By the Editors of the Madain Project

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Persepolis (تخت جمشید‎) was the ceremonial capital of the Achaemenid Empire (c. 550–330 BCE). It exemplifies the Achaemenid style of architecture. Archaeological evidence shows that the earliest remains of Persepolis date back to 515 BCE.


The complex is raised high on a walled platform, with five "palaces" or halls of varying size, and grand entrances. 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.

The site includes a 125,000 square meter terrace, partly artificially constructed and partly cut out of a mountain, with its east side leaning on Rahmat Mountain. The other three sides are formed by retaining walls, which vary in height with the slope of the ground. Rising from 5–13 metres (16–43 feet) on the west side was a double stair. From there, it gently slopes to the top. To create the level terrace, depressions were filled with soil and heavy rocks, which were joined together with metal clips.

Notable Structures

circa 450 BCE

Gate of all Nations
The Gate of all Nations was built by the King Xerxes (486-465 BCE) along with the Grand Staircase. The gate was actually a grand hall that was almost 25 square metres, with four columns and its entrance in the Western Wall. A pair of Lamassu's, bulls with the head of a bearded man, stands by the western threshold. Another pair, with wings and a Persian head (Gopät-Shäh), stands by the eastern entrance, to reflect the Empire’s power. The name of King Xerxes was written in three languages and carved on the entrances, informing everyone that he ordered it to be built.

circa 360 BCE

Tomb of Artaxerxes II
The Tomb of Artaxerxes II was built on the model of his predecessors at Naqsh-e Rustam. On the upper register of the tomb appear reliefs of the Emperor, supported by the soldiers of all ethnicities of the Empire. On the lintel over each figure appears a trilingual inscription describing each ethnicity.

circa 450 BCE

Tachara Palace
The Taçara Palace, from old Persian, meaning the 'winter palace' was started to be built under Darius I, and was finished under his sone, Xerxes I. It is located directly south of the Apadana. The construction dates back to the time of the Achaemenid Empire (550 BC–330 BCE). The building has been attributed to Darius I, but only a small portion of it was finished under his rule. In the 4th century BCE, following his invasion of Achaemenid Persia in 330 BCE, Alexander the Great allowed his troops to loot Persepolis. This palace was one of the few structures that escaped destruction in the burning of the complex by Alexander's army.

circa 450 BCE

The Apadana, by far the largest and most magnificent building, begun by Darius and finished by Xerxes, that was used mainly for great receptions by the kings. Thirteen of its seventy-two columns still stand on the enormous platform to which two monumental stairways, on the north and on the east, give access. They are adorned with rows of beautifully executed reliefs showing scenes from the New Year’s festival and processions of representatives of twenty-three subject nations of the Achaemenid Empire, with court notables and Persians and Medes, followed by soldiers and guards, their horses, and royal chariots.

circa 520 BCE

Great Stairway
The great stairway was planned to be the main entrance to the terrace 20 meters above the ground. The dual stairway, known as the Persepolitan stairway, was built in symmetrically on the western side of the Great Wall. The 111 steps were 6.9 meters wide with treads of 31 centimetres and rises of 10 centimetres. Originally, the steps were believed to have been constructed to allow for nobles and royalty to ascend by horseback. New theories 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 Nations.

See Also


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