The archeological site from the glorious era of the Achaemenid Empire, Persepolis in Fars province is one of Iran’s heritages added to the long list of UNESCO. Persepolis was the capital of the Achaemenid Empire and is a testimony of the Ancient Persia’s greatness. It comes as no surprise that visiting the Persepolis is usually high up on any travelers bucket list. If you are planning to join a classical Iran tour, Persepolis will be one of the highlights of your trip. Let’s find out what this whole magnificent landscape is all about.
Historical Background of the Persepolis
Persepolis, also known as Takht-e-Jamshid was constructed during the 5th Century BC when Fars Province was regarded as the center of power for the Achaemenid Empire. It was constructed under the orders of Darius the Great but was entirely completed during the reign of Darius I’s son, Xerxes the Great.
The immense terrace of Takht-e-Jamshid is one of the most prominent elements of it and works as a platform for a series of architectural gems such as the glorious “Apadana Palace” and the magnificent “Hundred Column Hall.”. Although the construction of this terrace began about 518 BCE under the order of Darius I, later kings of the Achaemenid dynasty ordered the construction of buildings that proudly stand upon it. Interestingly this terrace is half natural and half artificial. It was built after Darius the Great was impressed by the Mesopotamian models of architecture.
What was the function of Persepolis?
Persepolis was designed to be used as a center for the receptions and festivals of the empire. In other words, it was a spectacular showplace for displaying the power of the Achaemenid kings. Darius the Great wanted the terrace of Persepolis to be regarded as the demonstration of the power of Achaemenid monarchy. It was also used as a venue for the national celebrations and events.
What you will see in the magnificent ruins of Persepolis
The whole landscape of Persepolis features a soft hue with marble-like colors. As explained earlier, the complex of Persepolis is built upon a terrace which was constructed after Achaemenid emperors were inspired by the architecture of Mesopotamia. This terrace features a double flight of access stairs which has given a splendid look to it. The monumental stairways of the Persepolis, sculpted friezes on the walls, monumental gateways inspired by the Assyrian architectural style and enormous sculptures of winged bulls make for a breathtaking landscape in the archeological site of Persepolis.
Moreover, wandering among the remains of spectacular halls of Persepolis and the slender columns (13 of which still standing in the audience hall) that were built to support roofs in the open area, takes you back to the ages of glorious empires which is an exceptional experience.
The Architectural Elements
These columns were accurately engineered with light weighted roofs and wooden lintels in a way that supporting the roof of the construction could be possible with the minimum number of columns.
The kneeling double – bull capitals sitting back to back resting on double volutes is an image you will never forget after your classical Iran tour.
The lengthy cohorts of warriors, dignitaries and the representatives of other nations who are bearing tributes for the Achaemenid emperors sculpted on the walls of Persepolis create a unique image that mesmerize the observers.
Persepolis is a perfect ensemble of throne rooms, reception halls and stairways that have gained a universal value as an impressive image of probably the most ancient civilization of the world. The form and design of this UNESCO heritage site are authentic and one of a kind and luckily, its general plan has not undergone any changes while being carefully restored. The authenticity of the remains of Persepolis give a striking atmosphere to it. You can hardly remember at what place and time you are while walking among the columns and colossal buildings of Persepolis. This authenticity is a valuable characteristic that has given such a world-wide popularity to this ancient complex.
Bas-Reliefs of Representatives
The Bas-reliefs on the walls of Persepolis buildings are undoubtedly some of the most impressive attractions of this complex. They are illustrations of representatives from remote parts of the great empire who are being led by a Persian or Mede leader towards the king to offer him presents for the Nowruz Celebration. Interestingly, archeologists and scholars note that all of the bas-reliefs of Persepolis used to be painted in bright colors. Although we can see them in grayish colors today, they still have the charm and elegance of the decorations of a royal palace.
Among all of the carvings on the walls, make sure you find the Assyrians who are offering rams to the king and the Lydians who are presenting stallions carrying a chariot.
We highly recommend that you visit Persepolis with a knowledgeable tour guide in order to get a solid grasp of the history that lays behind it.
In addition, several stone-cut inscriptions of Darius I, Xerxes I and Artaxerxes III found on building of Persepolis explain to which Achaemenid king each building of the complex was attributed.
Walking on the vast platform of Persepolis, you’ll see an inscription which is a famous prayer by Darius I for people of his territory.
It is translated as follows:
“May God protect this country from foe, famine and falsehood.”
What happened to the magnificent Persepolis?
Like any other archeological site, Persepolis has a striking history to hear about. Although originally constructed to display the glory of a great empire and serve as the venue of elegant celebrations and events of the monarch, Persepolis was burnt by Alexander the Great’s Greek army in 330. The burning of Persepolis is referred to as one of the bitterest incidents of the history of Persia.
Tips to know before heading to the magnificent Persepolis
Note that Takht-e-Jamshid is a vast open space and spending hours there during the warmest hours of summer days may not be a good idea. It’s preferable to go in the early morning or in the evening when the weather is cooler and you can simply enjoy your tour.
Persepolis is very unlikely to get crowded during the winter days. Although early mornings are always fine throughout the year.
Pay a visit to the Persepolis Museum to see a great collection of things found from the Persepolis area. It’s a very organized museum and gives you a better understanding of what happened during the reign of the Achaemenid dynasty.
Don’t skip visiting the Pasargadae while traveling in Shiraz as it is another prominent place left from the Achaemenid dynasty.
For more information on Iran’s UNESCO world heritage sites, click here.
Read more about Classical Iran Tours here.
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