1933 - Robert Byron
The Shapur Cave
At this time of year, when the emerald grass is sprouting, the grey villages, irregular fields, winding lanes, and broken-down stone walls of the Kazerun valley remind one of Ireland. Even the palms are not wholly out of place in such a comparison.
The neighbouring ruins of Shapur, although close to the main road, offer as virgin, if not so interesting, an archaeological field as those of Firuzabad. The place was named after its founder, Shapur I, whose relations with the gods, numerous victories, and capture of the Roman Emperor Valerian, are depicted on the walls of a miniature gorge. As documents, these reliefs give a detailed picture of Sasanian fashions in harness, hats, trousers, shoes, and weapons. As monuments, they are an interesting survival of that uncouth impulse which prompted the early monarchies of Egypt, Mesopotamia, and Iran to hew themselves immortality out of the living rock. As works of art, they have borrowed from Rome, possibly through Roman prisoners, and mask their barbarous ostentation under a veneer of Mediterranean stateliness and opulence. Those who admire force without art, and form without mind, find them lovely.
The statue of Shapur, in full round and three times life-size, improves on the reliefs only by its situation, which is at the mouth of a cave three miles up the valley behind the gorge. A climb of 600 feet leads up to it. The last fifteen were perpendicular, and I stuck, while the valley swam below me. But before I could resist, the villagers had bundled me up like a sack, as they did our Iunch and wine. The statue must have been twenty feet high, and have stretched from floor to ceiling just inside the entrance. At present a crowned head with a Velasquez beard and the curls of a Spanish Infanta lies at the bottom of a cavity, above which inclines a torso sprigged with muslin tassels and broken off at the thighs. Mr. Hyde carved his name on it in 1821. We were just in time to stop Jamshyd Taroporevala, our Indian chauffeur, from adding his. Two feet in square-toed shoes still occupy the pedestal.
The back of the cave descends into a series of enormous pits whence ramify cathedrals of impenetrable obscurity. We had a lantern, but its range was helpless against such distances, and it served only to warn us there was too much water to explore them.
The Road to Oxiana