Persepolis- The Ruins of Fame

The town of Persepolis is near the city of Shiraz in the Fars Province of modern Iran. It is a unique archaeological site and was conceived as the seat of government of the Achamenian Kings and a centre for receptions and ceremonial festivals.


How to get to Persepolis


Persepolis in Iran is located in the Fars province at a distance of 65 km from Shiraz. Hire a taxi from Shiraz or take a minibus from Carandish Terminal to Marvdasht and from there take a shuttle taxi to Persepolis.


Photo by Dynamosquito


The traffic is chaotic. But, instead of losing my temper, I sit with a smile on my face. After all, if you are halfway across the world, anything that reminds you of home is welcome. I am on my way to Persepolis in Iran, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The drive is down a long straight wide road with trees planted on either side. I knew I am approaching the city when I spot the platform on which Persepolis is built from a distance.


The History of Persepolis


This city was founded by Darius I, who built on an impressive palace complex, making it the new capital of Persia by replacing Pasargadae. In various chambers there are information tablets in Farsi and English describing the peculiarity of the respective chamber. The two stairways leading to the palace have 111 steps each. One stairway was used by the gift-bearing delegations from the subject nations while the other was used by the nobles of the empire. The Persians with their eye for detail have constructed the steps in such a way that the nobles were able to climb the steps with ease in their regal robes and also be able to carry on a conversation without getting tired.



The Architecture of Persepolis


Once we climb the steps we find ourselves at the Gate of all Lands which consists of two guardian bulls on either side. These have the body of a bull, the wings of an eagle and the crowned head of a bearded man. One of the most fascinating section of Persepolis is the Apadana or Darius’s audience hall. It has beautifully carved panels on the wall, one section shows 23 gift bearers of the subject nations of the Persian Empire, they brought gifts during the festival of Nowruz for the Persian king. Apadana has huge columns, 13 of which still stand. Of the numerous inscriptions the one of Darius’s famous prayer for his people reads ‘God protect this country from foe, famine and falsehood.’


We see many flower sculptures, our guide, also named Darius, explains that the petals represent the 12 months of the year. Another section has warriors standing in a single line with shields. Darius makes me place my head at the beginning of the line, from here all the warriors appear in a perfect single line. Because a lot of locals and tourists alike have placed their heads at the same spot to observe this detail, the area has become a shiny polished black. Though Darius I ordered the construction of the Apadana Palace, the Council Hall and the main Imperial Treasury were completed during the reign of his son, Xerses.


We learn that the Persians believed in specialization  A set of artists would finish the section they were good at, be paid and leave. Then the next lot would come in complete the work assigned and leave with their remuneration before the next lot was called. In a corner we find two linked diamonds etched in the stone, this we were informed is the signature of the artists.


The images of the delegations are interesting since each has its own distinguishing features, attire and gifts. Among them I think I see an Indian attired in a dhoti, with a pair of donkeys, he is carrying the seating contraption similar to one in which Shravan Kumar carried his blind parents on their tirth yatra. Bits and pieces of the panels are missing, many of them have found their way to various museums. The head of a bull that once guarded the entrance to the Hundred-Column hall in Persepolis is at the Oriental Institute, Chicago and the British Museum has a size-able collection of artifacts.


We then move on to the treasury that at one time was a hall of 100 columns. Today, only the pedestals on which the columns stood remain, a tablet reveals that it took Alexander the Great 3,000 camels and mules to carry off the contents of the treasury. Interestingly, the treasurer then was a woman.


Persepolis Museum


A museum in Persepolis has on display various artifacts that have been excavated from the site including Cyrus’s Tablet. Under a glass square one can see the original flooring of the site. Not only did Alexander loot and plunder Persepolis, his men chiseled out the faces of a lot of the sculptures. From the souvenir shop located here one can purchase various books, posters, figures and post cards.


Museum in Persepolis (Photo by Persian Dutch Network)

Before we know it, it is evening. We are happy, tired but hungry. The meal we find comprises naan, garlic curd, zeresht pulao (buttery rice with sweet and sour tasting berries) along with chicken, hot lamb and chicken kebabs and is really delicious. With our minds stimulated and our stomachs full, it is time to leave Persepolis, the city of the Takht-e Jamshid (Throne of Jamshid).


Tip: It is mandatory for women to cover their heads throughout their stay in Iran and the headscarf has to be folded into a triangle and then knotted under the chin. They also need to wear a full-sleeve knee-length coat.


About the Author

Sonia Wigh loves to travel and is an avid reader. She is partial to historical romance novels and historical travel accounts.