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Ezekiel Phillips
Ezekiel Phillips

Crown Conquest

Both the classical single fillet and the later multiple form, which appears to have evolved among Iranians, are represented in Parthian sculpture (Ghirshman, 1962, p. 27 fig. 36; Colledge, fig. 17; von Gall, 1969-70, pp. 315 fig. 6, 304 fig. 4). The former, with an eagle in front, is depicted on the statue of Sinatruces (Sanaṭrūq) of Hatra (Ghirshman, 1962, p. 94 fig. 105). In the opinion of Denyse Homès-Fredericq the diadem was derived from the circlet crown of the Seleucids, a symbol of monarchy, and the eagle was the symbol of the principal gods of the city (p. 18, pl. V/2). A simple fillet encircling a large topknot with globes of hair over the ears also occurs on figures carved on bone plaques of the 1st and 2nd centuries C.E. from Olbia, north of the Black Sea (Ghirshman, 1962, p. 271 fig. 352; cf. female figures of late Parthian date, Perkins, p. 105, pl. 46; Colledge, p. 117 fig. 44; Ghirshman, 1972, p. 77 fig. 2).

Crown Conquest


The rulers of Persis wore a second type of royal headdress that reflected imperial aspirations. They consciously continued Achaemenid traditions, adopting the names of Achaemenid monarchs and representing themselves on their coins wearing the triple-stepped crenellated crown of Achaemenid kingship (Figure 18; Frye, pp. 195, 196; Sear, 1982, p. 588 no. 5935; see i, above). The stepped crenellations were larger and less numerous than those of the Achaemenid versions, but the type was clearly borrowed from such prototypes. The classical diadem that encircled the crown also recalls the Achaemenid fashion of binding the battlemented crown with a fillet of ribbons (Amiet, 1973, p. 195 fig. 575).

Headdresses of royal women. Parthian queens and princesses seem not to have chosen the Hellenistic stephane and veil; rather, they wore a great variety of headgear. A type of crown with battlements is depicted on a carved marble female head found at Susa and dated to the late 1st century B.C.E. (plate xvii; Cumont, pls. I, facing p. 336, II). Its triple-stepped crenellations recall Achaemenid prototypes (see i, above), perhaps originally derived from mural crowns worn by Neo-Elamite and Assyrian queens in the 9th-5th centuries B.C.E. (Porada, pp. 66, 234 n. 46; Azarpay, p. 109; Kawami, p. 54; Vanden Berghe, 1978, pp. 137, 138; Amiet, 1966, p. 560, pl. 427A-B; Parrot, pp. 118 fig. 133, 51, 52 fig. 60). Under the Achaemenids the crenellated crown was worn by the ruler (for representations of Darius I and his successors, see Porada, p. 159 fig. 85; Vanden Berghe, 1978, pp. 136, 137, 144 fig. 2; idem, 1983, pl. 8; von Gall, 1974, pp. 145-61, pls. 34/1-2, 35/3), though on some seals and seal rings it is worn by figures variously identified as queens or the goddess Anāhitā (q.v.; Amiet, 1973, p. 195 figs. 570, 575; Dalton, pl. XVI nos. 103-04). Louis Vanden Berghe (1978, p. 143) has argued, however, that the Achaemenid stepped crown was an innovation, related only generally to the turreted version found on Assyrian, Elamite, and classical monuments. The crown on the Susa head differs from Achaemenid models in the inclusion of a veil covering the rear half and descending to the shoulders in the fashion of Hellenistic veiled diadems depicted on coins (Cumont, p. 333; Grose, pl. 364 no. 3). Franz Cumont (p. 337) identified the Susa head as that of Thea Musa, a slave girl given by the Roman emperor Augustus to the Parthian king Phraates IV; she bore him a son, Phraataces (ca. 3 B.C.E.-5 C.E.), and later became his queen. Ghirshman (1962, p. 96) and Kawami (pp. 55, 56) have accepted this identification, but Malcolm Colledge (p. 83) and Vanden Berghe (1978, p. 140) believe the head to be that of a classical Fortune or Tyche. In the Parthian period Tyche was normally represented with the classical mural crown, with heavy walls and turreted towers, rather than the ancient Near Eastern stepped crenellations, and it therefore seems possible that the marble head from Susa does indeed depict a Parthian queen (Hopkins, p. 221; Ghirshman, 1962, fig. 1, facing p. 1, p. 107 fig. 123). Nevertheless, Thea Musa is depicted on coins wearing a different royal headdress (Figure 20), a crown of three graduated tiers, each adorned with large gems, the whole encircled by a fillet secured at the back with two large loops, from which two ribbons hang over a loose chignon and down the back of the neck (Wroth, pl. XXIV/1-3). The only related depiction of a crown, though smaller and undecorated, is found on a coin of Gotarzes II (ca. 43-51 C.E.), possibly representing his queen (Wroth, pl. XXVII/18).

Parthian queens and princesses were thus represented wearing a variety of crowns and headdresses, some of which can be traced to ancient Near Eastern sources in the 9th-7th centuries B.C.E., others to the classical West. Certain royal miters and hats seem to have been of local origin and do not reflect foreign prototypes. Colledge has remarked that in representations of Parthian females the head is more completely covered than in those of males (p. 132).

In general the crowns of the early Sasanian monarchs were simple in form, each including a single divine attribute and bound with a long ribboned diadem and surmounted by the corymbus. Bahrām I (273-76) adopted the solar rays of Mithra (cf. rayed diadems on Greco-Roman and Seleucid coins; plate xix), Bahrām II (276-93) the eagle wings of Vərəθraγna, and Narseh (293-302) the stylized leaves of Anāhitā (Ghirshman, 1962, pp. 167-168 fig. 211; Göbl, pls. 3/40-53; Hinz, 1969, pp. 225 pl. 137, 202 pl. 123; Göbl, pls. 3/48-53, 5/73-79; see also anāhīd). Guitty Azarpay (p. 114) believes that the corymbus had a Zoroastrian significance, linked to the xᵛarnah, the royal glory bestowed on each Sasanian king at the time of his investiture. The covered globe of hair, and by extension the crown as a whole, would thus symbolize the glory and power of Persian kingship, which could be interrupted (e.g., by usurpation) but could also be symbolically reinstated by adoption of a new crown (for a comparable explanation of multiple crown types, cf. Göbl, p. 11; although no document survives, Göbl believes that a strict law regulating crowns must have been in force).

Some kings chose the crowns of illustrious namesakes; for example, Šāpūr II (309-79) chose a version of the crenellated crown associated with Šāpūr I (Fukai and Horiuchi, pl. LXVI; Göbl, pl. 6/88-106), and Ardašīr II (379-83) chose the skullcap first adopted by Ardašīr I (Fukai and Horiuchi, pl. LXXIV).

The symbolically important crowns of the Sasanian monarchs were copied, adapted, and transformed by the Kushano-Sasanians (3rd-4th centuries) and the Kidarites (2nd quarter of the 4th century; Harper and Meyers, p. 43; Bivar, 1968, pls. II/2, IV/7, VIII, X).

An alternative fashion to the tall headdress chosen by Sasanian queens was a complex hairstyle bound with the royal fillet. Georgina Herrmann has pointed out that the diadem (Mid. Pers. dydym) with ribbons was a royal prerogative, which she traces back to Alexander the Great and earlier, quoting the report by Xenophon (Cyropaedia 8.3.13) that Cyrus wore a fillet around his tiara (1969, pp. 68-69 n. 35). Queens wore this ribboned diadem with two distinct hairstyles, which Harper has dated to the 3rd-4th centuries (1981, pp. 32, 34). On the relief at Barm-e Delak the figure of the queen has short hair, but longer tresses are pulled up on top of the head and secured by short ribbons; wide pleated ties and narrow ribbons bind a diadem around the forehead (Harper and Meyers, p. 34 fig. 9; Erdmann, 1945-50, pl. 2). A similar diadem with long ribbons binds the short hair of the queen on the Tang-e Qandīl relief; the cluster of curls on top of the head is tied with short ribbons (cf. Parthian depictions of both males and females; Hinz, 1973, pp. 201-12, pls. 46, 48; Vanden Berghe, 1980, p. 271 fig. 1). The second hairstyle consists of longer locks (Harper and Meyers, pp. 33-35). One of the earliest representations is on the seal of queen Dēnak, wife of Ardašīr I (226-41), whose diadem appears to be beaded or jeweled (Lukonin, 1967, pl. 59). Two related depictions occur on silver bowls in The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, and the Iran Bastan Museum, both dated by Harper to the last decade of the 3rd or the first decade of the 4th century (Harper and Meyers, pp. 34, 208 pl. 7; plate xxii). Although on both bowls the short ribbons and the longer ties of the diadem are pleated, the fillet ribbons on the Tehran bowl are shorter. Harper believes that the shorter ribbons signify lesser rank, perhaps identifying the female figure as belonging to the wāspuhrān, those with close ties to the royal family but not true queens (Harper and Meyers, p. 39). A unique female crown is found on the coinage of Bōrān (630-31; Figure 22). As the only queen to rule in her own name, she wore a crown resembling those of late Sasanian kings, rather than the headgear of other royal female figures. It consisted of a cap with rosettes or jewels above a jeweled diadem, surmounted by a pair of wings framing a small globe in a crescent. Pendant chains of gems suspended from the diadem frame the face and hang down behind.

Other types of crown were reserved for the goddess Anāhitā, both the mural crown derived from Achaemenid prototypes (see above) and another that was vegetal in form and decoration (Harper and Meyers, p. 35 fig. 11; Harper, pp. 109 no. 42, 142 fig. 1; Vanden Berghe, 1978, pl. IV, p. 142 fig. 1; Fukai and Horiuchi, pl. XXII). The inclusion of a diadem, often jeweled, and the occasional appearance of the corymbus link these crowns with those of Sasanian queens. Dancing female figures, still not identified with certainty, are portrayed on silver vessels, each wearing a jeweled diadem below a globe of hair (Harper, 1978, p. 60 no. 18; Lukonin, 1967, pls. 183-89). If these figures are indeed depictions of Anāhitā or priestesses enacting her role, the presence of the royal and divine attributes of diadem and corymbus would be explained. 041b061a72


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