If you ever pass by Shiraz, in Iran, make sure you don’t miss Persepolis. Persepolis is a palace for peace, a place where visitors from all walks of life, by looking at its splendid and glorious architecture, can imagine the world as it was long before Jesus Christ.
The area of Persepolis – a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1979, comprehends one of the biggest and most important archeological site in the whole world. It is impressive how a civilization could design and realize a complex like Persepolis more than 2500 years ago. This ancient village was provided with an efficient system of drainage, piped waterways and flood outlets. Each structure had a function: audience halls, private residences, guards rooms, treasure houses, with a series of fortifications higher than ten meters protecting the area.
Concept and Location
Persepolis is located near Marvdasht village, 50 km northeast of Shiraz. The palace, located on a promontory projecting into the plain from a rocky hill at the foot of the northwest corner of the Mountain of Mercy, a holy mountain at that time, presents what may be the most awesome ruins of the ancient world. According to the testimony of Achaemenid documents (the Achaemenid Empire, also called the First Persian Empire, was based in Western Asia and founded by Cyrus the Great in 550 BC), the original name of the then new Achaemenid capital was Parseh. This was also the name of the nearby settlement and of the people inhabiting it.
The name Persepolis is a Greek word meaning “City of the Persians”, and this is the appellation widely known and accepted in the West. However, in Iran the site is known as Takht-e Jamshid (the Throne of Jamshid), after king Jamshid, whose behests were carried out by demons. The name possibly derived from the popular belief in the supernatural origin of the structures.
Construction and Functions
By the time Darius the Great – the fourth king of the Persian Achaemenid Empire- undertook the construction of Persepolis in around 518 BC, the Persepolis palace was one of the Achaemenian buildings used for official ceremonies associated with the greatest national, royal, and religious Iranian festival of Nouruz, a symbol of the empire’s sovereignty over its far-flung dominions. Persepolis was conceived as a magnificent showcase of Achaemenid achievements, a fabulous repository of the most spectacular architectural and artistic achievements anywhere in the ancient world.
With the power and wealth which had been accumulated in the country by that time, it should not surprise us that these ambitious goals were fully achieved. Persepolis was a great center of terrestrial power, providing an effective setting for invocation and worship. The city glorified the divinely-sanctioned dynasty, and was pervaded with the peculiar virtue of royal authority believed to be conferred by the power of Ahura Mazda (the name for the God of Zoroastrianism, the old Iranian religion), located at the very birthplace of the empire. Persepolis was its holy center, as are Mecca, Jerusalem, and the Vatican of their respective religious system today.
Architecture and Art
The architecture and art of Persepolis reveals an eclectic synthesis of forms gathered from all parts the Achamenid empire. However, it is astonishing that the resulting blend of so many styles and influences was original and coherent despite its eclecticism. From the intermingling of ideas and fashions, and under the supervision and planning of Persian masters, there emerged the so-called Achaemenid style, highly cosmopolitan and diverse on the one hand, and harmonious and concordant on the other. Mud-bricks supplied by Babylonians, cedar roof beams from Lebanon, precious materials from India and Egypt, gold from Sardis, and stone quarried nearby but carved by Lydians and Ionians, all united in a single passionate endeavor to create the magnificent complex of structures that was Persepolis.
Back in my school times I, like many, had the chance to study the origin of our cultures and the history of the Persian and Achaemenid empires. It has been my long-time dream to visit and see with my own eyes, at least once in my lifetime, the sculptures and buildings that nowadays can only be found in Persepolis. Being in person at a site that I had often seen in pictures has allowed me to better understand the heritage of a huge ancient civilization, and to feel the great vibrations behind it.
To see a video of persepolis click HERE
I hope this article of mine has drawn the readers’ interest, and that it will motivate people to plan a trip to Iran and a visit to such a gorgeous and unbelievable city of arts: Persepolis.