Retrieving the Motif and Evolution of the Double-Headed Eagle in Iranian art from Ancient to Seljuk Period

Document Type : Research Paper


1 Ph.D. Student in Comparative and Analytical History of Islamic Art, Faculty of Arts, Shahid University, Tehran, Iran.

2 Assistant Professor, Faculty of Arts, Shahid University, Tehran, Iran.

3 Associate Professor, Faculty of Arts, Shahid University, Tehran, Iran.


In ancient civilizations such as Iran and Mesopotamia, an eagle figure can be seen, which has two heads - inclined to the right and left - and with open wings. The continued use of this motif until the Islamic period in Iran and Anatolia made it emerge as a national symbol in the Seljuk period. This motif represents the dominance of the West and the East, and the implied concept of power and kingship. Available sources attribute this motif to the Hittite civilization in the second millennium BC and consider it influenced by Mesopotamian art, while it has a much older history in Iranian art. Today, due to the importance of this motif as an international symbol, as well as the attribution of the background of this motif in the available sources to other civilizations and the concepts hidden in it, the need to investigate and analyze this motif has become more important. The purpose of this research is to find the roots and evolution of the motif of the form and content of the double-headed eagle in the art of ancient Iran until the Seljuk period. Also, identifying the important factors in drawing this motif in Iranian art is another goal of the research, which is done for the first time in Iranian and international sources. This research has been carried out by descriptive-analytical method and by referring to library-documentary sources. The findings showed that this motif was seen for the first time in the 4th millennium BC in Iran and in the pottery of Tal Bakun - a millennium before the Mesopotamian art. The presence of ancient Iranian myths, religions and rituals, popular beliefs about the king, literature, especially the Shahnameh, are among the reasons for the presence of this motif in the pre-Islamic art of Iran and its continuation until the Islamic period.


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