The Ancient City of Ardashir-Khurreh in and its Setting

 Remains of the city of Ardashir-Khurreh are the most important Sassanian monuments in Firuzabad Plain. According to the Pahlavi text of, “Kar-Namag of Ardashir I Papakan”, the main part of the Firuzabad plain prior to the founding of Ardashir-Khurreh was a swamp, drained by Ardashir in order to prepare the ground for constructing the city. Following the creation of a land allotting and water transfer system from Tang-i Ab River, agricultural activities developed in the plain.

 Considering the aerial photos, it can be said that the concentric and radiating pattern of the streets of the round city of Ardashir-Khurreh has been extended to the plain beyond the circular fortification of the city, up to a 10 km distance from the central tower. In an interesting example, beyond a mountain ridge, a wall, most probably of an aqueduct, runs exactly north-south in line with the tower beyond the ridge. The aqueduct was fed from water springs of the eastern Firuzabad Plain by a rock canal, penetrating the ridge by a stone tunnel. This is probably the actual background for the ancient and medieval reports about Ardashir’s cutting through a mountain. The two perpendicular main axes of the scheme, determined by the axes of the tower and the four main gates, which are marked by four wide breaches in the city wall, lead to ruined constructions, which obviously belong to Ardashir’s building program.

The Ancient City of Ardashir-Khurreh (The Medieval city of Gur and later Firuzabad)

The plan of the old city of Ardashir-Khurreh is a perfect circle with a 1950 m diameter, divided into twenty sectors by a precise geometric system of twenty radials and several concentric streets. It was surrounded by a main wall made of stamped clay, a ditch 35 m wide, and a fore wall. The plan of the old city consisted of different parts such as streets, public residential sectors, and the central religious and administrative sector. There were four gates on the fortification of the city at the ends of the two main axes (roads) of the city. All of the circular and concentric streets of the city, with residential and trade sectors, were connected indirectly to the central area of the city. A full review of all traces remaining from the circular fence of the city (city wall and ditch) and the intra-city circles showed that all of their focal points converged on the center of the tower-like structure.

 From a conceptual point of view, the circular plan of Ardashir-Khurreh had been calculated exactly on the basis of Ardashir’s ideas about the running of his newly-established government. The urban division system based on circles and radii branching out of a focal point symbolized a central government with the king at its center and other echelons of the society at various levels around it. As a matter of fact, Ardashir desired to embody his intention for establishing a powerful and centralized government (unlike the decentralized government of the Parthian dynasty) by founding a city and by its spatial dividing

Central Area of the City

 The streets of the round city of Ardashir-Khurreh end in the central part of the city which was 400 m in diameter. This area was surrounded by a fortification and a huge quadrangular tower with a height of 30 m situated at the center of the city whose remains have survived until now. There are other ruins in the form of the hill inside the city which are, based on their location, assumed to be civil establishments. Therefore, it is supposed that official, administrative, ceremonial and religious buildings were located inside the central circle of the city while civil and residential buildings existed within the outer, bigger circle.The main building material of the city, whether in the center or in the surrounding residential sectors must have been mud brick, with two exceptions: The stone-mortar-masonry constructions of Takht-e Neshin and the central tower–like structure of the city which is named “Tirbal” in the classic books.

Takht-e Neshin (Fire temple)

 Remains of Takht-e Neshin are actually the ruins of a cubical free-stone building with four rooms or ayvans protruding from its four sides, the central room covered by a brick dome of 14 m in diameter. It was probably Ardashir’s fire temple, mentioned in the Kar-Namag and other sources. Some small Achaemenid-type column shafts nearby, often used as evidence for ascribing an Achaemenid date for the building, differ from each other and were certainly brought here for a secondary use. Innovation of chahar-Taqi architecture which has been used initially at a building called Takht-e Neshin in Ardashir-Khurreh later became the most outstanding architectural plan of the Sassanian era. Development of this specific form of buildings also known as Atash Kadeh served as a pioneering work for the exclusively religious architecture of the Sassanian era.

Central Tower

 The tower-like structure of “Tirbal” (as called in classic books), stands at the very center of the city. The tower is a pier made of rough stone masonry with a 9 m length on each side and a height of more than 30 m.; actually it served as the core of a stair-tower which with the width of the destroyed stairs and outer walls added, must have been about 20 m long on each side. It was thought to have had a winding external stairway and to have been a descendant of the ziggurat, until the German archaeologist, Ernst Herzfeld recognized its true nature. The tower provided visual contact with the fortifications above the main access road to the plain in the gorge of Tang-i Ab , and beside this military function, it must have been indispensable for surveying activities when the planning scheme of the town and plain was laid out.