The Shapur Plate: From Sasanian Iran to the Freer Gallery of Art

The Sasanians: Cities & Architecture

Few Sasanian architectural monuments still stand today, and others have yet to be excavated. Structures built of mud brick have decayed over time. Those buildings that do remain speak to a grand and original architectural scheme for Sasanian cities. 

Firuzabad, the first known Sasanian city, was built by the Sasanian king Ardashir (reigned 224–241 CE). Its distinctive circular plan, the focal point of the empire, probably served a symbolic as well as a practical purpose, and it later became the model for the plan of Baghdad in the eighth century. Ctesiphon, another important capital, was built near modern Baghdad on the site of earlier Parthian and Seleucid cities. Its famous Taq-i Kisra (Arch of Khusrow) is not only the best standing example of the Sasanian monumental arch (iwan), but it is also one of the largest arches in the world.

Images of Sasanian monuments seen here are housed in the Freer and Sackler Archives, along with other resources on the archaeology of ancient Iran. Most of the images and drawings were made either by the Armenian photographer Antoin Sevruguin or by the celebrated German archaeologist Ernst Herzfeld.