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HOME : Near Eastern Art : Sassanid Art : Sassanid Jasper Seal with a Royal Portrait
Sassanid Jasper Seal with a Royal Portrait - FJ.4238
Origin: Central Asia
Circa: 200 AD to 600 AD
Dimensions: .875" (2.2cm) high x .625" (1.6cm) wide x .75" (1.9cm) depth
Collection: Near Eastern
Medium: Agate

Location: United States
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In 244 A.D., Ardeshir I founded the Sassanid Dynasty, the last native Persian Kingdom to rule Ancient Iran before the Islamic conquest. The Sassanid era was a golden age of Persian culture that witnessed the revival of Zoroastrianism, an ancient mystical religion native to these lands, and a literary Renaissance spurred by the translation of many Old Persian epics recorded in cuneiform into the Middle Persian language of Pahlavi written in an alphabet derived from Aramaic. By introducing heightened international trade and commerce they created a legacy of political and economic diplomacy. They sponsored trade with the Romans (later on the Byzantines), their archenemy, to the west and the Chinese to the east. Excavations in China have unearthed gold and silver Sassanid coins covering a span of many centuries until the demise of the Empire during the reign of Khosrow II. However, the fall of the Empire had already started with a series of wars waged under the rule of Khosrow I, the father of Khosrow II. Challenged by the intensification of the same international commerce that had bore such wealth, struggles for national power and international prestige had escalated to an ungovernable degree. In the face of threats to his royal house, Khosrow II embarked upon military campaigns that would prove unsuccessful. By the close of his reign, the once mighty Sassanid Empire came to an end, paving the way for the rise of Islam in the Middle East.

This splendid seal depicts the profile bust of a bearded prince, wearing rich robes. Though the carving is stylized in typical Sassanid fashion, it shows the strong influence of Roman imperial art. The sitter is almost certainly one of the great Sassanid kings who raised their empire to a greatness that rivaled Rome’s. This seal may have served as a symbol of political affiliation, as a proxy for the royal authority, or as a gift to a favored subject. Though the proud king and his empire have long since vanished, this seal hints at their ancient glory. the inscription reads, atur means fire, and the second word is the name of the priest, whose name is Proug Mough, meaning priest. - (FJ.4238)


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