The Wheel and Axle

Persia 2017: Persepolis

by on Oct.07, 2017, under My Life, Travel & Culture

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Marvdasht, Iran
24 September 2017

Just a couple of hours outside Shiraz are the ruins of Persepolis.

Literally “The City of the Persians,” Persepolis was the ceremonial capital of the Achaemenid Empire. Initially built by King Darius I, it is a city complex set upon a platform in what is now Fars Province. Among its structures were the Gate of All Nations, the Apadana, the Throne Hall, and the Tachara. It is also known as Takht-e-Jamshid (Throne of Jamshid) due to the belief of late antiquity Persians that it was built by the mythological king Jamshid.

The Gate of All Nations served as the “receiving” hall for representatives of the 28 nations under the rule of the Persian King. Through this gate, those paying tribute would be called upon to go to the Apadana, where the “King of Kings” held official audiences. The Gate is “guarded” by human-headed bulls called lamassus, ancient Assyrian deities.

King Darius I built the greatest palace of Persepolis, the Apadana, to serve as a hall for official audiences. He also started to build the Tachara, also known as The Palace of Darius the Great, for his personal use, although only a part of it was completed in his lifetime as he passed away before its completion. His son, Xerxes I, finished the Tachara. The Tachara was the only palace made of granite; it was also called the Mirror Hall because it was polished so thoroughly (with shark’s skin, no less) that the halls were like mirrors. Walking around the ruins, where giant columns stood majestically under the sun, one can only imagine how magnificent those halls must’ve looked like in the past.

The Queen had a separate palace, which now houses a museum; it makes me wonder if this was Queen Vashti’s and Queen Esther’s palace, but no such info was offered by our guide. The Hadish, meanwhile, was the private residence of Xerxes I. It was destroyed by Alexander the Great, who also looted The Imperial Treasury.

The Throne Hall, also known as the Imperial Army’s Hall of Honor as well as The Hundred-Columns Palace, served as the receiving hall for military commanders of the empire, including those from subject nations. Bas reliefs depicting the representatives of the 28 nations (though only 23 are represented) as well as symbolic representations of the seasons (the “spring” lion pushing away the “winter” bull) pepper the halls. It is these works of art, withstanding the test of time, that provide a glimpss into what kind of empire the Achaemenid kings had power over. For subjects as far away as India and Ethiopia to come and pay homage to them with beautiful and valuable tributes reflects the kind of grandeur that this dynasty exhibited.

Griffins are also seen atop columns surrounding the city, and sphinxes also guarded the Persepolis. The sphinx, with its human head, bull body, and eagle wings, symbolized characteristics that the ancient Persians strove for. Unlike the Egyptian sphinx, which usually had a female head, the Persian sphinx has a male head.

We ended our tour of the Persepolis with a quick stop at the mini-bazaar just outside. I got a couple of souvenirs, and to be fair, the prices are quite tourist-friendly. It was a very hot and tiring half-day walk around Persepolis, but it was worth it.


Like the 28 nations, our tour group was an international congregation of different folks!

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