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This is an extract from the Wikipedia entry in this there are many illustrations and much more text about the archeology.


Persepolis, Old Persian: Parsa was the ceremonial capital of the Achaemenid Empire (ca. 550–330. It is situated 60 kilometres (37 mi) northeast of the city of Shiraz in Fars Province, Iran. The earliest remains of Persepolis date back to 515 . It exemplifies the Achaemenid style of architecture. UNESCO declared the ruins of Persepolis a World Heritage Site in 1979.

Persepolis is derived from Ancient Greek: romanized: Persepolis, a compound of Pérses and pólis, meaning "the Persian city" or "the city of the Persians". To the ancient Persians, the city was known as Parsa in Old Persian:, which is also the word for the region of Persia. An inscription left in AD 311 by Sasanian prince Shapur Sakanshah, the son of Hormizd II, refers to the site as Sad-stun, meaning "Hundred Pillars". Because medieval Persians attributed the site to Jamshid, a king from Iranian mythology, it has been referred to as Takht-e- Jamshid (Persian: Taxt e Jamšid;, literally meaning "Throne of Jamshid". Another name given to the site in the medieval period was Cehel Menar, literally meaning "Forty Minarets".

Archaeological evidence shows that the earliest remains of Persepolis date back to 515 . André Godard, the French archaeologist who excavated Persepolis in the early 1930s, believed that it was Cyrus the Great who chose the site of Persepolis, but that it was Darius I who built the terrace and the palaces. Inscriptions on these buildings support the belief that they were constructed by Darius. With Darius I, the scepter passed to a new branch of the royal house. Persepolis probably became the capital of Persia proper during his reign. However, the city's location in a remote and mountainous region made it an inconvenient residence for the rulers of the empire. The country's true capitals were Susa, Babylon and Ecbatana. This may be why the Greeks were not acquainted with the city until Alexander the Great took and plundered it. Darius I's construction of Persepolis were carried out parallel to those of the Palace of Susa. According to Gene R. Garthwaite, the Susa Palace served as Darius' model for Persepolis. Darius I ordered the construction of the Apadana and the Council Hall (Tripylon or the "Triple Gate"), as well as the main imperial Treasury and its surroundings. These were completed during the reign of his son, Xerxes I. Further construction of the buildings on the terrace continued until the downfall of the Achaemenid Empire. According to the Encyclopædia Britannica, the Greek historian Ctesias mentioned that Darius I's grave was in a cliff face that could be reached with an apparatus of ropes. Around 519 , construction of a broad stairway was begun. The stairway was initially planned to be the main entrance to the terrace 20 metres (66 feet) above the ground. The dual stairway, known as the Persepolitan Stairway, was built symmetrically on the western side of the Great Wall. The 111 steps measured 6.9 metres (23 feet) wide, with treads of 31 centimetres (12 inches) and rises of 10 centimetres (3.9 inches). Originally, the steps were believed to have been constructed to allow for nobles and royalty to ascend by horseback. New theories, however, suggest that the shallow risers allowed visiting dignitaries to maintain a regal appearance while ascending. The top of the stairways led to a small yard in the north-eastern side of the terrace, opposite the Gate of All Nations.

Grey limestone was the main building material used at Persepolis. After natural rock had been leveled and the depressions filled in, the terrace was prepared. Major tunnels for sewage were dug underground through the rock. A large elevated water storage tank was carved at the eastern foot of the mountain. Professor Olmstead suggested the cistern was constructed at the same time that construction of the towers began. The uneven plan of the terrace, including the foundation, acted like a castle, whose angled walls enabled its defenders to target any section of the external front. Diodorus Siculus writes that Persepolis had three walls with ramparts, which all had towers to provide a protected space for the defense personnel. The first wall was 7 metres (23 feet) tall, the second, 14 metres (46 feet) and the third wall, which covered all four sides, was 27 metres (89 feet) in height, though no presence of the wall exists in modern times. Function The function of Persepolis remains quite unclear. It was not one of the largest cities in Persia, let alone the rest of the empire, but appears to have been a grand ceremonial complex that was only occupied seasonally; it is still not entirely clear where the king's private quarters actually were. Until recent challenges, most archaeologists held that it was especially used for celebrating Nowruz, the Persian New Year, held at the spring equinox, and still an important annual festivity in modern Iran. The Iranian nobility and the tributary parts of the empire came to present gifts to the king, as represented in the stairway reliefs.

After invading Achaemenid Persia in 330 , Alexander the Great sent the main force of his army to Persepolis by the Royal Road. He stormed the "Persian Gates", a pass through modern-day Zagros Mountains. There Ariobarzanes of Persis successfully ambushed Alexander the Great's army, inflicting heavy casualties. After being held off for 30 days, Alexander the Great outflanked and destroyed the defenders. Ariobarzanes himself was killed either during the battle or during the retreat to Persepolis. Some sources indicate that the Persians were betrayed by a captured tribal chief who showed the Macedonians an alternate path that allowed them to outflank Ariobarzanes in a reversal of Thermopylae. After several months, Alexander allowed his troops to loot Persepolis. Around that time, a fire burned "the palaces" or "the palace".
Scholars agree that this event, described in historic sources, occurred at the ruins that have been now re-identified as Persepolis. From Stolze's investigations, it appears that at least one of these, the castle built by Xerxes I, bears traces of having been destroyed by fire. The locality described by Diodorus Siculus after Cleitarchus corresponds in important particulars with the historic Persepolis, for example, in being supported by the mountain on the east. It is believed that the fire which destroyed Persepolis started from Hadish Palace, which was the living quarters of Xerxes I, and spread to the rest of the city. It is not clear if the fire was an accident or a deliberate act of revenge for the burning of the Acropolis of Athens during the second Persian invasion of Greece. Many historians argue that, while Alexander's army celebrated with a symposium, they decided to take revenge against the Persians. If that is so, then the destruction of Persepolis could be both an accident and a case of revenge.
The Book of Arda Wiraz, a Zoroastrian work composed in the 3rd or 4th century, describes Persepolis' archives as containing "all the Avesta and Zend, written upon prepared cow-skins, and with gold ink", which were destroyed. Indeed, in his Chronology of the Ancient Nations, the native Iranian writer Biruni indicates unavailability of certain native Iranian historiographical sources in the post-Achaemenid era, especially during the Parthian Empire. He adds: "[Alexander] burned the whole of Persepolis as revenge to the Persians, because it seems the Persian King Xerxes had burnt the Greek City of Athens around 150 years ago. People say that, even at the present time, the traces of fire are visible in some places." Paradoxically, the event that caused the destruction of these texts may have helped in the preservation of the Persepolis Administrative Archives, which might otherwise have been lost over time to natural and man-made events. According to archaeological evidence, the partial burning of Persepolis did not affect what are now referred to as the Persepolis, but rather may have caused the eventual collapse of the upper part of the northern fortification wall that preserved the tablets until their recovery by the Oriental Institute's archaeologists.

After the fall of the Achaemenid Empire:
In 316 , Persepolis was still the capital of Persia as a province of the great Macedonian Empire (see Diod. xix, 21 seq., 46; probably after Hieronymus of Cardia, who was living about 326. The city must have gradually declined in the course of time. The lower city at the foot of the imperial city might have survived for a longer time; but the ruins of the Achaemenids remained as a witness to its ancient glory. It is probable that the principal town of the country, or at least of the district, was always in this neighborhood. About 200 , the city of Estakhr, five kilometers north of Persepolis, was the seat of the local governors. From there, the foundations of the second great Persian Empire were laid, and there Estakhr acquired special importance as the center of priestly wisdom and orthodoxy. The Sasanian kings have covered the face of the rocks in this neighborhood, and in part even the Achaemenid ruins, with their sculptures and inscriptions. They must themselves have been built largely there, although never on the same scale of magnificence as their ancient predecessors. The Romans knew as little about Estakhr as the Greeks had known about Persepolis, despite the fact that the Sasanians maintained relations for four hundred years, friendly or hostile, with the empire. At the time of the Muslim invasion of Persia, Estakhr offered a desperate resistance. It was still a place of considerable importance in the first century of Islam, although its greatness was speedily eclipsed by the new metropolis of Shiraz. In the 10th century, Estakhr dwindled to insignificance, as seen from the descriptions of Estakhri, a native (c. 950), and of Al-Muqaddasi (c. 985). During the following centuries, Estakhr gradually declined, until it ceased to exist as a city.

The Apadana Palace:
Main article: Apadana
Darius I built the greatest palace at Persepolis on the western side of platform. This palace was called the Apadana. The King of Kings used it for official audiences. The work began in 518 , and his son, Xerxes I, completed it 30 years later. The palace had a grand hall in the shape of a square, each side 60 metres (200 ft) long with seventy-two columns, thirteen of which still stand on the enormous platform. Each column is 19 metres (62 ft) high with a square Taurus (bull) and plinth. The columns carried the weight of the vast and heavy ceiling. The tops of the columns were made from animal sculptures such as two-headed lions, eagles, human beings and cows (cows were symbols of fertility and abundance in ancient Iran). The columns were joined to each other with the help of oak and cedar beams, which were brought from Lebanon. The walls were covered with a layer of mud and stucco to a depth of 5 cm, which was used for bonding, and then covered with the greenish stucco which is found throughout the palaces. Foundation tablets of gold and silver were found in two deposition boxes in the foundations of the Palace. They contained an inscription by Darius in Old Persian cuneiform, which describes the extent of his Empire in broad geographical terms, and is known as the DPh inscription: The Apadana coin hoard had been deposited underneath. They all had the same trilingual inscription (DPh inscription).
Darius the great king, king of kings, king of countries, son of Hystaspes, an Achaemenid. King Darius says: This is the kingdom which I hold, from the Sacae who are beyond Sogdia, to Kush, and from Sind "Hidauv", locative of "Hiduš", i.e. "Indus valley" to Lydia - [this is] what Ahuramazda, the greatest of gods, bestowed upon me. May Ahuramazda protect me and my royal house! —? At the western, northern and eastern sides of the palace, there were three rectangular porticos each of which had twelve columns in two rows of six. At the south of the grand hall, a series of rooms were built for storage. Two grand Persepolitan stairways were built, symmetrical to each other and connected to the stone foundations. To protect the roof from erosion, vertical drains were built through the brick walls. In the four corners of Apadana, facing outwards, four towers were built. The walls were tiled and decorated with pictures of lions, bulls, and flowers. Darius ordered his name and the details of his empire to be written in gold and silver on plates, which were placed in covered stone boxes in the foundations under the Four Corners of the palace. Two Persepolitan style symmetrical stairways were built on the northern and eastern sides of Apadana to compensate for a difference in level. Two other stairways stood in the middle of the building. The external front views of the palace were embossed with carvings of the Immortals, the Kings' elite guards. The northern stairway was completed during the reign of Darius I, but the other stairway was completed much later. The reliefs on the staircases allow one to observe the people from across the empire in their traditional dress, and even the king himself, "down to the smallest detail".


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