Sunday, March 7, 2010

Salasel Fortress

Salasel Fortress (قلعه سلاسل) is located on a hill overlooking Shatit River in the city of Shushtar. In pre-Islamic times water from the river passed beneath the Fortress and was redirected into different parts of the city. The Fortress was in use until the Qajar period as a center for managing the water of the river. The exact date of the construction of the Fortress is unknown but it was possibly built during the Parthian or the Sassanid era. Existence of Parthian clays in the area is strong proof to this claim. Some experts date the foundation of the Fortress to the Achaemenid era.  

Salasel Fortress has largely been devastated due to several conflicts that occurred in the region as well as natural disasters such as floods and earthquakes. Yet it remains a precious source of information for archaeologists who have thus far found much historic evidence in this ancient Fortress.  

One of the most significant historical instances involving the Salasel Fortress was during the Battle of Tostar (642) where the Fortress (and Shushtar in general) was attacked by the Arabs lead by Abu Musa Ashari. Under the leadership of the Persian commander, Hormozan, and due to unpenetrable nature of the Fortress, the Persians held the Arabs at bay for 6 months (and by some accounts 2 years). The city was impossible to take by storm and several unsuccessful attempts were made to breach the walls. Ultimately a Persian defector opened the city's gates from within making way for Abu Musa's army.  

Originally Salasel Fortress consisted of a vast yard, pools, barns, barracks for soldiers, towers, baths, a kitchen and many other rooms. Little is left of any of this although its underground rooms and tunnels are fairly intact. There are 2 canals excavated under Salasel Fortress which are accessible via two rows of stone stairways. After about a hundred meters downstream these canals merge and become the Darion Open Canal. Further down stream this Canal once again divides into two branches. In addition to its role in controlling the flow of water and its military strategic position, this Fortress also housed the Governor of Khuzestan.  

Archeological boring pits in the southern shell of Salasel Fortress in the city of Shushtar in Khuzestan province resulted in the discovery of an Islamic graveyard belonging to the middle Islamic period (1050-1450 AH). The boring pits were dug at distances ranging from 120 to 130 meters from the Fortress. The design of a flying bird, four swords and daggers and a shield was carved on one of the graves of this cemetery. The designs on the graves are believed to be the symbols of death and ascending to God.  

Iran’s Cultural Heritage and Tourism Organization has recently been granted the ownership of this Sassanid Fort, a very welcome move as for years Salasel Fortress has been utilized as a storage area for keeping goods by different organizations including the Grain and Sugar Organization, Drug Control Headquarters and Khomeini Relief Fund. For many years this Sassanid Fortress did not have any legal custodian and therefore was not well preserved. The activities of these organizations, especially the restoration work done without consulting experts in renovation of ancient monuments, have greatly altered the historic architectural style of this Fortress.


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