Persepolis (Old Persian: Parsa, New Persian: Takht-e-Jamshid) is a site located in the southwest Iranian province of Fars, on the eastern edge of the broad plain called Marv Dasht. It was an ancient ceremonial capital of the second Iranian Dynasty, the Achaemenid Empire (648-330 BC), situated some 70 km northeast of modern city of Shiraz, not far from where the small river Pulwar flows into the Kur (Cyrus). It should be noted that the Median Empire (728-550 BC) has been considered as the first Iranian Dynasty in the history of Iran. The Medes are credited with the foundation of Iran as a nation and empire, and established the first Iranian empire, the largest of its day until Cyrus the Great established a unified empire of the Medes and Persians, often referred to as the Achaemenid Persian Empire. To the ancient Persians, the Persepolis was known as Parsa, meaning the city of Persians, Persepolis being the Greek interpretation of the name (Perse, meaning Persian plus Polis, meaning city) or the Capital of Persia.

The First Builders: The first capital of Achaemenid Dynasty was established in Pasargadae, 70 Kilometers to the north. Pasargadae was first built by Cyrus the Great (reigned 558-529 BC) and before long the capital was moved to Susa the western district, then known as Elam, which occupied a more important position in political and economic relationships with Mesopotamia. Since that time, Pasargadae came to hold religious significance rather than political. It is documented that Darius the Great (522-486 BC) powerfully demanded the building of Persepolis, collecting materials and gathering architects and workers from all over the Persian Empire. He built many palaces and the largest and most complex building in Persepolis was the audience hall or Apadana with 36 columns, accessible by two monumental stairs.

The Site: The site of Persepolis consists of many monuments built on a large terrace made by leveling a part of the mountain and piling up blocks of stone. The great terrace measured about 500 meters extending north to south and about 400 meters east and west and is 10 to 13 meters high facing the plain. The buildings include facilities for public ceremonies and reception of foreign delegates, privet royal palace buildings and also such minor ones as treasuries. The important public buildings are the Hundred Column Hall built by Darius the Great, and the Apadana and the Tripylon completed by his son, Xerxes I. The minor facilities are exemplified by treasuries, barracks, the stairway of the terrace and the Xerxes gate. Most of the above mentioned buildings were constructed in the reigns of Darius the Great and Xerxes I (reigned 486-465 BC) the most prosperous periods of the Achaemenid Dynasty. They are magnificent art works as well as living materials for historical studies. After the time of Darius and his son, Xerxes I, the successors of the Dynasty also added some buildings to the site until this capital was sadly burned down and destroyed by Alexander, the Greek invader, in 330 BC.

Toghrol-e-Saljughi, the author of the Book of Wonders (in Persian: Ajab-Nameh), considered the monuments of Pasargadae and Persepolis to be among the works which supernatural beings or fairies (in Persian: Jen-o-Pary) had made. In his book, Toghrol-e-Saljughi wrote that, “Know that the work of a genius or supernatural being is no delusion, and anyone who has seen the province of Fars, and the place of Soloman, on him be peace, let him know that the massive ruins and sculptured figures there are the works of a genius. And in the palace of Jamshid, as it is called, a thousand columns have been put up, each one of which is 48 cubits in height, and their girth is such that four men cannot encompass it with their arms extended, and it was not within human capacity to set them up, and many have claimed that in that age, even by mechanical means, it would not be possible”.

Persepolis in Poetry: Persepolis has been the subject of Persian poems for centuries. Those poems have been composed in different categories or traditions, Epic (Hemaasi), Patriotic (Meehani), and Didactic (Aamoozeshi or Pandi). A Chain of Persian Poems on Persepolis as selected by this author (MSN) may be viewed online.

Here are the links to some of those poems as composed by Ferdowsi, Nezami, Sanaaii, Parvin Etesami, Shariyar (1, 2), and MSN. It should be also noted that in 1922 when Qajar Dynasty was in power in Iran, the late Iranian poet Danesh Noubakht Shirazi, wrote a poem in reference to Persepolis and entitled it as “This Great Site of Persepolis”. His poem was later appeared in the “Anthology of the Poems composed by 74 Iranian Poets”, which was published in 1933.

Iranian poet Seyamak Ghambari also wrote an English poem on Persepolis in 2010. In his poem, he noted that, “Memory of ancient times, stored in pillars of stone, Magnificent, majestic and yet elegant Throne. Reminder of Persian Empire once before, the greatest kings world had ever known, Ruled their kingdom with their much wisdom”.

Manouchehr Saadat Noury, PhD

Ganjoor Website (2010): Online Poetry Collection (in Persian).
Ghambari, S. (2010):  Online Poem on Persepolis.
Iran Chamber Website (2010): Online Article on Parse or Persepolis: Ancient Capital of Persian-Achaemenid-Empire.
Saadat Noury, H. (1933): Flowers of Literature (An Anthology of the Poems composed by 74 Iranian Poets), Akhgar Publications, Isfahan, Iran (in Persian).
Saadat Noury, M. (2006): Online Article on “A Historical-Poetical Note on Persepolis”.
Saadat Noury, M. (2010): Online Chain of Persian Poems on Persepolis.
Stronach, D. & Codella, K. (1997): Online Article on Persepolis (Parsa).
Wikipedia Encyclopedia (2010): Online Note on Persepolis.


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