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SASSANIAN]
381
ARCHITECTURE
two great aiwans or reception halls. The main front (fig. 19) was built in finely jointed ashlar masonry with semicircular attached shafts between the entrance doorways, which had semicircular heads, every third voussoir of the three larger doors being decorated by busts in strong relief with a headgear similar to that shown on Parthian coins; other carvings, with the acanthus leaf, belonged to that type of Syrio-Greek work, of which Loftus found so many examples at Warka (Loftus, Chaldaea, Susiana, p. 225). In the great mosque of Diarbekr are two wings at the north and south ends respectively, which are said to have been Parthian palaces built by Tigranes, 74 B.C.; they have evidently been rearranged or rebuilt at various times, the columns with their capitals and the entablature having been utilized again. The shafts of the columns of the upper storey are richly carved with geometrical patterns similar to those found by Loftus at Warka.


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Fig. 19.—Portion of front of Palace of el Hadr.


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From Prof H. V. Hilprecht’s Exploration in Bible Lands, by permission of A. J. Holman & Co. and T. & T. Clark.
Fig. 20.—Plan of the Parthian Palace at Nippur.


The American researches at Nippur have resulted in the discovery on the top of the mounds of the remains of a Parthian palace; and the disposition of its plan (fig. 20), and the style of the columns of the peristylar court, show so strong a resemblance to Greek work as to suggest the same Hellenistic influence as in the palace of el Hadr. Having no stone, however, they were obliged to build up these columns at Nippur with sections in brick, covered afterwards with stucco. The columns diminished at the top to about one-fifth of the lower diameter, and would seem to have had an entasis, as the lower portion up to one-third of the height is nearly vertical. A similar palace was discovered at Tello by the French archaeologists, and the bases of some of the brick columns are in the Louvre.

 (R. P. S.) 


Sassanian Architecture


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Plan.



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Section in lines BC, DE, FG of plan.

Fig. 21 and Fig. 22.—The Palace of Serbistan.


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Fig. 23.—Plan of the
Palace at Firuzabad.

Although, on the overthrow of the Parthian dynasty in A.D. 226, the monarchs of the Sassanian dynasty succeeded to the immense Parthian empire, the earliest building found, according to Fergusson, is that at Serbistan, to which he ascribes the date A.D. 380. The palace (fig. 21), which measures 130 ft. frontage and 143 ft. deep, with an internal court, shows so great an advance in the arrangements of its plan as to suggest considerable acquaintance with Roman work. The fine ashlar work of el-Hadr is no longer adhered to, and in its place we find rubble masonry with thick mortar joints, the walls being covered afterwards, both externally and internally, with stucco. While the barrel vault is still retained for the chief entrance porches, it is of elliptical section, and the central hall is covered with a dome, a feature probably handed down from the Assyrians, such as is shown in the bas-relief (fig. 10) from Kuyunjik, now in the British Museum. In order to carry a dome, circular on plan, over a square hall, it was necessary to arch across the angles, and here to a certain extent the Sassanians were at fault, as they did not know how to build pendentives, and the construction of these are of the most irregular kind. As, however, their mortar had excellent tenacious properties, these pendentives still remain in situ (fig. 22), and their defects were probably hidden under the stucco. In the halls which flank the building on either side, however, they displayed considerable knowledge of construction. Instead of having enormously thick walls to resist the thrust of their vaults, to which we have already drawn attention in the Assyrian work and at el Hadr, they built piers at intervals, covering over the spaces between them, with semi-domes on which the walls carrying the vaults are supported, so that they lessened the span of the vault and brought the thrust well within the wall. This, however, lessened the width of the hall, so they replaced the lower portions of the piers by the columns, leaving a passage round. It is possible that this idea was partly derived from the great Roman halls of the thermae (baths), where the vault is brought forward on columns; but it was an improvement to leave a passage behind. The elliptical sections given to all the barrel vaults may have been the traditional method derived from Assyria, of which, however, no remains exist. In the article Vault there will be found a reason why these elliptical sections were adopted (see also below in the description of the great hall at Ctesiphon). In the palace of Firuzabad, attributed by Fergusson to Perōz (Firuz) (A.D. 459-485), the plan (fig. 23) follows more closely the disposition of the Assyrian palaces, and we return again to the thick walls, which might incline us to give a later date to Serbistan, except that in the pendentives carrying the three great domes in the centre of the palace at Firuzabad they show greater knowledge in their construction. The angles of the square hall are vaulted, with a series of concentric arches, each ring as it rises being brought forward, the object being to save centreing, because each ring rested on the ring beneath it. The plan is a rectangular parallelogram with a frontage of 180 ft. and a depth of 333 ft., more than double, therefore, of the size of Serbistan. An immense entrance hall in the centre of the main front is flanked on each side by two halls placed at right angles to it, so as to resist the thrust of the elliptical barrel vaults of the entrance hall. This hall leads to a series of three square halls, side by side, each surmounted by a dome carried on pendentives. Beyond is an open court, the smaller rooms round all covered with barrel vaults. Here, as in Serbistan, the material employed is rubble masonry with thick joints of mortar, and fortunately portions of the stucco with which this Sassanian masonry was covered remain both externally and internally. As there are no windows of any sort, the wall surface of the exterior has been decorated with semi-circular attached shafts and panelling between, which recall the primitive decorations found in the early Chaldaean temples, except that arches are carried at the top across the sunk panels. Internally an attempt has been made to copy the decoration of the Persian doorway, which represents a kind of renaissance of the ancient style. But instead of the lintel the arch has been introduced, and the ornament in stucco representing the Persian cavetto cornice shows imperfect knowledge of the original and is clumsily worked. The niches also, in the main front, have been copied from