Persepolis, literally meaning “city of Persians”, was the ceremonial capital of the Achaemenid Empire (ca. 550–330 BCE). Persepolis is situated 70 km northeast of city of Shiraz in Fars Province, Iran. Archaeological evidence shows that the earliest remains of Persepolis date back to 515 BC. It exemplifies the Achaemenid style of architecture. André Godard, the French archaeologist who excavated Persepolis in the early 1930s, believed that it was Cyrus the Great (Kūrosh) who chose the site of Persepolis, but that it was Darius I (Daryush) who built the terrace and the great palaces.Darius ordered the construction of the Apadana Palace and the Council Hall (the Tripylon or three-gated hall), the main imperial Treasury and its surroundings. These were completed during the reign of his son, King Xerxes the Great (Khashayar). Further construction of the buildings on the terrace continued until the downfall of the Achaemenid dynasty.
Takh-e-Jamshid was set on the fire by Alexander. Actually when Alexander the Great arrived at Persepolis it was the jewel of Persia and, when he left, it was a ruin whose spot would be known for generations only as “the palace of the forty columns” for the remaining palace columns left standing in the sand.This historic masterpiece includes a lot of monuments such as Gate of All Nations, Apadana Palace, The Throne Hall, and other palaces and structures. UNESCO declared the ruins of Persepolis a World Heritage Site in 1979.
Gray limestone was the main material used in building Persepolis. To reach the top terrace, the construction of a broad Stairway, 20 meters above the ground, was planned to be the only main entrance. The dual stairway, known as the Persepolitan stairway, was built in a symmetrical manner on the western side of the Great Hall. The 111 steps were 6.9 meters wide with treads of 31 centimeters and rises of 10 centimeters. Originally the steps were believed to have been constructed to allow for nobles and royalty to ascend by horseback.
New theories suggest that this was to allow visiting dignitaries to, in fact, walk up the stairs while keeping a regal appearance, permissible by the ease in which the stairs could be climbed due to the small distance between each step. Whenever important foreign delegations arrived, their presence was heralded by trumpeters at the top of the staircase. Fragments of one of these bronze trumpets are on display in the museum.
Gate of All Nations
The Gate of All Nations (also the waiting Palace/The Xerxes’s Palace) is one of the palaces in the Persepolis located near the entrance stairway in the North West of the monument. The information about this palace is all based on inscriptions above the palace. This gate was not on Darius the Great’s initial plan for Persepolis but was added by his son and successor, Xerxes.The reason it was called the Nations Palace was that different people from different countries entered the hall and then moved on to the other places in Persepolis, and it was a sort of waiting room.The Gate of all Nations, referring to subjects of the empire, consisted of a grand hall that was a square of approximately 25 metres (82 ft) in length, with four columns and its entrance on the Western Wall. There were two more doors, one to the south which opened to the Apadana yard and the other opened onto a long road to the east.
Pivoting devices found on the inner corners of all the doors indicate that they were two-leafed doors, probably made of wood and covered with sheets of ornate metal. A pair of Lamassus -bulls with the heads of bearded men- stand by the western threshold. Another pair, with wings and a Persian head (Gopät-Shäh), stand by the eastern entrance, to reflect the Empire’s power. Xerxes’s name was written in three languages and carved on the entrances, informing everyone that he ordered it to be built.
Darius the Great built the greatest palace at Persepolis on the western side. This palace was called the Apadana (the root name for modern ayvan). The King of Kings used it for official audiences. The work began in 515 BC. His son Xerxes I completed it 30 years later.The palace had a grand hall in the shape of a square, each side 60 metres (200 ft) long with seventy-two columns, thirteen of which still stand on the enormous platform. Each column is 19 metres (62 ft) high with a square Taurus and plinth. The columns carried the weight of the vast and heavy ceiling.
The tops of the columns were made from animal sculptures such as two-headed bulls, lions and eagles. The columns were joined to each other with the help of oak and cedar beams, which were brought from Lebanon. The walls were covered with a layer of mud and stucco to a depth of 5 cm, which was used for bonding, and then covered with the greenish stucco which is found throughout the palaces.At the western, northern and eastern sides of the palace there were three rectangular porticos each of which had twelve columns in two rows of six. At the south of the grand hall a series of rooms were built for storage. Two grand Persepolitan stairways were built, symmetrical to each other and connected to the stone foundations. To protect the roof from erosion, vertical drains were built through the brick walls. In the four corners of Apadana, facing outwards, four towers were built. The walls were tiled and decorated with pictures of lions, bulls, and flowers.
Darius ordered his name and the details of his empire to be written in gold and silver on plates, which were placed in covered stone boxes in the foundations under the four corners of the palace. Two Persepolitan style symmetrical stairways were built on the northern and eastern sides of Apadana to compensate for a difference in level. Two other stairways stood in the middle of the building. The external front views of the palace were embossed with carvings of the Immortals, the Kings’ elite guards. The northern stairway was completed during Darius’s reign, but the other stairway was completed much later.
The Throne Hall
Next to the Apadana, second largest building of the Terrace and the final edifices, is the Throne Hall or the Imperial Army’s hall of honour (also called the “Hundred-Columns Palace”).This 70×70 square meter hall was started by Xerxes and completed by his son Artaxerxes I by the end of the fifth century BC. In the beginning of Xerxes’s reign, the Throne Hall was used mainly for receptions of military commanders and representatives of all the subject nations of the empire. Later the Throne Hall served as an imperial museum.Its eight stone doorways are decorated on the south and north with reliefs of throne scenes and on the east and west with scenes depicting the king in combat with monsters. Two colossal stone bulls flank the northern portico. The head of one of the bulls now resides in the Oriental Institute in Chicago.
Other palaces and structures
Except above mentioned monuments, Persepolis complex includes some other palaces and structures. These included the Tachara palace which was built under Darius I, and the Imperial treasury which was started by Darius in 510 BC and finished by Xerxes in 480 BC.The Hadish palace by Xerxes I, occupies the highest level of terrace and stands on the living rock.The Council Hall, the Tryplion Hall, The Palaces of D, G, H, Storerooms, Stables and quarters, Unfinished Gateway and a few miscellaneous structures at Persepolis are located near the south-east corner of the Terrace, at the foot of the mountain.