Ancient History/Persepolis

Ancient History/Persepolis

PERSEPOLIS PERSEPOLIS Ancient Persia was a large region that was ruled by the Persian kings, until they were defeated by Alexander the Great. Ancient Persia comprised of south-west Asia (present day Iran). ABOUT PERSEPOLIS Persepolis is an Ancient Persian city, northeast of modern Shiraz in Iran. It was one of the capitals of Darius I and his successors. Its ruins include the palaces of Darius I and Xerxes I and a citadel that contained the treasury looted by Alexander the Great. Persepolis had a particular purpose and this was shown in its size, its setting and the impressive architectural features of the building.

Its purpose was to intimidate visitors that came into the city. The site area was approximately 135000 square metres. Susa was the capital of the kingdom of Elam and a capital of the Persian Empire under Cyrus the Great. Pasargadae is the Persian capital of Cyrus the Great, founder of the Achaemenid Empire. It was located in south western Iran about 48 kilometres from Persepolis. Persepolis was located at the foot of Kuh-I Rahmat Mountain, the ‘mountain of mercy’. An artificial terrace, 500 by 400 metres, was built up against the mountain and supported by massive blocks of limestone up to 20 metres high.

PERSIANS KINGS The Persian kings were considered to be the ‘king of kings’. They were presented as great worriers, strong leaders, and magnificent successors. They were considered as a godly figure. Persia has been ruled by many great kings and some of those kings are: DARIUS I Darius I ruled the Persian Empire from 521-485BC. He conquered the Indus valley and attacked the Scythians, but never conquered them or the Greeks at whose hands he suffered a defeat in the battle of Marathon. He began building the religious and administrative centre at Persepolis.

Darius I built the treasury and had finished the palace at Susa in media when he decided to build another capital at Persia, called PERSEPOLIS. Xerxes I Xerxes I ruled Persia from 485-465BC. He is well known for his attempt conquest of Greece in 480-79BC. He continued his father’s building program at Persepolis and maintained the Achaemenid Empire. He also built the gate house of Xerxes, the tripylon and added to the treasury. ARTAXERXES I Artaxerxes I was the son of king Xerxes II. He ruled Persia from 465-425BC.

He subdued numerous revolutions and made peace with Sparta. He built the gate house which was discovered unfinished. CYRUS THE GREAT II Cyrus the Great II was the founder of the Persian Empire; he was an Achaemenid who ruled from 559-529, at a time when the Empire extended from Lydia through Babylonia. He was the son of Cambyses. PERSEPOLIS ARCHITECTURE Limestone was the main building material used in Persepolis. After natural rock had been leveled and the depressions filled in, tunnels for sewage were dug underground through the rock.

The archaeological excavations have revealed that on three sides the terrace was surrounded by double wall 11. 5 to 15 meters high and 4. 5 to 5. 5 meters thick. These walls were made of mud. The buildings at Persepolis were built to impress and intimidate the kings own people and all who visited them. Apadana is one of the most famous architectural features. It was built by Darius I, it was still unfinished when he died and was completed by his son Xerxes I. The Apadana consists of 36 fluted columns. The columns are about 20 meters tall with the bull capital on top.

The size and grandeur of the buildings were meant to reflect the power and the importance of the Achaemenid king. The Persian kings used the images of relief to tell all Persians and their subject peoples that the king was the legitimate ruler, supported by Ahuramazda. Archaeologists have discovered that the doorways were decorated with huge images of the king, his attendants and mythical figures, such as sphinx. It is likely that these figures were originally adorned with jewelry, and that the crowns and robes had gold and other precious metals attached with golden nails.

ALEXANDER THE GREAT AND PERSEPOLIS Alexander was the Macedonian king who conquered Greece and the Eastern Mediterranean, and then took his army deep into the Achaemenid Empire. During his campaigns, Alexander travelled through Egypt, Babylonia, Persia, Media, the Punjab, and as far as the valley of the Indus. Alexander described Persepolis to the Macedonians as their worst enemy among the cities of Asia and he gave it over to the soldiers to plunder with the exception of the royal palace.

The Macedonians spent the whole day in pillage but still could not satisfy their inexhaustible greed. As for the women, they dragged them away forcibly with their jewels, treating as slaves the whole group of captives. Alexander went up to the citadel and took possession of the treasures stored there. They were full of gold and silver, with the accumulation of revenue from Cyrus, the first king of the Persians, down to that time. One day when the Companions were feasting, and intoxication was growing as the drinking went on, a violent madness took hold of these drunken men.

One of the women present, Thais, the Athenian lover of the Macedonian commander Ptolemy, declared that it would be Alexander’s greatest achievement in Asia to join in their procession and set fire to the royal palace, allowing women’s hands to destroy in an instant what had been the pride of the Persians. A quantity of torches was quickly collected, and as female musicians had been invited to the banquet, it was to the sound of singing and flutes and pipes that the king led them to the revel, with Thais the courtesan conducting the ceremony.

She was the first after the king to throw her blazing torch into the palace. As the others followed their example the whole area of the royal palace was quickly engulfed in flames. This was written by a historian by the name of Diodorus. A Greek writer by the name of Plutarch had a slightly different account of the event. He wrote that Thais declared that she found herself reveling luxuriously in the splendid palace of the Persians, but that it would be an even sweeter pleasure to end the party by going out and setting fire to the palace of Xerxes, who had laid Athens in ashes.

She wanted to put a torch to the building herself in full view of Alexander, so that posterity should know that the women who followed Alexander had taken a more terrible revenge for the wrongs of Greece than all the famous commanders of earlier times by land or sea. Her speech was greeted with wild applause and the king’s companions excitedly urged him on until at last he allowed himself to be persuaded, leaped to his feet, and with a garland on his head and a torch in his hand led the way. It is agrees that Alexander quickly repented and gave orders for the fire to be put out.