, it is freestanding with four corner towers and a rectangular prayer room surrounded by open porches (Moṣṭafawī, pp. 493-94; tr., pp. 332-34, 354-57; Pohanka, pp. 265-69). About 7 km southwest of the town, in the middle of the plain, are the remains of the ancient city of Dārābgerd/Dārābjerd (Nöldeke, p. 146), now called Qalʿa or Ḵandaq-e Daḥīa after an Islamic shrine outside the fortifications (Forṣat Šīrazī, p. 92). In medieval reports a certain Dārā, perhaps either an Achaemenid king or a local ruler, is named as founder of the city (Ṭabarī, I, p. 692; Ebn al-Balḵī, p. 55; Barbier de Meynard, p. 226; Nozhat al-qolūb, pp. 124, 138; Markwart, Provincial Capitals, p. 19; see DĀRĀ(B)). According to Ṭabarī (I, p. 815), Ardašīr Bābakān (Ardašīr I, q.v.; 224-40) was educated in Dārāb by the permission of Gōzehr, king of Eṣṭaḵr, whom Ardašīr’s father, Bābak (q.v.), later assassinated on his son’s orders. From Dārāb Ardašīr is reported to have launched his first territorial conquests. Later, however, he built the town of Ardašīr-Ḵorra (q.v.; Gūr) as his residence.

The importance of Dārāb in early Sasanian history is underscored by the nearby rock reliefs (see iii, below), as well as by a splendid mud-brick building with rich stucco decoration of the time of Šāpūr II (309-79) in the adjacent Ḥājīābād plain (Azarnoush, pp. 159-76). Some authors have suggested that the circular wall of Dārāb was the model for the circular plan of Ardašīr-Ḵorra (Schwarz, Iran, p. 94; Stein, p. 193). Ḥamza Eṣfahānī (I, p. 37; cf. Creswell, II, p. 21 n. 3), however, reported that the original layout of Dārāb was triangular and that its circular defensive wall was built in the 8th century by a governor of Fārs under Ḥajjāj b. Yūsof. Although Dārāb was eventually surpassed in size and wealth by Fasā, it remained the capital of a large district throughout most of the Middle Ages. It was particularly known for the manufacture of textiles, jasmine oil, and mineral salts of different colors. Its most famous product was mūmīā, a rare bituminous mineral oil used as a medicine; it was collected in a rock cave, whether in the city itself or in the nearby mountains, and formed the most precious part of the tribute to the governor of Fārs (Schwarz, Iran, pp. 95-97; Ouseley, pp. 117-21). The reputed unhealthy climate and bad water may have contributed to the total abandonment of Dārāb in about the 12th century or perhaps later (Ebn Ḥawqal, tr. Kramers, II, pp. 268, 273-74, 294; Nozhat al-qolūb, ed. Le Strange, p. 139; tr., p. 138).

Unlike the layout of Ardašīr-Ḵorra, that of Dārāb was not geometrically perfect; instead the course of the wall traces an irregular circle about 1,900 m in diameter. The four gates are not located on perpendicular axes, nor do the insignificant ruins within the city reveal a radial or concentric street system. At the north gate are the ruined piers of an aqueduct. The city center is a rocky outcrop with three peaks of different sizes. On the highest, at about 85 m, are the ruins of a citadel, which was enlarged and reinforced at least three times. A rock-cut passage below does not appear to be connected to it (Stein, pp. 191-94). A number of other fortresses are located on the mountains bordering the plain in the north. The most important is Qaṣr-e Šāhnešīn, or Gār-e Sīāh, northwest of Dārāb, where the ceramic finds included prehistoric sherds. Below are the ruins of a čahār-tāq, called Golābī, Pesar o Doḵtar, or Oḡlan Qiz (> misunderstood Urlangaz), the dome of which was still standing in the 19th century (Ouseley, pl. 36; Forṣat Šīrāzī, pp. 101-02 fig. 10; de Miroschedji, pp. 157-60).

The rock reliefs at Naqš-e Rostam are located on the southern precipices of the mountain ridge between modern Dārāb and the plain. In addition to the reliefs already known (see iii, below), in 1990 another small relief, measuring 65 cm high, was found when the lake was drained; on it is depicted a king facing right and stabbing a lion standing on its hind legs. Farther east is Masjed-e Sangī, also known as Qaṣr-e Doḵtar, a rock-cut mosque of cruciform plan (Fasāʾī, II, pp. 200-01; Stein, pp. 196-99; Ball, pp. 103-07; Bier, pp. 117-30). Donor inscriptions dated 652/1254-55 include a name that has been debated, most recently read as Moḥammad b. Mobārez b. Ḥasan (S. Blair in Bier, p. 117). This building, together with a water-supply system, seems to have been a pious foundation connected with the nearby ruins of Jannat Šahr. A number of other settlements, reaching back to the Neolithic period, were surveyed by Sir Mark Aurel Stein (pp. 183-200), who also dug soundings in several of them.



A. Azarnoush, “Excavations at Hajiabad, 1977.

First Preliminary Report,” Iranica Antiqua 18, 1983, pp. 159-76.

W. Ball, “Some Rock-Cut Monuments in Southern Iran,” Iran 24, 1986, pp. 95-115.

C. Barbier de Meynard, tr., Dictionnaire de la Perse, Paris, 1861.

L. Bier, “The Masjid-i Sang Near Dārāb and the Mosque of Shahr-i Īj. Rock-Cut Architecture of the Il-Khanid Period,” Iran 24, 1986, pp. 117-30.

A. Creswell, Early Muslim Architecture, 2 vols., Oxford, 1940.

E. Flandin and P. Coste, Voyage en Perse . . . Perse ancienne I, Paris, 1843, pp. 31-35, pls. 31-33.

Moḥammad-Naṣīr Forṣat Šīrāzī, Āṯār-e ʿajam, Bombay, 1354/1935.

Gītā Šenāsī, ed., Map of Islamic Republic of Iran 169, Tehran, 1363 Š./1984.

N. Meshkati, A List of the Historical Sites and Ancient Monuments of Iran,Tehran, 1353 Š./1974.

P. de Miroschedji, “Un chahār ṭāq dans la plaine de Darab,” Iran 18, 1980, pp. 157-60.

M.-T. Moṣṭafawī, Eqlīm-e Pārs, Tehran, 1343 Š./1964; tr. R. N. Sharp as The Land of Pars, Chippenham, Wilts., U.K., 1978.

T. Nöldeke, “Über iranische Ortsnamen auf -kert und anderen Endungen,” ZDMG 33, 1879, pp. 143-56.

P. Oberling, The Turcic Peoples of Southern Iran, Ph.D. diss., Columbia University, New York, 1960.

W. Ouseley, Travels in Various Countries of the East, More Particularly Persia II, London, 1821, pp. 117-56.

R. Pohanka, “Die Masdjed-e Djoume in Darab, Südiran,” Anz. der phil.-hist. Klasse der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften 121, 1984, pp. 265-69.

A. Stein, “An Archaeological Tour in the Ancient Persis,” Iraq 3, 1936, pp. 111-230.




Three rock reliefs are now known on the southern precipices of the mountain ridge between modern Dārāb and the plain; they are sited above a recently drained pool.

The best known is the Sasanian relief first recorded by Sir William Ouseley (pp. 145-48) and published by Leo Trümpelmann. It shows in the center the mounted figure of the emperor, wearing the crown of Ardašīr I (q.v.; 224-40). Behind him are rows of Sasanian courtiers; in front are two pleading figures. Under the emperor’s horse lies a defeated enemy. Balancing the rows of Sasanians are rows of “Romans” arranged in tiers. There is no universally accepted interpretation of this scene, though the dating suggested by the different hypotheses varies only about thirty years, from the late 230s to the 260s. In these hypotheses what is depicted on the relief is identified either as a little-known victory of Ardašīr in the 230s (e.g., MacDermot, p. 74; Herrmann, 1969, pp. 63-88; idem, 1989, pp. 21-22); as an early relief of Šāpūr I (240-70) before his coronation (e.g., Ghirshman, 1971, pp. 103-06; Calmeyer, pp. 93-94); as the earliest of the victory reliefs of the emperor Šāpūr I (von Gall, pp. 99-104); or as a late relief of Šāpūr I, illustrating his defeat of Valerian (e.g., among others, Hinz, 1969, pp. 148-49, 173-82).

Below this relief is a small bust first noticed by Louis Vanden Berghe, who initially identified it as that of Anāhitā (1978, p. 72; see ANĀHĪD). A. Shapur Shahbazi has suggested that it represents Narseh’s queen, Šāpūrduxtak II (1983, p. 265 n. 61).

Finally, the draining of the pool in 1369 Š./1990 revealed a third relief, showing a king stabbing a rampant lion, reported by Dietrich Huff but not yet published (see ii, above).



P. Calmeyer, “Zur Genese altiranischer Motive IV,” AMI, N.S. 9, 1976, pp. 45-95.

E. Flandin and P. Coste, Voyage en Perse . . . Perse ancienne I, Paris, 1843, esp. pp. 34-35, pl. 33.

H. von Gall, Das Reiterkampfbild in der iranischen und iranisch beeinflussten Kunst parthischer und sasanidischer Zeit, Berlin, 1990.

R. Ghirshman, Iran. Parthians and Sassanians, London, 1962, esp. pp. 160-61 fig. 206.

Idem, Bichâpour I, Paris, 1971, esp. pp. 91-106.

R. Göbl, Der Triumph des Sāsāniden Shāhpuhr über Gordian, Philippus und Valerian, Vienna, 1974; review R. Ghirshman, Artibus Asiae 37, 1975, pp. 313-18.

G. Herrmann, “The Darabgird Relief—Ardashir or Shapur? A Discussion in the Context of Early Sasanian Sculpture,” Iran 7, 1969, pp. 63-88.

Idem, The Sasanian Rock Reliefs at Naqsh-i Rustam. Naqsh-i Rustam 6. The Triumph of Shapur I, Iranische Denkmäler 13, Iranische Felsreliefs 1, Berlin, 1989, esp. pp. 18-23.

E. Herzfeld, Iran in the Ancient East, London, 1941, esp. p. 314.

W. Hinz, “Das sassanidische Felsrelief von Salmas,” Iranica Antiqua 5, 1965, pp. 156-58.

Idem, Altiranische Funde und Forschungen, Berlin, 1969, esp. pp. 145-171, pls. 75-99.

B. C. MacDermot, “Roman Emperors in the Sasanian Reliefs,” Journal of Roman Studies 44, 1954, pp. 76-80.

A. Mazaheri, Der Iran und seine Kunstschätze, Geneva, 1970, esp. pls. 139-40.

W. Ouseley, Travels in Various Countries of the East, More Particularly Persia, II, London, 1821, esp. pp. 145-48.

E. Schmidt, Persepolis III, Chicago, 1970, esp. pp. 127-28.

A. Sh. Shahbazi, “Some Remarks on the Sasanian Relief at Darabgird,” in Summaries of Papers to be Delivered at the Sixth International Congress of Iranian Art and Archaeology, Oxford, September 1972, p. 76.

Idem, “Studies in Sasanian Prosopography,” AMI 16, 1983, pp. 255-68.

D. Shepherd, “Sasanian Art,” in Camb. Hist. Iran III/2, pp. 1055-1112, esp. p. 1082.

J. M. C. Toynbee, Roman Historical Portraits, London, 1978.

L. Trümpelmann, Das sasanidische Felsrelief von Darab, Iranische Denkmäler 6, Iranische Felsreliefs B, Berlin, 1975.

L. Vanden Berghe, “La découverte d’une sculpture rupestre à Darabgird,” Iranica Antiqua 13, 1978, pp. 135-47.

Idem, Archéologie de l’Iran ancien, Leiden, 1959, esp. p. 46.

Idem, Reliefs rupestres de l’Iran ancien, Brussels, 1983.

E. de Waele, “L’investiture et le triomphe dans la thématique de la sculpture rupestre sassanide,” in L. de Meyer and E. Haerinck, eds., Archaeologia Iranica et Orientalis. Miscellanea in Honorem Louis Vanden Berghe, Ghent, 1989, pp. 811-30.


(Massoud Kheirabadi, Dietrich Huff, Georgina Herrmann)

Originally Published: December 15, 1994

Last Updated: November 15, 2011

This article is available in print.
Vol. VII, Fasc. 1 pp. 5-7