Band-e Kaisar

The Band-e Kaisar (Persian: بند قیصر, "Caesar's dam"‎), Pol-e Kaisar ("Caesar's bridge"), Bridge of Valerian or Shadirwan was an ancient arch bridge in Shushtar, Iran, and the first in the country to combine it with a dam.[1] Built by a Roman workforce in the 3rd century AD on Sassanid order,[2] it was also the most eastern Roman bridge and Roman dam, lying deep in Persian territory.[3] Its dual-purpose design exerted a profound influence on Iranian civil engineering and was instrumental in developing Sassanid water management techniques.[4]

The approximately 500 m long overflow dam over the Karun, Iran's most affluent river, was the core structure of the Shushtar Historical Hydraulic System (سازه‌های آبی شوشتر) from which the city derived its agricultural productivity,[5] and which has been designated by the UNESCO as Iran's 10th World Heritage Site in 2009.[6] The arched superstructure carried across the important road between Pasargadae and the Sassanid capital Ctesiphon.[7] Many times repaired in the Islamic period,[8] the dam bridge remained in use until the late 19th century.[9]

Band-e Kaisar
Sushtar Bridge
Remains of the dam bridge
Coordinates32°03′13″N 48°50′55″E / 32.053723°N 48.848687°ECoordinates: 32°03′13″N 48°50′55″E / 32.053723°N 48.848687°E
CarriesSassanid road PasargadaeCtesiphon
CrossesKarun river
LocaleShushtar, Iran
Other name(s)Pol-e Kaisar, Bridge of Valerian, Shadirwan
DesignWeir with bridge superstructure
MaterialSandstone ashlar, Roman concrete
Total lengthCa. 500 m
Longest span9 m
No. of spans40+
DesignerRoman engineers
Constructed byShapur I
Construction startCa. 260−270 AD
Official nameShushtar Historical Hydraulic System
Criteriai, ii, v
Designated2009 (33rd session)
Reference no.1315
State PartyIran
Band-e Kaisar is located in Iran
Band-e Kaisar
Band-e Kaisar
Location in Iran


According to Persian tradition, the Band-e Kaisar is named after the Roman emperor Valerian (253–260 AD) who was captured with his entire army by the Sassanid ruler Shapur I after having been defeated in the Battle of Edessa (260). This vast labour force, which may have numbered up to 70,000 men and included the Roman engineering corps, was employed by the victors for construction work in Shushtar, an important agricultural center in south-western Iran.[10] To service its large stretches of arable land, altogether some 150,000 hectares, the Romans set out to construct three structures: a canal called Ab-i Gargar, and the two dams of Band-e Kaisar and Band-e Mizan which directed the water flow of the Karun river into the artificial watercourse.[11][A. 1]

The story is related by the Muslim historians Tabari and Masudi in the 9th and 10th centuries.[12] Although their novelistic narrative cannot be blindly trusted, the historical presence of the Romans is corroborated by modern local names, such as "Roumischgan" for a nearby village, and a Lurs tribe by the name of "Rumian".[7] Moreover, local tradition ascribes to Roman settlers the origin of a number of trades, like the production of brocade, and several popular customs.[12]

The dam bridge at Shushtar belonged to the important road connection between the Sassanid centres of Pasargadae and Ctesiphon.[7] Two further Sassanid dam bridges on this road, the Pa-i-Pol across the Karkheh and the one at Dezful over the Ab-i Diz, are also assumed to be the contemporary work of Roman prisoners of war. Both exhibit typically Roman masonry bound with mortar, a technique completely foreign to indigenous architecture.[13]

Modelled on the Roman example, the integration of a bridge superstructure into dam design became a standard practice of Iranian hydraulic engineering which lasted until about 1000 AD, when it culminated in the still existing Band-e Amir at Shiraz.[14]


Shushtar lies on a rocky plateau above the Karun, Iran's most effluent river. An early dam, built by the Sassanids to divert water for the town and its extensive irrigable hinterland, did not work properly.[15] The irrigation scheme put into effect after the arrival of the Roman labour force included three steps: First, the river was redirected towards the Ab-i Gargar, a channel which branches off the Karun at a point upstream of the dam construction site, rejoining the main river some 50 km south; the island it forms, called Mianâb ("Paradise"), is known for its orchard plantations.[16]

Then, the Band-e Kaisar was built across the dried-up riverbed, with its foundations following a winding course in search for solid strata of sandstone.[17] As the water flowed permanently over the top, the hydraulic structure conforms to the definition of a weir rather than a dam.[9] Estimations of the raised water level range from a few feet[15] to 7−10 m,[18] but was most likely in the order of 3−4 m, which was enough to supply water for the irrigation conduits on both banks during the dry season.[8] Despite its modest height, the weir wall was quite thick (9−10 m) in order to accommodate the arcaded superstructure.[19]

On top of the weir, a roadway supported by originally at least forty arches ran along its entire length of around 500 m.[8] The pointed arches which dominate visually the present-day structure, or rather its remains, are testimony to numerous reconstruction and maintenance works executed in Islamic times.[20] The typical clear span of the Pol-e Kaisar was between 6.6 and 9 m.[8]

The piers, protected on their upstream side by pointed cutwaters, were of rectangular shape and pierced by high-set floodways; their considerable thickness of 5 to 6.4 m restricted the waterway by nearly one-half.[8] By comparison, pier thicknesses of Roman bridges located within the empire’s frontiers commonly made up one-fourth of the length of the bridge and did not exceed a maximum of one-third.[21]

The facing of the piers and the foundation consists of cut sandstone blocks bond by mortar and joined by iron clamps; the interior was filled with Roman concrete,[22] a building technique also observed in the Pa-i-pol bridge.[7] On the upstream face, the river-bed was paved with large stone slabs, probably to prevent the current from undermining the dam base.[23] One former Persian name of the dam, "Shadirwan", derives from this paving.[12]

Finally, another smaller barrage, the Band-e Mizan, whose construction may postdate the Roman works, was erected upstream to control the flow of water into the Ab-i Gargar canal.[24] The time it took the Roman labour force to complete the ancient Shushtar hydraulic complex is variously reported as spanning three to seven years.[25]

The site has been referred to as "a masterpiece of creative genius" by UNESCO.[6] Along with the hydraulic works, it also includes Selastel Castle and a tower for water level measurement, as well as a series of water mills.[6]

See also


  1. ^ The names of the two barrages are confused by Smith (1971) and Hodge (1992 & 2000). O'Connor (1993), too, incorrectly locates the Band-e Kaisar on the Ab-i Gargar branch.


  1. ^ Vogel 1987, p. 50
  2. ^ Smith 1971, pp. 56–61; Schnitter 1978, p. 32; Kleiss 1983, p. 106; Vogel 1987, p. 50; Hartung & Kuros 1987, p. 232; Hodge 1992, p. 85; O'Connor 1993, p. 130; Huff 2010; Kramers 2010
  3. ^ Schnitter 1978, p. 28, fig. 7
  4. ^ Impact on civil engineering: Huff 2010; on water management: Smith 1971, pp. 60f.
  5. ^ Length: Hodge 1992, p. 85; Hodge 2000, pp. 337f.; extensive irrigation system: O'Connor 1993, p. 130
  6. ^ a b c Shushtar Historical Hydraulic System, UNESCO, retrieved on May 1, 2010
  7. ^ a b c d Hartung & Kuros 1987, p. 232
  8. ^ a b c d e Hartung & Kuros 1987, p. 246
  9. ^ a b Hodge 1992, p. 85; Hodge 2000, pp. 337f.
  10. ^ Vogel 1987, p. 50; engineers: Kleiss 1983, p. 106
  11. ^ Smith 1971, p. 58; hectares: O'Connor 1993, p. 130
  12. ^ a b c Kramers 2010
  13. ^ Roman masonry: Hartung & Kuros 1987, pp. 232, 238, fig. 13; 249; Iranian non-use: Chaumont 1964, p. 170, fn. 3
  14. ^ Smith 1971, pp. 60f.; Vogel 1987, p. 50
  15. ^ a b Smith 1971, pp. 57f.
  16. ^ Smith 1971, p. 58; length: Hartung & Kuros 1987, p. 246; orchards: Shushtar Historical Hydraulic System, UNESCO, retrieved on May 1, 2010
  17. ^ Smith 1971, pp. 57ff.; sandstone: Hartung & Kuros 1987, p. 232
  18. ^ O'Connor 1993, p. 130
  19. ^ 30–40 feet: Smith 1971, pp. 57ff.
  20. ^ Reconstructed arches: Smith 1971, pp. 112−113, plate 17; other repairs: Hartung & Kuros 1987, p. 246
  21. ^ O'Connor 1993, p. 164
  22. ^ Smith 1971, pp. 57ff.; Hartung & Kuros 1987, p. 232
  23. ^ Smith 1971, pp. 57ff.; slabs: Kramers 2010
  24. ^ Hartung & Kuros 1987, p. 247f.
  25. ^ Smith 1971, pp. 57ff.


  • Chaumont, M.-L. (1964), "Les Sassanides et la christianisation de l'Empire iranien au IIIe siècle de notre ère", Revue de l'histoire des religions, 165 (2): 165–202 (170)
  • Hartung, Fritz; Kuros, Gh. R. (1987), "Historische Talsperren im Iran", in Garbrecht, Günther, Historische Talsperren, 1, Stuttgart: Verlag Konrad Wittwer, pp. 221–274, ISBN 3-87919-145-X
  • Hodge, A. Trevor (1992), Roman Aqueducts & Water Supply, London: Duckworth, p. 85, ISBN 0-7156-2194-7
  • Hodge, A. Trevor (2000), "Reservoirs and Dams", in Wikander, Örjan, Handbook of Ancient Water Technology, Technology and Change in History, 2, Leiden: Brill, pp. 331–339 (337f.), ISBN 90-04-11123-9
  • Huff, Dietrich (2010), "Bridges. Pre-Islamic Bridges", in Yarshater, Ehsan, Encyclopædia Iranica Online
  • Kleiss, Wolfram (1983), "Brückenkonstruktionen in Iran", Architectura, 13: 105–112 (106)
  • Kramers, J. H. (2010), "Shushtar", in Bearman, P., Encyclopaedia of Islam (2nd ed.), Brill Online
  • O'Connor, Colin (1993), Roman Bridges, Cambridge University Press, p. 130 (No. E42), ISBN 0-521-39326-4
  • Schnitter, Niklaus (1978), "Römische Talsperren", Antike Welt, 8 (2): 25–32 (32)
  • Smith, Norman (1971), A History of Dams, London: Peter Davies, pp. 56–61, ISBN 0-432-15090-0
  • Vogel, Alexius (1987), "Die historische Entwicklung der Gewichtsmauer", in Garbrecht, Günther, Historische Talsperren, 1, Stuttgart: Verlag Konrad Wittwer, pp. 47–56 (50), ISBN 3-87919-145-X

Further reading

  • Galliazzo, Vittorio (1995), I ponti romani, Vol. 1, Treviso: Edizioni Canova, pp. 89–90, ISBN 88-85066-66-6

External links

Media related to Band-e Kaisar at Wikimedia Commons

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Band-e Kaisar

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FC Kaisar

Kaisar-i-Hind Medal

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List of Roman dams and reservoirs

This is a list of Roman dams and reservoirs. The study of Roman dam-building has received little scholarly attention in comparison to their other civil engineering activities, even though their contributions in this field have been ranked alongside their expertise in constructing the well-known Roman aqueducts, bridges, and roads.Roman dam construction began in earnest in the early imperial period. For the most part, it concentrated on the semi-arid fringe of the empire, namely the provinces of North Africa, the Near East, and Hispania. The relative abundance of Spanish dams below is due partly to more intensive field work there; for Italy only the Subiaco Dams, created by emperor Nero (54–68 AD) for recreational purposes, are attested. These dams are noteworthy, though, for their extraordinary height, which remained unsurpassed anywhere in the world until the Late Middle Ages.The most frequent dam types were earth- or rock-filled embankment dams and masonry gravity dams. These served a wide array of purposes, such as irrigation, flood control, river diversion, soil-retention, or a combination of these functions. In this, Roman engineering did not differ fundamentally from the practices of older hydraulic societies.

"The Romans' ability to plan and organise engineering construction on a grand scale" gave their dam construction special distinction. Their engineering prowess, therefore, facilitated the construction of large and novel reservoir dams, which secured a permanent water supply for urban settlements even during the dry season, a common concept today, but little-understood and -employed in ancient times.The impermeability of Roman dams was increased by the introduction of waterproof hydraulic mortar and especially opus caementicium in the Concrete Revolution. These materials also allowed for bigger structures to be built, like the Lake Homs Dam, possibly the largest water barrier to date, and the sturdy Harbaqa Dam, both of which consist of a concrete core.

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arch-gravity dams

arch dams

buttress dams

multiple-arch buttress dams The origin of the so-called weir bridges, which were to become a popular design in Iran thereafter, can also be traced to the forced labour of Roman prisoners of war (see Band-e Kaisar).

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Shadirvan (Turkish: şadırvan, Arabic: شاذروان‎) is a type of fountain that is usually built in the yard or entrance in front of mosques, caravanserais, khanqahs and madrasahs, with the main purpose of providing water for drinking or ritual ablutions to several people at the same time, but also as decorative visual or sound element.

Shadirvan is Persian in origin, and is a typical element of Ottoman architecture. Examples include Shadirvan square in Prizren, and the Band-e Kaisar Shadervan Bridge in Iran.

The term sadirvan may alternatively be spelt shadervan; shaderwan; şadervan; šadervan, šadrvan or šedrvan; and Шадраван (shadravan).


Shushtar (Persian: شوشتر‎; also Romanized as Shūshtar and Shūstar, and Shooshtar) is a city and capital of Shushtar County, Khuzestan Province, Iran.Shushtar is an ancient fortress city, approximately 92 kilometres (57 mi) away from Ahvaz, the centre of the province. Much of its past agricultural productivity derives from the irrigation system which centered on the Band-e Kaisar, the first dam bridge in Iran. The Mayor of Shushtar is Ahmad Asefi.

Shushtar Historical Hydraulic System

Shushtar Historical Hydraulic System, (Persian: سازه‌های آبی شوشتر‎) is a complex irrigation system of the island city Shushtar from the Sassanid era.

Located in Iran's Khuzestan Province. It was registered on UNESCO's list of World Heritage Sites in 2009 and is Iran's 10th cultural heritage site to be registered on the United Nations' list.Shushtar infrastructure included water mills, dams, tunnels, and canals. GarGar weir was built on the watermills and waterfalls. Bolayti canal is situated on the eastern side of the water mills and water falls and the functions to supply water from behind the GarGar bridge to the east side of water mills and the channel the water of river in order to prevent the damage to the water mills. Dahaneye shahr tunnel (city orifice) is one of the three main tunnels which channeled the water from behind the GarGar weir into the water mill and then run several water mills. Seh koreh canal channels the water from behind the GarGar bridge into the western side. In water mills and water falls, there are noticeable mills we can see a perfect model of haltering to run mills.The Band-e Kaisar ("Caesar's dam"), an approximately 500-metre (1,600 ft) long Roman weir across the Karun, was the key structure of the complex which, along with the Band-i-Mizan, retained and diverted river water into the irrigation canals in the area. Built by a Roman workforce in the 3rd century AD on Sassanid order, it was the most eastern Roman bridge and Roman dam and the first structure in Iran to combine a bridge with a dam.Parts of the irrigation system are said to originally date to the time of Darius the Great, an Achaemenian king of Iran. It partly consists of a pair of primary diversion canals in the Karun river, one of which is still in use today. It delivers water to the Shushtar city via a route of supplying tunnels. The area includes Salasel Castel, which is the axis for operation of the hydraulic system. It also consists of a tower for water level measurement, along with bridges, dams, mills, and basins.Then it enters the plain south from the city, where its impact includes enabling the possibility of farming over the area called Mianâb and planting orchards. In fact the whole area between the two diversion canals (Shutayt and Gargar) on Karun river is called Mianâb, an island having the Shushtar city at its northern end.The site has been referred to as "a masterpiece of creative genius" by UNESCO.

Valerian (emperor)

Valerian (; Latin: Publius Licinius Valerianus Augustus; 193/195/200 – 260 or 264), also known as Valerian the Elder, was Roman Emperor from 22 October 253 AD to spring 260 AD. He was taken captive by the Persian Emperor, Shapur I, after the Battle of Edessa, becoming the first Roman emperor to be captured as a prisoner of war, causing shock and instability throughout the empire.

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