Persepolis – the Pride of Persia

The gate of all nations

Ok so those of you who know me, know that I like my ancient history, am interested in architecture and am fascinated by ancient empires.  So visiting Persepolis hits all buttons to a degree that is impossible to adequately describe. So I’ll just write a few notes and let the pictures do the talking. 

For months now we’ve been slowly working our way westward, seeing the remains of once mighty kingdoms and empires that fell to the Persian invaders from the west. We’ve been walking through castles and forts, cities 

The remains of Xerxes palace

and towns that hint at the cultural force that lay in the bridge between Europe and Asia. Now, finally, here we are in the ancient land of Persia exploring the remains of the many mighty empires that rose and fell like the dramatic mountains that background the spine of this country. 

Two days ago I fulfilled a long held desire to see the pride of the first Persian 

2500 year old carvings

empire, their architectural masterpiece, the glorious city of Persepolis. We set off early in the morning with Greg and Emma and ‘Speedy’ our dangerous but friendly Iranian driver for the day.  It was freezing but we had the site basically to ourselves for the first hour or so and after that only had to share it with about a couple of dozen people. 

From the first sight of the few remaining columns of Xerxes great palace 

The horsemen stand guard

reaching up into the eerie sky, I was captivated. We walked up the grand staircase and through the gates guarded by the famous persian horsemen into a vast field of ruined column. It was humbling to think that the city once welcomed dignitaries from India to Ethiopia each year for the celebration of the Persian New Year (No Ruz).  In a spirit rare among ancient empires, the subjects came willingly to pay tribute to the emperors Darius, Xerxes and their successors as free members from 23 nations rather than as slaves. 

The height of the columns rising out of the desert floor is amazing in itself, but after pondering the fact that Persepolis was built 2,500 years ago and was a fully roofed structure makes it nothing less than a stunning engineering feat. 

About half the site of Persepolis

What is perhaps most remarkable of all, is that while one can still get an idea of the enormous size of the city that Alexander (the “great”, greek guy) utterly destroyed, the quality is harder to grasp. A few of the columns and walls, however are remarkably well preserved and attest to the phenomenally high quality of the detailing and finish. Carvings or reliefs depict in detail the grandeur of the No Ruz celebrations, the strong adherence to Zoroastrianism, the sucesession of rulers, the legends of the day and the battles between mythical beasts. 

Artaxexes palace

We spent around 3 and a half hours wandering through the remains, lamenting Alexander’s fury 22 centuries ago that left the marvelous city in its current state.  Seriously, what a spoil sport!! Thrashing Persepolis in retribution for the sacking of Athens. Still, those of us left to ponder and try to imagine the city’s original glory, are still very fortunate to have what remains. It was an experience that was truly wondrous and for me shares top spot with the valley of the kings (Egypt) on  my list of ancient sites.

3 thoughts on “Persepolis – the Pride of Persia

  1. Great Stuff! What an opportunity to see these places. I am sending the link to my Parsi (Zorastrian) friends Shernaz and Perviz. I am sure they will enjoy reading this post. I am thinking of Petra, Herodian, Beth She’an…. too! Keep having fun. Much love
    Mum (Greta)

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