The concept of a high place has a deep significance in the history of Iranian Architecture that predates the Islamic conquest and probably even the Achamaenid period. In the pictures above we can see two examples of the early importance of this concept. The tomb of Cyrus the Great is set on top of a symbolic mountain of steps that is reminiscent of the great Ziggurats of Mesopotamia. By placing his tomb on top of the sacred mountain, Cyrus not only stressed his superior status but placed himself closer to the sky and the heavens. More significantly the Iranian kings were thought to be descended from the mountain Ushidarena. This concept of the high place as a temple was incorporated into Zoroastrianism. Herodotus tells us:
"The Persians ascend the highest peaks of the mountains and offer sacrifice to Zeus, calling the whole vault of the sky Zeus, and they also sacrifice to the Sun, Moon, Earth, Fire, Water and
Zoroastrianism became the state religion under the Sassanids, whose fire temples were erected on top of mountains wherever possible. There the sacred fire was kept alight and the most important religious obects were kept there too. The religion persisted even under the Safavids and the importance of the mountain was still evident according to Chardin, who wrote:
" [The Persian Fire Worshippers'] principal temple is near Yazd, in a mountain eighteen leagues distant. This is their great 'atesh-gah' ... This place is also their oracle and their academy"
Last Updated 30/Mar/99