Ancient castles and fortresses in Persia: Zahhak Castle Society

Even though Iran is better known for foreign tourists by magnificent mosques, labyrinthine bazaars, madrasas, wind-catchers, ancient cities like Persepolis, which was once the ceremonial capital of the Persian Empire, the nation does have a large number of rather forgotten historical heritages like tens of ruined castles.


Built around 2000 BC, Zahhak Castle is one of those lesser-known monuments. It was used as a government building and a fire temple during the later Parthian era (247 BC – 224 CE).

Located in northwest Iran, near Hashtroud, the castle contains depictions of animals and symbols that show what life was like for the royalty in ancient Iran. It includes a square-shaped hall made of bricks built during the Parthia period. During this time, Zoroastrianism was the religion of the ruling kings, who likely used part of the castle for a fire temple.

It is unknown why this particular castle was named Zahhak but in Persian legend, Zahhak is the name of an Arab king who conquered and ruled over ancient Iran. The story is recounted in the Shahnameh, or Book of Kings, written by Ferdowsi. Kawa is the hero in this particular story, who rescues his Kurdish people in Iran from Zahhak’s control.

Zahhak castle also served as a military defense during the Parthian era given its position close to the Iranian border with other nations in the northwest, including Turkey and Armenia.