Takht-e Soleyman

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The archaeological site of Takht-e Soleyman (Throne of Solomon), in north-western Iran (Azarbaijan Province), is situated in a valley set in a volcanic mountain region. It lies midway between Urumieh and Hamadan, very near the present-day town of Takab, and 400 km (250 miles) west of Tehran.

The site includes the principal Zoroastrian sanctuary partly rebuilt in the Ilkhanid (Mongol) period (13th century) as well as a temple of the Sasanian period (6th and 7th centuries) dedicated to Anahita.

The originally fortified site, which is located on a crater rim, was recognized as a World Heritage Site in July 2003. The citadel includes the remains of a Zoroastrian sanctuary built during the Sassanid period, and partially rebuilt during the Ilkhanid period. According to legend, the temple housed one the three “Great Fires” or “Royal Fires” (see Fire Temple). Sassanid rulers are said to have journeyed there to humble themselves at the fire altar before ascending the throne.

Folk legend relates that King Solomon used to imprison monsters inside the 100 m deep crater of the nearby Zendan-e Soleyman “Prison of Solomon”. Another crater inside the fortification itself is filled with spring water; Solomon is said to have created a flowing pond that still exists today.

Nevertheless, Solomon belongs to Semitic legends and therefore, the lore and namesake (Solomon’s Throne) should have been formed following Islamic conquest of Persia. After the Conquest, the Arabs sought to destroy anything Zoroastrian or Persian, as these things were deemed to be contrary to Islam.

In order to avoid this, the Persians changed the names of many sites and monuments to save them from destruction. Another example is in the city of Pasargadae, where they began referring to the tomb of Cyrus the Great as “Solomon’s mother’s tomb.” A 4th century Armenian manuscript relating to Jesus and Zarathustra, and various historians of the Islamic period, mention this pond. The foundation of the fire temple around the pond is attributed to that legend.

Archaeological excavations have revealed traces of a 5th century BC occupation during the Achaemenid period, as well as later Parthian settlements in the citadel. Coins belonging to the reign of Sassanid kings, and that of the Byzantine emperor Theodosius II (AD 408-450), have also been discovered there.

The site has important symbolic significance. The designs of the fire temple, the palace and the general layout have strongly influenced the development of Islamic architecture.

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