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Persepolis, a Building as Magnificent as History

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Persepolis is a complex of buildings which was constructed by Darius I in about 520 B.C. on a stone plate with an area of 125,000 square meters on the slopes of Rahmat Mountains which stands about 55 km northeast of Shiraz.

Persepolis is an age-old building from the ancient times of Iran which stands for the ancient Iranian civilization and culture.

Foreign tourists associate Iran with Persepolis and consider it a major symbol of this ancient land.

Construction of the building started by Darius I and was continued by later kings.
The original name of the place was “Parseh” while the Greeks called it “Persepolis” and Muslim historians of later centuries called it Takht-e Jamshid.

On the western part of the stone plate there is a two-way huge stairway which gives access to the top of the plate. There are 110 steps on each side of the staircase; 63 steps lead from the ground to a landing. Then there are 43 more steps from the landing to the top of the stone plate.

There is a congregated shelter near the stairway and every few steps have been carved out of a single piece of stone.

After climbing the stairs, the Nations Gate is the first part of the building to catch one’s eyes. It leads to a large square hall which has been built over four columns and has three doorways towards the west, east, and south. Two huge bulls stand on guard on both sides of the western doorway and statues of two winged bulls with human heads stand on the other two sides. There is an inscription by Xerxes in three languages on this gate in which Xerxes praises Ahura Mazda and explains about his exploits.

Construction of Apadana Palace started by Darius and was finished by Xerxes. The palace includes a central hall with 36 columns and 3 porticos each with 12 columns on the north, east and west in addition to a number of rooms on four corners as well as the southern side.

The stone columns of the hall and porticos are more than 19 meters high. There are two stairways on the northern and eastern sides of Apadana 2 Hall. Each stairway reaches the portico through four rows of stairs. The stairs are adorned with pictures of Achaemenid dignitaries, Javidan (immortal) soldiers, and representatives of other subordinate nations.

The Three-Gate Palace is located in the center of other palaces of Persepolis. It has two stairways on the northern side on which pictures of Median and Achaemenid dignitaries have been carved out who are climbing the stairs at a distance from each other.

The palace has two porticos with two stone columns and a hall with four columns on whose doorways Achaemenid designs have been carved out. There are a number of rooms on both sides of the hall and capitals at the hall are the sole capitals that have been cut to make a human head.

Throne Hall is the second most important building in Persepolis complex after Apadana Hall, which consists of a central hall with 100 stone columns, a portico with 16 columns, four main doorways and four accessory doorways as well as long corridors on three sides of the palace. The bas-relief of the Iranian king sitting on the throne which is being carried by representatives of subordinate nations has been inscribed on two sides of northern and southern doorways. On the body of the eastern and western doorways, you can see bas-relief of the king who is fighting legendary animals.

The central hall of the palace is the biggest hall in Persepolis and stands the second in importance only after Apadana Hall.

At the end of this hall, there is an incomplete gate which resembles the Nations Gate and its situation can shed some light on construction trend of the whole complex.

Hadish Palace was special to Xerxes and is bigger than the palace of Darius. It includes a central hall with 36 columns, a portico with 12 columns, two halls each with four columns, and a number of rooms on each side. The bas-reliefs of the king have been worked out on the doorways of this palace. The palace is characterized with bas-reliefs inside the alcoves which differentiate it from other buildings.

Tachar Palace or Mirror Hall was special to Darius and includes a central hall with 12 columns, a portico with 8 columns, two halls each with four columns at the back of the central hall and a number of smaller rooms on both sides.

The women’s quarters or harem was connected to Hadish Palace and had been constructed on the order of Xerxes. It included a collection of rooms and halls at various dimensions which were separated from each other by corridors.

The main hall and part of the complex have been reconstructed and currently house the administrative section and Persepolis Museum.

Treasury is another important part of the Persepolis which has been built in a different manner from other buildings.

The Treasury includes two big halls with 100 columns and 99 columns, respectively; a hall with 30 columns, another hall with 20 columns as well as a number of smaller halls and rooms which have been surrounded by a strong perimeter wall and there is only one way for access to the inside of Treasury.

On the slopes of Rahmat Mountain, two tombs are carved out of mountain stone with similar appearances. The king, who has a bow in his hand, is standing on a three-step platform. There is a brazier and the Sun in front of him while the sign of Farvahar has been cut in the upper part of the picture.

The tombs have been attributed to Ardeshir II and Ardeshir III. At the tomb of Ardeshir II there are six graves while two graves have been carved out at the other tomb. There is an unfinished tomb on the southern part of Persepolis, which is commonly attributed to Darius III.

Other components of Persepolis include a stone well; fortifications of Persepolis, guards’ quarters, soldiers’ street, H and G palaces, and the place where clay tablets which were documents related to Persepolis were unearthed.

Head of Fars Province Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Organization, has noted that in order to protect the valuable remains of Persepolis, it has been covered by Tourism Development Company.

Dr. Mohammad Reza Barzegar added that according to an agreement, the company has taken charge of renovation, beautification and other services related to the complex.

“The company is obliged to spend 400 billion rials in four years on reconstruction and maintenance of the buildings,” he said.

The official also stated that a Persepolis research base was cooperating with the company.

Barzegar also noted that due to its international fame, Persepolis annually hosts a great number of tourists, researchers, and scholars from across the world as well as domestic tourists.

He concluded by saying that tour guides and experts on Persepolis were working in two shifts during new Iranian year holidays to provide foreign and domestic tourists with information about situation, conditions, and history of the complex.

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