Bishapur Ancient City | Kazerun, Fars Province, Iran

A Hellenistic-Sassanid Ancient City
Bishapur p2 - Bishapur Ancient City | Kazerun, Fars Province, Iran
2 Jan

Bishapur Ancient City | Kazerun, Fars Province, Iran

Curious about the international relations between the nations in the past? The ancient cities keep the secrets of the past in their hearts. Bishapur ancient city in Kazerun (around 150 km west of Shiraz) is an astonishing example inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage list. The city was situated on the significant royal road that connected Sassanid (224 to 651 AD) capitals Istakhr and Ctesiphon. Follow me to explore the historical rises and falls of Persian-Roman adventures, interactions, victories, defeats, and influences in Bishapur.

Why Visit Bishapur Ancient City

  • Inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List
  • The first Sassanid city with non-circular architecture
  • Glamorous reliefs of victories and coronations of Sassanid kings
  • Anahita temple with an amazing ancient water circulation system
  • The stunning Tang-e Chogan gorge with the Shapur River running along its bottom
  • The majestic statue of Shapur I standing in the Shapur Cave
  • The astounding mosaic works
  • The Sassanid coins, being showcased in the Bishapur Museum
mosaic - Bishapur Ancient City | Kazerun, Fars Province, Iran

Mosaic Work in Bishapur

History of Persian-Roman Confrontation

You might wonder where the name of the city comes from. In fact, the name Bishapur is comprised of two parts, that is, ‘bay’ and ‘Shapur’, and means Lord Shapur. Indeed, they named the city after its founder, Shapur I.  The Sassanid king, Shapur I, defeated the Roman Emperor, Valerian, and his army in 266 AD. Then, he ordered the construction of Bishapur ancient city. Subsequently, he employed the Roman soldiers to build the city. He built his royal city in a mild-climate region at the Shapur riverside. The city remained inhabited and prosperous until the tenth century. However, its significance declined at the time of Arab’s invasion of Iran in the 7th century. Mainly, the constructions on the northern part of the city are relics of the Sassanid dynasty. Later, in Islamic era, more structures were added to the city. Thus, the city expanded more to the south.

What to Expect in Bishapur

As you step in Bishapur ensemble, you will immediately notice the Shapur River that is running gently in the region. Maybe, the same thing happened to the Sassanid king, Shapur I. No doubt, the construction of ancient cities revolved around a river or a bulk of water. Of course, Bishapur is no exception. As you are standing on the road, face south and you will see the extraordinary royal city of Bishapur with the amazing structures inside it. Specifically, the royal city comprises Anahita Temple, Valerian Palace, Royal Ceremonial Hall, Mosaic Porch, and Memorial Stone Columns.

On the other hand, on the northern side of the road, you will find the fertile Tang-e Chogan gorge. The mountains surrounding the gorge have functioned as ancient wall newspapers. There, you can explore the eye-catching rock reliefs as you walk along the river. On the top of a nearby hill the ruins of a castle will draw your attention. Provided that you have plenty of time and are fit enough, another option for you to visit in the region is Shapur Cave.

What Makes the Royal City of Bishapur Unique?

The Royal City of Bishapur was a turning point in Persian architecture. In fact, the Sassanians were known for their round city plans. In other words, the cities were circular in design with a distinct construction in the center. The Royal City of Bishapur, on the other hand, deviates extremely from Persian architecture and totally resembles Hellenistic (Greek history and art after Alexander) architecture. Apparently, large walls that may had stood some ten meters high protected the city. The city had a population of 5000 to 8000.

The key distinctive architectural feature of the city, though, was its Hellenistic city plan. Unlike the Persian circular city designs, the Hellenistic design features a grid street plan. In this street layout, streets run at right angles to each other. In other words, one more major east-west street ran into a principal North-South street. So, as you walk around the city, you will observe this pattern all over the place.

Anahita Temple – Bishapur

The Sassanians built the Anahita Temple to worship Anahita, the goddess of water. To enter the temple, you ought to climb down the stairs. Down the staircases, you will find yourself in a large courtyard surrounded with huge walls and a fabulous water system.

Valerian Palace – Bishapur

You might wonder what the fate of the Roman Emperor was after his defeat. Don’t Worry! Shapur I ordered a palace for him. Valerian Palace or Valerian Prison was the place where the Persian King dedicated to the captured Roman Emperor, Valerian.

Royal Ceremonial Hall – Bishapur

In the southeast of Anahita Temple, sits the Royal Ceremonial Hall. Probably, the hall can be considered as one of the first and largest domed relics of the Sassanid Empire. This hall consists of four opposite and symmetrical porches, which was covered with a dome. The central courtyard of the hall is square. This building comprises 64 alcoves that were adorned with several interesting carvings in the form of artichoke and grapes leaves as well as cross-shaped motifs.

Bishapur Mosaic Porch

The mosaic porch was a covered area with an arch spanning over it. Multitude of eye-catching decorative mosaics adorned the floor. These mosaics with motifs such as a dancing or singing lady have not survived and only few traces of them are available. You can hardly appreciate the charming beauty of mosaics unless you possess a great imagination or visit Louvre Museums in Paris or the National Museum of Ancient Iran in Tehran. The colors used in these mosaics and their spectacular design were so impressive that caused these mosaics look like a magnificent carpet.

Bishapur Memorial Stone Columns

In the center of the city, two memorial stone columns stand with splendor. Rumor has it that a statue of Shapur I used to exist in the middle of the two columns. The two columns are significant elements in that two inscriptions carved on them contain the foundation date of the city.

memorial stone columns - Bishapur Ancient City | Kazerun, Fars Province, Iran

Bishapur – Memorial Stone Columns

Tang-e Chogan Rock Reliefs

The Sassanid kings put their grandeur on display in several ways. Amongst all, they carved their scenes of victory and investiture on the face of the mountains surrounding the Tang-e Chogan gorge.


The ruins of a Castle sit in dignity on the top of the hill on the northern side of the region. The castle must have been responsible for monitoring and protecting the city.

Bishapur – Shapur Cave

Although climbing up the mountain to the Shapur cave is not a very easy task, it is absolutely worth it. I really recommend it! As you reach up the mountain, an unbelievable giant seven-meter-high statue of the King Shapur I welcomes you with his glory. I believe this is going to be a memorable experience for you.

Bishapur Museum

In addition to the structures found in the Bishapur city, some ancient items including Sassanid coins are exhibited in the Bishapur Museum.

More about the Ancient City of Bishapur

When to visit Bishapur

In Spring and Summer from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. The reception desk closes at 7:30 p.m.

In Autumn and Winter from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. The reception desk closes at 5:30 p.m.

Attractions Near the Ancient City of Bishapur

In addition to the historical attractions, you will have the option to enjoy the fascinating nature near Bishapur. Parishan Lake, Davan Village, Daffodil fields as well as Kalani Cypress are some suggestions.

Where to Eat Near Bishapur

Toranj Restaurant and Takeaway

Boof Restaurant and Takeaway

Soor Restaurant and Fastfood

Soorena Restaurant and Takeaway

Like to check out Bishapur?

Then book a place on our Bishapur Complex excursion tour.

On this 2-day Shiraz to Ahvaz road travel, discover attractions of Sassanid Archaeological Landscape of Fars (UNESCO): Bishapur…
2 Days
Dig deeper into Persian history with a 1-day exploration through two of the magnets of the Sassanid ...
1 Day

Shahpour Cave on Map

Zahra Soltani
Content Manager, International Relations Manager

To Zahra, introducing the beauties of Iran is a delight and an inherent mission! Beyond that, arts, culture, literature, mythology, and all the astonishing secrets of our marvelous universe set her soul on fire! This is what makes Zahra a filmophile, an insatiable reader, and a passionate writer.

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Maria Russo

fascinated, thank you very much!