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Heavenly Charioteer

Heavenly Charioteer A third iconographic type, inherited from the Greeks like the two other ones, is that of the charioteer, derived from Apollo-Helios in his quadriga. In the Iranian world it is not documented before the Sasanian period and is never found on coins, although its “frontal” compositional scheme with the horses separating symmetrically appears first with the image of the Greek god on coins of the Greco-Bactrian king Plato (ca. 145 BCE). The Central Asian type of Mithra as charioteer deeply influenced the iconography of the Indian Sūrya, including the costume. On the other hand, syncretic developments with Hindu or local cults, already attested at the official level with the Kushano-Sasanian burzˊawand yazad, continued in Bactria and in the neighboring regions. The main witness is the cave painting at Doḵtar-e Nošervān, to the north of Bāmīan, probably dating from the 7th century (FIGURE 11): the god seated on a throne resting on the foreparts of two horses, with his sword between his legs, conforms to the type of Mithra. This filiation is confirmed by the mask of a horned lion above the wings of his crown, a cluster of animal symbols also found on some Sasanian seals and which appears to allude to the coming of the Sun into Aries, when a festival to the Sun was celebrated (Biruni, Āṯār al-Bākiya, tr. M. A. Sal’e, Abureĭkhan Biruni. Izbrannye proizvedeniya I, Tashkent, 1957, pp. 236-38; this passage is mutilated in Sachau’s edition). The eight animal heads protruding from his halo can be viewed as symbols of the directions of space (rather than planets, as in Grenet, 1995). The Bactrian archives from this valley, however, indicate that the local high god was Žun (< Zurw@an?), whose regional importance all along the Indo-Iranian border is also attested by the Chinese traveler Xuanzang, so it appears plausible that at Dokòtar-e Noæerv@an attributes once proper to Mithra have been reused for an even more encompassing religious figure. http://www.iranica.com/newsite/index.isc?Article=http://iranica.com/newsite/articles/ot_grp10/ot_mithraicon_20060113.html
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