Hunting in Persepolis – Baha’ al-Dawla’s inscription 392/1001

‘Adud al-Dawla was the first Buyid ruler to set in the stones of Persepolis a reminder of his presence, in 344/955. Some time later, his third son, Baha’ al-Dawla, did the same.

Transcription of the second inscription by Baha al-Dawla, Persepolis 392/1001-1002 © Sheila Blair

Transcription of the second inscription by Baha al-Dawla, Persepolis 392/1001-1002 © Sheila Blair

His inscription reads:

In the name of God, […] the King of Kings, the Shahanshah, Baha’ al-Dawla
wa-Diya’ al-Milla wa-Ghiyath al-Umma Abu Nasr bin ‘Adud
al-Dawla wa-Taj al-Milla, may God secure his days and perpetuate his power,
[stopped] at this place while hunting with a great army,
accompanied by the chief amir Abu Mansur bin Baha’ al-Dawla wa-Diya
al-Milla wa-Ghyath al-Umma, may God prolong both their lives, in the year
three hundred and ninety-two [20 Nov 1001 – 9 Nov 1002]

Buyid graffiti tradition

Is it plausible to speak about a tradition in the case of Buyid graffiti? Maybe it is. This tradition seems to have started with ‘Adud al-Dawla, the ruler of the Buyid apogee. His son and heir, Baha’ al-Dawla kept on with this tradition, recording on the ancient stones of Persepolis his presence.

Both of them, the father and the son, used these graffiti mainly to state their presence in Persepolis, that, as I have already mentioned, is strictly connected with the Sasanian past of Iran: the Buyid graffiti were a clear claim to their Sasanian descent.

The royal hunter – a Sasanian theme

Plate with a hunting scene from the tale of Bahram Gur and Azadeh, 5th century; Sasanian period Iran - Metropolitan Museum, New York, accession no. 1994-402 | Courtesy of MET Museum

Plate with a hunting scene from the tale of Bahram Gur and Azadeh, 5th century; Sasanian period
Iran – Metropolitan Museum, New York, accession no. 1994-402 | Courtesy of MET Museum

The volume by Prudence O. Harper on Sasanian art is titled The royal hunter: Art of the Sasanian empire. In another volume of the same author, Silver Vessels of the Sasanian Period: Royal imagery, it is made clear that the ‘royal hunter’ became “the most common motif on the silver plates” of the Sasanian dynasty around the second half of the 4th century (p. 126).

The motif was chosen most probably as it was a visual representation of the Zoroastrian system of thoughts and believes. In fact, in the figural arts of the Sasanian period, there is little that can be considered specifically Zoroastrian, but the images represented bear a Zoroastrian underground: the theme of the contest, with humans hunting for instance, is related to the Zoroastrian eschatology and the cosmic struggle between the spirits of good and evil (The Royal Hunter, pp. 14-15).

The Buyid hunter

The inscription by Baha' al-Dawla, Persepolis 392/1001-1002 © Sheila Blair

The inscription by Baha’ al-Dawla, Persepolis 392/1001-1002 © Sheila Blair

It is of course plausible that Baha’ al-Dawla was actually hunting, and that the inscription is recording a real fact. But it is also plausible that Baha’ al-Dawla was not hunting at all that day of the year 392/1001-1002. Taking into account the iconographic tradition of the Sasanian empire and the representation of the king-hunter as a symbol of royality, it is maybe correct to state that the hunting theme was added to the graffito to underline once more the connection between the Buyids and the Sasanians.

This would match the process of Iranization that started and developed particulary after 390/1000 ca. when Buyids “reverted […] to the conscious awareness of their Iranian heritage, and Western Iran now embarked on the same process which had previously reached such remarkable proportion in the East, namely the deliberate transformation of its Arabic-Islamic culture into a culture specifically Iranian” (Busse, “Iran under the Buyids”, p. 295).


Bibliography

S. S. Blair, The Monumental Inscriptions from early Islamic Iran and Transoxiana, Brill, Leiden 1992, pp. 60-62.
[partially accessible via GoogleBooks]

H. Busse, “Iran under the Buyids”, in R. N. Frye (ed.), The Cambridge History of IranVol. 4 – The period from the Arab invasion to the Saljuqs, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge 1975, pp. 250-304.

P.O. Harper, The Royal Hunter: Art of the Sasanian Empire, Asia Society, New York 1978.

P.O. Harper and P. Meyers, Silver Vessels of the Sasanian Period: Royal imagery, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York 1981. [partially available at GoogleBooks]

S. Shaked, “Eschatology i. In Zoroastrianism and Zoroastrian Influence”, in Encyclopædia Iranica, VIII/6, pp. 565-569; available online at http://www.iranicaonline.org/articles/eschatology-i (accessed online at 12 Jan 2015).

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