The great Iranian divide: between aniconic West and anthropomorphic East

Michael Shenkar*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


The Avesta and the Rig Veda, our earliest sources for the Indo-Iranian religious tradition, contain ideas and elements with both aniconic and iconic potential. The cultic iconography in Western and Eastern Iran developed in a remarkably different manner. While the Achaemenian and Sasanian cults were aniconic, Eastern Iranian people, like the Kushans and the Sogdians, not only made use of portrayals of their gods in human form, but also venerated their man-made representations in temples. This article suggests that the reason for this sharp distinction in the nature of the cult between Western and Eastern Iran is the impact of acculturated Greek religious practices, which was much stronger in the East than in the West.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)378-398
Number of pages21
Issue number3
StatePublished - 3 Jul 2017

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.


  • Achaemenian
  • Aniconism
  • Iran
  • Kushan
  • Sasanian
  • Sogdian
  • Zoroastrianism
  • anthropomorphism


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