THE ART OF IRAN PREISLAMIC
THE ART OF ACHEMENIDE PERIOD
The Achaemenids were a dynasty of Persian kings. The Persians (Parsi) were an Aryan population in fact related to the Medes. They were divided into three groups:
1) the Parsua, established west of Lake Orumiyeh, who lived alongside the Mannei. After the rise to power of the Medes and the establishment of their empire, which also included the Mannei, the Parsua accepted the authority of the sovereign medus;
2) the second group lived in the area east of the territory of Susa, and lived in unity with the Elamites. Their capital was Anshan and during the heyday of Elam - early centuries of the first millennium - with the elamites they had a common government. This group was called Parsumash;
3) the Persians, or Parsi, who inhabited the present Fars, or rather the areas of Marvdasht and Estakhr.
What some believe, that the Parsumash and the Parses are the same Parsua established west of Lake Orumiyeh, migrated south, seems unreasonable. In fact, in the first place there is no document able to confirm it, and secondly, a migration to the south would have required serious motivation. The Parsua occupied a territory, the one to the west of the aforesaid lake, green and fertile, and the search for new lands was out of the question. On the other hand, if the purpose was to approach their cousins Parsumash in Anshan, they would have to cross the territories of the Medes, Lullubis and Elam, and all this effort only to approach the Parsumash is rather unlikely. The three groups of Persians, probably, after the birth of the Middle Kingdom or just as the Medes were establishing themselves, colonized different parts of Iran; the Medes, being numerically more consistent, were the first to form a strong and extensive state.
The Parsumash joined the Elamites at Anshan, and at the end of the second millennium accepted the Elamite domain; between 1.300 and 1.100 Untash-Gal and his successors proclaimed themselves king of Anshan and Susa. When the Medes occupied central, western and northern Iran, subduing Mannei and Parsua, the Parsumash constituted a small local power in Anshan and around the 700 Almanas or Achemene founded the Achaemenid dynasty in the city. After him, Teispe inherited the throne, reigning from the 675 to the 640. It was he who conquered the land of the Parseans, or Parsea, and towards the end of his kingdom he divided the territories under his authority among his sons. The territory of the Parsumash was assigned to the eldest son Cyrus I, whom he called "the great king"; Parsea was assigned to the younger son, Ariaramne, whom his father called "great king, king of kings, king of Parsea". Cyrus, who was closer to Elam and Mesopotamia, in order to protect himself from any Assyrian invasions, sent his eldest son to Nineveh, near Assurbanipal, to assure him that the Elam would not be attacked. At the beginning Ariaramne made good progress, but his son Arsam was not able to govern as well. Cyrus I, when the Medes were in power, had a friendly attitude, trying to unite the Persians and the Parsumash. His son Cambys I, even if he considered himself independent, acted in such a way that the Medes considered him their longa manus. For this reason, after Ariaramne and because of Arsam's weakness, Astiage, king of the Medes, also assigned the Parsea to the control of Cambyses, offering him his daughter Mandane in marriage; from their union was born Cyrus II, who will be known as Cyrus the Great.
In the beginning, Cyrus pledged himself to respect the authority of Astiage, but within himself he cultivated the aspiration to seize the crown and the throne of the Medes. First of all, he made all the Iranian peoples hold a pact of loyalty, while accepting the proposal of union that came from the Babylonian sovereign Nabunaid (Nabonidus). Nabonidus, now safe from Cyrus, put together an army and in the year 553 attacked Harran, putting an end to the domination of the city. Astiage, frightened by the rise to power of Cyrus, sent him against an army led by Arpago, who however joined the army of Cyrus with many of his men. Astiage was thus forced to put together an army led by him in person, but Ciro suddenly attacked Ecbatana, conquering it and taking Astiage prisoner. All the territories dominated by the Medes ended up in the hands of Cyrus. After bending the Medes, Babylon, Lydia, Pasargade, Cyrus also conquered Sardinians. His son Cambyses II went as far as Egypt. In the period of Darius I the Achaemenid kingdom reached as far as Greece in the west, Armenia and Asia Minor in the north, and as far as Sind in the east, that is, the greatest empire of the ancient world, which in spite of the great multiplicity of languages, religions, customs and traditions, lasted for more than two hundred years.
In this era, the history of Iranian art changes profoundly, which does not mean that a new art was born. What has reached us, relative to a period of two centuries, is such that we can easily interpret it and comment on it. This is especially true of architecture, in which the other Iranian peoples have not left us much. Pasargade and Persepolis are excellent examples of Achaemenid architecture, which thanks to the variety and quantity of works, illustrate well the knowledge and expertise of the architects of the period.
In Pasargade there are not many works that remember a city, apart from a half-destroyed or incomplete tower and a rather small watchtower. The buildings are separated from each other. One of them is a residential building, another is a courtroom; they were probably connected by a tree-lined avenue or a garden along which a stone channel passed. Of the rest of the city, which had to necessarily surround these buildings, there was nothing left standing. It is about:
1) the remains of a fortress, which was perhaps the fortress of the city;
2) a doorway and a rectangular 22 meter building for 26,56, which has a single room with two rows of four columns, the main doors opening on two sides, guarded by two huge oxen, whose fragments are scattered nearby. On the larger side is the representation of a man with four wings and a particular hat with three jug shapes in the middle, above which there was an inscription that has now disappeared. The text of the inscription read: "I, Cyrus, king, king achemenide, I built this";
3) a bridge, west of the gate, erected above the canal. The carriageway, which was made of wood, was supported by five rows of three columns;
4) the so-called Palace of the Hearing, located at 200 meters north-west of the court, 32,25 for 22,14 meters, which includes two rows of 4 tall columns 13,44 meters, in white limestone, above white and black rectangular pedestals . The capitals of the columns are in the form of half a lion, felines with horns, bulls and horses. The doors at the center of the two parts have large bas-reliefs with inscriptions in Syriac: on the eastern side there is a half-fish and a minotaur, in the western part a man and a demon with bird's feet. The doors opened on two porticoes of the height of 5,10 meters: the southern portico is comprised of two towers at the two corners, which were probably the place where they climbed the stairs. This porch, which measured 53 meters in length was connected to the outer space;
5) the garden pavilion, or the guardhouse, a paved room the size of 10,15 meters for 11,7, with two porticos with rows of columns on either side, near which a treasure of gold and silver was found;
6) the residential building, erected on the vertical of the audience halls, from the surface of 42 for 73 meters. The central hall measures 32 for 23,5 meters and includes five rows of 6 columns. The columns are of white limestone, resting on black and white rectangular pedestals and are lower than those in the audience hall. Each larger side had a door that was not in the center, and was decorated with bas-relief images on black stone: the king in a pleated dress, followed by the prince behind him, who enters the hall. On his dress there is an inscription: "Cyrus the Great, king of the Achaemenids". It is possible that these drawings were made in the age of Darius. The northern portico has two rows of 12 columns, with two towers in the two corners. The southern portico is long 73 meters and wide 9,35 and had 2 rows of 20 wooden columns covered with multicolored stucco. A pillar houses an inscription in three languages: "I, Cyrus, am the king of the Achaemenids". This building is the only building that has the stones cut with toothed tools with a technique coming from the Ionia, and this indicates that its construction is closer to us than the rest of the palaces of Pasargade, as it should have been erected towards the end of kingdom of Cyrus;
7) the tower that is known as the "Prison of Solomon" stands at 250 meters from the residential building, in a brick fortress in raw earth. Only a wall remains of the tower, similar to the walls of the Naqsh-e Rostam tower. It was 14 meters high, the lower part was full and had only one room, at the height of 7 meters, which was reached by means of a staircase of 29 steps carved into it. It seems that the building was a tomb or a temple, in fact there is no stairway leading to the roof, where usually the rituals of fire were performed;
8) Ciro's tomb is in an isolated position, south of the building, and includes a base five and a half meters high; it's 6's floors, and a room of about 5 meters for six opens up at the base. Inside there is the real tomb, a small room of 3 meters for two, with a double-slanted ceiling reminiscent of the Doric cornices. The outdoor plinth is decorated with small flowers and other motifs and has been made under two small unreachable rooms.
What we have briefly said about Pasargade is far from covering everything that was once there. Normally Iranians have always had little attention to the past, and it is likely that in later periods, particularly in the Islamic era, rural populations used the site as a stone quarry for their construction. Instead, Cyrus the Great had chosen this place as a residence, electing him to eternal capital. And it was he who built the great stone platform of Persepolis, which rises on the mountain of Rahmat. For reasons that André Godard explained, it is not possible that it was Dario, with all the political and military commitments he had, to build this great platform in a few decades, together with his personal palace in Pasargade. For this reason, the Persepolis base must have been erected in the age of Cyrus, to be completed under Darius. The platform has the western, eastern and southern sides of 455, 300 and 290 meters respectively, while the height of the southern side is 18 meters. The archaeologist Ernst Herzfeld has discovered, in a tower in the northern part of Persepolis, 30.000 tablets with engravings in the Elamite language and official documents of the reign of Darius, which unfortunately do not know what happened to them. Persepolis is a very rich and interesting example of the splendor of Achaemenid architecture, and is the product of the experience accumulated by skilled Iranian architects in the construction of the palaces of Pasargade and Susa. To access the large platform there is only a two-way staircase, located to the north on the west side, which leads the visitor to admire a majestic stone portal, the "Door of Nations". This portal was started by Dario and completed by Xerxes. The building has three doors: the western door, open on the stairway, the eastern door, which gives access to a long avenue that continues eastward, and the southern door, which overlooks the courtyard of the Apadana. The architrave of the portal was supported by four columns, taller today more than 14 meters and that had to be originally high at least 16. The eastern and western passage of the portal was "guarded" by statues of anthropomorphic winged bulls. The bulls, inspired by the Assyrian art, differ from the Assyrian bulls in the fact that they have one leg in less, four instead of five.
In the center stands the northwest façade of the great Abadana palace, as in Susa. This palace stands on a high 2,60 meters base, and each side measures almost 112 meters; the facades to the north and west have two staircases each, with decorations carved in low relief. Going beyond the stairs, you reach a portal, and from here you enter a hall. The Apadana to the north, west and east has large vaulted aisle portals with 12 tall columns, similar to the columns of the building itself. On the southern side there are deposits and secondary rooms. The Sala dell'Apadana, which without counting the apsidal portals is a square with a side of 60 meters and a half, houses 36 tall columns, which supported a ceiling of more than 20 meters in height. It is probable that the northern staircase was used to enter the hall, while the eastern one entered the council hall, the Tripylon. At the center of each façade of the palace is the image of Xerxes seated on the throne, with his son standing next to him, and a notable mediator chosen from among a group of others. Above him there is a winged achemenide disk. On both sides of the entrance there is a lion attacking a cow; it does not seem that the image symbolizes something, but seems to have only an ornamental function. The official medo probably represents all the peoples called to the presence of Xerxes, and present by the two parts of the scene (Fig. 11). On the one hand there is a Persian guardian of the immortal army, then a royal carriage, Middle and Persian officers; on the other side, 23 representatives of the peoples ruled by the Achaemenid empire, in their national clothes, led one at a time to court by court attendants. After the death of Xerxes, the central relief image of each part was removed, and deposited in the treasure, replaced by the image of the soldiers of the immortal army, facing each other. The building erected on this platform was a rectangular brick building that, as mentioned, rested on four towers placed at each corner. The apsidal portals located to the north, west and east of the Apadana are delimited and separated by these towers.
The columns of the portals, which reach 19 meters, have capitals of different shapes. Those in the west are in the shape of a bull, those in the east in the shape of a horned lion and those in the north are similar to those of the Apadana.
The excavations revealed a deposit of documents from the Palazzo di Dario with trilingual tablets, ancient Persian, elamitic and Babylonian, in gold and silver. Alongside the tablets, coins from Lydia from Creso, from Aegina, from Abdera and from Cyprus were kept. However, there are no traces of Dario coins. The council room is a small room that is located at a distance from the public and internal Persepolis, in the southeast corner of the Abadana, and stands on a base that has a double staircase; it was built to house the assembly and was a crossing point between the two main parts of the site. The hall has four columns and two doors open onto two iwan columns supported by two columns. The images next to the doors represent Dario in the act of going out, followed by his son and also presents a transverse door that shows Ardashir while the representatives of the peoples bring his son.
Darius built a small building in the southern part of the Abadana, which he himself called Tochara (or Tochariyeh), along with other buildings that were later completed by Xerxes. A secondary façade and a stairway were added by order; also this building lies on a platform, and in its southern part it houses an entrance portico delimited by towers. Therefore, the main hall is bounded by 16 columns and two boardrooms, symmetrically closed by the two parts from closets; the door decorations show scenes from the king's private life, with servants carrying cloths and perfume bottles. There are other buildings, unfortunately very damaged, erected by the successors of Dario in this part of the site. Darius had a series of palaces erected to the east, which were repeatedly modified, enlarged and eventually used as royal treasury. According to the Mesopotamian tradition, the treasury was a hypostyle building that stood around a central courtyard, devoid of embellishments on the external facades. From the only courtyard in this section, you can access, through four portals, some independent rooms and two groups of large rooms, separated by a corridor. These rooms were separated from the perimeter wall by some small rooms used as a storeroom and probably equipped with tall windows facing the outside.
The base of this building measured 62 meters for more than 120 and to the north led to another complex, which included a courtyard with iwan and a large hall with 121 columns. In the courtyard there are two large bas-reliefs that sum up the sculpted scenes of the Abadana. Xerxes added a large room to the northern part of the complex and separated this part from the western wing, with the aim of replacing it with a palace, commonly known as "harem", with numerous rooms.
The northeastern area of the royal fortress became from Xerxes onwards an independent complex, isolated from the rest by a wall. It was directly accessible from the "Door of Nations" and from the north-eastern road. From this last entrance, one entered through a wide portal with a staircase, similar to one in Susa, and embellished with two richly decorated statues by Dario. We then entered a courtyard, at the end of which stood a large pavilion with a hundred columns, brought to completion (464-425 to C.) by Artaxerxes I. The portico that bounded the hall was long 56 meters, and was supported by majestic bulls. The great hall, as perhaps the treasury, was illuminated by windows open up along the walls. The thresholds of the entrance doors are decorated with images of Persian heroes dragging demons and with the image of the king as he accompanies the Medi and Persian soldiers.
In the decorations of Persepolis there are no military or war images, as the buildings on the east side of the complex, which lean on the mountain, were not deposits of weapons or stables for horses or royal wagons. These buildings, with their apsidal portals, were appurtenances of the palace of Darius, transformed into treasuries, and had to have residential spaces. A small building and a building that had to be used only temporarily, arise to the north of the complex.
Some royal palaces and some service buildings for the court and for the soldiers were found on the plain south of the platform. The excavations at Persepolis are still incomplete and more knowledge on this site may derive from future discoveries.
Darius the great made of Susa his capital, and he built an Apadana north of the fortress, that is, in the center of the city. The building stands on a hill that had previously housed some buildings. The entrance to the building was located in the eastern part, in the place where once stood a huge portal with separate internal stairs. On the two sides, along the road that leads from the portal to the Aptana, there were some large stone statues. One of them, representing Darius, had been brought from Egypt. The entrance to the building opened onto a courtyard of 54 meters for 52; to the south were large rooms and to the north a hypostyle hall. In this section, the walls are decorated with enamelled lions and appear to be limited by two obelisks. The inner courtyard is 36 meters for 35,5 and leads south to a warehouse complex. The western courtyard is bordered by two pavilions, each consisting of two rows of rooms or passages, leading to the king's interior rooms and which were surrounded by two 33 meters 9 meters one after the other. A stone table, hanging on the wall at the back of the room, had inscriptions engraved in Babylonian and Elamite explaining the reasons for the construction of the building. On the wall there was a door that overlooked a minor room. The rooms to the north of the building were built one after the other and since the relationship with the other parts is different, it was thought that they were built at the time of Artaxerxes II. This part includes a house with two rooms and a hypostyle hall. To the west there are two houses not dissimilar from the Elamite temples.
To the north there is a large hypostyle hall similar to that of Persepolis, in which there is an inscription that tells how Artaxerxes II rebuilt the Apadana after it was destroyed by fire. The interior hall had 36 columns resting on square pedestals. On the three sides of the room there were three porticoes supported by 12 columns. Altogether it measured 112 meters (like the Apadana of Persepolis). The palace was destroyed at the time of the rebellion of Molon, satrap of Susa, in the 220. Roland de Mecquenem discovered another palace in Susa that was reused in the Parthian period. The third palace was built by Artaxerxes II in the plain, to the west of the fortress, and had a room of 34,5 meters for 37 whose ceiling was supported by 64 wooden columns resting on stone pedestals. On three sides there were three unequal porticoes, not corresponding to one another, leaning against the rooms and the royal houses.
In the western part, in this same period the so-called "city of artists" began to operate. Here Ghirshman unearthed the layered remains of a Persian village. In the art of stone sculpture and statuary and relief, the influence of Elamite is evident and preponderant, perhaps because the ancestors of the Achaemenids, before the Medes were the Elamites, On the other hand, many of the Achaemenid names are of Elamite origin. like Ciro, for example, that in Kuram was pronounced in Elam. There is no doubt that the Elamites accepted the Parsi and the Parsumash among them and peacefully coexisted with them. This circumstance led to the development of mutual influence. The Elamites borrowed the hair from the Persians, and the Persians took clothing from them.
Another purely Iranian characteristic was the impulse towards perfection, obviously relative, impressed on the art. The best examples of Persepolis reliefs approach almost to the limit of sculpture, thanks to the improvement of proportions, measurements and aesthetics. From this moment on, one can speak of an Iranian aesthetic. The fact that Greek sculptors from Ionia were employed or that those who worked silver were Egyptian, and the Babylonian brick makers, is attested in the inscriptions of Darius. However, artists and artisans worked under the careful Iranian aesthetic supervision. The Achaemenid enameled bricks of Susa were made in imitation of those of the Elam, with the difference that these were smooth, while the Achaemenid bricks were in relief and decorated with refined designs. Although their refinement was greater than that of the Elamite bricks, it was still smaller than that of the Achaemenid bas-reliefs of Susa. The reason is known: the bricks were obtained in the mold and this procedure did not allow the design to impress perfectly on them. The colors of the enamel were the same as those of the Elam: blue, yellow, green and black.
We have no "independent" statue of the Achaemenid era, and this indicates that they were followers of the religion of Zarathustra, because for Zoroastrian beliefs if a statue, once carved, is separated from its origin, at the time of resurrection (rastakhiz) to receive a soul. This is why the relief sculpture never went beyond the limit, detaching itself from the original stone. The only work that was probably conceived and performed independently is the statue of a young prince whose only head was found. It is even possible that the body never existed, and in this case the artist would not have been obliged to give the soul to the statue during the time of the resurrection. The small head measures 6 x 6,5 cm. and it is made of blue stone, and its invoice, from the hairstyle to the crenellated hat, up to the prominent nose, is characteristic of the Parsi.
In the field of minor arts, the Achaemenids produced a great quantity of zoomorphic statues, many of them metallic, according to a tradition spread throughout Iran from Luristan. The aesthetics and style of these works are extremely interesting, much more intriguing than those of human images. They are devoid of any individuality, characteristic that is typical of all the ancient art of Western Asia, and in particular of the Achaemenid period. One of the most ancient subjects of the art of this area is the roaring lion, with the paw open, ready to jump on the prey. In the Achaemenid art the animals are represented as immortal creatures with an imposing, strong and choleric appearance. It is probable that this way of representing them derives from the Assyrian art, but the exaggerated expressiveness of the features of the face of the animals has created a singular synthesis between the relief shapes and the lines: the muscles of the cheeks are similar to date palm leaves. stretches on the face; the folds on the nose are emphasized by raised lines, with deeply engraved curves. Eyes and ears are almost always sketched, while the wings are composed of perfect curls, arranged in neat and wavy rows. The shoulder muscles, slightly asymmetric, are stylized in the form of eight, a typical representation of the Achaemenids especially in the case of lions, bulls and eagles (Fig. 12).
Achaemenid metallurgy consists mainly of gold and silver. At the Metropolitan Museum there is a golden container for libations, probably belonging to a king. It is a tall cup, the lower part of which is formed by the protome of a lion (Fig. 13). The structure of the lion corresponds exactly in its various parts to the stone lion described above (which is very heavy). The stone lion comes from Susa and this instead from Persepolis, and this resemblance demonstrates how the Achaemenid art was homogeneous throughout Iran. The cup is empty inside, with the exception of a lamella placed at the height of the animal's neck, which forms its bottom. The cup is not made up of a single piece, but rather of several juxtaposed components, whose junction points, however, are difficult to identify. The upper part of the cup is decorated with 44 concentric circles, having a thickness of about sixteen hundredths of a millimeter and arranged at a distance of one and a half centimeters. For the entire cup must have been used 4.080 cm. of thread, in addition to that used for decorative lines.
A sharp golden dagger, belonging to a royal trousseau, was found in Ecbatana. It must have been fashioned on an elamite model, given that Anekrib, an Assyrian king, wrote that "the Elamites use to wear gold daggers at their girdles"; the gold used is about 20 carats. The blade of the dagger, even if reinforced by vertical lines in relief, is so fine that it could not really be used, therefore it had a purely ornamental purpose. The blade has traces of an impact with a hard object, like a shovel; the handle is hollow and ends with two heads of a lion, while the other end, the one that joins with the blade, has the shape of a lion's paw. The expression of the lion's face is the same as the lion of the cup and of the statuette, presented above.
We have other examples of metal animals, especially chamois, used as handles of various containers. Chamois, which usually appear in pairs, on either side of the vessel, probably constitute a formal evolution of the ancient decoration of the goats on one side and the other of a tree. Some of these chamois are winged, while others are extremely stylized; all, in any case, are represented in an almost identical position, another sign of the homogeneity of Achaemenian art. The design of these animals is very refined and the detailed description of all parts, face, paws and body, would lead the discussion too far. With the exception of some specimens, there is a mane and segments horns. The body of the cups is normally decorated with vertical turns and the back, that is the part where the legs of the animal are welded to the cup, is adorned with rows of embossed roses and buds.
Among the other metal artifacts it is worth mentioning the Jihun treasure bracelet, one of the most beautiful specimens of the Achaemenid art, as well as one of the treasure items, along with another bracelet of the same form, best preserved. The armband tube, curved in the middle, is completely full except at the ends (Fig. 14). These are lions-eagle-shaped, with wings and horns. The torso and wings are three-dimensional, while the tail and legs are shaped in relief on the surface of the bracelet. The horns have enlarged cup-shaped ends, while the remaining body of the animal is engraved and used as a refined gemstone setting; the only stone found is a fragment of lapis lazuli inside the wings. Large holes are also present on the thighs and on the body of the animals. These cavities have completely abstract forms. On the front legs are represented water lilies, typical feature of the art of this period. The assembly of lapis lazuli on the gold bracelet is significant in the developed and intellectualizing sense of the Achaemenids. Bracelets and gold necklaces were also found in a royal tomb in Susa. Like the precedents, even these jewels have the terminal part decorated by lions, whose ears, unlike those of the lions of Jihun, are turned upwards, while the heads are slightly shorter. It seems that the lion, in different positions, is the most widespread ornamental motif in Achaemenian jewelry. A lion with a twisted gold thread inside appears in a decoration embroidered for a dress. The lion, caught in the act of roaring as in all the other examples, has the head turned backwards and the muscles of the neck and thighs very contracted. The tail has the shape of a twisted whip, and the wings are arranged upward and curved towards the lion's body. The artist has placed particular attention in decorating the space between the wire circle and the different parts of the animal's body, and this shows that the decoration was intended for a dark suit, most likely blue or turquoise.
Achaemenid gold coins known as dareikos, had a diameter of almost two centimeters (the largest is 1,8 cm.), And the effigy of a man with an arch, a kneeling leg and a other folded. The archer carries a quiver on his back and a spear in his right hand. Its crown is similar to that of Darius in Bisotun's representations. The shape of the coin remained almost unchanged throughout the Achaemenid period, and was used not only to pay soldiers and soldiers, but also to "buy" the neighboring states, which in distant regions of the empire could attack causing serious headaches, such as Sparta or other Greek cities.
Another element of the Achaemenid art is constituted by the seals, in which, although borrowed from the Elam - which retained until its end its peculiar form of seals - the Achaemenids brought significant innovations of a clearly Iranian character. In Elam, as well as in Assyria and Babylon, during the eighth and seventh centuries, the cylindrical seals, produced in large quantities, were used by the people, while the flat or ring-shaped seals were reserved for the court and the notables; at the time of Sargon II, the flat seals constituted the official seals of the sovereign. Since the cylindrical seals were preserved and used for a very long time in Elam and the Achaemenid rulers had, at the beginning of the dynasty, the elamites as their model, the cylindrical seals were a characteristic of the Achaemenid administration from the beginning of the dynasty to the reign of Ardashir I. The images of the seals, though very similar to the Elamite ones, however, had their own originality. Consider, for example, the seal (Fig. 15) in which a king is represented at the center, which overhangs two creatures with a lion's body, a human head and spread wings; the king holds two lions in his hands, which he grabs from his paws. In a typically Iranian way, the lions have their heads turned, facing the king, and roar. On either side of the scene two palms appear, above which the symbol of the fravarti is hoisted, represented without the head. The elements of the depiction all have an ornamental function, with the aim of showing the power of the king and, at the same time, of invoking the protection of Ahura Mazda. Another characteristic of the Achaemenid seals is the vertical arrangement of the decorations, very little diffused in Mesopotamia, but which presents some analogy with some specimens of Luristan.
Achaemenid cylindrical seals were of two types, one larger and one smaller. The large seals were usually made of stone, covered at the ends with two sheets of gold. The real seals were mostly in precious materials such as agate, dark lapis lazuli, carnelian and ruby. But also in less precious stones, such as pink or brown limestone, soapstone or even terracotta, the latter reserved for the most humble classes.
Then there was another type of seal, defined as "cylindrical-flat", characterized by an appendage that served as a hook and engraved edges. These are objects inspired by the seals of Urartu, who arrived at the Achaemenids through the Medes. On the other hand there are numerous seals of the flat type not yet clearly attributed to the middle or the achemenids. In Egypt was found a seal bearing the inscription "Darius, great king" in elamitico, ancient Persian and Babylonian. On it appears the image of Darius on a chariot drawn by two horses, behind the coachman, in the act of hurling an arrow against a fierce lion standing on two legs. The lion has some similarities with Ziwiyeh's golden lion, and has a palm behind it; another palm, even more massive and luxuriant, is located behind Dario. Palm trees probably symbolize the respective strength and endurance of the lion and Darius. In the middle and above the seal is the image of the fravarti, executed with particular finesse, which moves towards Darius. The seal bears the name of Darius, but it is possible that it belonged to some of the commanders or satraps of Darius in Egypt, who, not having personal seals, used those with the name of their sovereign. Under the legs of the horses that drag the cart lies a lion with an arrow fixed in a shoulder and a long leg. This image is reminiscent of the Sasanian representations of the hunt in which are depicted animals hunted, alive or dead. At the Morgan Library in New York, an achaemenid seal is exhibited with the image of a bull in motion that responds to the same aesthetic and formal criteria as the Persian bulls. One of the peculiarities of this seal and of the other Achaemenid seals is the presence of a lot of "negative" empty space around the decorative elements. Some Western specialists consider this a proof of the influence of Greek art on the aesthetics and artistic tradition of Iran.
Among the most widespread artifacts in the Achaemenid era, we can mention various types of fabrics that include silk fabrics, those embroidered with gold, knotted or other rugs, such as felts. A specimen of carpet found in a frozen mound in Siberia, known as the "Pazyryk carpet", shows that the Achaemenid art spanned over architecture, metallurgy and enamelled ceramics. The Pazyryk rug, almost square in shape, is characterized by a central chessboard motif and five side frames. The central chessboard, which occupies only a small part of the surface of the carpet, is made up of 24 squares similar to each other.
The outer frame is made up of several squares placed next to each other, having inside them a design similar to that of the panels that adorn the clothes of the Achaemenid soldiers depicted on the enamelled bricks of Susa. The second frame, the widest, houses images of Iranian knights in movement, arranged alternately on horseback and on foot. The third frame, the thinnest, is formed by a row of rhombs placed one after the other that seem to resume the shape of the squares of the chessboard. The frame that follows, wider than the previous one, is formed by a row of deer, animals at the time typical of northern Iran, which move in the opposite breast to that of the knights; body and proportions are the same as those of Achaemenid cattle, but the head is clearly deer, designed in a very realistic and without exaggeration. The next frame, the innermost, is a repetition of the outer one. If the length of the sides of the carpet is extended by about one meter, its dimensions become those of the small rooms in the harem of Persepolis. The drawing inside the squares of the chessboard represents a central bud surrounded by four flowers arranged in a cross; four rhomboid leaves stand between the flowers to form a wind rose. Flowers and leaves are connected to each other by means of a thin ribbon. This floral motif, called khorshidi, appears, with a somewhat different shape, in the woven rugs still in Iran today, and is called herati or mahi dar ham.