Location: 32 mi (51 km) Northeast of Shiraz, Fars province Map

Constructed: 515 BC by Cyrus the Great

Destroyed: 330 BC by Alexander the Great


Description of Persepolis

Persepolis is a former Persian palace situated 32 mi (51 km) Northeast of Shiraz, Fars province in Iran. Ruins of the former palace of Persepolis are still impressive despite years of negligence and abandonment. The palace construction started in 515 BC by Cyrus the Great who started a Persian Empire. Persepolis was the heart of the empire. However all was laid to rest in 330 BC by Alexander the Great. Famous Greek leader stormed the armies of king Darius III wiping them out in a series of battles. Greek soldiers finally captured the capital of the Persian Empire and started probably World's greatest party. Alexander the Great seeing debauchery and lack of discipline decided to torch the king's palace with all of its riches. The historians claim that this was the revenge for burning of Athens by Persian king Xerxes just a century before that.



Pasargadae was the capital of the Achaemenid Empire under Cyrus the Great, however, according to Andre Godard and some other archaeologists, Cyrus had already begun to equip Persepolis for the new capital. According to them, the city was founded around 560 BC, although the oldest archaeological sites date back to the period around 515 BC (and the first written evidence dates back to 509 BC).

King Darius I moved the capital here after 520 BC., undertaking large-scale construction. At the same time, the remoteness and inaccessibility of the city made it less suitable for the leadership of a large empire than other capitals - Susa, Ecbatana and Babylon.

Work on Persepolis was carried out in parallel with the construction of the Palace of Susa. Darius ordered the construction of the great Apadan Hall and Council Hall (Trypylon or "Triple Gates"), as well as the main imperial treasury. They were completed during the reign of his son Xerxes I. Further construction of buildings on the terrace continued until the fall of the Achaemenid state.

The construction at Persepolis can be divided into five phases, corresponding to the reigns of the following emperors:

Darius (518-490 BC): Terrace, Apadana, walls;
Darius and Xerxes I (490-486 BC): Tachara (residential palace), treasury, eastern and northern staircases, Gate of all peoples;
Xerxes (486-465 BC): Palace of Xerxes, Harem, Trypylon, Palace D;
Artaxerxes I (465-424 BC): Hundred-columned hall, palace of Artaxerxes, garrison;
Artaxerxes II, Artaxerxes III, Darius III (424-330 BC): tomb of Artaxerxes II, palace of Artaxerxes III, 32-columned hall, tomb of Artaxerxes III, unfinished gate and tomb.

Alexander the Great occupied the city in 330 BC. lightning strike from the mountains, and a few months later he allowed the troops to plunder the city. The eastern palace of Xerxes was set on fire by Thais of Athens, and the fire spread to the whole city. It is believed that the action was revenge for the burning of the Acropolis during the Greco-Persian wars. Precious copies of the Avesta, written on bull skins with golden ink, were destroyed.

In 318 BC. e. Persepolis was the capital of Persia as a province of the Macedonian Empire (Diodorus, xix, 21 seq., 46). However, the city lost its power.

In 200 BC e. the city of Istakhr (Stakhr) rose five kilometers north of Persepolis, where the residence of the Sasanian satrap was located. Istakhr became the spiritual center of Zoroastrianism and the repository of the Avesta. Later, Istakhr was for some time the capital of the Sassanid Empire.

Istakhr was destroyed during the Arab conquest, for some time it was used as a fortified fortress.

Between the 14th and 18th centuries, the ruins of Persepolis became an object of interest for European travelers. The first in their line was Odoric of Friul in 1318 on his way to China. After 150 years, another Venetian citizen Josaphat Barbaro visited here. The Spanish diplomat Garcia de Silva Figueroa, sent to the court of Shah Abbas I, visited Persepolis in 1619 and left a translation of a number of Greek inscriptions. In 1621, Pietro della Valle was the first European to copy cuneiform inscriptions.

From September 12 to 16, 1971 in Persepolis, in the presence of Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi and foreign guests, the 2500th anniversary of the Iranian monarchy, timed to coincide with the year of the death of Cyrus II as the founder of the Persian state, was magnificently celebrated.


The composition of the complex

The center of the complex is Apadana Daria, raised four meters above the terrace. Two grand staircases lead to it, so gentle that one could drive chariots along them. The main value of these stairs and the entire Apadana terrace are reliefs carved on stone slabs. On the outside of the stairs they depict the solemn procession of the royal guard, and on the inside - the procession of servants carrying rams, vessels, wineskins with wine. The same action is depicted on the reliefs of Apadana itself: here representatives of the conquered peoples are lined up in a procession.

Many researchers have long believed that the processions of tributaries decorating the stairs of Apadana literally reproduce some kind of annual event, possibly timed to coincide with the celebration of the New Year. At the eastern door of Apadana, the king of kings Darius I is depicted seated on the throne, behind him stands the heir to the throne Xerxes.

The apadana itself was a large hall surrounded by vestibules. The roof of the structure was probably wooden and supported by seventy-two stone columns, thirteen of which have survived.

Tripylon and Hundred Column Hall
Behind Apadana Approximately in the center of the terrace was the Trypylon, probably the main ceremonial hall in Persepolis. Its staircase is decorated with relief images of dignitaries, on its eastern gate there was another relief depicting Darius I on the throne and the heir of Xerxes. Next was a huge room, called the Hall of a Hundred Columns by archaeologists, according to the number of found bases of the columns. Large stone bulls stood on the sides of the northern portico, eight stone gates were decorated with scenes from the royal life and the king's battles with demons. Both front rooms - Apadana and the Hall of a Hundred Columns - are almost square in shape; Labyrinths of treasuries, storerooms and living quarters adjoined the buildings where they are located at the back, of which practically only the foundations have survived.

To the right of the apadana was the tachara (residential palace) of Darius I. The palace was decorated with relief images. In the palace there is an inscription of their creator: "I, Darius, the great king, king of kings, king of countries, son of Hystaspes, Achaemenides, built this palace." Today, only the foundation, stone portals with doorways and the lower parts of the walls with surviving bas-reliefs remain from the tachara.

Harem of Xerxes
In the southern part of the platform were the palace of Xerxes, residential and utility rooms, as well as the royal treasury, decorated with relief images of Darius and Xerxes. The most interesting of them is the building called by the first Persepolis archaeologist Ernst Emil Hertzfeld "Xerxes' Harem". It consisted of twenty-two small two- and three-room apartments, where women with young children could live.

Tomb of Darius III
On the outskirts of Persepolis, scientists have discovered the tomb of Darius III, the last king of the Achaemenid dynasty. Left unfinished, it is destroyed by natural conditions. Its reliefs are uncut and schematic.

Water system of Persepolis
The sewer networks of Persepolis were among the most complex in the ancient world. Persepolis was built at the foot of Mount Rahmat, and often, for example, in early spring, the city was flooded due to heavy rainfall and water runoff from melted ice and snow. Therefore, sewer networks acquired great importance. The sewers were used to direct the flow of water from top to bottom from the northern areas, as well as to serve the inhabitants of the city in their need for water.