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

The Sasanians: The Sasanian Empire

Shortly after the death of Alexander of Macedonia in 323 BCE, who had conquered Iran in 331 BCE, the country came under the control of the Seleucids and then the Parthians. In 224 CE, Ardashir, a regional prince from the house of Sassan, overthrew the Parthians and founded the Sasanian dynasty. The Sasanians ruled Iran from 224 CE until the Arab conquests in the seventh century.

At its height, the Sasanian Empire controlled a territory that extended from Egypt to Central Asia, and for many years it was the most forbidding rival of the Roman Empire. They consolidated Iran under one bureaucratic system and ruled the vast territory from many regional capitals, including Ctesiphon (near modern Baghdad), Firuzabad, and Bishapur in southern Iran. The official religion of the Sasanians was Zoroastrianism, a belief rooted in the moral and cosmic dualism of order and chaos. Followers of Christianity, Judaism, and Buddhism were allowed relative freedom.

Image of Sasanian MapImage of Sasanian NaqshImage of Sasanian inscriptionImage of Sasanian self portraitImage of Sasanian coin