THE ART OF IRAN PREISLAMIC
THE ART OF THE MEDIUM PERIOD
The people of the Medes were an Aryan people who in the second millennium a. C. migrated from the north-eastern parts of Iran to the northwest and the center of the country, a very flourishing area at the time. It was a slow and gradual migration, during which the Medes mingled with the indigenous peoples, and ended up settling in the central-northern area of the plateau, to the edge of the great desert between Kashan and Yazd. At first they coexisted with the Mannei, to whom they transmitted many of their beliefs. On the activities of the Medes in the second millennium we have very little knowledge, but from the beginning of the first millennium they officially entered into history, so that their name is attested in the Assyrian documents.
Pierre Amiet estimates that the appearance of the Medes in western and central Iran dates back to the third millennium, together with the introduction of a very refined and polished, gray and red ceramic, without images. But the shiny gray-green ceramic gradually gives way to the red and Siyalk, although in the second and first millennia the Medes and other peoples connected to them lived there, the decorated pottery remains, perhaps due to the influence of populations indigenous not mede. The images on this ceramic are completely different from those of the previous periods. In this era, Siyalk artists abandoned the epigraphic decorations, and began to decorate the mouthpieces and the tubular parts with simpler decorations, with stripes and triangular motifs; some parts, above all around the handles, were filled with "rhombus" shapes, which recall the squares known as "dark rooms" of the Bibi Jan region, in Luristan. In the remaining empty spaces, stylized animals appeared like horses, oxen, chamois and sometimes even humans.
At the beginning of the first millennium, the Medes had occupied almost all of central and northern Iran, Tokharistan (south of the Caspian Sea, up to the Alborz slopes) and part of Bactria. The western side of their territory was bounded on the north by the territory of Mannei and Lullubi and to the south by the line by the line between the modern cities of Baghdad and Kermanshah, that is the territory of the Cassites and from the north of the Elam. In the Assyrian documents the country of the Medes was indicated with the name of Madhamanna, while the southern medial lands were called Namzi.
The Medes, after establishing an independent kingdom and organizing their state, took their capital to Ecbatana, near today's Hamadan (a place that is probably a distortion of Ecbatana); after having co-opted the Mannei, with the help of the Scythians they attacked the Assyrian kingdom. In the beginning they were rejected, so that Asarhaddon, Assyrian king, towards the end of his reign invaded the region of Iran from which the attack came, looking for horses and military equipment to defend themselves from the Simari, who had attacked the northern Mesopotamia and Anatolia. The Assyrian ruler led his army to Tokharistan and devastated many villages, cities and fortresses of the Medes and Manners. This event, confirmed by the Assyrian documents, contrasts with what Herodotus says, which affirms the existence in the 673 of a powerful monarchical state of the Medes. According to Herodotus, the middle peoples, who lived scattered in different parts of western, northern and central Iran, had chosen Divsar (Deioces) son of Faraorte, a wise and just man, as their king. Divsar ordered that seven bastions should be erected around Ecbatana, which had become the capital of the kingdom. His system of government was typical of the great rulers, and because he was a just and authoritative king, seven great tribes offered him obedience. Divsar ruled for 53 years and after him the kingdom passed, for 22 years, in the hands of his son Faraorte II who managed to subdue the Persians. Later, he attacked Assyria, but was killed during the campaign. His son Siyagzar (Cyaxares) took over the kingdom. At this point, the Scythians launched an attack, which brought death and destruction for a good 28 years. Eventually Siyagzar got the better of it and managed to subdue them, reigning firmly for 40 years. He was succeeded by his son Astiage, who with the help of the Scythians overthrew the Assyrian government and razed Assur to the ground. He was eventually deposed by his nephew, Cyrus the Great, in the 550.
The art Meda has remained unknown until 1986, with the exception of some ceramics without decorations, red or gray, in particular gray-green, and some tomb carved into the rock. In the images depicted on the palace of King Sargon are represented medial cities with multi-storey architectural elements. In the 1986 excavations at Tepe Nushjan and Gudin Tepe brought to light some grandiose remains of meda architecture, important also for information on Achaemenid architecture. On the hill of Nushjan, at the height of 38 meters, there is an installation that has been preserved thanks to the deposition of earth, even if its walls have collapsed. The architecture of Nushjan is in many ways similar to that of Hasanlu. In the western part, arranged in a row independently and yet connected, there are a temple, a palace, a temple of fire, and a small foreshortening. The palace, built partly on the remains of an older temple, is a grandiose building whose ceiling was supported by three rows of six columns. The fortress is a square-based tower, with walls reinforced by pillars above which there is a windowed floor. The entrance consisted of a staircase leading to the front door. The floor of the fortress was supported by long walls, which enclosed spaces for equipment or armaments. In the center of the whole complex stands a temple of the height of 8 meters, built with aesthetic attention, as its interior was divided into complex volumes that served the ritual needs. This is an interesting case of architectural project realized with attention to beauty; on the one hand, the building was built for the carrying out of religious practices; at the same time, it was a tower with internal stairs that facilitated access to the roof. Above the roof there were rituals of fire worship in the open, fire that was kept and venerated even inside the temple. The interior fire room was uniquely decorated, with blind windows. On the other hand, in front of this room of worship, which since ancient times was called saddle was built a room with vaulted ceiling in which were kept the materials necessary for the ritual, which were consumed in exceptional quantities. In any case, this tower is the ancestor of those cubic towers that were erected in the Achaemenid epoch at Pasargade and at Naqsh-e Rostam. However, from the eighth century these towers or similar buildings for the cult of fire were erected in even in places that had not yet been inhabited by Ari-Iranian populations.
At Gudin Tepe, the architecture of the meda has left us with a government fortress that included a turreted rampart. The fortress, which gradually expanded, included a complex of operational buildings that, although unequaled, can be compared with the findings of Nush Jan Tepe. From west to east it is crossed by a building supported by columns, a corridor, also a colonnade, to which a room with a stairway and kitchens have been added; in the end, a large deposit was reinforced with thick walls. One wonders if the central building, with the staircase, had been designed for outdoor sun worship. The building was an independent building that dominated the other buildings, placed slightly lower. Its simplicity is worthy of note: the building was changed into a large, approximately square room whose ceiling was supported by 30 columns, and on which two small closets opened. On the side of the city, the palace ended with very narrow corridors that, since the foundations remained, we do not know if they were covered by vaults or were instead the bases of a large door, or something else. This palace is the first step towards the definition of an architecture that will lead to Achaemenid palaces. By its means, we know that the Medes were lovers of architecture and great builders, and how much they used architects of great skill and competence.
Although since the middle of the last century many artifacts have been brought to light of the Mannerians and the Mediums, it is perhaps too early to know what we know in order to formulate a definitive and clear judgment on the Medes and the art of their time.