Iran's History 15 Nov 2023 BY Maryam Mahmoudian

Firuzabad: The Ancient Capital | The Rise and Fall of Gor City

Firuzabad, also known as Gor City, is an ancient city located in Fars Province, Iran. It is believed to have been built by Ardashir I, the founder of the Sasanian Empire, in the 3rd century CE.

The city was an important center of Zoroastrianism, and it was also the site of several battles between the Sasanians and the Arabs. Today, the city is a popular tourist destination, to explore the history of Firuzabad and its many attractions.


Historical Background of Firuzabad and Gor City

Historical Background of Firuzabad and Gor City

Gore, an ancient city within the Firozabad plain, holds historical significance as one of the earliest examples of a geometrically planned city in ancient Iran, earning the distinction of being the first circular city in the region.

The city's roots extend to the Achaemenid period before the Sasanian rule. Flourishing under Achaemenid governance, the circular city of Gōr boasted robust defenses that thwarted any attempts by adversaries to breach its walls. The Firozabad plain, with its strategic geographical position surrounded by towering mountains and flowing rivers, had captivated the interest of ancient Iranian rulers since time immemorial. Access to this area proved challenging due to its rugged terrain.

Even Alexander the Great, in his sweeping conquest of Iran, faced difficulty penetrating this city. Resorting to altering the course of the river, he redirected water into the city of Ghor, resulting in the demise of Gore. The lake created by this diversion endured until Ardashir I, who, with ingenuity, constructed a tunnel to drain it. This site became the foundation for his new capital, known by various names, including Khor Ardashīr, Ardashīr Khurrah, or Shahr-e Gor.

The Battle of Firuzabad in 224 AD marked a pivotal moment as Ardeshir I triumphed over the last Parthian emperor, Artabanus V, establishing the Sassanian Empire. Throughout the Sassanian era, Firuzabad thrived as a hub for regal activities and cultural blossoming. However, subsequent invasions, including the Arab conquest in the 7th century, reshaped Firuzabad's trajectory, inaugurating a new chapter in its history.

A resurgence occurred under the Buyids, led by Fanna Khusraw, breathing new life into Firuzabad. Despite this revival, the city faced eventual abandonment during the Qajar period, making way for the rise of a neighboring town, now known as Firuzabad. The lone survivor from Firuzabad's ancient past is the central core—a venerable tower that stands as a testament to its rich history.

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Firuzabad: Architectural Marvels

Firuzabad Architectural Marvels

Ancient Sassanian circular city of Gōr, protected by a 50-meter-wide trench and featuring four gates (Hormozd, Ardashir, Mithra (Gor Mehr), and Bahram), had a central compound at the heart of a 2-kilometer-wide circular layout. At the city center stood the enigmatic Terbal, a 30-meter-high, spiral-designed tower. Its purpose remains a subject of speculation, contributing to the city's mystique.

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The Ardeshir Palace

The Ardeshir Palace

This imposing structure in Gor city served as the royal residence and witnessed the unfolding of key historical events, including the Battle of Firuzabad. The Ardeshir Palace's architectural mastery is evident in its fusion of stone and brickwork. The palace boasts a distinctive domed audience hall and elaborate reliefs that narrate Sassanian triumphs. The marriage of grand scale and intricate detailing is a testament to Sassanian engineering innovation. Despite the passage of centuries, the palace's structural integrity remains, inviting visitors to appreciate the enduring legacy of Sassanian architecture.

| Also read: Taq Bostan | Sassanid Rock Reliefs in Kermanshah


Qal'eh Dokhtar


Qal'eh Dokhtar, or Maiden Castle, crowns Firuzabad's skyline with an air of mystery. Dating back to the Sassanian era, its circular design prompts speculation about its original purpose—whether a fire temple or a defensive stronghold.

Maiden Castle's concentric circular design, featuring massive stone walls and a central tower, exemplifies Sassanian strategic brilliance. The intricate carvings and watchtowers invite contemplation about the castle's dual role as a defensive fortress and a potentially multifunctional structure. Firuzabad's skyline, adorned with the enigmatic Maiden Castle, beckons visitors to unravel the secrets concealed within its ancient walls.

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Milo Minaret

Milo Minaret

At the center of the ancient city of Gore stands the Milo Minaret (Tribal), a structure whose remnants offer glimpses into a bygone era. Originally estimated to be nearly 80 meters in height and with sides measuring about 20 meters, this square-shaped minaret held a prominent place in the city's landscape. Today, though diminished in size, standing at approximately 30 meters high with sides measuring 9 meters, the Milo Minaret retains its historical significance.

Milo Minaret served multifaceted purposes, including observation, hosting ritual ceremonies, and military functions.


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The Fire Temple

The Fire Temple

The ancient fire temples of Firuzabad hold profound significance in Zoroastrianism, one of the world's oldest monotheistic religions. These sacred spaces served as centers for worship, where the eternal flame symbolized purity and the divine presence. The preservation of fire, a vital element in Zoroastrian rituals, connected believers to the core tenets of their faith.

Within the hallowed walls of Firuzabad's fire temples, Zoroastrians engaged in rituals and practices that shaped the religious landscape. Ceremonies around the sacred fire, prayers, and communal gatherings became integral to the religious life of the community. Exploring these ancient temples offers a window into the spiritual legacy of Zoroastrianism and the enduring flame that has symbolized divine connection for millennia.

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The Gor Observatory

The Gor Observatory

The Gor Observatory, among Iran's oldest, is a circular structure fashioned from mud and clay. It serves as a historical testament to early astronomical practices. With a diameter of approximately 5.65 meters, the observatory played a pivotal role in celestial observation and charting in that time.

| Suggestion: Naqsh-e Rustam | Zoroastrian and Sassanid Legacy


Gor City: Nearby Attractions

Following your exploration of the Ancient City of Gur, you have the opportunity to leisurely visit nearby points of interest:


Tangab Dam Lake

Tangab Dam Lake

Just 30 kilometers northeast of Gore, you'll find Tangab Dam Lake surrounded by beautiful mountains. Locally known as Sasanian Dam or Ariyo Barzan Dam, it's a significant water source for Firuzabad's farms and industries. Take in the peaceful scenery and enjoy the mix of nature and human-made beauty.


Khergheh Village

Khergheh Village

Known as Firuzabad's "paradise," Khergheh Village is in Ahmadabad District. It's famous for its greenery and pleasant weather. Explore the village's green valley, Khargheh gorge, and historical spots like waterfalls, springs, the Imamzadeh tomb, and a castle. One special place is Imamzadeh Dawood, believed to date back to the Ilkhanian dynasty — a peaceful spot for reflection.

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How to Get to the Gor City

As mentioned before, the city of Gor is situated in Fars province, just 5 kilometers west of Firouzabad city. To explore the ancient city of Gour, you need to travel to Fars province and reach Firuz abad city. Firozabad is positioned 100 km south of Shiraz and 200 km north of Bandar Siraf. If you have already visited the enchanting city of Shiraz and its attractions, now is an ideal moment to discover this ancient city.


Best Time to Visit the Ancient City of Firuzabad

How to Get to the Gor City

The best time to visit Firuzabad is during the spring (March to May) and fall (September to November) when the weather is mild and pleasant. During these seasons, temperatures are comfortable, and nature is at its most vibrant. Spring brings blooming flowers and lush greenery, while fall offers pleasant temperatures and beautiful foliage.

Summer (June to August) can be quite hot, with high temperatures, making outdoor activities less enjoyable. Winter (December to February) can be chilly, especially in the evenings, and some sites may be less accessible due to weather conditions.

Visiting hours of the Gor city are from 8 am to 8 pm in the first half of the year and from 8 am to 6 pm in the second half of the year.

It's advisable to plan your visit in a way that avoids extending into the time of sunset and nighttime. The area lacks optimal lighting during these hours, which might impact the visibility and overall experience.

To make the most of your exploration and appreciate the historical and natural beauty, focusing on daytime visits, particularly during the well-lit hours, would ensure a more enjoyable and safe experience.

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Guided Tours and Local Guides

Enhance your Firuzabad experience by considering guided tours or hiring local guides. Knowledgeable guides can provide historical context, cultural insights, and navigate you through the intricacies of the city's landmarks. Many attractions benefit from a guided explanation, enriching your understanding of Firuzabad's storied past.


Final Takeaway

The Ancient City of Firuzabad, with its enduring allure and historical riches, invites every visitor to explore the depths of its vibrant history. Engaging in a harmonious blend of ancient architecture and natural splendor, Firuzabad encourages you to participate in its narrative.

Wander around the Ancient City of Gur, envision the echoes of the past, and let your experience in Firuzabad transcend beyond a mere visit. May your journey through Firuzabad be not just a visit but a journey through time that lingers in your heart.

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