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by Kari Eloranta

Persepolis is the former summer capital of Achaemenid king Dareios I. He started its construction around 510 BC. During the following 150 years the work was continued under the kings Xerses I and II as well as Artaxerses I, II and III. It is possible that its location was kept secret to protect it. The 18 meter high wall around it that isn't there anymore was certainly built to that end.

Perhaps the most splendid part of the site are the ruins of the Apadana Palace. The stone staircases in particular still convey the glory of the Achaemenid empire in stunning detail. Ascending along the sides of the steps are endless processions of foreign delegations coming to pay their respects for the ruler. They are all in there, the Arabs, Thracians, Indians, Elamites, Ethiopians, Medians and so on, 23 nationalities in total. A repeating theme is the fight between a lion and a bull - a scene with many interpretarions, from the regal glorification to the precarious balance with nature in the hot Persian plateau.

Persepolis also served as a religious centre for Zoroastrianism. The kings we skyburied and afterwards their bones placed in tombs carved deep in to the surrounding cliffs. The cross formed faces of the tombs were splendidly decorated with carvings. Highest of them was always a winged ring together with protecting eagles, the symbol of the Zoroastrian god Ahura Mazda. The nearby site of Naqs-e Rostam has several other royal tombs of similar style together with the usual scenes glorifying the kings accomplishments. In front of them one still finds the remains of Kaba Zartosht, an Achaemenidian fire temple.

Persepolis fell from glory with the arrival of Alexander the Great around 330 BC. After having defeated Darius III he spent several months at the site. Soon after it was burned down, perhaps accidentally, perhaps to exact revenge for Xerxes having earlier destroyed Athens.

Limited stylistic changes are ok, but the content must remain intact. The pictures are to be in the main role. The author visited Iran during the summer 2003.

Copyright, photos and text, by Kari Eloranta. Contact, email:, phone: (+358-) 0443775470