The magnificent palace complex at Persepolis was founded by Darius the Great around 518 B.C., although more than a century passed before it was finally completed. Conceived to be the seat of government for the Achaemenian kings and a center for receptions and ceremonial festivities, the wealth of the Persian empire was evident in all aspects of its construction. The splendor of Persepolis, however, was short-lived; the palaces were looted and burned by Alexander the Great in 331-330 B.C. The ruins were not excavated until the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago sponsored an archaeological expedition to Persepolis and its environs under the supervision of Professor Ernst Herzfeld from 1931 to 1934, and Erich F. Schmidt from 1934 to 1939.
Son Xerxes the Great (Khashayar) finished the Apadana and Treasure buildings which was initiated by his father (Darius). Structural remains still can be seen today with amazement. Located on the Fars province in modern Iran, Persepolis pave the way for portentous buildings and hydraulics engineering. Architecture was never overlooked by Greece
The richly decorated columns and symetrical stairways, made us wonder, where did they get this knowledge that would make any actual architect, feel short of logical explanation? Combining beauty and Magnificency, Achaemenid architects and structural designers made sure to meet their Persian monarchs needs.
A little of History
King Xerxes ordered the destruction of Athens when a second median war started (479 BC). Greeks themselves referred to those wars as the “Median affair”. On 330 BC, Macedonian Alexander the Great, came to the gates of Persepolis and ordered its looting and eventual extermination. Alexander was educated by Aristotle and knew of the Thermopylae defeat. When asked why he destroyed Persepolis, his answers was “The most hated city, that dared to hit the Occident, deserved to be annihilated.”
The movie ’300′ recreates the deeds of King Leonidas from Sparta, trying to drive away the Persian outrageous attack. On the Movie ‘Alexander,’ we can see the massacre at Persepolis, after a night of sensuous encounters between the Macedonians and local beauties incited by an Attic woman by the name of Thais.
By far the largest and most magnificent building is the Apadana, 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. Delegates in their native attire, some completely Persian in style, carry gifts as token of their loyalty and as tribute to the king. These gifts include silver and gold vessels and vases,
weapons, woven fabrics, jewelry, and animals from the delegates’ own countries. Although the overall arrangement of scenes seems repetitive, there are marked differences in the designs of garments, headdresses, hair styles, and beards that give each delegation its own distinctive character and make its origin unmistakable. Another means by which the design achieves diversity is by separating various groups or activities with stylized trees or by using these trees alone to form ornamental bands. There is also an intentional usage of patterns and rhythms that, by repeating figures and groups, conveys a grandiose ornamental impression.
Ziggurats from Sumeria, were a good example of portentous constructions that gave builders hands on tools to attempt bigger feats. Our masons and Church builders were aware of this amazing architectural and structural knowledge. What really streaks our minds is that Persian engineers knew of weight balance; for instance the columns were joined to each other with the help of oak and cedar beams. The Apadana walls were layered with mud and stucco with a thickness of 2.5 inches. Tiles, central gardens and hallways, made us think of a full and well conceived
knowledge of architectural design. Lions, bulls, Zoroastrian day to day motifs, and flowers decorated the main walls and even along the symmetrical stairways that were constructed on the east and north side of the building to compensate differences in level.
The Throne Hall
Next to the Apadana, the second largest building of the Persepolis Terrace is the Throne Hall (also called the “Hundred-Column Hall”), which was started by Xerxes and completed by his son Artaxerxes I (end of the fifth century B.C.). Its eight stone doorways are decorated on the south and north with reliefs of throne scenes and on the east and west with scenes depicting the king in combat with monsters. In addition, the northern portico of the building is flanked by two colossal stone bulls. In the beginning of Xerxes’ reign the Throne Hall was used mainly for receptions for representatives of all the subject nations of the empire. Later, when the Treasury proved to be too small, the Throne Hall also served as a storehouse and, above all, as a place to display more adequately objects, both tribute and booty, from the royal treasury. Concerning this, Schmidt wrote of the striking parallel in a modern example of a combined throne hall and palace museum where the Shah of Iran stores and exhibits the royal treasures in rooms and galleries adjoining his throne hall in the Gulistan Palace at Teheran.
The Throne Hall
Also known as the Imperial Army’s Hall of honour, or “Hundred-Columns Palace. This 70×70 square meter hall was started by Darius son, Xerxes, around 478 BC and completed by his own son Artaxerxes I by the end of the fifth century BC. This Gigantic Hall was the equivalent to our Pentagon, and was the place where fallen cities and minor empires came to meet their conquerors. Army and throne scenes, along with the King’s encounter with mythical monsters made this Hall keep Alexander’s men in awe. Colossal stone bulls flank the northern portico. One of the remaining bull Persian heads is now held at the Oriental Institute in Chicago. Is goo to know that the stairways of Persepolis are another reflection of the majesty and splendor of Achaemenid architecture.
The Gate of All Nations
Following the square models of the Apadana and the Throne Hall, this building was the equivalent to our United Nations in Manhattan. By nations, Persians referred to subjects of the empire. The columned structure consisted of a grand hall that was a square of approximately 25 meters (82 feet) in length.The western entrance show with all its might, two famous Lamassus or bulls with bearded head .Why the reason of these representations? Have you ever wonder why we see two lions in some of our Judiciary buildings? Somehow, if you go back in time and put yourself in a Zoroastrian Priest point of view, there is no other way, but follow the concepts and designs of the times. The strength and well conceived Lamassus gave the visitors an air of power and infinite compliance… and certain intrinsic respect.
The meaning in old Persian is wintry home. The palace is made of gray stone that was obtained from nearby quarrels. The Whole ruins are built on the side of a mountain slope and we believe that this was concieved in order to be ready for unexpected attacks from foreign foes.
Tachara was built by Darius I but only a small portion of the palace was finished under his rule, and it was completed after his death in 486 by his son and successor Xerxes the Great, who called the house a Taçara or, winter palace. Its ruins are immediately south of the Apadana. Artaxerxes made sure to finish the Hall before 460 BC.
This would be a mini Camp David if we make comparisons. It stands back to back to the Apadana and is oriented southward. The Tachara’s function, however, was more ceremonial than residential. Upon completion, it served in conjunction with the earlier south oriented entrance stairs as the Nowrouz celebration (The balance of the universe) venue until the other buildings that would comprise Persepolis could be finished. Time, looting and disdain left almost nothing to our imagination, but whatever we could think of, left us still wondering of the advanced knowledge in structural resistance. Ancient designs in guttering kept rain and bad weather at bay.