Persepolis
Overview
 
Perspolis was the ceremonial capital of the Achaemenid Empire
Achaemenid Empire
The Achaemenid Empire , sometimes known as First Persian Empire and/or Persian Empire, was founded in the 6th century BCE by Cyrus the Great who overthrew the Median confederation...

 (ca. 550-330 BCE). Persepolis is situated northeast of the modern city of Shiraz
Shiraz, Iran
Shiraz is the sixth most populous city in Iran and is the capital of Fars Province, the city's 2009 population was 1,455,073. Shiraz is located in the southwest of Iran on the Roodkhaneye Khoshk seasonal river...

 in the Fars Province of modern Iran
Iran
Iran , officially the Islamic Republic of Iran , is a country in Southern and Western Asia. The name "Iran" has been in use natively since the Sassanian era and came into use internationally in 1935, before which the country was known to the Western world as Persia...

. In contemporary Persian, the site is known as Takht-e Jamshid (Throne of Jamshid
Jamshid
Jamshid is a mythological figure of Greater Iranian culture and tradition.In tradition and folklore, Jamshid is described as having been the fourth and greatest king of the epigraphically unattested Pishdadian dynasty . This role is already alluded to in Zoroastrian scripture Jamshid (Middle-...

). The earliest remains of Persepolis date from around 515 BCE. To the ancient Persians, the city was known as Pārsa, which means "The City of Persians".
Encyclopedia
Perspolis was the ceremonial capital of the Achaemenid Empire
Achaemenid Empire
The Achaemenid Empire , sometimes known as First Persian Empire and/or Persian Empire, was founded in the 6th century BCE by Cyrus the Great who overthrew the Median confederation...

 (ca. 550-330 BCE). Persepolis is situated northeast of the modern city of Shiraz
Shiraz, Iran
Shiraz is the sixth most populous city in Iran and is the capital of Fars Province, the city's 2009 population was 1,455,073. Shiraz is located in the southwest of Iran on the Roodkhaneye Khoshk seasonal river...

 in the Fars Province of modern Iran
Iran
Iran , officially the Islamic Republic of Iran , is a country in Southern and Western Asia. The name "Iran" has been in use natively since the Sassanian era and came into use internationally in 1935, before which the country was known to the Western world as Persia...

. In contemporary Persian, the site is known as Takht-e Jamshid (Throne of Jamshid
Jamshid
Jamshid is a mythological figure of Greater Iranian culture and tradition.In tradition and folklore, Jamshid is described as having been the fourth and greatest king of the epigraphically unattested Pishdadian dynasty . This role is already alluded to in Zoroastrian scripture Jamshid (Middle-...

). The earliest remains of Persepolis date from around 515 BCE. To the ancient Persians, the city was known as Pārsa, which means "The City of Persians". Persepolis is a transliteration of the Greek Πέρσης πόλις (Persēs polis: "Persian city").

UNESCO
UNESCO
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization is a specialized agency of the United Nations...

 declared the citadel of Perspolis a World Heritage Site
World Heritage Site
A UNESCO World Heritage Site is a place that is listed by the UNESCO as of special cultural or physical significance...

 in 1979.

Construction

Archaeological evidence shows that the earliest remains of Perspolis date from around 515 BC.
André Godard
André Godard
André Godard was a French born archeologist, architect and art historian.Godard was born in Chaumont. A graduate of the École des Beaux-Arts of Paris, he designed the National Museum of Iran and was appointed its first director in 1936. He was also instrumental in the design of Tehran University...

, the French archaeologist who excavated Perspolis in the early 1930s, believed that it was Cyrus the Great
Cyrus the Great
Cyrus II of Persia , commonly known as Cyrus the Great, also known as Cyrus the Elder, was the founder of the Achaemenid Empire. Under his rule, the empire embraced all the previous civilized states of the ancient Near East, expanded vastly and eventually conquered most of Southwest Asia and much...

 (Kūrosh) who chose the site of Perspolis, but that it was Darius the Great who built the terrace and the great palaces.

Darius ordered the construction of the Apadana Palace
Apadana
The Apadāna is a collection of biographical stories found in the Khuddaka Nikaya of the Pāli Canon, the scriptures of Theravada Buddhism. It is thought by most scholars to be a late addition to the canon, composed during the 1st and 2nd century BCE...

 and the Council Hall (the Tripylon or three-gated hall), the main imperial Treasury and its surroundings. These were completed during the reign of his son, King Xerxes the Great. Further construction of the buildings on the terrace continued until the downfall of the Achaemenid dynasty.

Archaeological research

Odoric of Pordenone
Odoric of Pordenone
Odoric of Pordenone was an Italian late-medieval traveler...

 passed through Persepolis c.1320 on his way to China. In 1474, Giosafat Barbaro
Giosafat Barbaro
Giosafat Barbaro was a member of the Venetian Barbaro family. He was a diplomat, merchant, explorer and travel writer. He was unusually well-travelled for someone of his times.-Family:...

 visited the ruins of Persepolis, which he incorrectly thought were of Jewish origin. Antonio de Gouveia from Portugal
Portugal
Portugal , officially the Portuguese Republic is a country situated in southwestern Europe on the Iberian Peninsula. Portugal is the westernmost country of Europe, and is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean to the West and South and by Spain to the North and East. The Atlantic archipelagos of the...

 wrote about cuneiform
Cuneiform
Cuneiform can refer to:*Cuneiform script, an ancient writing system originating in Mesopotamia in the 4th millennium BC*Cuneiform , three bones in the human foot*Cuneiform Records, a music record label...

 inscriptions following his visit in 1602. His first written report on Persia, the Jornada, was published in 1606.

Throughout the 1800s and early 1900s, a variety of amateur digging occurred at the site, in some cases on a large scale.
The first scientific excavations at Persepolis were carried out by Ernst Herzfeld
Ernst Herzfeld
Ernst Emil Herzfeld was a German archaeologist and Iranologist.-Life:Herzfeld was born in Celle, Province of Hanover...

 and Erich Schmidt
Erich Schmidt (archaeologist)
Erich Friedrich Schmidt was a German and American-naturalized archaeologist, born in Baden-Baden. He specialized in Ancient Near East Archaeology, and became professor emeritus at the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago.When he was young, he fought in the World War I, and was captured...

 representing the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago
University of Chicago
The University of Chicago is a private research university in Chicago, Illinois, USA. It was founded by the American Baptist Education Society with a donation from oil magnate and philanthropist John D. Rockefeller and incorporated in 1890...

. They conducted excavations for eight seasons beginning in 1930 and included
other nearby sites.

Herzfeld believed the reasons behind the construction of Persepolis were the need for a majestic atmosphere, a symbol for their empire, and to celebrate special events, especially the "Nowruz
Nowruz
Nowrūz is the name of the Iranian New Year in Iranian calendars and the corresponding traditional celebrations. Nowruz is also widely referred to as the Persian New Year....

". For historical reasons, Persepolis was built where the Achaemenid Dynasty was founded, although it was not the center of the empire at that time.

Persepolitan architecture is noted for its use of wooden columns. Architects resorted to stone only when the largest cedars of Lebanon
Lebanon
Lebanon , officially the Republic of LebanonRepublic of Lebanon is the most common term used by Lebanese government agencies. The term Lebanese Republic, a literal translation of the official Arabic and French names that is not used in today's world. Arabic is the most common language spoken among...

 or teak
Teak
Teak is the common name for the tropical hardwood tree species Tectona grandis and its wood products. Tectona grandis is native to south and southeast Asia, mainly India, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Burma, but is naturalized and cultivated in many countries, including those in Africa and the...

 trees of India
India
India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

 did not fulfil the required sizes. Column bases and capitals were made of stone, even on wooden shafts, but the existence of wooden capitals is probable.

The buildings at Persepolis include three general groupings: military quarters, the treasury, and the reception halls and occasional houses for the King. Noted structures include the Great Stairway, the Gate of Nations (Xerxes the Great), the Apadana Palace of Darius, the Hall of a Hundred Columns, the Tripylon Hall and Tachara Palace of Darius, the Hadish Palace of Xerxes, the palace of Artaxerxes III, the Imperial Treasury, the Royal Stables and the Chariot House.

Site

Persepolis is near the small river Pulwar, which flows into the river Kur
Kur
In Babylonian mythology, Irkalla is the hell-like underworld from which there is no return. It is also called Arali, Kigal, Gizal, and the lower world...

 (Kyrus). The site includes a 125,000 square meter terrace, partly artificially constructed and partly cut out of a mountain, with its east side leaning on Kuh-e Rahmet ("the Mountain of Mercy"). The other three sides are formed by retaining wall
Retaining wall
Retaining walls are built in order to hold back earth which would otherwise move downwards. Their purpose is to stabilize slopes and provide useful areas at different elevations, e.g...

s, which vary in height with the slope of the ground. From 5 to 13 meters on the west side a double stair, gently slopes to the top. To create the level terrace, depressions were filled with soil and heavy rocks, which were joined together with metal clips.

Around 518 BC, construction of a broad stairway was begun. The stairway was planned to be the main entrance to the terrace 20 meters above the ground. The dual stairway, known as the Persepolitan stairway, was built in symmetrically on the western side of the Great Wall. The 111 steps were 6.9 meters wide with treads of 31 centimetres and rises of 10 centimetres. Originally, the steps were believed to have been constructed to allow for nobles and royalty to ascend by horseback. New theories suggest that the shallow risers allowed visiting dignitaries to maintain a regal appearance while ascending. The top of the stairways led to a small yard in the north-eastern side of the terrace, opposite the Gate of Nations.

Grey limestone
Limestone
Limestone is a sedimentary rock composed largely of the minerals calcite and aragonite, which are different crystal forms of calcium carbonate . Many limestones are composed from skeletal fragments of marine organisms such as coral or foraminifera....

 was the main building material used in Persepolis. After natural rock had been levelled and the depressions filled in, the terrace was prepared. Major tunnels for sewage were dug underground through the rock. A large elevated water storage tank was carved at the eastern foot of the mountain. Professor Olmstead suggested the cistern
Cistern
A cistern is a waterproof receptacle for holding liquids, usually water. Cisterns are often built to catch and store rainwater. Cisterns are distinguished from wells by their waterproof linings...

 was constructed at the same time that construction of the towers began.

The uneven plan of the foundation of the terrace acted like a castle whose angled walls enabled its defenders to target any section of the external front. Diodorus writes that Persepolis had three walls with ramparts, which all had towers to provide protection space for the defense personnel. The first wall was 7 meters tall, the second, 14 meters and the third wall, which covered all four sides, was 27 meters in height, though no presence of the wall exists in modern times.

Ruins

Ruins of a number of colossal buildings exist on the terrace. All are constructed of dark-grey marble. Fifteen of their pillars stand intact. Three more pillars have been re-erected since 1970. Several of the buildings were never finished. F. Stolze has shown that some of the mason's rubbish remains. These ruins, for which the name Chehel minar ("the forty columns or minarets") can be traced back to the 13th century, are now known as Takht-e Jamshid - تخت جمشید ("the throne of Jamshid
Jamshid
Jamshid is a mythological figure of Greater Iranian culture and tradition.In tradition and folklore, Jamshid is described as having been the fourth and greatest king of the epigraphically unattested Pishdadian dynasty . This role is already alluded to in Zoroastrian scripture Jamshid (Middle-...

"). Since the time of Pietro della Valle
Pietro Della Valle
Pietro della Valle was an Italian who traveled throughout Asia during the Renaissance period. His travels took him to the Holy Land, the Middle East, Northern Africa, and as Far as India.-Biography:...

, it has been beyond dispute that they represent the Persepolis captured and partly destroyed by Alexander the Great.

Behind Takht-e Jamshid are three sepulchres hewn out of the rock in the hillside. The façades, one of which is incomplete, are richly decorated with reliefs. About 13 km NNE, on the opposite side of the Pulwar, rises a perpendicular wall of rock, in which four similar tombs are cut at a considerable height from the bottom of the valley. The modern Persians call this place Naqsh-e Rustam
Naqsh-e Rustam
Naqsh-e Rustam also referred to as Necropolis is an archaeological site located about 12 km northwest of Persepolis, in Fars province, Iran. Naqsh-e Rustam lies a few hundred meters from Naqsh-e Rajab....

 - نقش رستم
or Nakshi Rostam ("the picture of Rostam
Rostam
Rostam is the national hero of Greater Iran from Zabulistan in Persian mythology and son of Zal and Rudaba. In some ways, the position of Rostam in the historical tradition is parallel to that of Surena, the hero of the Carrhae. His figure was endowed with many features of the historical...

"), from the Sassanian reliefs beneath the opening, which they take to be a representation of the mythical hero Rostam
Rostam
Rostam is the national hero of Greater Iran from Zabulistan in Persian mythology and son of Zal and Rudaba. In some ways, the position of Rostam in the historical tradition is parallel to that of Surena, the hero of the Carrhae. His figure was endowed with many features of the historical...

. It may be inferred from the sculptures that the occupants of these seven tombs were kings. An inscription on one of the tombs declares it to be that of Darius Hystaspis, concerning whom Ctesias
Ctesias
Ctesias of Cnidus was a Greek physician and historian from Cnidus in Caria. Ctesias, who lived in the 5th century BC, was physician to Artaxerxes Mnemon, whom he accompanied in 401 BC on his expedition against his brother Cyrus the Younger....

 relates that his grave was in the face of a rock, and could only be reached by the use of ropes. Ctesias mentions further, with regard to a number of Persian kings, either that their remains were brought "to the Persians," or that they died there.

The Gate of All Nations

The Gate of all Nations, referring to subjects of the empire, consisted of a grand hall that was a square of approximately 25 meters (82 feet) in length, with four columns and its entrance on the Western Wall. There were two more doors, one to the south which opened to the Apadana yard and the other opened onto a long road to the east. Pivoting devices found on the inner corners of all the doors indicate that they were two-leafed doors, probably made of wood and covered with sheets of ornate metal.

A pair of Lamassus, bulls with the heads of bearded men, stand by the western threshold. Another pair, with wings and a Persian head (Gopät-Shäh), stands by the eastern entrance, to reflect the Empire’s power.

Xerxes' name was written in three languages and carved on the entrances, informing everyone that he ordered it to be built.

Apadana Palace

Darius the Great built the greatest palace at Persepolis in the western side. This palace was called the Apadana
Apadana
The Apadāna is a collection of biographical stories found in the Khuddaka Nikaya of the Pāli Canon, the scriptures of Theravada Buddhism. It is thought by most scholars to be a late addition to the canon, composed during the 1st and 2nd century BCE...

 (the root name for modern "ayvan"). The King of Kings used it for official audiences. The work began in 515 BC. His son Xerxes I completed it 30 years later. The palace had a grand hall in the shape of a square, each side 60 m long with seventy-two columns, thirteen of which still stand on the enormous platform. Each column is 19 m high with a square Taurus and plinth. The columns carried the weight of the vast and heavy ceiling. The tops of the columns were made from animal sculptures such as two headed bulls, lions and eagles. The columns were joined to each other with the help of oak
Oak
An oak is a tree or shrub in the genus Quercus , of which about 600 species exist. "Oak" may also appear in the names of species in related genera, notably Lithocarpus...

 and cedar beams, which were brought from Lebanon
Lebanon
Lebanon , officially the Republic of LebanonRepublic of Lebanon is the most common term used by Lebanese government agencies. The term Lebanese Republic, a literal translation of the official Arabic and French names that is not used in today's world. Arabic is the most common language spoken among...

. The walls were covered with a layer of mud and stucco
Stucco
Stucco or render is a material made of an aggregate, a binder, and water. Stucco is applied wet and hardens to a very dense solid. It is used as decorative coating for walls and ceilings and as a sculptural and artistic material in architecture...

 to a depth of 5 cm, which was used for bonding, and then covered with the greenish stucco which is found throughout the palaces.

At the western, northern and eastern sides of the palace there were three rectangular porticos each of which had twelve columns in two rows of six. At the south of the grand hall a series of rooms were built for storage. Two grand Persepolitan stairways were built, symmetrical to each other and connected to the stone foundations. To protect the roof from erosion, vertical drains were built through the brick walls. In the four corners of Apadana, facing outwards, four towers were built.

The walls were tiled and decorated with pictures of lions, bulls, and flowers. Darius ordered his name and the details of his empire to be written in gold and silver on plates, which were placed in covered stone boxes in the foundations under the Four Corners of the palace. Two Persepolitan style symmetrical stairways were built on the northern and eastern sides of Apadana to compensate for a difference in level. Two other stairways stood in the middle of the building. The external front views of the palace were embossed with carvings of the Immortals
Persian Immortals
The "Immortals" was the name given by Herodotus to an elite force of soldiers who fought for the Achaemenid Empire. This force performed the dual roles of both Imperial Guard and standing army during the Persian Empire's expansion and during the Greco-Persian Wars...

, the Kings' elite guards. The northern stairway was completed during Darius' reign, but the other stairway was completed much later.

The Throne Hall

Next to the Apadana, second largest building of the Terrace and the final edifices, is the Throne Hall or the Imperial Army's hall of honour (also called the "Hundred-Columns Palace). This 70x70 square meter hall was started by Xerxes
Xerxes I of Persia
Xerxes I of Persia , Ḫšayāršā, ), also known as Xerxes the Great, was the fifth king of kings of the Achaemenid Empire.-Youth and rise to power:...

 and completed by his son Artaxerxes
Artaxerxes
Artaxerxes may refer to:The throne name of several Achaemenid rulers of the 1st Persian Empire:* Artaxerxes I of Persia, Artaxerxes I Longimanus, r. 465–424 BC, son and successor of Xerxes I...

 I by the end of the fifth century BC. Its eight stone doorways are decorated on the south and north with reliefs of throne scenes and on the east and west with scenes depicting the king in combat with monsters. Two colossal stone bulls flank the northern portico. The head of one of the bulls now resides in the Oriental Institute in Chicago.

In the beginning of Xerxes's reign, the Throne Hall was used mainly for receptions for military commanders and representatives of all the subject nations of the empire. Later the Throne Hall served as an imperial museum.

Other palaces and structures

There were other palaces built. These included the Tachara palace which was built under Darius I, and the Imperial treasury which was started by Darius in 510 BC and finished by Xerxes in 480 BC. The Hadish palace by Xerxes I, occupies the highest level of terrace and stands on the living rock. The Council Hall, the Tryplion Hall, The Palaces of D, G, H, Storerooms, Stables and quarters, Unfinished Gateway and a few Miscellaneous Structures at Persepolis are located near the south-east corner of the Terrace, at the foot of the mountain.

Tombs of King of Kings

It is commonly accepted that Cyrus the Great
Cyrus the Great
Cyrus II of Persia , commonly known as Cyrus the Great, also known as Cyrus the Elder, was the founder of the Achaemenid Empire. Under his rule, the empire embraced all the previous civilized states of the ancient Near East, expanded vastly and eventually conquered most of Southwest Asia and much...

 was buried at Pasargadae
Pasargadae
Pasargadae , the capital of Cyrus the Great and also his last resting place, was a city in ancient Persia, and is today an archaeological site and one of Iran's UNESCO World Heritage Sites.-History:...

. If it is true that the body of Cambyses II was brought home "to the Persians", his burying-place must be somewhere beside that of his father. Ctesias assumes that it was the custom for a king to prepare his own tomb during his lifetime. Hence the kings buried at Naghsh-e Rustam are probably Darius the Great, Xerxes I, Artaxerxes I and Darius II
Darius II of Persia
Darius II , was king of the Persian Empire from 423 BC to 405 BC.Artaxerxes I, who died on December 25, 424 BC, was followed by his son Xerxes II. After a month and a half Xerxes II was murdered by his brother Secydianus or Sogdianus...

. Xerxes II, who reigned for a very short time, could scarcely have obtained so splendid a monument, and still less could the usurper Sogdianus (Secydianus). The two completed graves behind Takhti Jamshid would then belong to Artaxerxes II and Artaxerxes III. The unfinished one is perhaps that of Arses of Persia
Arses of Persia
Artaxerxes IV Arses was king of Persia between 338 BC and 336 BC. He was the youngest son of King Artaxerxes III and Atossa and was not expected to succeed to the throne of Persia...

, who reigned at the longest two years, or, if not his, then that of Darius III
Darius III of Persia
Darius III , also known by his given name of Codomannus, was the last king of the Achaemenid Empire of Persia from 336 BC to 330 BC....

 (Codomannus), who is one of those whose bodies are said to have been brought "to the Persians."

Another small group of ruins in the same style is found at the village of Hajjiäbäd, on the Pulwar, a good hour's walk above Takhti Jamshid. These formed a single building, which was still intact 900 years ago, and was used as the mosque
Mosque
A mosque is a place of worship for followers of Islam. The word is likely to have entered the English language through French , from Portuguese , from Spanish , and from Berber , ultimately originating in — . The Arabic word masjid literally means a place of prostration...

 of the then-existing city of Istakhr
Istakhr
Estakhr was an ancient city located in southern Iran, in Fars province, five kilometers north of Persepolis. It was a prosperous city during the time of Achaemenid Persia.-History:...

.

Cyrus the Great
Cyrus the Great
Cyrus II of Persia , commonly known as Cyrus the Great, also known as Cyrus the Elder, was the founder of the Achaemenid Empire. Under his rule, the empire embraced all the previous civilized states of the ancient Near East, expanded vastly and eventually conquered most of Southwest Asia and much...

 was buried in Pasargadae
Pasargadae
Pasargadae , the capital of Cyrus the Great and also his last resting place, was a city in ancient Persia, and is today an archaeological site and one of Iran's UNESCO World Heritage Sites.-History:...

, which is mentioned by Ctesias
Ctesias
Ctesias of Cnidus was a Greek physician and historian from Cnidus in Caria. Ctesias, who lived in the 5th century BC, was physician to Artaxerxes Mnemon, whom he accompanied in 401 BC on his expedition against his brother Cyrus the Younger....

 as his own city. Since, to judge from the inscriptions, the buildings of Persepolis commenced with Darius I
Darius I of Persia
Darius I , also known as Darius the Great, was the third king of kings of the Achaemenid Empire...

, it was probably under this king, with whom the sceptre passed to a new branch of the royal house, that Persepolis became the capital of Persia
Iran
Iran , officially the Islamic Republic of Iran , is a country in Southern and Western Asia. The name "Iran" has been in use natively since the Sassanian era and came into use internationally in 1935, before which the country was known to the Western world as Persia...

 proper. As the residence of the rulers of the empire, however, a remote place in a difficult alpine region was far from convenient. The country's true capitals were Susa
Susa
Susa was an ancient city of the Elamite, Persian and Parthian empires of Iran. It is located in the lower Zagros Mountains about east of the Tigris River, between the Karkheh and Dez Rivers....

, Babylon
Babylon
Babylon was an Akkadian city-state of ancient Mesopotamia, the remains of which are found in present-day Al Hillah, Babil Province, Iraq, about 85 kilometers south of Baghdad...

 and Ecbatana
Ecbatana
Ecbatana is supposed to be the capital of Astyages , which was taken by the Persian emperor Cyrus the Great in the sixth year of Nabonidus...

. This accounts for the fact that the Greeks were not acquainted with the city until Alexander the Great took and plundered it.

At that time Alexander burned "the palaces" or "the palace," universally believed now to be the ruins at Takhti Jamshid. From Stolze's investigations it appears that at least one of these, the castle built by Xerxes, bears evident traces of having been destroyed by fire. The locality described by Diodorus after Cleitarchus
Cleitarchus
Cleitarchus or Clitarchus , one of the historians of Alexander the Great, son of the historian Dinon of Colophon, was possibly a native of Egypt, or at least spent a considerable time at the court of Ptolemy Lagus.Quintilian Cleitarchus or Clitarchus , one of the historians of Alexander the Great,...

 corresponds in important particulars with Takhti Jamshid, for example, in being supported by the mountain on the east.

Ancient texts

The relevant passages from ancient scholars on the subject are set out below:
17.70 (1) Persepolis was the capital of the Persian kingdom. Alexander described it to the Macedonians as the most hateful of the cities of Asia, and gave it over to his soldiers to plunder, all but the palaces. (2) +It was the richest city under the sun and the private houses had been furnished with every sort of wealth over the years. The Macedonians raced into it, slaughtering all the men whom they met and plundering the residences; many of the houses belonged to the common people and were abundantly supplied with furniture and wearing apparel of every kind….
72 (1) Alexander held games in honour of his victories. He performed costly sacrifices to the gods and entertained his friends bountifully. While they were feasting and the drinking was far advanced, as they began to be drunken a madness took possession of the minds of the intoxicated guests. (2) At this point one of the women present, Thais by name and Attic by origin, said that for Alexander it would be the finest of all his feats in Asia if he joined them in a triumphal procession, set fire to the palaces, and permitted women's hands in a minute to extinguish the famed accomplishments of the Persians. (3) This was said to men who were still young and giddy with wine, and so, as would be expected, someone shouted out to form up and to light torches, and urged all to take vengeance for the destruction of the Greek temple
Greek temple
Greek temples were structures built to house deity statues within Greek sanctuaries in Greek paganism. The temples themselves did usually not directly serve a cult purpose, since the sacrifices and rituals dedicated to the respective deity took place outside them...

s. (4) Others took up the cry and said that this was a deed worthy of Alexander alone. When the king had caught fire at their words, all leaped up from their couches and passed the word along to form a victory procession [epinikion komon] in honour of Dionysius.

Promptly many torches were gathered. Female musicians were present at the banquet, so the king led them all out for the komos
Komos
The Komos was a ritualistic drunken procession performed by revelers in ancient Greece, whose participants were known as komasts. Its precise nature has been difficult to reconstruct from the diverse literary sources and evidence derived from vase painting....

 to the sound of voices and flutes and pipes, Thais the courtesan leading the whole performance. (6) She was the first, after the king, to hurl her blazing torch into the palace. As the others all did the same, immediately the entire palace area was consumed, so great was the conflagration. It was most remarkable that the impious act of Xerxes, king of the Persians, against the acropolis at Athens should have been repaid in kind after many years by one woman, a citizen of the land which had suffered it, and in sport.
5.6 (1) On the following day the king called together the leaders of his forces and informed them that "no city was more mischievous to the Greeks than the seat of the ancient kings of Persia . . . by its destruction they ought to offer sacrifice to the spirits of their forefathers."…
7 (1) But Alexander's great mental endowments, that noble disposition, in which he surpassed all kings, that intrepidity in encountering dangers, his promptness in forming and carrying out plans, his good faith towards those who submitted to him, merciful treatment of his prisoners, temperance even in lawful and usual pleasures, were sullied by an excessive love of wine. (2) At the very time when his enemy and his rival for a throne was preparing to renew the war, when those whom he had conquered were but lately subdued and were hostile to the new rule, he took part in prolonged banquets at which women were present, not indeed those whom it would be a crime to violate, but, to be sure, harlots who were accustomed to live with armed men with more licence than was fitting.

One of these, Thais by name, herself also drunken, declared that the king would win most favour among all the Greeks, if he should order the palace of the Persians to be set on fire; that this was expected by those whose cities the barbarians had destroyed. (4) When a drunken strumpet had given her opinion on a matter of such moment, one or two, themselves also loaded with wine, agreed. The king, too, more greedy for wine than able to carry it, cried: "Why do we not, then, avenge Greece and apply torches to the city?" 5) All had become heated with wine, and so thy arose when drunk to fire the city which they had spared when armed. The king was the first to throw a firebrand upon the palace, then the guests and the servants and courtesans. The palace had been built largely of cedar, which quickly took fire and spread the conflagration widely. (6) When the army, which was encamped not far from the city, saw the fire, thinking it accidental, they rushed to bear aid. (7) But when they came to the vestibule of the palace, they saw the king himself piling on firebrands. Therefore, they left the water which they had brought, and they too began to throw dry wood upon the burning building.
Such was the end of the capital of the entire Orient. . . . The Macedonians were ashamed that so renowned a city had been destroyed by their king in a drunken revel; therefore the act was taken as earnest, and they forced themselves to believe that it was right that it should be wiped out in exactly that manner.)
And did not Alexander the Great have with him Thais, the Athenian hetaira? Cleitarchus speaks of her as having been the cause for the burning of the palace at Persepolis. After Alexander's death, this same Thais was married to Ptolemy, the first king of Egypt.


There is, however, one formidable difficulty. Diodorus says that the rock at the back of the palace containing the royal sepulchres is so steep that the bodies could be raised to their last resting-place only by mechanical appliances. This is not true of the graves behind Takhte Jamshid, to which, as F. Stolze expressly observes, one can easily ride up. On the other hand, it is strictly true of the graves at Nakshi Rustam. Stolze accordingly started the theory that the royal castle of Persepolis stood close by Nakshi Rustam, and has sunk in course of time to shapeless heaps of earth, under which the remains may be concealed. The vast ruins, however, of Takhti Jamshid, and the terrace constructed with so much labour, can hardly be anything else than the ruins of palaces; as for temples, the Persians had no such thing, at least in the time of Darius and Xerxes. Moreover, Persian tradition at a very remote period knew of only three architectural wonders in that region, which it attributed to the fabulous queen Humgi (Khumái)the grave of Cyrus at Pasargadae
Pasargadae
Pasargadae , the capital of Cyrus the Great and also his last resting place, was a city in ancient Persia, and is today an archaeological site and one of Iran's UNESCO World Heritage Sites.-History:...

, the building at HäjjIãbãd, and those on the great terrace.

It is safest therefore to identify these last with the royal palaces destroyed by Alexander. Cleitarchus, who can scarcely have visited the place himself, with his usual recklessness of statement, confounded the tombs behind the palaces with those of Nakshi Rustam; indeed he appears to imagine that all the royal sepulchres were at the same place.

Destruction

After invading Persia, Alexander the Great sent the main force of his army to Persepolis in the year 330 BC by the Royal Road
Royal Road
The Persian Royal Road was an ancient highway reorganized and rebuilt by the Persian king Darius the Great of the Achaemenid Empire in the 5th century BC. Darius built the road to facilitate rapid communication throughout his very large empire from Susa to Sardis...

. Alexander stormed the Persian Gates
Persian Gates
Persian Gates was the ancient name of the pass now known as Tang-e Meyran, connecting Yasuj with Sedeh to the east, crossing the border of the modern Kohgiluyeh va Boyer Ahmad and Fars provinces of Iran, passing south of the Kuh-e-Dinar massif, part of the Zagros Mountains...

 (in the modern Zagros Mountains
Zagros Mountains
The Zagros Mountains are the largest mountain range in Iran and Iraq. With a total length of 1,500 km , from northwestern Iran, and roughly correlating with Iran's western border, the Zagros range spans the whole length of the western and southwestern Iranian plateau and ends at the Strait of...

), then quickly captured Persepolis before its treasury
Treasury
A treasury is either*A government department related to finance and taxation.*A place where currency or precious items is/are kept....

 could be looted. After several months Alexander allowed his troops to loot Persepolis. A fire broke out in the eastern palace of Xerxes
Xerxes I of Persia
Xerxes I of Persia , Ḫšayāršā, ), also known as Xerxes the Great, was the fifth king of kings of the Achaemenid Empire.-Youth and rise to power:...

 and spread to the rest of the city. It is not clear if it was an accident or a deliberate act of revenge for the burning of the Acropolis of Athens
Acropolis of Athens
The Acropolis of Athens or Citadel of Athens is the best known acropolis in the world. Although there are many other acropoleis in Greece, the significance of the Acropolis of Athens is such that it is commonly known as The Acropolis without qualification...

 during the Second Hellenic-Persian War. Many historians argue that while Alexander's army celebrated with a symposium
Symposium
In ancient Greece, the symposium was a drinking party. Literary works that describe or take place at a symposium include two Socratic dialogues, Plato's Symposium and Xenophon's Symposium, as well as a number of Greek poems such as the elegies of Theognis of Megara...

 they decided to take revenge against Persians. In that case it would be a combination of the two. The Book of Arda Wiraz, a Zoroastrian work composed in the 3rd or 4th century CE, also describes archives containing "all the Avesta
Avesta
The Avesta is the primary collection of sacred texts of Zoroastrianism, composed in the Avestan language.-Early transmission:The texts of the Avesta — which are all in the Avestan language — were composed over the course of several hundred years. The most important portion, the Gathas,...

 and Zand, written upon prepared cow-skins, and with gold ink" that were destroyed. Indeed in his The chronology of ancient nations, the native Iranian writer Biruni indicates unavailability of certain native Iranian historiographical sources in post-Achaemenid era especially during Ashkanian and adds "..And more than that. He (Alexander) burned the greatest part of their religious code, he destroyed the wonderful architectural monuments in the mountains of Istakhr, nowadays known as the mosque of Solomon ben David, and delivered them up to the flames. People say that even at the present time the traces of fire are visible in some places."

After the fall of the Achaemenid Empire

In 316 BC Persepolis was still the capital of Persia as a province of the great Macedon
Macedon
Macedonia or Macedon was an ancient kingdom, centered in the northeastern part of the Greek peninsula, bordered by Epirus to the west, Paeonia to the north, the region of Thrace to the east and Thessaly to the south....

ian Empire (see Diod. xix, 21 seq., 46 ; probably after Hieronymus of Cardia
Hieronymus of Cardia
Hieronymus of Cardia, Greek general and historian from Cardia in Thrace, was a contemporary of Alexander the Great .After the death of Alexander he followed the fortunes of his friend and fellow-countryman Eumenes. He was wounded and taken prisoner by Antigonus, who pardoned him and appointed him...

, who was living about 316). The city must have gradually declined in the course of time; but the ruins of the Achaemenidae remained as a witness to its ancient glory. It is probable that the principal town of the country, or at least of the district, was always in this neighborhood.

About 200 BC the city Istakhr
Istakhr
Estakhr was an ancient city located in southern Iran, in Fars province, five kilometers north of Persepolis. It was a prosperous city during the time of Achaemenid Persia.-History:...

 (properly Estakhr), five kilometers north of Persepolis, is the seat of the local governors. There the foundations of the second great Persian Empire were laid, and there Istakhr acquired special importance as the center of priestly wisdom and orthodoxy. The Sassanian kings have covered the face of the rocks in this neighborhood, and in part even the Achaemenian ruins, with their sculptures and inscriptions. They must themselves have built largely here, although never on the same scale of magnificence as their ancient predecessors. The Romans knew as little about Istakhr as the Greeks had known about Persepolis—and this despite the fact that for four hundred years the Sassanians maintained relations, friendly or hostile, with the empire.
At the time of the Arabian conquest, Istakhr offered a desperate resistance. The city was still a place of considerable importance in the first century of Islam
Islam
Islam . The most common are and .   : Arabic pronunciation varies regionally. The first vowel ranges from ~~. The second vowel ranges from ~~~...

, although its greatness was speedily eclipsed by the new metropolis Shiraz
Shiraz
Shiraz may refer to:* Shiraz, Iran, a city in Iran* Shiraz County, an administrative subdivision of Iran* Vosketap, Armenia, formerly called ShirazPeople:* Hovhannes Shiraz, Armenian poet* Ara Shiraz, Armenian sculptor...

. In the 10th century, Istakhr dwindled to insignificance, as may be seen from the descriptions of Istakhri, a native (c. 950), and of Mukaddasi (c. 985). During the following centuries, Istakhr gradually declined, until, as a city, it ceased to exist.

In 1618, García de Silva Figueroa
García de Silva Figueroa
Don García de Silva Figueroa was a Spanish diplomat, and the first Western traveller to correctly identify the ruins of Takht-e Jamshid in Persia as the location of Persepolis, the ancient capital of the Achaemenid Empire and one of the great cities of antiquity.- Life and work :De Silva was born...

, King Philip III of Spain
Philip III of Spain
Philip III , also known as Philip the Pious, was the King of Spain and King of Portugal and the Algarves, where he ruled as Philip II , from 1598 until his death...

's ambassador to the court of Shah Abbas
Abbas I of Persia
Shāh ‘Abbās the Great was Shah of Iran, and generally considered the greatest ruler of the Safavid dynasty. He was the third son of Shah Mohammad....

, the Safavid monarch, was the first Western traveller to correctly identify the ruins of Takht-e Jamshid as the location of Persepolis.

The Dutch traveller Cornelis de Bruijn
Cornelis de Bruijn
Cornelis de Bruijn was a Dutch artist and traveler. He made two large tours and published illustrated books with his observations of people, buildings, plants and animals.- Biography :...

 visited Persepolis in 1704. He was the first westerner who made drawings of Persepolis.

The fruitful region was covered with villages till the frightful devastations of the 18th century; and even now it is, comparatively speaking, well cultivated. The "castle of Istakhr" played a conspicuous part several times during the Muslim period as a strong fortress. It was the middlemost and the highest of the three steep crags which rise from the valley of the Kur
Kur
In Babylonian mythology, Irkalla is the hell-like underworld from which there is no return. It is also called Arali, Kigal, Gizal, and the lower world...

, at some distance to the west or north-west of Nakshi Rustam.

Asian writers state that one of the Buyid (Buwaihid) sultan
Sultan
Sultan is a title with several historical meanings. Originally, it was an Arabic language abstract noun meaning "strength", "authority", "rulership", and "dictatorship", derived from the masdar سلطة , meaning "authority" or "power". Later, it came to be used as the title of certain rulers who...

s in the 10th century of the Flight constructed the great cisterns, which may yet be seen. Amongst others, James Morier and E. Flandin have visited them. W. Ouseley points out that this castle was still used in the 16th century, at least as a state prison. But when Pietro della Valle was there in 1621, it was already in ruins.

Modern events

In 1971, Persepolis was the main staging ground for the 2,500 year celebration of Iran's monarchy
2,500 year celebration of Iran's monarchy
The 2,500 year celebration of the Persian Empire consisted of an elaborate set of festivities that took place October 12–16, 1971, on the occasion of the 2,500th anniversary of the founding of the Iranian monarchy by Cyrus the Great...

.

Sivand Dam controversy

Construction of the Sivand Dam
Sivand Dam
Sivand Dam is a planned dam in Fars Province, Iran. Named after the nearby town of Sivand located northwest of Shiraz, it has become the center of worldwide concern due to the flooding it will cause in historical and archaeologically rich areas of Ancient Persia and possible harm it may cause to...

, named for the nearby town of Sivand
Sivand
Sivand is a village near Shiraz, Iran. It is located in the Sivand valley and is mostly known for the nearby Sivand Dam.Sivand has a warm climate and contains vast pastures. It has relatively dry winters with some occasional snowfall. Sivand is home to the Sivandi language, a central-Iranian...

, began September 19, 2006. Despite 10 years of planning, Iran's own Iranian Cultural Heritage Organization
Cultural Heritage Organization of Iran
Iran Cultural Heritage, Handcrafts and Tourism Organization is an educational and research institution overseeing numerous associated museum complexes throughout Iran. It is administered and funded by the Government of Iran....

 was not aware of the broad areas of flooding during much of this time and there is growing concern about the effects the dam will have on Persepolis' surrounding areas.

Many archaeologists and Iranians worry that the dam's placement between both the ruins of Pasargadae and Persepolis will flood these UNESCO World Heritage sites. Scientists involved with the construction refute this claim, stating its impossibility because both sites sit well above the planned waterline. Of the two sites, Pasargadae is the one considered the more threatened.

Archaeologists are also concerned that an increase in humidity caused by the lake will speed Pasargadae's gradual destruction, however, experts from the Ministry of Energy believe this would be negated by controlling the water level of the dam reservoir.

Museums (outside of Iran) that display material from Persepolis

The British Museum
British Museum
The British Museum is a museum of human history and culture in London. Its collections, which number more than seven million objects, are amongst the largest and most comprehensive in the world and originate from all continents, illustrating and documenting the story of human culture from its...

 has an outstanding collection. The Fitzwilliam Museum
Fitzwilliam Museum
The Fitzwilliam Museum is the art and antiquities museum of the University of Cambridge, located on Trumpington Street opposite Fitzwilliam Street in central Cambridge, England. It receives around 300,000 visitors annually. Admission is free....

 in Cambridge, England has a number of bas reliefs from Persepolis. The Persepolis bull at the Oriental Institute, Chicago
Oriental Institute, Chicago
The Oriental Institute , established in 1919, is the University of Chicago's archeology museum and research center for ancient Near Eastern studies.- History and purpose:James Henry Breasted built up the collection of the Haskell Oriental Museum...

 is one of the university's most prized treasures, but it is only one of several objects from Persepolis on display at the University of Chicago
University of Chicago
The University of Chicago is a private research university in Chicago, Illinois, USA. It was founded by the American Baptist Education Society with a donation from oil magnate and philanthropist John D. Rockefeller and incorporated in 1890...

. The Metropolitan Museum houses objects from Persepolis, as does the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology
University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology
The University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, commonly called The Penn Museum, is an archaeology and anthropology museum that is part of the University of Pennsylvania in the University City neighborhood of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.-History:An internationally renowned...

.

Panoramic view

See also

  • García de Silva Figueroa
    García de Silva Figueroa
    Don García de Silva Figueroa was a Spanish diplomat, and the first Western traveller to correctly identify the ruins of Takht-e Jamshid in Persia as the location of Persepolis, the ancient capital of the Achaemenid Empire and one of the great cities of antiquity.- Life and work :De Silva was born...

  • Achaemenid architecture
    Achaemenid architecture
    Achaemenid Persian architecture refers to the architectural achievements of the Achaemenid Persians manifesting in construction of spectacular cities used for governance and inhabitation , temples made for worship and social gatherings , and mausoleums erected in honor of fallen kings...

  • Achaemenid dynasty, Iran's first Empire and the creator of Persepolis.
  • David Stronach
    David Stronach
    David Stronach is a Scottish archeologist of ancient Iran and Iraq. He is currently a professor at the University of California, Berkeley.Stronach is a leading Western expert on the city of Pasargadae. He obtained an Master of Arts from Cambridge University in 1958. In the 1960s and 1970s he was...

  • Naqshe Rostam
  • List of megalithic sites
  • Cities of the Ancient Near East
    Cities of the ancient Near East
    The largest cities in the Bronze Age ancient Near East housed several tens of thousands. Memphis in the Early Bronze Age with some 30,000 inhabitants was the largest city of the time by far...


External links


Further reading

  • Curtis, J. and Tallis, N. (eds). (2005). Forgotten Empire: The World of Ancient Persia. University of California Press. ISBN 0-520-24731-0.
  • Wilber, Donald Newton. (1989). Persepolis: The Archaeology of Parsa, Seat of the Persian Kings. Darwin Press. Revised edition ISBN 0-87850-062-6.
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