Visiting the Paikuli Tower Built by the Sasanian King Narseh

Visiting the Paikuli Tower Built by the Sasanian King Narseh

While I was photographing two large blocks at the main hall of the Sulaymaniyah Museum, I read that these blocks were part of the Sassaniantower of Paikuli. “Paikuli”(Arabic: بيكولي; Kurdish: په يكولي): a new name to me! I went home and surfed the net trying to find out what this tower represents. After getting the information, I phoned Mr. Hashim Hama Abdullah, the director of the museum. “Please, guide me on how to get there,” I asked him. He replied positively.

It was a very sunny and hot day in mid-summer, and it was a holiday. I took a relative of mine, who resides near Lake Darbandikhan (Arabic: دربندخان; Kurdish ده ربنديخان), about 80 km south to the city of Sulaymaniyah. We drove south through Bani Khellan (Arabic: باني خيلان; Kurdish: باني خيلان) and then turned west to the foot of Paikuli pass to reach Barkal village (latitude 35° 5’53.91″N; longitude 45°35’25.95″E). The latter lies very near to the ruins of the Paikuli Tower. The ruins can be seen on a hill at the right side of our road.

I used my car to ascend to the top of the hill through a narrow path. A mountainous range looks over the hill. At last, here it is!


Let the time machine take us back. In the year 293 CE, Narseh (also written Narses), brother of the Sassanian king Warham II (also written Barham II) and son of King Shapur I, was in Armenia, very far away from the Sassanian capital of Ctesiphon. In the same year, Warham II died and his son, Warham III, succeeded him and reigned only for few months. Several nobles and notables considered Warham III too weak to rule the Sassanian Empire and supported his grand-uncle, Narseh, in ascending the throne.

Narseh marched back and revolted against Warham III and finally killed his nephew. Narseh then became the seventh Sassanian king.

Approximate location of the Paikuli Tower (click to see on Google Maps).
On the top of this hill, about 1,700 years ago, those Iranian nobles and notables were waiting for the arrival of Narseh (from Armenia) to swear their loyalty and confirm their support. In commemoration of this turbulent time, Narseh built a square-shaped tower on this place (this hilltop), which was part of the border of Asorestan. Narseh documented the event on two sides of the tower, using the Parthian language on one side and the middle Persian language on the other. The two versions of the inscriptions were almost identical. The inscription generally narrates what had happened in two parts; the first part was the circumstances of the war and ascent to power, while the second mentions the names of the nobles and notables who backed up Narseh.