General view of Persepolis

    One of the most awe-inspiring monuments of the ancient world, Persepolis was the ceremonial capital of the Achaemenian empire. It was built during the reign of Darius I, known as Darius the Great (522-485 BC), and developed further by successive kings. The various temples and monuments are located upon a vast platform, some 450 meters by 300 meters and 20 meters in height. At the head of the ceremonial staircase leading to the terrace is the Gateway of All Nations built by Xerxes I and guarded by two colossal bull-like figures. (Upon the walls here may be seen the graffiti signatures of past visitors, including the famed H.M. Stanley of Dr. Livingstone fame and members of 19th century British regiments.)

    Beyond the Gate lie the Hall of 100 Columns (Xerxes' throne room), the Apadana Palace (the Great Hall of Audience of Darius the Great) with its spellbinding display of bas-reliefs, the Tachara (or Winter Palace) of Darius, the unfinished palace of Artaxerxes III, the Palace of Xerxes' and the Tripylon Palace. Banked against the mountainside are the royal stables, guard rooms and domestic quarters. The rock tombs cut into the mountain are those of Artaxerxes II and Artaxerxes III.

    The great city of Persepolis was plundered and set alight by Alexander the Great (it is said he needed 10,000 mules and 5,000 camels to transport the treasures to Ecbatana, sited at present day Hamadan) in 330 BC. Whether the firing of the city was a deliberate act in revenge for Xerxes destruction of Athens or an accident is not known. Today, Persepolis remains one of the world's great archeological sites.

    A few kilometers from Persepolis is Naqsh- Rostam where four cliff tombs are located, those of Darius I, Darius II, Artaxerxes I and Xerxes 1, although only that of Darius I bears an identifying inscription. Standing in front of the tombs is a structure known as the "Cube of Zoroaster", thought to have been built by Darius I. The purpose of this monument remains a question mark; it may have been a fire temple, a repository of sacred texts or a royal tomb. The site includes a number of Sassanian reliefs depicting, inter alia, the investiture of Ardashir I and Shahpur on horseback.



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Senior Project : 2001-2002 The Great Persian Empire Website