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Iran – Discovering the Traces of Old Persia in the Islamic Republic. Episode 10 – Persepolis

Persepolis, capital of Persia

There are a few ancient cities in the world which where destroyed and then revived… Maybe the most famous is Pompei, but I would also add to the list Angkor Wat, Petra or Macchu Picchu as well. For me, all of these places are magical, both because of their beauty and their greatness but also because you discover the level of civilization reached by the human race from hundreds or thousands years ago… One of these magical places is Persepolis, in Iran.

In the primary school, many of us learned about ancient history. There were entire lessons dedicated to the fights between Greeks and Persians. The Persian people were the mean ones that came over the Greeks in order to conquer them… And after a few unsuccessful tries (you already know the story of the 300 Spartans or of the runner from the Marathon who eventually became an Olympic sport), oh well, the Greeks came over the Persians. The quirkiest would say that not the Greeks, but the Macedonians, a pretty apart people, but under the influence of the magnificent culture of Ancient Greece were the ones to destroy the Persian Empire. Oh well, after Alexander the Great defeated the Persians and killed Darius III, the last king of the kings from the Achemanid dynasty, he entered the town that has once been a capital of the world for at least 200 years – here the whole wealth of the Babylon, Little Asia, Ancient Egypt, Petra up to the gates of India was gathered… And obviously that Alexander and his troops did not clinch any effort in order to rob anything that could be robbed… Following the invasion,Persepolis was burned and plundered. Some ancient authors claim that Alexander himself ordered the old capital to be burned in order to avenge the destruction of Athens and the Parthenon, done by the Persians 100 and something years before. Other sources claim that Alexander’s boys got completely drunk and that the fire was accidentally started…

What’s certain is that Persepolis died and did not revive but in the last hundred of years as a tourist pilgrimage place this time.

Persepolisis located at 70 km of Shiraz, but the public means of transportation is pretty sporadic. This is why the majority of the tourists come by tour from Shiraz. And because I wanted to find out more about the metropolis of the ancient world, I chose also to bring a guide with us. In fact, we had a woman guide who spoke a very good English. As one thing led to another, we were about to find out that she was actually not a Persian but an Azeri woman and pretty proud of it. The Azeris are of Turkish origin that speak a language very similar to the Turkish language, but unlike the Turks, they are Shiites and not Sunnites which brings them closer in a way to Iran. In the North-West of Iran, in the area of Tabriz, there is a big Azeri community and our woman guide was from around there, but married in Shiraz.

From our first discussions, she told me how revolted she and the rest of the Iranians were about how their ancestors were depicted in the movie “300”. She asked me if I have seen it. “No, I have not but I heard it is a miserable movie” (a completely true thing, this is what I have heard from the ones that wasted a few bucks in order to see it). I have definitely entered in her heart…

We reach Persepolis. The location is special, at the feet of some hills… From the ancient times, the majestic entrance was preserved… To enter the fortress – city, you climb up a monumental stairway, but with not so tall steps – the Persians dressed in their long togas didn’t have to put in too much effort – for this idea, we thank the Achaemenid architects as well, us, the contemporaneous tourists… Once arrived at the top, we go through the gigantic “Gate of all the Nations”, garnished with statues of winged lions with human faces – some specific Persian sphinxes. All the buildings were decorated either with legendary beings, having the faces of the great kings, of their ruled ones, but especially of the immortal guard – that legendary guard of the Shah whose components looked identically which could be replaced during battles in the case of their death by identical clones – from where the nickname of the “Immortals”.

We stroll around the high plateau before entering the Apadana Palace, the residence of the Shah of the Shahs. The Persian Empire of the Achaemenids wished itself to be an universal empire, an empire that did not want to conquer and to assimilate, but an empire which would gravitate around a king of the kings, just like the Zoroastrian religion gravitated around an unique God, Ahura Mazda. Each year the ruled nations came to bring gifts and to adulate the supreme master – the well-maintained basoreliefs were picturing the Ethiopians, the Egyptians, the Cappadocians, the Indians but also the Thracians…I look at them carefully – they do not look like the images from the Ancient Rome… they have however the tarabostes caps on their heads, but the fashion from 300 BC was different from the one from the time of Decebalus, the son of Scorillo at around 100 AD.

Another amazing palace is the palace of the 100 columns, apparently used for the military elite of the Empire…The gate beneath the palace is unfinished due to he fact that it was under construction in the moment Alexander the Great reached Persepolis. The question is how is it possible that a city made out of stone can become a victim of the flames… the most logical explanation is that these palaces had immense wooden rooftops, while their structure of resistance was based on iron… When the wood caught fire the iron melted and the huge walls collapsed… But Thanks to the Ahura Mazda, not all of them, so that today we can visit all these magnificent structures.

The hills that dominate the city are inhabited by the Gods. Or, oh well, by semi-gods. Here, there are carved in the stone of the hills the tombs of the great kings Artaxerxes II and Artaxerxes III. The tombs are similar to the ones in Petra – immense structures carved in stone… Although the graves are not as spectacular as the ones in Petra, it is worth climbing up… at your feet, you will have the whole Persepolis and only from here you can create yourself a pretty correct impression of the greatness of the old capital.

We pass across the tourist area from where we can buy a cold Cola or a hot tea and we move further on. The next stop is at the Naqsh-i Rustam, the necropolis of the kings of kings. Here, indeed, the sculptures carved in stone can out shadow Petra… Here also, are all the great kings – the various Darius, Xerxes and Artaxerxes…Don’t you believe that you will find any sarcophagus of a king… They never had any. In the Zoroastrian religion, the soulless bodies were left to be devoured by vultures in order not to pollute the earth with the ashes or the buried body. At the feet of these graves, from time to time, there are sculptures picturing the Parthian kings – their presence here wanted to legitimize themselves as the true descendants of the Achaemenids!

After the Hellenic occupation and the Hellenic kingdom that followed the Achaemenids, the Persians recreated a new great empire – the Parthian Empire that fought for centuries against the Roman Empire. One of the most famous stone carvings is the one of a Parthian King to which a Roman Emperor taken prisoner was bowing to – a humiliation without borders of the until then invincible Roman Empire… But we must not forget that this continuous fight of the Roman – Parthian giants led to the nowadays situation of Islam domination… The troops of Mohammed, Abu Bakr and Ali pulverized the Parthian Empire and crushed the Byzantine Empire, taking advantage of their weakness generated by their multi-secular wars… And so Ahura Mazda and Saint Peter were replaced by Mohammed, Ali and Fatima …Nowadays, you can sometimes still see Persians with the symbol of Ahura Mazda on their neck, taking bows in the mosques!

The last stop in the ancient Pasargadae. This was the first capital of the empire, before the building of Persepolis. From this city, is not much left, only the immense stone sarcophagus of Cyrus, the founder of the Achaemenid Empire and a few so-called buildings linked to the figure of King Solomon… in fact, the temples of fire or the kings’ palaces – the locals claimed these places are connected to Solomon in order to save them from destruction by the Muslim Arabs, because they, as it is well known, recognize the characters of the Old Testament…

It was an intense and hard day … For the first time we were hot. There were above 30 degrees. And it was still April… I wonder what August must be like here? I’d rather not feel!

Pictures of Persepolis:

Things to see in Persepolis: Stairs of all nations

Climbing up the stairs

Things to see in Persepolis: Gate of all Nations
 At the Gate of all Nations

Things to see in Persepolis: The Gate of all Nations

Photos from Persepolis

Things to see in Persepolis: Persian soldiers

Persian soldiers

Things to see in Persepolis: A Shah of Shahs

And a Shah of Shahs

Photos from Persepolis: The Immortals

The Immortals

Things to see in Persepolis - guide reading a book

The woman guide and her book

Things to see in Persepolis: The grave of Artaxerxes II

The grave of Artaxerxes II

Things to see in Persepolis: One of the 100 columns

One of the 100 columns

Things to see in Persepolis: a statue depicting a lion

Photos of Persepolis


Iran women fashion

Peresopolis: as seen from above

Persepolis as seen from above

Things to see in Persepolis: panorama from the tombs

Things to see in Persepolis: Statues of ancient Persian fighters

Things to see in Persepolis: At Naqsh-i Rustam

At Naqsh-i Rustam

Things to see in Persepolis: Royal Grave

Royal Grave

Things to see in Persepolis: Roman Emperor at the feet of the Parthian King

Roman Emperor at the feet of the Parthian King

Things to see in Persepolis: Royal Parthian Graves


Things to see in Persepolis: Achaemenid graves, Parthian sculptures

Achaemenid graves, Parthian sculptures

Things to buy in Persepolis: Books on offer

Books on offer

Things to buy in Persepolis: Souvenirs

And souvenirs


4 Romanians + the woman guide

Things to see in Persepolis: The grave of Cyrus from Pasargadae

The grave of Cyrus from Pasargadae

Pictures in Persepolis

Până acum există "3 comentarii" la acest articol:

  1. Rosh Angeles says:

    loved your pics great anceint History of the Aryans iranians , really hope to go there soon ,

  2. Zelma says:

    I got this website from my friend who told me regarding this web page and
    at the moment this time I am browsing this web site and reading very informative articles or
    reviews at this time.

  3. package vacations says:

    I usually do not leave many remarks, however i did some searching and wound up here
    Iran | Discovering Old Persia in the Islamic Republic | Persepolis |
    Episode 10. And I do have 2 questions for you if you tend not to mind.
    Could it be simply me or does it look like a few of the remarks look like
    coming from brain dead people? 😛 And, if
    you are writing at additional online sites, I’d like to follow anything fresh you have to post. Would you make a list of all of your community sites like your twitter feed, Facebook page or linkedin profile?

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