Persepolis | The Capital of Ancient Persia


Welcome to Persepolis. Architecture was the dominating art at the Achaemenid era; sculpture was subordinated to it, and was as a matter of fact part of architecture one, in a much higher degree than even the metopes, friezes or gable sculptures of Greek temples were.

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The main monument is Persepolis. The Achaemenids had residences at Babylon, Susa, Echatana, Persepolis, Pasargadae, Gabae (i.e. Jay Islahau) and Taoke (i.e. Tawwaj, perhaps near Fahliyun in Fars l’iovinue). Some sculptures have also been found near Yazd.


Pasargadae and Cyrus the Great | Grandeur of Persepolis

At Pasargadae there is nothing that does not belong to Cyrus. Of Darius’s activity we have documentary evidence from Babylon, Susa, Ecbatana and Persepolis. The foundation documents from Ecbatana and Petsepolis are alike to the point of identical graphic peculiarities. Hence the work was centralized in a special ‘office of public works’, and when Xerxes became of age in c. 504, he must have been in charge of that Ake, for he says in one inscription: ‘What my father built, I have supervised‘.

Darius the Great and Building of Persepolis

The building of Persepolis started soon after Darius’ accession in c.520. As long as he reigned, the place was no more than a great builder’s yard, and under Xerxes the constructions were still going on all over the place. It was never entirely completed, but after Artaxerxes I had finished the Hall of a Hundred Columns it was more or less ready for use.

Persepolis After Alexander the Great

Persepolis remained entirely unknown to the Greeks before Alexander conquered it. On the whole Persepolis seems to have been a place that was founded and kept for historical and sentimental reasons in the homeland of the dynasty but used only for special ceremonial occasions. Artaxerxes II was the first king to he buried inside the area of Persepolis, and after that time it ceased perhaps to be the residence of the living.

The palaces stand on a high platform, the nucleus of which is an isolated outcrop of dark-gray limestone in front of a steep rock. For this natural formation apparently the special place was chosen. The architects fashioned the rock into terraces, filling the gap between it and the mountain with the waste of that work. The various levels thus produced entailed many flights of steps, of which the architects made the most skillful use to enhance the effect of the whole construction.

Together with the terracing, a system of water conduits and drains were hewn out of the rock, the orifices of which correspond so exactly to the walls of the buildings subsequently erected that we must assume that the architects must have drafted, before the work started, a complete and exact plan with measurements, which was strictly followed. Therefore, it does not matter whether one or another section was finished under Darius, Xerxes, or only under Artaxerxes I; we may take the whole as a carefully planned unit.

One of the reasons for raising the palaces on a high platform is for the sake of defence. But defence could have been achieved by other means, and another reason was mere fashion: Babylonian and Assyrian palaces are built on even higher substructures, not only for the defence, but also to lift them above the heat and dust of the towns in the plains.

In Iran such reasons do not count, and yet the architects sacrificed even the beloved gardens to consideration of ‘decorum.’ The wish to enjoy an incomparably beautiful view played a small part: walls up to sixty feet high enclosed the whole terrace. Only in the south, where the highest level allowed a view over the wall on the adjoining lowest level, have the architects taken full advantage of that situation.

Around the fortified terrace was an open intervallum at its foot, and outside two more walls. A few traces confirm the description of an eye-witness of Alexander’s time. The description was preserved through Kleitarchos, whom Diodorus quotes. The area inside these walls may he called the ‘town’, although apparently there were no private, but only royal buildings in it.

The constituent element of the complex of buildings on the terrace are single houses of the old-Iranian type. All have an interior hypostyle hall, an open portico in front, and secondary rooms of optional disposition around, according to their use for private or public purposes.

These indigenous elements are connected by unimportant tracts so as to form a maze of courtyards, the more confusing as their levels and axes vary. But all follow the same orientation; their perpendicular axes do not deviate in the slightest degree.

As a strong fortress, Persepolis had but one gate; not even for service purposes was there a side entrance. A double flight of steps leads up to it, about forty feet at that spot — perhaps the most perfect flight of stairs ever built.

The gateway itself consists of a square room with four interior columns, accessible through an outer and an inner door of colossal size, and provided with wooden leaves, about thirty feet high and once covered with bronze. This Gateway is also called Xerxes’ Gateway. The thresholds of those doors have the size of large chambers. At the north side was a small fire-altar set against the wall, between benches of black marble all around the room, for the guards.

Near the main gate and at the western and southern edges of the terrace, the walls have been washed down entirely by the rains of twenty-five centuries; their earth covered the foot of the terrace. But on the north side, and all over the mountain, climbing over 300 feet, the walls used to stand forty-five feet high. The sixty feet which Kleitarchos gives them is no exaggeration.

All Nations Gate in Persepolis

The All Nations Gate in Persepolis, Fars province, is a small palace beside the left entrance stairway. This building was built in Xerxes’ era. Iranian dignitaries and representatives of subject nations passed through this Gateway, sat on the stone platforms around the hall of the palace, and waited for permission to enter the audience Palaces. This hall is 612.5 square meters. The big brick walls, three giant gateways and four high columns, which carried the ceiling of the palace, are the main parts of this palace. These columns, that only two of them have survived, were 16.5 meters high. Another column was reconstructed using the remaining fragments of other two columns in 1965.

All Nations Gate

At present, this is the most complete column in Persepolis. The western gateway went to the One Hundred-Column Palace, the eastern one led to the street that goes to the One Hundred-Column Palace, and the southern gateway led to the Apadana Palace through a central yard. Western portal was 10 meters high and two massive bulls carried this portal on their backs. These bulls are the biggest stone carvings of Persepolis. The eastern Gateway is, like the western one, 10 meters high and 3.82 meters wide. It has big reliefs of bulls with human heads and eagle wings. The All Nations Gate had been the first entrance of the palace and had been the waiting room of delegates and envoys. The western Gateway had been the entrance; and the eastern and southern ones were the exit of the hall. The eastern portal had probably been for Persian and Iranian nobles and the other one for representatives and nobles of subject tribes and nations who arrived in Apadana.

Treasury of Persepolis

One of the first buildings erected on the Persepolis terrace is the Treasury of Persepolis. The only remnants of this building, of which wooden columns were set afire by Alexander the Great, are its pedestals. They show the magnificence and grandeur of this Palace. The Treasury edifice had had some halls, courtyards with porticoes, several rooms of different sizes, corridors … It has undergone many changes from Darius’ reign to the Alexander’s attack. One of important things discovered 60 years ago in the excavations done by E.F.Schmidt is a pair of reliefs depicting the king’s levee. They are on a dark-blue marble. In these reliefs, Artaxerxes is on his throne and one of the courtiers, in Medes costume and hat, is re-porting before the king with high esteem. There are some other courtiers behind the king and Ahura Mazda. One of these reliefs lies beside the pedestals of the Treasury Palace in Persepolis. The other relief figure is kept in the National Museum of Iran- Iran Bastan Museum.

If you have decided to visit Iran, Persepolis and Shiraz which is among the most beautiful cities to visit in Iran, we suggest you to visit this grand Apadana Palace which is among top tourist attractions in Shiraz

Apadana Palace

Apadana Palace or the Audience Palace is the biggest and the most magnificent palace of Darius in Persepolis. The construction of palace began in 515 BC and it took thirty years to complete. This palace had a square central hall and three northern, eastern, and the western portico. Each of them had 12 columns. The main hall was a 60.5 by 60.5. The Eastern portico, was the most beautiful and glorious part of the palace. This portico was the same size as the western and northern portico, 60.5 meters long and 25 meters wide. The courtyard of Apadana is a L-shaped yard extending on the north and east of the palace. The long wing lies on the west and the other one lies on the north.

Apadana Palace

Apadana Stairway

The palace of Apadana had been a ceremonial palace. The king received the delegates and envoys of subject nations in the New Year audience. The prominent section of the eastern and western porticos of this palace is its staircases. Each staircase is 81 meters long and bears the figures of 23 groups of delegates of subject nations of Achaemenid territory. The northern stairway was not covered by dirt after the complex was set afire by Alexander the Great. Therefore, it has been badly damaged by natural phenomena and human activities. However, the eastern staircase was buried until 1932 and was intact. The figures on the northern and eastern staircases are symmetric. These figures have been studied by many researchers for many years Professor E.F. Schmidt and the late Alireza Shapur Shahbazi determined the origin of the delegates of the Achaemenid Iran. These tribes are: Nine Medes Six Susians, three Armenians, four Arians, six Babylonians, six Lydians, four Arachosians from Afghanistan, seven Assyrians from Mesopotamia five Cappadocia’s, six Egyptians, six pointed hat Scythians, eight Ionians, four Bactrian’s, six Gandarians of Kabul Valley, four men from old Khorassan, five Assagartians, five Sakes, five Indians, four European Scythians, three men from Jordan and Palestine, four Zarangians, three Libyans, and three Ethiopians.


Bishapur or Bishabur is situated 25 kilometers west of Kazerun on the bank of Shapur River and alongside of the Royal Road, which connected Persepolis to Shush in the Sassanid era. It is on the slip of Kuhmareh heights. Bishapur has been the capital of the Shapur Kureh (province) in the Sassanid era. There are many historical remains of the Sassanid and the following periods in this region. High mountains surround Bishapur on three sides. It leads to a broad weald on the southeast. The Shapur River originates from this part and flows towards the Persian Gulf. This city, having been two kilometers long and one kilometer wide, was the official and main city of Kureh Shapur (Shapur Province). The ancient city of Bishapur is the first city of the ancient world that has a written history. There is a stone inscription in Parthian and Sassanid cuneiforms on a column in the center of the city. The construction date of the city is AD 226 but the name of the city is not mentioned in the inscription. The first excavations began in 1935 and continued for six years until 1941 by a French archaeologist. This excavations revealed part of a lofty cubic building made of carved stones without mortar. It has two-layered walls. A roofed hall known as the “Private Palace”, a sacrifice place, and a paved portico was unearthed. In addition, parts of a marble statue belonging to the Sassanid era and some coins and marble and bronze pieces were found in this area. Archaeologists believe that ideal geographical position of the plain of Shapur led the king to erect a city in this region to compete with Antioch, which was the eastern capital of Roman Empire. This weald leads to Mesopotamia, Shush, and Tisphon on one side and to Estakhr and Firuzabad on the other. It led to and the sea on the south; it had fertile lands, rich water resources, and good pastures. This city has had four gates called as Hormoz, Mehr, Bahram, and Shahr. The remaining parts of this city are the bailey of the city, two porticoes, the ceremonial hall, a monument, the Shapur’s palace (Valerian), and a religious seminary belonging to the fourth century AH, the Al-e Boyeh era.

Ghar-e Shapur (Shapur’s Cave)

The cave called Ghar-e Shapur lies six kilometers north of Tang-e Chovgan. It is called so because of a big statue of Shapur, the second king of the Sassanid dynasty, inside the cave. This long cave is about seven meters higher than the surrounding area. It is one kilometer long. The entrance has previously been about 16 meters; however, it is about 30 meters wide and 20 meters high at present. The big statue of Shapur, stands in this cave. There is a hole formed by dropping water behind this statue. As water continues to flow, dissolved rock slowly precipitates to form icicle-like formations. There was one of these stone columns in the middle of the cave near the entrance. It has been used for making the big statue of Shapur. This statue is seven meters high. The weight of this statue is 30 tons. This statue fell and remained in a four-meter deep hole. Finally, Bastan Shenasi (archaeology) office of Fars, along with army forces, and the National Remains committee raised it in 1958.

Ardeshir (Artaxerxes) Khorreh – Shahr-e Gor

Ardeshir Khorreh, Ardeshir Khoreh, or Shahr-e Gor lies three kilometers southeast of Firuz Abad. It has been the capital of Artaxerxes 1, the founder of the Sassanid dynasty. It has been one of five main official divisions of Fars in the Sassanid era and early Islamic centuries. Artaxerxes founded this city after his victory over Ardowan (Artabanus) V, the last king of Arsacid dynasty. The design of this city, like Parthian cities, was circular because of defensive and military considerations. The inner part of the city, with a diameter of two kilometers, has had a fortification with four gates. called as the gate of Hormuz, Ardeshir, Mehr, and Bahram. There had been a rectangular tower in the center of the city.

Iran Last Minute Tour Operator in Iran performs the best Persepolis tour from Shiraz

Iran Last Minute Travel Agency in Iran has tried very hard to introduce not only the best and the most various Iran Tours, Iran tour packages, experienced Iran tour guides as well the best places to visit in Iran. The Apadana Palace is one of the undeniably top tourist destinations in Persepolis, Fars Iran.

To gain more insights on this historical place in Persepolis Iran, you can watch the following videos:




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