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The Spread Wings Motif on Armenian Steles: Its Meaning and Parallels in Sasanian Art

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image of Iran and the Caucasus

This paper is a study on the so-called “spread wings”—a particular element of the Sasanian art that is attested also in other regions of the Persian Empire in Late Antiquity, including the western coast of the Persian Gulf and the Caucasus. The spread wings can be observed on Sasanian coins above the royal crowns, which are considered specific for every Sasanian sovereign, supporting astronomical elements, like the crescent, star, and, possibly, the sun. The Arabs and the peoples of the Caucasus who adopted Christianity used the spread wings element as a pedestal for the cross. In Armenian literature, there are some connections between those spread wings and glory, so that a kind of pedestal could be considered a device to exalt or glorify the element above it. The floating ribbons attached to Sasanian crowns had possibly the same meaning and were adopted also outside of proper Persia. In the same way, it could be considered correct to identify those luminaries on Sasanian crowns as divine elements connected with the religion of pre-Islamic Persia.

Affiliations: 1: Università Ca'Foscari, Venice


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