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Persepolis (aka Takht-e Jamshid) is one of the most famous and proud antiquities of Iran and is a manifestation of Iranian culture in the Achaemenid era. This complex is one of Iran’s first UNESCO World Heritage Sites and was inscribed on the List in 1979.

History of Persepolis

Persepolis is a mirror of the ancient history and culture of Iran. It was built by the order of Darius the Great in 518 BC and with an area of about 125,000 square meters. Persepolis was one of the architectural masterpieces of its time in the world. In addition, it is one of the sights of Shiraz (Fars).

Persepolis is in fact the peak of elegance and creativity of Iranian artists in using the culture of different peoples. Peoples such as Egyptians, Babylonians, Greeks, Medes, and Armenians who were under the rule and command of the Achaemenid. Darius’ goal in building this complex was to build a capital in his empire that was unparalleled. Therefore, for this purpose, he chose the vast plain of Marvdasht with its ancient historical background.

Persepolis – by Roland Wich

Persepolis or Takht-e Jamshid?

In the inscription from the remains of Xerxes on the entrance gate (aka the Gate of Nations) and according to some Elamite tablets, the original name of Persepolis is mentioned as the “City of Persia”. It is said that during the Sassanid era, this building was called a hundred pillars and in the Islamic period, it was called “forty pillars”, “forty minarets” and “the throne of Solomon”. However, later, because people did not know the creator of this collection, they attributed it to Jamshid, the ancient king, and named it “the throne of Jamshid (Takht-e Jamshid)”.

Inscriptions on Gate of Nations, Persepolis
Inscriptions on Gate of Nations, Persepolis – by Mathieu Scheffers

During the Achaemenid period, there was a residence for each season. Summer residence in Hegmataneh (modern-day Hamedan), winter residence in Susa (capital of Elam), and Persepolis were also spring residences for holding Iranian national celebrations (like Nowruz). After Darius the Great, his son Xerxes, as well as his grandson Ardashir I, added magnificent buildings to this collection of art. In total, the construction of Persepolis palaces took about 180 years. It was used for 200 years and was abandoned after being destroyed by Alexander III of Macedon.

Why Persepolis was burned down by Alexander III of Macedon

There are various narrations about the burning of Persepolis. Some believe that Alexander did so in order to avenge the previous defeat of Greece and humiliate the Iranians. Others say that at a party that was held for the occasion of the victory of the Greeks in Persepolis, Alexander’s mistress in a drunken state mistakenly set fire to a curtain that destroyed this ancient monument.

Important parts of Persepolis complex

Entrance stairs

At the entrance of Persepolis, there are two-sided stairs that were built on the western side of the building at the time of Xerxes. There are 111 steps on each side of this staircase, which are considered to be great masterpieces of ancient architecture due to their symmetry. After 63 steps, we reach a staircase and then another 48 steps continue in the opposite direction and each step is 6.90 meters long and 38 centimeters wide. The staircase is amazingly decorated with four-tiered concourses.

Part of the monumental double staircase, Persepolis
Part of the monumental double staircase – by Carole Raddato

Gate of All Nations

After passing the entrance stairs, you will reach the magnificent gate of All Nations or the gate of Xerxes, which is world-famous for its special appearance. Each side of this square hall is 24.75 meters long and its area is 612.5 square meters. In the past, there were four pillars in the middle of this hall, but now there are three pillars left. The height of each column is more than 16.5 meters and the height of each of the east and west gates is 10 meters and its width is 3.82 meters.

At the western gate, two very large cows, and at the eastern gate, two huge winged cows with human heads can be seen. These creatures represent the myths influenced by the Assyrians and show the greatness of the Achaemenid Empire. If you look closely at the faces of these cows, you will notice their long, rectangular beards adorned with lotus buds and twelve-feathered flowers.

Apadana Palace

One of the most beautiful palaces in Persepolis is Apadana Palace, whose amazing and unique columns and stairs are still standing. The construction of the palace of Apadana began during the reign of Darius the Great and was completed after 30 years during the reign of Xerxes.

In the past, this building had a central hall, three porches in the north, west, and east, four towers in the outer four corners of the hall, and several guardrooms. The central hall was more than 3600 square meters and there were 6 rows of columns on each side and a total of 36 columns. There were also 12 columns in each of the three porches. Unfortunately, out of a total of 72 columns in the palace, only 14 remain

Darius Private Palace

Thatcher Palace or Darius’s private palace is located southwest of Apadana Palace and is one of the first buildings in Persepolis. This palace is about 30 meters wide and 40 meters long. Its central hall, also known as the Hall of Mirrors, has 12 columns in three rows. The southern part of Thatcher Palace is said to have been completed during the reign of Xerxes. Of course, the stairs and the western paintings belong to the period of Ardashir III.

On the doors of Darius’ private palace, one can see pictures of soldiers, Darius, and his crew, as well as the battle of the king and the lion. Crowns, bracelets, and precious metal ornaments were used in the palace’s sculptures, which were looted by Alexander III of Macedon and his companions.

Thatcher Palace, Persepolis
Thatcher Palace, Persepolis – by Raffaele Nicolussi

Central Palace (Three Gates)

At the entrance to the north porch, there is a picture of Ardashir I with a long beard and a royal staff walking out of the hall with a lotus in his left hand. The crew is also serving around the king. On the eastern gate, there is a painting of Ardashir I and his crown prince on Aurangzeb, which is carried by 28 nobles of the countries under the rule of the Achaemenid. Above the bed and canopy, there is an image of Farkiani or the winged man.

Stairways to the Central Palace, Persepolis
Stairways to the Central Palace, Persepolis – by Rein Coppens

Achaemenid Museum

The Achaemenid Museum building is one of the oldest buildings in Iran, which was dedicated to the museum after reconstruction. The museum is open at certain times of the day and displays some of the artifacts from Persepolis surveys and excavations. According to historians, the colors that can be seen on the walls of the museum are derived from the yellow and red colors used in the Persepolis complex, which have disappeared over time.

The Tombs

In addition to several palaces, the tombs of Ardashir II and Ardashir III of the Achaemenid dynasty are located on Mount Rahmat and facing the Persepolis complex. Its called The view of these tombs is in the form of a cross with four equal branches. The upper bouts featured two cutaways, for easier access to the higher frets. The Achaemenid prince is holding a bow in this design and is praying for the sacred fire. The king and the archers are on the great throne of the prince, and the representatives of the subordinate nations are holding this throne in their hands. The tomb is located behind a hill in the south of Persepolis, which is attributed to Darius III.

Naqsh-e Rostam, Shiraz
The Tomb of Ardashir III

In the end, if you have traveled to this magnificent building, share your opinion about Persepolis with us!

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