Persepolis - nuff said

Persepolis Travel Blog

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People I met here who contributed to, and improved my trip: Julia (Russia), Alireza (Iran)

Any visitor to Iran normally has one place listed on their itinerary and that is the Achaemenid remains of Persepolis. The Cities construction began under Darius I (the Great) reign, who came to power in 518BC. As the centre of a vast Empire, Persepolis continued to flourish and grow for more than 150 years, under subsequent Kings that included Xerxes I and II and Artaxerxes I,II and III. At its peak Persepolis covered a staggering 125,000sqm and its name has a Greek origin that translates to 'City of Parsa/Persia' or 'Destroyer of Cities'. Strangely there is little mention of the City in foreign records and this suggests that the City was kept a secret from the outside World.

Imagine trying to hide New York or London today!

Setting off from Shiraz, i must confess that having seen a couple of postcards from the site, i really expected to be disappointed with what we would see today. Nevertheless there is no way that i would not visit somewhere steeped in so much History on the back of not liking the postcards! To reach Persepolis we caught a savari down to the bus station and then the local bus to Marvdasht. Aboard this bus i got talking with two local guys, one who seemed like a bit of a nutter and only spoke Farsi and another one called Alireza who spoke reasonable English and was translating. When we got off the bus Alireza insisted on paying for Julia and I and then offered to accompany us to Persepolis.
I thought it sounded like a great idea, so he dropped his plans instantaneously and joined us in a taxi to the site.

Arriving at Persepolis, Alireza again insisted on paying for the taxi, even though this left him with literally no money. I wasn't particularly happy about this, but he became offended when i kept trying to give him the money, so i dropped the subject and agreed to pay his admission to the site. In any other country this wonder of the ancient World would undoubtedly cost $10 and upwards to get into, but by Iran's marvelous pricing system, nothing that is government owned costs more than 5,000 Rials ($0.50) to see. This probably makes Persepolis one of the best value attractions in the World and i was only too happy to pay $0.50 to enter the ruins and another $0.
50 to see the Museum.

I knew that Persepolis had been built on a platform, but when i saw this for the first time in person, 'holy shit', or words to that effect rolled off my tongue at seeing how big it really was. Huge blocks of stone had been placed at the foot of Mount Rahmat (Mount of Mercy) and from them the Grand Stairway had been chiseled out. The steps leading onto the platform were surprisingly small and this had been deliberately done so as people climbing the steps in their long robes, that were common in that day and age, could do so without looking inelegant.

At the top of the Grand Stairway sits Xerxes Gateway, otherwise known as the Gate of All Nations. This is still an impressive sight, despite having endured 23 centuries of weathering and erosion and Alexander the Greats infamous sacking and burning of the complex.
Walking beneath the bull statues is enough to make one feel quite inferior and this was no doubt Xerxes I intention, to humble those that visited to pay tribute. Near the top of the gate there was a cuneiform inscription in Old Persian, Neo-Babylonian and Elamite, three languages that have long since died out. More legible to my eye was the graffiti in Latin, with countless names etched on the Gates, including explorers and dignitaries from the last couple of centuries. This shows that defacing such a significant place is something that is not limited to mindless yobs, but supposed gentry, pfff.

Once we had passed through the gate we continued on towards some hawk statues and then to an unfinished gate that would have fronted the Palace of 100 Columns. It was apparent that the craftsmen had never seen their work completed, as the animals were only partially cut from the rocks.
Near to this gate was the Hall of 32 Columns, although this paled in comparison to the Palace of 100 Columns, which had been the second largest building in the Persepolis complex. Started by Xerxes I, Artaxerxes I completed the stunning structure, which contained 100 imposing stone pillars and an array of carvings on the doorways.

Wandering through where the treasury had once stood, we headed up the mountain to look at the tombs of Artaxerxes II and Artaxerxes III. Above the entrances to the tombs were Zoroastrian symbols and some other nice carvings. The real beauty of the location however lied in the birds eye views over Persepolis, which were second to none. It offered a real scope of the place and we sat for some time in the shade admiring what was left and dreaming of what had once been.

It was a stifling hot day and Julia and I were grateful to find a tap to refill our water bottles, but Alireza wasn't quite so lucky, as he was fasting for Ramadan. I didn't envy him and was surprised that he hadn't passed out from dehydration, but he assured us that he was used to it. We decided to get some respite from the sun by taking a look in the Museum, which used to serve as either a harem or a residence for visiting ambassadors, but nobody is quite sure. The Museum is actually the reconstructed Haremsara and whilst it was nice to see one of the buildings restored to a certain degree, i personally preferred looking at demolished ruins.

After walking through Tripylon, also know as Xerxes' Hall of Audience, we walked around Palace H and then on to Hadish, before finally coming to the striking Tachara or Winter Palace.
This building made me think of Stonehenge in England for some reason, although the remains here contained wonderful bas reliefs and cuneiform inscriptions. These three Royal Palaces had all been built during the reigns of Darius I and Xerxes I and interestingly it is claimed that the fire that destroyed Persepolis was begun by Alexander the Great in the Hadish building.

Last but certainly not least on our agenda was the Apadana Palace and staircase, which was constructed by Xerxes I. All that is left of the Palace is strikingly high pillars, which give some scope to the size of this enormous building. The staircase is far better preserved and contains some of the most significant and impressive bas-reliefs in the World. Scenes depict numerous events, although one of the most important is of the 23 delegations bringing their tributes to Persepolis.
The importance of this is that it shows what a vast Empire was governed by the Achaemenid's. It really was an incredible sight and rounded off what had been a stunning visit to this jewel of the ancient World.

Alireza needed to head home once we were done and even though he had no money, he refused to let me pay for a taxi. Instead he insisted on calling a friend of his to pick him up on a motorbike. We said goodbye to another new found friend and caught a taxi out to Naqsh-e Rajab, where four Sassanian bas-reliefs awaited us. The carvings were very nice and we were literally the only people there to enjoy them.

To finish the day off  we carried on to Naqsh-e Rostam, where we saw the rock tombs of four of the great Achaemenid rulers. Walking around them from right to left we gazed up at Xerxes I, Darius I, Artaxerxes I and Darius II final resting places.
Around the tombs were magnificent bas-reliefs and also the Kaba Zartosht, which was possibly a fire temple, ancient calendar or treasury.

The taxi took us back to Marvdasht ($5 for the trip from Persepolis via the two places) and from here we caught the bus back to Shiraz. We treated ourselves to a really good pizza, some fries and salad for Dinner and then walked back to our hotel. It had been an incredible day visiting one of the World's great ruins and also meeting another of Iran's wonderful citizens.

Deats says:
Thats true :)
Posted on: Aug 30, 2009
almond72 says:
Wow ! This page definitely goes into my bookmarks !
I told you graffiti now would be special in a couple hundred or thousand years! lol
Posted on: Aug 29, 2009
sylviandavid says:
What an amazing day! Great read! Thank you!
Posted on: Jul 09, 2009
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photo by: Vlindeke