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Glory of Ancient Persia from My Point of View (Page 2)

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4-8 June 2007, Homa Hotel (5*), Shiraz, Iran

(Also Persepolis, Pasargadae, Firuzabad, Kazerun)


Persepolis

 

44.1. Persepolis is one of the ancient capitals of Persia, established by Darius I the Great in the late 6th century BC. Its ruins lie 56km northeast of Shiraz. Darius  the Great transferred the capital of the Achaemenid dynasty to Persepolis from Pasargadae, where Cyrus the Great, founder of the Persian Empire, had ruled. Construction of Persepolis began between 518 and 516 BC and continued under Darius’s successors Xerxes I (Khashayarsha in Persian) and Artaxerxes I (Ardeshir in Persian) in the 5th century BC. Known as "Parsé" by the ancient Persians, it is known today in Iran as "Takht e Jamshid" (="Throne of Jamshid") after a legendary king. The Greeks called it Persepolis (="City of the Persians").

At its height the Persian Empire stretched from Greece and Libya in the west to the Indus River in present-day Pakistan in the east. The many nations under the empire’s rule enjoyed considerable autonomy in return for supplying the empire’s wealth. Each year at New Year’s—still celebrated in Iran on the first day of spring—representatives from these nations brought tribute to the king. The Persian kings used Persepolis primarily as a residence and for ceremonies such as the New Year’s celebration. The actual business of government was carried out elsewhere, chiefly at Susa and Ecbatana.

The site of Persepolis consists of the remains of several monumental buildings on a vast artificial stone terrace about 450 by 300 metres. A double staircase, wide and shallow enough for horses to climb, led from the plains below to the top of the terrace. At the head of the staircase, visitors passed through the Gate of Xerxes, a gatehouse guarded by enormous carved stone bulls.

It is now quite clear from the clay tablets discovered by Prof GG Cameron of the Chicago University that the construction work was not done by slaves or forced labours, but that each worker was paid according to his skill in silver, wine and meat.

In 330 BC, Alexander III of Macedonia (known by Europeans as "Alexander the Great") plundered the city brutally and burned it for the joy of his Athenian concubine Thais in the course of a drunken revel. He needed 20,000 mules and 5,000 camels to carry away the treasure looted from Persepolis, according to Greek biographer Plutarch.

In 316 BC Persepolis was still the capital of Persia as a province of the Macedonian empire. The city gradually declined in the Seleucid period and after, its ruins attesting its ancient glory. In the 3rd century AD the nearby city of Istakhr became the centre of the Sassanian empire.

Persepolis was eventually abandoned, and it lay buried beneath ashes and rubble until its rediscovery in 1620. Although many people visited Persepolis in the next centuries, excavation of the ruins did not begin until 1931, under the direction of the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago. The outbreak of World War II in 1939 halted this work. The Iranian Archaeological Service continued the excavation and restoration of Persepolis after the war.

Refs:

  1. Microsoft ® Encarta ® 2007. © 1993-2006 Microsoft Corporation.

  2. Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica 2007 Ultimate Reference Suite

44.2. A reconstructed aerial view of Persepolis: 1. The Grand Staircase 2. Porch of Xerxes or "The Portal of All Nations" 3. Stone water tank 4. Probably a workshop 5. Formerly the Queen's Rooms, and now a museum 6. The Main Hall, "Apadana" Palace 7. "Tachra", The Private Palace of Darius the Great 8. "Hadish", The Private Palace of Xerxes 9. The Central Palace or The Council Hall or classically "Tripylon" 10. The Treasury 11. Throne Hall or the Hall of "Hundred Columns" 12. An unfinished palace 13. Persepolis sewer or water supply 14. Royal mausoleums 15. Guard tower and stone well.

(photo courtesy from "Guide to Takht e Jamshid" by Mohammad-Hassan Khajeh Abdollahi)

45. A beautiful double flight of stairs leads to the top of the stone platform of Persepolis. There are 69 steps in each flight leading to the first landings and a further 42 steps each about 37.5cm deep, 7m wide, and only 10cm high take the visitor to the area right in front of gigantic Porch and Entrance Hall of Xerxes.

46. The great platform of Persepolis and The All Nations Gate can be seen in this shot. Almost 450 metres of ground was levelled from north to south and about 300 metres from east to west. The huge terrace with a total area of 135,000 square metres was constructed as a base on which to build the palaces of Darius the Great. In some places it is about 18 metres high and everything necessary was provided for a solid base for future buildings. Water courses were cut in the foundation of the platform and a drainage system was provided.

47. Directly opposite the top of the Grand Staircase is the Entrance Hall and the Porch of Xerxes, guarded at each entrance, to the west and to the east by bas-reliefs of colossal winged bulls. These winged bulls stand on pedestals about 1.5m above the level of the platform and reach a height of about 4.5m.

48. Two remaining fluted columns of four supported the roof of the Entrance Hall, which covered 625 squared metres.

"Whatever work seems beautiful, we did it all by the grace of God."

- From a cuneiform inscription  by Xerxes carved on the All Nations Gate.

49. The eastern doorway of the All Nations Gate

50. An impressive 150-ton square water tank hewn out of a single block of stone for ornamental purposes in which a fountain probably played can be seen in front of Apadana.

51. A capital in the form of a double-headed "Homa", Persian mythical bird and the symbol of welfare.

52. A capital in the form of a double-headed bull.

53. The way to the Throne Hall (Hall of Hundred Columns)

54. The way to the Throne Hall (Hall of Hundred Columns)

55. The relief of northern doorway of the Throne Hall represent Xerxes on his throne supported by Median and Persian spearmen.

56. One of the gates to the Throne Hall

57. Median and Persian spearmen of Persepolis. The men wear trousers are Median and the ones wear that clothes with long sleeves are Persian.

58, 59 & 60. The largest of all the buildings on the Persepolis platform is the magnificent Throne Hall or "Hall of Hundred Columns", the audience hall of the kings. In addition to the great hall itself, the main hall 70x70 metres has, as the name suggests, one hundred columns in rows of ten in each direction. It is estimated that each column was 12 metres high but unfortunately no one is now left standing. In this huge ruin, the friezes of the great king on the doorways fighting evil sprits, the winged symbol Faravahar (the pre-existing external higher soul or essence of a person in Zoroastrianism), the broken columns and walls, combine to create a nostalgic scene.

61. Tomb of Artaxerxes (Ardeshir in Persian) II (404–359/358 BC) surnamed (in Greek) Mnemon, meaning "the mindful" or III (359/358–338 BC) on the slope of the Mountain of Mercy (Kooh e Rahmat).

62. The southern doorway relief of the 100 Columns Hall represent Xerxes on his throne supported by 28 subject nations.

63. The upper part of the doorway mentioned in fig 62.

64 & 65. The southern view of 100 Columns Hall.

66.1. Stone statue of a dog found in Persepolis.

66.2. A beautiful more intact statue of a dog in black stone found in Persepolis upkeep now in Tehran Museum (photo courtesy).

67. Very beautiful mortars of jade found in the treasury of Persepolis.

68 & 69. Beautiful plates of stone in the Museum of Persepolis. Everything in this Museum is dated to about 2500 years ago. 70. A lion toe in stone 71. Stone jugs probably of marble

72. Stone tray

73. Stone tumbler

74. Beautiful black stone dish

75 & 76. Golden decorative bits 77. Bronze trumpet 78. Ancient hatchets

79. Bronze statue of a bird

80. Bronze statue of a woman, probably an Egyptian present

81. Ancient crocks found in Persepolis

82. Achaemenian style window

83 & 84. Other shots of the southern view of the 100 Columns Hall and royal mausoleums 85. The way to Three-Gates Palace: The king sits on his throne supported by 28 subject nations and his crown prince stands behind him taking a lotus in his hand.

86, 87 & 88. Attendants carrying foods to the palace 89. The "King of Kings" and his attendants

90. An ancient window 91. The most ancient sewer system in the world: Surplus water from the roofs of buildings, and sewage was carried away through a series of channels one of them shown in this shot. 92 & 93. I can't remember if here is "Tachra" or "Hadish", so I describe both of them: It was the custom of the Achaemenian monarchs to move from Ecbatana in the highlands of Media to Persepolis in the early season of the year. There the kings passed a few weeks of uncrowded holyday in their private palaces, the Hadish or the Tachra, before celebrating the Persian New Year ceremonies began on 21 March (22 March on leap years). Darius, Xerxes and Artaxerxes had their separate palaces on the south-western quarter of the Persepolis platform. The "Hadish" (literally a "dwelling place") and the "Tachra" are the names given to the private palace of Xerxes and Darius the Great, respectively.

94. Just another shot there

95. I'm not sure, but it may be the tomb of Darius III, the last Achaemenid king of Persia.

96. One of the palaces in Persepolis

98. The lion-bull decorative motif can be seen in many forms and many places in Persepolis. There are different ideas by scholars about the philosophy of the motif, according to one of them the bull is a symbol of winter and the lion a symbol of spring. So, attacking the bull by the lion means the finishing of winter and the beginning of spring, the new life of nature and therefore the Iranian New Year's Day.

97. Just another shot there

99. The "Faravahar" or "Fravashi" motif: in Zoroastrianism, the pre-existing external higher soul or essence of a person (according to some sources, also of gods and angels). Associated with Ahura Mazda, the supreme divinity, since the first creation, they participate in his nature of pure light and inexhaustible bounty. By free choice they descend into the world to suffer and combat the forces of evil, knowing their inevitable resurrection at the final glory. Each individual's fravashi, distinct from his incarnate soul, subtly guides him in life toward the realization of his higher nature. The saved soul is united after death with its fravashi. Cosmically, the fravashis are divided into three groups—the living, the dead, and the yet unborn. They are the force upon which Ahura Mazda depends to maintain the cosmos against the demon host. Protecting the empyrean (sacred fire), they keep darkness imprisoned in the world. In the popular religion, the fravashis of the righteous dead and of ancestors are invoked for protection. In the Parsi festival Fravartigan, the last 10 days of each year, each family honours the fravashis of its dead with prayers, fire, and incense.

Ref: Encyclopædia Britannica from Encyclopædia Britannica 2007 Ultimate Reference Suite

100. Persian guardians

101. A capital in the form of a bearded human head and winged bull trunk

102. Another shot of the capital shown in fig 99.

103. Persian elites negotiating sincerely while going to the central palace.

104. Stairs of the Central Palace

105. Elites of ancient Persia chatting happily and sincerely while going to visit the great king.

106. Another lion-bull motif mentioned in the caption of fig 97.

107. Again Iranian elite audiences

108. Persian and Median guards


The shots below were taken from the grand staircase of Apadana Palace, one of the most impressive and spectacular sights in Persia, a silent witness of glory of Ancient Persia and splendour a masterly sculpture, a record book of the ancient world.

The largest building at Persepolis, the Apadana (audience hall), stood to the right of the gatehouse. Archaeologists estimate that it could accommodate 10,000 people. Massive stone columns supported the Apadana’s roof; 36 were interior columns and another 36 supported verandas on three sides of the building. Thirteen of these 72 columns remain standing today. Each column rose nearly 20m high and had vertical channels called fluting carved into it to emphasize this height. At the top of the columns were capitals elaborately decorated with plant forms, scrolls, and double-headed animals. The animals supported wooden roof beams on their backs. Traces of paint found on column bases and other remains suggest that the room was originally brightly coloured.

Monumental staircases decorated with elaborate sculpture in relief (raised) led to the Apadana, which stood on an elevated platform. The relief sculpture depicts the ceremonial procession that took place when representatives from the conquered nations brought gifts to the king. The procession is led by Persians and Medians, the peoples whom Cyrus the Great united to found the Persian Empire. After them come delegates (as shown below) bearing gifts. Because the east staircase lay buried beneath ashes and rubble for centuries, its delicately carved relief sculptures remain in excellent condition today.

Ref: Microsoft ® Encarta ® 2007. © 1993-2006 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved.

109. Scythians of Haumavaka of the east (Samarkand) bringing a dagger, bracelets, axes and a horse.

110. Assyrians with a bison, shield and spears.

111. Pointed-Capped Scythians, or Thracians, offering a horse, gold bracelets, cloths and trousers.

112. Ionians of of Anatolia bringing vessels, tanned skins, clothes and two rams.

113. Babylonians offering vessels full of gold and silver, cloths and a bison.

114 & 115. Phoenicians bringing gold flower vases, vessels, armlets and a chariot.

116. Cappadocians bringing a horse and articles of clothing.

117. Armenians bringing a horse and a vase.

118. Lydians from Sardis, bringing vessels of valuables and bolts of cloth

119. Stairs of the Central Palace and Apadana in the back and the front, respectively.

120. The grand staircase of Apadana

121. Stairs of the Central Palace

122. A Persian elite guides the delegate of Assyrians

 

123. Delegates of Ionians

127. Cappadocian delegates. I love their clothes very much and believe they have been very stylish in the ancient world.

124. Delegates of Pointed-Capped Scythians

125. Another Persian elite guides the delegate of Cappadocians

126. A double-headed lion capital found in Apadana.

128. Another shot of the double-headed lion capital

129. Walking in the Apadana Palace

130. The ruins of Persepolis

131. A member of "Ten Thousand Immortals"

132. "Ten Thousand Immortals", the special army of Ancient Iran: In Persian history, core troops in the Achaemenian army, so named because their number of 10,000 was immediately re-established after every loss. Under the direct leadership of the "hazarapat", or commander in chief, the Immortals, who formed the king's personal bodyguard, consisted primarily of Persians but also included Medians and Elamites. They apparently had special privileges, such as being allowed to take concubines and servants along with them on the march. On coloured glazed bricks and carved reliefs found at the Achaemenian capitals, such as the Palace of Artaxerxes at Susa, the Immortals are often represented standing stiffly at attention, each soldier's wooden spear with its silver blade and pomegranate insignia held upright and resting firmly on his toe. They wore elaborate robes and much gold jewellery. An elite 1,000 of the Immortals were further distinguished by having gold pomegranates on their spears.

Ref: Encyclopædia Britannica from Encyclopædia Britannica 2007 Ultimate Reference Suite

133. Persian and Median officers or elites behind the Immortal Guards.

134. The grand stairs of Apadana

135. Somewhere to relax for tourists!

136. Sunset in Persepolis

138. Sunset in Persepolis

137. Apadana

139. A native walking near Persepolis. Isn't his felt hat familiar? Yes, it's that Median hat you saw in the above shots. It's still useable after more than 2500 years!

140. Tourists leaving Persepolis in sunset

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