British Museum collections, £12.99
Length: 4.700 cm
Width: 3.700 cm
Thickness: 0.500 cm
Room 52: Ancient Iran
Carnelian seal stone of Vehdin-Shapur
Sasanian, 5th century AD
The seal of an important official with his portrait
This is an exceptionally large and finely carved Sasanian carnelian seal stone. The inscription, in Pahlavi characters, names him as 'Vehdin-Shapur, chief store-keeper of Iran'. He was probably an official under Yazdagird II (reigned AD 438-57). His high rank is shown by his elaborate headdress.
About AD 224 the Parthians were defeated by Ardashir, a descendant of Sasan who gave his name to the new Sasanian dynasty. They were to rule Iran for over 400 years and saw themselves as the successors to the Achaemenid Persians. The central government was strengthened, coinage reformed and Zoroastrianism made the state religion. By the fourth century the Sasanian empire stretched from the Euphrates to the Indus and included Armenia and Georgia.
After the reign of Shapur II (AD 309-79), however, the Sasanians were beset with problems with nomadic groups on their northern and eastern frontiers, particularly the Hephthalite Huns. With Varahran V (AD 420-38) there were struggles over the succession by opposing parties of the feudal lords. The nomadic tribes would eventually be defeated by the energetic ruler Chosroes I Anushirvan (AD 531-79).
D. Collon, Ancient Near Eastern art (London, The British Museum Press, 1995)
J. Curtis, Ancient Persia (London, The British Museum Press, 1990)