Bishapur, “the beautiful [city] of Shapur”, is situated south of modern Faliyan on the ancient road between Persis and Elam, which connected the Sasanian capitals Istakhr (very close to Persepolis) and Firuzabad to Susa and Ctesiphon. The city was built near a river crossing.
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This man wears a diadem and may be a prince, or even king Ardašir I (224-241), who had a similar crown.
As the name indicates, the city was founded by king Shapur (241-272). Like the bridge at Shushtar, it was built by Roman soldiers who had been captured after the defeat of the Roman emperor Valerian in 260. Perhaps, they belonged to the Sixth legion Ferrata, because this unit disappears from our sources after Valerian’s defeat.
Many aspects of Bishapur’s architecture look Roman and do not belong to Iranian building traditions. An example is what specialists call the “Hippodamian street plan”, which means that the city looks like a gridiron. It was not a completely novel settlement: archaeologists have found remains from the Parthian and Elamite ages.
The river Shapur and the Tang-e Chowgan gorge, where the rock reliefs can be found
The core of the city is the old castle, situated in a steep rock, which is in itself one of the most interesting geological features of the southern Zagros. The oldest monument was relief I, in the Tang-e Chowgan gorge, which celebrates one of Shapur’s earliest victories. Reliefs II and III commemorate the defeat of Valerian. While these were cut, the city, palace, and the so-called Temple of Anahita were built by the Roman POWs. Another monument from the founding period is the cave monument.
The city, surrounded by walls that stood ten meters high, was inhabited by some 50,000 to 80,000 people. Later monuments include reliefs V (investiture of Bahram I), IV (an Arabian embassy to Bahram II), and VI (victory of Shapur II).