Persepolis is 60 km northeast of Shiraz. It was a capital of the Achaemenid Persian Empire, the jewel of Achaemenid art.


Persepolis is 60 km northeast of Shiraz. It was a capital of the Achaemenid Persian Empire, the jewel of Achaemenid art.
The Iranians call him Takht-e Jamshid (Jamshid's throne), Jamshid being the first, arguably mythical, leader of Iran.

Persepolis has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1979.

It is the most impressive of all archaeological sites in Iran, first of all because of its size and the size and nature of its ruins. The city is situated in a high plain surrounded by mountains.


Darius 1st

Persepolis was founded by Darius the Great around 521/518 BC designed to be the seat of government for the Achaemenid kings and a center for receptions and ritual festivals.
Parsa (better known by its Greek name of Persepolis which means in ancient Greek "the Persian city", is located in the plain of Marvdasht, at the foot of the Kuh-e Rahmat mountain, about 70 km northeast of the city of Shiraz.


When the work of Susa had been finished, Darius I began, about 518 BC., the construction of a new capital in the plain of Marv-e Dasht, at a short distance from Pasargades, which was the capital of Cyrus the Great. Suse, the administrative capital was more than 500 km.



Persepolis is part of a vast program of monumental buildings designed to emphasize the unity and diversity of the Achaemenid Persian Empire and to establish the legitimacy of royal power.

The choice of the site of Persepolis was not arbitrary: built to symbolize the power of the Achaemenid sovereigns, the city could in this sense only benefit from its geographical isolation.

Workers and artisans from all parts of the empire are called in. The architecture is the result of an original combination of styles from these provinces, thus creating the Persian architectural style outlined in Pasargades, also found in Susa and Ecbatane (today Hamadan). This combination of know-how also marks the other Persian arts, such as sculpture or goldsmithing.

The monumental aspect of the site, the immensity of the courtroom and the throne room, known as the 100-column room, were well designed to impress the vassals of the Great King.

The construction of Persepolis continued for more than two centuries, until the conquest of the empire and the partial destruction of the city by Alexander the Great in 331 BC.

Discovery by Western travelers

The site is visited several times over the centuries by Western travelers, but it is only in the 17th century that it is authenticated as the ruins of the Achaemenid capital. The ruins were not searched until the Eastern Institute of the University of Chicago sponsored an archaeological expedition under the supervision of Professor Ernst Herzfeld 1931-1934 and Erich F. Schmidt 1934-1939. Many archaeological explorations then make it possible to better understand the structures, but also the aspect and the functions.

Persepolis includes a vast palatine complex erected on a monumental terrace that supports multiple hypostyle buildings.
These palaces had ceremonial, ritual, emblematic, or administrative functions precise: audience, royal apartments, administration of the treasure, reception.
Close to the terrace were other elements: dwellings of the lower town, royal tombs, altars, gardens.


The idea that Persepolis had no administrative or commercial role, but had only an annual and ritual occupation dedicated to the reception by the king of the tributes offered by the nations subjected to the empire, who came to depose their offerings at the foot of the King of Kings, under the aegis of the great god Ahura-Mazda, on the occasion of the ceremonies of the Persian New Year, the Norouz, has long prevailed.

But it is now certain that the city was permanently occupied and held a central administrative and political role for the government of the empire. Many archives written on clay tablets found in the treasury buildings and fortifications have established these roles and provide valuable information on the Achaemenid imperial administration and the construction of the complex.

Numerous sculptured bas-reliefs on the staircases and palace doors represent the diversity of the peoples composing the empire. Others affirm the image of a royal protective power, sovereign, legitimate, and absolute, or designate Xerxes I as the legitimate successor of Darius the Great.


The procession of nobles and dignitaries

During these celebrations, the most important of the Mazdan calendar, the envoys of all the vassal states of the Achaemenid Empire come to present their tribute to the King of Kings. It is this ceremony that is depicted on the stairs of the Apadana. All the satrapies (administrative division in the Persian Empire) are represented. No foreigner could attend these ceremonies.

This frieze I had dreamed of because I had seen it on many images. But I was, somehow, a little disappointed, because on the images it seems to be very high, enormous, and in fact it is not large. The sculptures of the dignitaries are small, not as large as the frieze of the archers seen in the Louvre, for example.
Several cuneiform royal persepolitan inscriptions written in Old Persian, Babylonian, or Elamite are engraved at various places on the site.

There are very few colors, little ocher-colored corners, which let us imagine that the frieze was entirely colored.