Persepolis, the city of the Persians, is situated 60 km northeast of the city of Shiraz, in Iran. The earliest remains of Persepolis date back to 515 BC. Located near a stream named Pulvar with its east side literally leaning on Kuh-e-Rahmet Mountain, the site includes a 125,000 square meter terrace. The terrace is partly constructed and partly cut out of a mountain. The other three sides are formed by the mountain walls, which vary in height and slope. Once it was the capital of the Achaemenid Empire. The importance and quality of the monumental ruins make it a unique archaeological site.
It is estimated that, inspired by Mesopotamian models the Achaemenid king Darius I (522-486 BCE) started to build the splendid palatial complex on an immense half-natural, half-artificial terrace, which was continued by his son Xerxes I (486-465 BCE), and his grandson Artaxerxes I (465-424 BCE). The ensemble of the majestic approaches, the monumental stairways, the Throne Hall, the Apadana, and the Council Hall (Tripylon or the Triple Gate), as well as the main imperial Treasury and its surroundings, which were completed during this period, is classified among the world’s greatest archaeological sites. By constructing lighter roofs with wooden lintels, the ancient architects used a minimal number of surprising slender columns to support the open area roofs. The terrace of Persepolis, with its double flight of access stairs, its walls covered with sculpted friezes, the massive gigantic winged bulls, and the remains of the large halls, is an amazing and breathtaking architectural creation. However, further construction of the buildings on the terrace continued until the downfall of the Achaemenid Empire.
Grey limestone was used as the main building material in Persepolis. Persepolis had three walls complete with watch towers and ramparts. However, no trace of the tall and massive walls exist today.In the year 330 BC, Alexander the Great conquered and looted Persepolis and a subsequent fire burned and destroyed the great palace and the surrounding city to the ground. Perhaps the lower city at the foot of the magnificent imperial city survived for a few years more, but the ruins of the Achaemenids remained as a dumb witness to its ancient glory.
Among the ruins, the Gate of All Nations consisted of a grand hall, which is a square with four columns. The entrance of the square is on the western wall, with two more doors. A pairs of bulls with the heads of bearded men (known as Lamassus) stand by the western threshold. Another pair, with wings and a Persian Head (Gopät-Shäh), stands by the east entrance.
The Apadana, the splendid palace at Persepolis on the western side, was built by Darius the Great. It was completed by his son, Xerxes I, 30 years later. The palace consists of a grand hall in the shape of a square with seventy columns, thirteen of which still stand on the vast whacking platform. The columns, carrying the extensive ceiling, are 19m high (62 feet) complete with a square Taurus (bull) and plinth. The tops of the columns were adorned with animal sculptures such as two-headed bulls, lions and eagles.
The Throne Hall, also called the Hundred-Columns Palace, next to the Apadana, is the second largest building of the Terrace and the final edifice. This great hall was started by Xerxes I and completed by his son Artaxerxes I, by the end of the fifth century BC. The eight stone doorways of the hall are decorated with relief works. Two gigantic stone bulls flank the northern portico.
Apart from the above, the ruins of Persepolis also consist of the Tachara, the Imperial Treasury, the Hadish Palace, the Council Hall, the Tryplion Hall and numerous tombs.
One of the richest cities on earth and the glittering capital of the Achaemenid Empire, Persepolis was the unfortunate victim of a barbaric attack. It was blatantly looted, brutally destroyed and consumed by fire. Ultimately, Persepolis became a forlorn ruin. From the time of its savage destruction, Persepolis lay neglected and buried under its own ruins till AD 1620, when it was first identified by the scholars. But ridiculously, only in 1931, Ernst Herzfeld, the then Professor of Oriental Archaeology in Berlin, was commissioned to undertake a scientific excavation of the remains of Persepolis. During 1931-1934, he uncovered the beautiful Eastern Stairway of the Apadana and the small stairs of the Council Hall. Finally, UNESCO declared the ruins of Persepolis a World Heritage Site in 1979.