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Takht-e-Sulaiman : King Solomon's Throne Sacred Fire Cult


King Solomon's Throne

In II Milione, Marco Polo recalls that the castle of the “fire worshipers” of Galatia was “three days away” from Sawah, the village where at least one of the Magi came. Not far from Sawah was Qazyat-al-Magus “the village of the magi”, through which Marco Polo certainly had to pass. This relative proximity is undoubtedly a track that should not be underestimated and which is confirmed by archeology: indeed, the historical interpretation of the tradition of the sacred fire venerated by the Magusei (that is to say Eastern Magi priests, experts in astrology and astronomy) is adopted by a theory coming precisely from Takht-e-Sulaiman (literally Throne of Solomon), where stood the temple of royal fire (Athur Gushnasp).

The Sacred Fire

The site of Takht-e-Sulaiman is located on the alleged path of the Three Kings. This route follows the Tigris between Lake Urmia and the Caspian Sea in present-day Iran. In this extended area, in addition, the caravan trail from the kingdom of Sheba which, after crossing part of the Arabian peninsula, crossed the Caspian Sea on entering Persia. The place where the temple of fire stood was clearly separated from the “route of processions”, a route already very busy long before the birth of Christ and which was used by travelers heading to the south of the country.

The sacred fire was apparently started by Ahura Mazda, whose origins date back, according to historians, to 150 BC at the beginning of the Parthian domination. Next to the royal fire temple was the priests' fire temple (Ethur Farnbog) located in Persia, and that of the shepherds and peasants (Adur Burzen-Mihr) in Parthian territory: the exact location of these two sites unfortunately did not reach us.

The relations of the temple of Takht-e-Sulaiman with the worship of fire were established thanks to the interpretation of the scriptures present on certain seals discovered on the site: they highlight the fact that Arthur Gushnasp was the sovereign and the great fire priest of this place. The Book of the bees of the Syriac Mar Solomon contains a speech between Zarathustra (Zoroaster) and King Gushnasp where they evoke the birth of a virgin, the life and death of a future great king, that is to say Zarathustra. When Gushnasp asks Zarathustra if the future king will be more powerful than him, he replies: "He will come from the same source as me, I am him and he is me."

The cult of fire

The sacred fire described by Marco Polo therefore burned in Takht-e-Sulaiman. It is believed that the place already hosted a temple dedicated to the worship of fire long before the journey of the Magi. The three characters, in the light of apocryphal sources and medieval hagiographic versions, are therefore not considered to be the initiators of the cult of the sacred fire, but rather as continuators, on the border between the Zoroastrianism tradition and the requirements of Christianity - the well-established Avesta doctrine has most likely hindered the dissemination of the latter. The Avesta, from the Persian apastak, “fundamental text” is the set of sacred texts of Zoroastrianism.

A Middle Eastern legend describes the wonders of the temple of As-Siz (corresponding to the current Takht-e-Sulaiman) where a perpetual fire burned: from this altar, the priests took the sacred fire, which they carried as a symbolic gift on the occasion of the celebrations. The information, in certain aspects, could be linked to a little-known apocryphal text, the Book of Daniel, where it is said that the Magi, who arrived near the child, bowed down and “set fire” with the three canonical gifts (gold, frankincense and myrrh). The link with the cult celebrated in Takht-e-Sulaiman immediately catches the eye, but does not imply any historically valid foundation.

The symbolism linked to fire includes one of the Three Kings: Caspar, also called Gondophares which means “lord of the Farr”. By “Farr”, we meant an abstract universal principle that can be compared to “the force that supports the Universe, gives it shape and life. It is considered innate because it is also found in water; but it is much more than just fire. This one is personified, on the kushana coins like a god: Farro. He carries fire in his hand and flames shoot out from his shoulders. It is its distinctive sign, its manifested essence ”. Caspar is also often represented next to a fire, an inseparable symbol of the emblem of the Magi.

Caspar : a historical figure?

Gondophares is a historical figure who reigned from 19 AD in an area between Afghanistan and India. Could this be the youngest - a prince - of the three Magi who came to worship the baby Jesus?

The third Magi, named Appelius by the Hebrews and Gastaphar by the Armenians, was known as the Galgalath or Gondophoros by the Greeks. These names refer, it seems, to a character designated by the name of vindafarna, king of a territory located between Afghanistan and India. In the apocryphal text, The Acts of Thomas, there is also talk of a certain Cudnafar, king of India (1, 2), a historical figure who effectively reigned over a part of this country in the 1st century AD. According to specialists in the Iranian religion, “it belongs to the wave of Iranian invaders who, during the 1st century BC, settled on Indo-Afghan territory (…) and it is the first great Indo-Parthian ruler. Of Hellenistic culture, since on the pieces of his reign we find the owl, symbol of Athena and of Greek wisdom, it strengthens its power and its domination by replacing - probably without great eddies - the Sace Kings ”. In addition, a set of inscriptions allows us to establish that this sovereign reigned from 19 AD. This means that one of the Three Kings could indeed be a historical figure. This assumption is credible and partially attested.