The Symbolism of Camel Motif in Sasanian Engraving Art( Case study of 55 master piece)

Document Type : Research Paper


1 Asistant Professor,Art Collage,Semnan University

2 Instructor of art college of Semnan, Semnan University, Semnan, Iran


The Sasanian art is the reflection of mythological concepts in connection with the Zorastrian beliefs. The mythological concepts of this period are conveyed by various representations of natural motifs such as plants, animals, the birds and mythical creatures. So the motifs may show a profound symbolic concept. Although camel is a rare motif in Sasanian art but it is related to obscure mythical concepts. The camel motif was used in Iran from the prehistoric times. The first two examples are  the camel motif painted on the potteries found in Teppe Sialk, which is related to the third millennium B.C., and a bronze ax-head discovered in a grave at Korab in Sistan which had a sitting camel on it.  During the Sasanian period, this motif is found on the seals (Qasr-i AbuNasr, Tacht e Suleiman), metal vessels, stone reliefs (Hatra and Palmyra), wall-paintings in castles (Panjikent, Afrasyab). The importance of these specimens on which the camel motif is used, shows the credibility of the motif. The study aims to study the mythological backgrounds of the motif and its relations to Zorastrian concepts. Understanding the symbolic ideas of the camel motif is the main aim in this study. The present study uses descriptive-analytical method and data collecting method is Purposive sampling.  The name of the prophet Zoroaster in Avestan language is “Zaraẟuštra”. The second part of his name is the Avestan word for camel, “Uštra “. Although different interpretations have been suggested for the meaning of the name but it is more accepted that the name of the prophet means “who is fostering/cherishing camels” or “he who can manage the camels”. other the meanings like “longing for camels" and “he who is with angry/furious camels” are also proposed. Therefore, the camel may symbolize the concept of bearing knowledge and spreading the light of faith in the dark of infidelity. It clarifies the reasons of using the camel symbol on the Sasanian seals belonging to the priests. Besides that, the motif of camel is used in the reliefs of the warriors in Hatra and Palmyra. The research results show that the camel motif was the absolute depiction for war gods in Near Eastern cultures. The gods named Arsu, Ruda, Reshef, Bahram and Vahagen are all related to the camel. Arsu, Reshef and Ruda always ride the camel in complete armor. Although Bahram and its Soghdian identification “Vahagen” were never showed riding the camel, but in Avesta camel is described as one of the incarnations of Verethraghna(Bahram/Vahagan).In Yasht 14, lines 10-13 are dedicated to camel, as the persistence and determined symbol of Bahram and is described as a long haired beast of burden, with sharp teeth, quick eyed and bright strong sight. The camel has ventured far sight and is capable to see in the deep dark of the night which symbolizes the vision inside Bahram. The bravery, uncontrollable victory, the furious, inevitable fighting powers of Bahram are all symbolized with the natural powers of the camel like his uncontrollable temperament and greatest strengths.


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