Persepolis, Iran – photo essay and tourist information
Founded in 518 B.C. as the capital of the Achaemenid Empire, the city of Persepolis (meaning the city of Persians) is one of Iran’s top tourist destinations and a breathtaking attraction. The ancient city is located 70km north-east of Shiraz and was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979.
Built on an impressive half-artificial, half-natural terrace, Persepolis left its vassals in no doubt who the King of Kings were, and was built under the direction of Darius I. The ruins left today give an indication of the immense scope of the once great city and the terrace is still an imposing base not at all overawed by the mountain backdrop.
What to see
Despite being a shadow of its former self, the ruins of the structures that can be seen today still leave an indelible mark: the Gate of All Nations was once a gargantuan hall measuring 25m in length and is guarded by pairs of Lamassus, bulls with the heads of bearded men, on its western and eastern entrances, emphasising the power of the Persian kings.
The Apadana Palace was the largest palace in the city and was used for official receptions. Its square shape, measuring 60m in length on all sides, supported a huge ceiling over 19m high on 72 columns of which 13 are still standing. One of the most impressive elements on the site are the rows of base reliefs depicting scenes from Nowruz (New Year’s celebrations), representations of the 23 subject nations, all individually carved in their native dress, carrying tributes for their vassal lord and Persians and Medes soldiers and guards, their horses, and royal chariots.
The Throne Hall is the second largest structure on the platform and is notable for its eight stone doorways decorated with reliefs of throne scenes and scenes of the king in combat with monsters. Furthermore, the northern portico is flanked by two colossal stone bulls. Whilst originally intended as a reception hall for military commanders, it was later put to use as the Imperial Museum to display some of the finer objects the Empire had obtained.
Other structures on the site include The Treasury, used to store the immense wealth taken from defeated enemies, the Tachara Palace built by Darius I and recognisable for the 12 columns supporting the central roof and the reliefs depicting servants climbing the stairs carrying animals and covered dishes to be served at the king’s tables. Hadish Palace constructed for Xerxes I, was almost twice as big as Tachara Palace, but unfortunately the reliefs have been badly damaged; and the Council Hall, which served as the Royal Apartments and with a secret staircase leading to the Haram, also hint at the greatness that once resided here.
The hills overlooking Persepolis are also home to two completed tombs, belonging to Artaxerxes II and Artaxerxes III and an unfinished one designed for either Arses of Persia or Darius III.
The destruction of the city happened swiftly. Possibly in revenge for the sacking of Athens by Xerxes I or perhaps simply because it was the symbol of the defeated Achaemenid Empire, Alexander the Great torched the then world’s finest city in 330 B.C. According to Plutarch, its treasures were carried away on 20,000 mules and 5,000 camels and what couldn’t be stolen was destroyed. A sad end to a marvellous architectural achievement.
How to get there
1 – To hitchhike take bus #74 from Karandish Bus Station to Qur’an Gate (Darveza Qu’ran). From here walk north a little until you find a good spot to start. Try and get a ride to Marvdasht then follow step no. 3 or 4.
2- For public transport from Karandish Bus Station in Shiraz, buses occasionally travel all the way to Persepolis ($2.70, 80 minutes)
3- If this doesn’t work (i.e they aren’t running that day) take a bus a minibus ($0.70) or bus ($1.80, 50 minutes) to Marvdasht, where buses occasionally make the journey to Persepolis (US$1.40, 30 minutes)
4 – If public transport fails you, take a taxi from Marvdasht which should cost in the region $4.50 although you will have to drive a hard bargain.
Admission costs and essential information
Opening Times: Nov – Mar: 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. Apr – Oct: 8 a.m. – 7 p.m.
Entrance fee :150000 Rials
written by: Jon