Shapur I is the son of the founder of the Sassanid dynasty, Ardeshir Babakan, who became king after his father. The inscriptions describe him as a man with a beautiful and noble appearance, he had an excellent education and gave complete freedom to all religions. Shapur I is considered to be one of the greatest Sassanid kings. He chose Bishapour Kazerun as his capital. The largest statue discovered in Iran belongs to Shapur, which was found in Shapur Cave near the ancient city of Bishapour. In this statue, the king has the glory of the empire in front of him and the awesomeness and glory of war from behind. The head of the statue is completely healthy, but both hands are broken and the legs have been rebuilt. This very large statue is currently installed in front of Shapur Cave. Inspired by this Sassanid statue, the Shahriar Statue and Sculpture Workshop created the opposite statue. The height of the first Shapur statue is about 37 cm, it weighs less than one kilogram and is made of fiberglass. In this statue, the manufacturer has also reconstructed other parts of Shapur’s body that were destroyed in the main body. Sculptures can be of any gender, can be of any size, shape, complex or simple. But each of them definitely has a message for us. They can be mythical heroes whose names we have heard in stories, or they can be simple geometric shapes. They can be the body of a popular poet on a crowded city square, or even a clay bird on a ledge. The statues look like travel. A journey from everyday life to feeling and thinking, to beauty and, most importantly, to the dialogue of different civilizations, cultures and ideas. Sculptures can represent an idea, culture or civilization. A culture and thought that sometimes speaks to man from past centuries.
Identification of the statue
In the Sassanian period, the crowns’ details were subject to stringent regulations and varied from one king to another. Each Sassanian king possessed his own crown, designed at the time of his accession to power. Because of the shape of the crown (diadem, the crenellated part and korymbos) and on the basis of art historical considerations, the colossal statue can be clearly identified as Shapur I, the second Sassanian king.
Reconstruction of the crown
Shapur I is not always shown wearing a crenellated crown, but he is never represented with a crenellated crown without a korymbos. A korymbos, or globular-shaped structure, sat originally on the top of the crown of the sculpture standing in the cave. The presence of a borehole on the vertex indicates that the korymbos could not have been of stone, but consisted of metal. The korymbos of the colossal statue was originally 1.5 m high and 1 m wide. After research and experimentation at the University of Basel, it was found that a korymbos of metal of a suitable size would have weighed more than a tonne even with a very low wall thickness.
Hairstyle as an important criterion for dating the statue
Below the diadem, the hair springs thickly up. There are four rows of strands that are very clearly distinguishable from each other and lying in waves on top of each other, on both sides of the face. The wave patterns of the individual strands are almost identical, but at their tips, the heavily stylized, nearly spherical curls differ. The end of the top strand is rolled up on each side of the head like a snail. The underlying strands have differing forms of braided knots at their ends. The wavy strands billow out on each side across the shoulders with the curl of the lowest and shortest strand lying on the shoulder.
This kind of hairstyle can be only seen on those rock reliefs of Shapur I that were carved after 260 AD and is, therefore, the most important criterion for the precise dating of the colossal statue of Shapur I. Due to the details of the hairstyle, G. Reza Garosi succeeded to date the colossal statue exactly in the second half of the sixties of third century AD.
The anonymous sculptor of the colossal statue of Shapur I must be considered one of the greatest sculptors in the ancient Near East. It is certain that he succeeded in finishing the colossal statue. According to post-Sassanian reports, the sculpture, which weighed several tonnes, stood on its own feet at least until the 14th century AD. An adept sculptor was not the only master for creating this sculpture – a skilled metalsmith was also involved in this work. The metalsmith was responsible for making the korymbos of metal and had to fix it firmly onto the crown of the colossal statue. The addition of a metal korymbos was indeed an innovation and is not known from any other statue in the ancient Near East. In the Sassanian era, no other statues with similar dimensions have been discovered. Thus, the colossal statue of Shapur I must be considered as an absolute exception in the history of Sassanian sculptural art.
State of research
Although the colossal statue of Shapur I is known in Europe since at least 1811, it was not dealt detailed till recently. It was mentioned, for example, by Roman Ghirshman, Kurt Erdmann and Georgina Herrmann. The first comprehensive research about the cave and the colossal statue of Shapur I was done by G. Reza Garosi.