A Day at Persepolis | Iran

Few places exceed my expectations as did Iran overall and Persepolis specifically. I never took Ancient History and don’t know mythology well. Even so, I fell under the spell of this remarkable place. Persepolis, known to Iranians as Takht-e Jamshid (throne of Jamshid – a mythic being who – in the middle ages – was thought to have built it)  was the ceremonial capital of the Achaemenid Empire for a little over two centuries (ca. 550–330 BCE). Conceived by and with construction commenced under Darius the Great and destroyed by Alexander the Great (the historian Plutarch contended that it took 20,000 mules and 5,000 camels to remove the treasure), the city’s ruins are marvelous to behold. UNESCO designated it as a World Heritage Site in 1979. Persepolis is easy to reach from Shiraz and warrants an entire day to absorb its wonders. unknownWe arrived at 8 a.m. and were rewarded by having the site virtually to ourselves for the first hour.

Gate of All Nations, Persepolis, Iran, travelmagnoliaWhile Darius I ruled over the initial period of development, much of Persepolis was constructed after his death under the aegis of his son and heir Xerxes, including the Gate of All Nations (486-465 BCE). The two guardian figures are Lamassu, winged-bulls with the head of a man.

Lamassu, Persepolis, Gate of All Nations, travel magnoliaI can’t even begin to do justice to the history and archaeology. I hope these photos will inspire you to visit and see for yourself.

Palace of 100 Columns, 5th century BCE, Persepolis, Iran, Xerxes
Palace of 100 Columns started by Xerxes and completed by his son Atarxerxes
Bas Relief, Palace of 100 Columns, Persepolis, Iran, travel magnolia
Detail of Entrance Gate with Persian Soldiers and Attendants with King at the Top
The Apadana or Main Reception Hall

One of the most remarkable sights is the extensive carvings along the monumental stairways that led to the Apadana. Representatives from the Achaemenian Empire’s subject nations are shown bearing tribute to the King as part of the annual New Year’s festival.

Armenian Tribute Bearer_Apadana of Darius__Persepolis
Armenian Tribute Bearers from the Apadana Reliefs

There are hundreds of different figures that can all be identified by their clothing, their features and their gifts. The attention to detail is extraordinary: look at the horse’s mane and tail, the gryphons on the vase handles, the earring of the man in the lead (who is holding hands with the man ahead).

Darius the Great, Palace of Darius, Apadana, Persepolis, travelmagnolia.me
Palace of Darius with columns of the Apadana in the background.

Darius’s Palace (above) suffered less destruction than that of Xerxes (below), which some attribute to Alexander’s desire for revenge for the burning of the Acropolis.

Xerxes, Xerxes Palace, Persepolis, Iran
Palace of Xerxes the Great, Achaemid King 486-465 BCE

Everywhere you walk, there are exquisite carvings that provide insight into the ancient world..

Apadana Palace, Persepolis, Bas Relief, travelmagnolia.me
Persian Soldiers interspersed with Mede Soldiers (rounded hats)

I think it is only right to end with the column below and its remarkable depiction of either Darius or Xerxes.

Xerxes, Palace of Xerxes, Persepolis
The King and his Attendants with Ahuramazda Above at Tripylon Palace

I heartily recommend reading and researching in advance to learn some of the history and mythology behind the inscriptions and bas reliefs. There is a wealth of easily accessible information on Persepolis and the bookstore near the entrance sells guidebooks.

On to Naqsh e Rostam next and then to Isfahan!




9 thoughts on “A Day at Persepolis | Iran

  1. I think you will be qualified to be a history teacher if you ever tire of being a travel blogger. But don’t quit travel blogging too soon. I enjoy living vicariously through you.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. What great photos. My family and I traveled to Shiraz a couple of years before moving to the US. It was an amazing trip and I remember it well. What I also remember, is the whispered criticism of the 2500th celebration of the Persian empire at Persepolis in 1971. I remember my family pronouncing that everything came from Paris, as if Iranians don’t have the proper ingredients, skills, and fashion sense to organize a party 🙂 I think Shah’s downfall started there!
    I have not returned to Shiraz since I was 10 or 11 years old. But I will during my next trip to Iran; I expect there will be much less pollution than in Tehran.
    I really enjoy reading your posts. I also thank Susan Huser for forwarding your blog.


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