Persepolis, which means “City of the Persians”, was once an iconic city of antiquity that was renowned for its architecture and monumental art. A mountainous city built in remote terrain, it was the capital of the Achaemenid Empire of the Persians. Darius I founded the city in 518 B.C. His son Xerxes I (486-465 BCE), and grandson Artaxerxes I (465-424 BCE) played a vital role in constructing the complex. The city was built on a massive piece of land that was both natural and artificial. Mesopotamian style can be seen throughout the palace complex, however, with its unique flair. Easily identifiable are the spectacular terrace and an adamantine column at this archeological site.

Lost in Time: Persepolis, Iran - Sheet1
Persepolis_©0.quizlet.com

According to historical facts, Persepolis began to decline under the son of Darius, Xerxes, and was conquered by Alexander in 334 B.C.E., who had entered Asia Minor (modern-day Turkey) across the Aegean Sea. The Greek conqueror Alexander finally ended three years of warfare and three decisive battles by crushing the Persian armies at the Tigris River and taking control of the Persian Empire – including the legendary city of Babylon. Persepolis, the Persian capital city, was burned to the ground by Alexander after his defeat of King Darius III. Along with the city’s majestic palaces, religious writings and artwork were destroyed. 

Lost in Time: Persepolis, Iran - Sheet2
Magnificient structure at site_©irantravelbooking.com

Ruins of the world’s greatest archeological site were discovered in the plain of Marv Dasht (southwestern Iran) at the foot of Kuh-i-Rahmat, also known as the mountain of mercy. Under the supervision of Professor Ernst Herzfeld between 1931 and 1934, and Erich F. Schmidt from 1934 to 1939, the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago sponsored the first archaeological expedition to Persepolis and its environs resulting in the first excavation of the ruins of the great empire. Archeological sites are the most popular visitor attractions, especially for tourists who have a passion for architecture, urban planning, construction technology, art, etc.

Lost in Time: Persepolis, Iran - Sheet3
Persepolis plan_©iransafar.co

Various functional buildings adorned the magnificent site terrace, including the Apada, Throne Hall, Treasury, Palace of Darius, Council Hall, Artaxerxes Tomb, Palace of Xerxes, Harem of Xerxes, and Gate of Xerxes, which are architecturally remarkable and lavishly appointed. This terrace is among the finest architectural masterpieces in the world, with its double flight of access steps, sculpted friezes at several levels, and the obligatory Assyrian propylaea (monumental gateways). It also features carved flying bulls that tower above spacious chambers. A minimum number of remarkably thin columns was needed to support the open roof of an Achaemenid building by carefully constructing lighter roofs and using timber lintels. Columns were topped with elaborate capitals, such as the double-bull capital, in which two kneeling bulls were arranged back-to-back, their necks joined and twin heads placed precisely under the intersections of the ceiling beams, resting on double volutes.

Lost in Time: Persepolis, Iran - Sheet4
Place of 100 column_©sunfirm.com

Among the many structures on the site, the Apada is the biggest and most stunning. The massive platform with two enormous staircases leading north and east still contains thirteen of the seventy-two columns. The masterful use of pattern and rhythm allows a grandiose decorative sense to be created by repeating and combining figures. Specifically, the carvings give the impression that the festival is about to start or that the soldiers are standing in lines.

Immediately adjacent to the Apada is the hall with 100 columns which is referred to as the Throne Hall. It served mostly as a venue for banquets attended by representatives of the empire’s vassal states. Due to the very limited size of the Treasury, the Throne Hall was used as a warehouse. It was also used as a place to display the gifts of the Treasury, both tribute and loot. On their way to the Throne Hall, guests passed the main gate, which was the only entrance to the terrace, as the only entry to pay tribute to the monarch. This main entrance is known as the Xerxes Gate. An interior room supported by four stone columns with bell-shaped bases consisted of one spacious room. 

The doorways of this room were interspersed with stone benches installed parallel to the interior walls. Several niches were carved into the thick mud-brick exterior walls. Besides the Throne Hall, the Treasury serves as a royal warehouse, where treasures are stored. This was formerly used as a reception court before the Throne hall was constructed. It was also found with two larger stone reliefs attesting to its purpose. Three small stairways descended from the central hall of Darius’ palace, which was supported by twelve columns. Despite its double size, the Palace of Xerxes is decorated in a similar style to that of the Darius Place, though there are two large Xerxes inscriptions on the eastern and western doorways. There was a beautiful stairway leading to three entrances that led to the royal apartments known as the council hall.

References: 

Online sources

  1. Persepolis(1979), Available at:

https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/114/

Persepolis and Ancient Iran,  Available at:

https://oi.uchicago.edu/collections/photographic-archives/persepolis/persepolis-terrace-architecture-reliefs-and-finds

Image sources

01_Persepolis_0.quizlet.com

https://o.quizlet.com/xwWdFNkOwEdCdT-C-KpHIQ_b.jpg02_Land of the dead_fxguide.com

02_Magnificient structure at site_irantravelbooking.com

https://irantravelbooking.com/wp-content/uploads/World-Heritage-Site-in-Iran/Persepolis.jpg

03_Persepolis-Map-Plan.iransafar.co

https://www.iransafar.co/wp-content/uploads/2021/images/persepolis/Persepolis-Map-Plan.jpg

04_Place of 100 column_sunfirm.com

https://surfiran.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/09/The-Palace-of-100-columns.jpg

Author

Abhigna is a young architect who has a unique architectural way of interpreting things. Her interest lies in articulating sensible spaces according to the needs of society. She believes in the exploration of continuum architecture.

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