Persepolis, The Ceremonial Capital of the Vastest Empire in the History


Hands down Persepolis is the most important historical monument in Iran. No tourist would travel to Iran and not visit Persepolis. Persepolis literally means the city of Pars People, in Latin. Iranians originally called it Parseh which had the same meaning. Pars People constructed it about 2500 years ago within 120 years, to be the ceremonial capital of the vastest empire ever in the history, Achaemenian. Clearly, workers, designers, artists and engineers from all over the vast territory had their part in constructing this fabulous monument.

General View of the Complex

Persepolis is the biggest historical stone building in Iran and one of the largest in the world. It’s about 60 km in north of Shiraz. The complex is on a half artificial and half natural plateau with an area of 125000 m2. This plateau has a height of 8 to 18 m in order to make an even surface almost in a rectangular shape. It faces Mehr (Rahmat) Mountain on its east side. And flat fields surround it on the rest of the sides.


Without doubt the highlight of Persepolis is its stone reliefs, decorations and carvings. Indeed, these decorations are novel, unique and fantastic and they are literally everywhere. On the entrance, on the pillars, copestones and most importantly on side of the stairways. These precise, delicate, detailed and glorious stone reliefs provide us with information in the best way. To be specific, they mostly consist of the Immortal Guard, Persian and Madien soldiers and representatives of different nations from all over the vast empire, beside the monarchy of course. Frankly, the major vibe gotten from these scenes is brotherhood, equality, friendship, ethical values, calmness and respect; In one word, the peace throughout Achaemenid territory. It’s also noteworthy that according to adobe inscriptions discovered, proudly all the male and female workers respectfully got payed.  

Persepolis like all other Persian monuments is filled with signs and symbols. For instance, You can see the scene of a lion eating a bull for a couple of times here. It actually means the passing of a year while the lion being a sign of spring and summer and the bull means winter.  Another repeated symbol is a hawk or an eagle or a Griffin which they all are an emblem for the power of the monarchy and their relation with Ahura Mazda, the supreme being. Third, Faravahar is the other frequent and well-known symbol. Clearly it’s a religious sign featuring the believed supreme being. It absolutely is tied with religious beliefs and illustrates the accepted ethical values. The slogan ascribed to Faravahar is Good Thoughts, Good Words, Good Deeds. Lotus and Cedar signs are also frequent which are signs of life.

As a matter of fact, stone is the main material in constructing Persepolis, yet the builders used no mud or lime to attach these stone cubes together. To be precise, they are all put together with metal clamps.       



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Great Stairways, Entrance of Persepolis
Closer view of Great Stairways
The Gate of All Nations

On a corner of the west side of the plateau, exists the special entrance of Persepolis. Subsequently, a series of stairs that are kind of like two arms bended at elbow lead to the entrance. Going up the stairs you’ll see the great gate of “all nations”.

Apadana Palace

Indeed, after passing the gate and going through Sepahian street, Apadana Palace is the first thing that comes in your sight. Undoubtedly, It’s the largest and used to be the most elegant building in Persepolis. Evidently, they built Apadana Palace due to Darius the great’s command in 515 BC and called it the great audience hall. To be exact, It had the capacity to host 10000 people. With this in mind, in Nowruz (Persian new year’s day) the king received tributes from representatives of all nations in the empire gathered in Apadana palace and gave gifts in return. To be specific, Apadana Palace is in shape of a square with a terrace on 3 sides. 72, 20m stone pillars held the ceiling, 14 of which still remain. The pillars of the hall have square bases while the ones of the terraces have circular bases and they also had the typical Achaemenid capitals. In this case two sitting back to back bulls on top which hold the wooden roof. The walls of the palace had an adobe base with a mud and plaster cover. Besides, they used the same combination to cover the floor. Therefore, inside of the palace had a grey color. The palace had 3 stairways to its below courtyard.

Ruins of the Apadana's columns.
Ruins of the Apadana, Persepolis.


Depiction of united Medes and Persians at the Apadana, Persepolis.
Depiction of figures at the Apadana.
Depiction of trees and lotus flowers at the Apadana, Persepolis.

Sad-Sotun Palace

Clearly, Sad-Sotun is the second large palace of Persepolis. According to an inscription found in the hall, Xerxes, the second king, started its construction. Following him Artaxerxes, the third king, continued the building process. This palace had 100 same pillars of 14 m height with stone made circular base and bull capital on top. Sad-Sotun literally means 100 pillars. Contrary none of those pillars are remained at present time. Additionally, there are two stone gates at each side of the palace, over all make it 8. Also, on upper part of the northern gates, exist bas reliefs of Artaxerxes sitting on a throne with his courtiers.

Tachara Palace

It is probably the oldest construction in this site. This palace used to be Darius’ private palace and is located behind Apadana. It’s possibly the most gorgeous remain in Persepolis. It had a central hall with 12 wooden pillars with some small rooms around it. The Palace had a terrace with 8 pillars as well. In addition, there is a two-sided stairway on its west side that lead to a terrace.

Definitely the highlight of this palace is numerous inscriptions discovered here. Evidently, they are from Achaemenid, Sassanid and post Islamic periods that highly informed archeologists.

Furthermore, Persepolis includes remains of 5 other smaller palaces. There is also a huge construction named Royal Treasure. Besides, one of the Palaces that is assumed to be one of the queens’ property is renovated. It’s currently used as a museum. A lot of valuable stuff excavated in Persepolis are kept here which unquestionably is worth a visit.

Depiction of united Medes and Persians at the Apadana, Persepolis.
In fact, In the rocks of the dominant Rahmat Mountain over Persepolis, there is a tomb just like those in Naghsh e Rostam. There lies probably the last powerful Achaemenid king, Artaxerxes III. Similarly, The tomb is like the typical Achaemenid type. The entrance to the tomb is in the center of the frame. Above the entrance, there is a bas relief that illustrates the power of the monarchy. The king is standing on top of a flat throne while the sacred fire is in front of him. 28 people from all around of their vast territory are carrying the throne. Meanwhile, On top of all these, they carved Faravahar, which is a well-known Zoroastrian symbol. It’s also claimed to be the Achaemenid emblem. There are carvings of typical Achaemenid pillars on the cross as well. Particularly, the details of the reliefs are delicate and noticeable.
 The entrance opens to a small chamber that leads to a couple of spaces and a room containing a simple sarcophagus. Furthermore, there is a stairway that leads to front of the entrance. Thus, you’d be able to observe the details. From there you would have a spectacular view over the whole complex of persepolice which is definitely breath taking and wonderful.
History and Destruction

With all of its glory and magnificent, though Persepolis had heart rendering faith. Xerxes had an unsuccessful campaign over Greece during domination. As a consequence, later in 330 BC, the Macedonian Alexander the Great, had an incursion over Persian territory. He and his army completely devastated and stole treasures of Persepolis and then set it on fire.

َActually, the local name of Persepolis is Takht e Jamshid. It literally means Jamshid’s throne. Jamshid is the mythical king of Persia, the first king, the king of the kings. People had definitely heard about him through Shahnameh epic. They must had seen these reliefs and guess it to be related to the known King Jamshid! Throughout centuries Persepolis has been treated by respect and known for its grandeur. Moreover, in recent decades Architects  design important official and residential buildings, tombs and monuments in a style inspired  from Persepolis.

Battle of Gaugamela 331 BCE
Darius III last king of Achaemenids
Alexander the great who burnt down Persepolis

Is it worth visiting?

In summery, this UNESCO world heritage is the main destination of tourists in Iran. You would wonder and be amazed by walking through these stone monuments and learn about the details on them. Ultimately, Persepolis is a must see! We assure you that you won’t regret it. You don’t want to miss visiting Bishapur city, not far away from Persepolis.

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