The Apadana is the largest building on the terrace at Persepolis. It is believed to be the main audience hall, where the kings received tribute and dignitaries. Only a handful of the 20m tall columns, capped with lions and bull captals remain. The major feature remaining are the ceremonial stairways on the northern and eastern sides whose walls are covered with fine bas reliefs depicting the delegates of the 23 subject nations of the Persian Empire paying tribute to Darius I.
The stairway on the eastern side of the building has a protecting roof, and has the better preserved reliefs.
Many of the original structures have been re-erected since Professor Herzfeld's 1931 expedtion. This is the re-constructed Gate of Xerxes, also known as the Gate of all Nations, with it's guardian man-bulls. Above the bulls, on the inner side of the Gateway is a cuneiform inscription in the three main languages of the empire, Persian, Babylonian and Elamite, which reads: "A great God is Ahuramazda, who has created this Earth, who has created the heaven, who has created man, who has created good things for man, who has made Xerxes King, sole King of many, sole Commander of many. I am Xerxes, Great King, King of Kings, King of lands, King of many races, King of this earth reaching even far off, son of Dariush the King, the Achaemenian. King Xerxes says: By the grace of Ahuramazda I constructed this Gateway of All Nations. Many other beautiful things were constructed in Persia. I constructed them and my father constructed them. Everything we have constructed which looks beautiful we have constructed by the grace of Ahuramazda. King Xerxes says: May Ahruamazda protect me and my kingdom and whatever is constructed by me as well as what has been constructed by my father".
The columns of the Apadana Palace form the image of Persepolis that people are most familiar with. Darius died in 486 BC before it was completed and the construction was continued by his son, Xerxes. There are thirteen columns still standing. Originally, the roof was supported by 72 of these giant columns, each 25 metres high. On top of the columns were capitals, consisting of two heads of animals, usually bulls or lions. The wooden roof beams were supported between the two heads. It must have been magnificent!
The palace was used as a reception hall for great feasts and the visits of foreign dignitaries. One of the reliefs depicts Lydians binging gifts of gold to the palace.
The king's bath is supplied with water by a channel running down from the mountainside. The door of thc royal bath shows the king coming out cleaned and dressed, followed by two servants, with an umbrella and a fly swat.
This domestic detail appealed to me.
At the base of the rock face, beneath the tombs, there are nine rock reliefs, depicting great episodes from the lives of the Sasanian kings. These include the investiture of Ardashir I, Bahram II in his royal court, two equestrian reliefs of Bahram II, the investiture of Nasreh, and an equestrian relief of Hormizd II. My photo shows the best preserved and most interesting one. It celebrates the victory of the Persian King Shapur I over the Roman Emperor Valerian, at Edessa, in 260 AD.
Emperor Valerian is shown kneeling down in front of the triumphant Persian king, who is mounted on a horse.
The royal necropolis of Naghsh-e Rostam is, if anything, even more impressive than the main site of Persepolis. It comprises four massive tombs hewn out of the rock face. The tombs are known locally as the 'Persian crosses', because of the shape of their facades. The entrance to each tomb is at the centre of the cross, which opens onto to a small chamber, where the king's sarcophagus lay.
The tombs are, from left too right, the tombs of Artaxerxes I (465-424 BC), Darius the Great (522-486 BC), Xerxes I (488- 465 BC) and Darius II (423-404 BC). A fifth unfinished tomb is thought to be that of Darius III (336-330 BC). The tombs were emptied of their contents by the army of Alexander the Great.
Two inscriptions have been found in the tomb of Darius the Great, outlining his life. One line, which indicates that he was a just king reads, "It is not my desire that a man should do harm, nor is it my desire that he goes unpunished when he does harm."
The oldest relief at Naqsh-e Rostam is severely damaged and dates to 1000 BC. It shows a man with unusual head-gear and is thought to be Elamite in origin. It is part of a larger mural, most of which was removed at the command of Bahram II. The man with the unusual cap gives the site its name, Naqsh-e Rostam, "Picture of Rostam", because the relief was locally believed to be a depiction of the mythical hero Rostam.
Look at the tiny people at the base of the Tomb of Darius II, to get an idea of the massive scale of Naghsh-e Rostam.
I saw this at the British Museum after I visited Persepolis. It was originally part of the facade on Palace G, which was constructed by Artaxerxes III (358-338 BC), but it was later moved to form the new north facade of Palace H, which is now totally in ruins.
This sphinx was removed from Persepolis by Colonel John MacDonald Kinneir during excavations in 1826. It was originally one of a pair protecting the winged figure of Ahura-Mazda, a god adopted as the Persian royal deity by Darius I (522-486 BC). It was purchased for the British Museum by the Art Fund in 1938.
The most complete structure still standing in Persepolis is the Palace of Darius, also known as the Tachara or Winter Palace. Twelve massive columns supported the roof of the central hall. King Artaxerxes III made later alterations to the palace including the addition of ornamented staircases.
The Palace of Xerxes is quite similar in architectural style to the Palace of Darius, although it was twice as big and is slightly less well preserved than its neighbour. The best preserved part is the staircase. The main palace hall originally had 36 columns and was surrounded by six smaller rooms.
This is one of the most interesting details on the walls. The motif depicting the lion killing the bull is repeated many times on the walls of Persepolis. It may represent a contest between the forces of good and evil, with the bull representing the evil spirit Ahriman and the lion the Zoroastrian god Ahura Mazda. Another interpretation, and the one that I think most likeley, is that it represents the triumph of the King of Persia over his enemies. See how many of these motifs you can find.
The best kept reliefs can be seen along the staircases of the Apadana Palace. There are 23 different scenes showing us the representatives of 23 different countries in the Achaemenian Empire, how they dressed, what weapons they carried and what treasury they brought from their homelands to please the King.
The two completed graves behind Takhti Jamshid would then belong to Artaxerxes II and Artaxerxes III. The unfinished one is perhaps that of Arses of Persia, who reigned at the longest two years, or, if not his, then that of Darius III (Codomannus), who is one of those whose bodies are said to have been brought "to the Persians."
Next to the Apadana, second largest building of the Terrace and the final edifices, is the Throne Hall or the Imperial Army's hall of honour (also called the "Hundred-Columns Palace). This 70x70 square meter hall was started by Xerxes and completed by his son Artaxerxes I by the end of the fifth century BC. 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. The northern portico of the building is flanked by two colossal stone bulls.
In the beginning of Xerxes's reign the Throne Hall was used mainly for receptions for military commanders and representatives of all the subject nations of the empire, but later the Throne Hall served as an imperial museum
Darius the Great built the greatest and most glorious palace at Persepolis in the western side. This palace was named Apadana (the root name for modern "ayvan") and was used for the King of Kings' official audiences. The work began in 515 BC and was completed 30 years later, by his son Xerxes I. The palace had a grand hall in the shape of a square, each side 60m long with seventy-two columns, thirteen of which still stand on the enormous platform. Each column is 19m high with a square Taurus and plinth. The columns carried the weight of the vast and heavy ceiling. The tops of the columns were made from animal sculptures such as two headed bulls, lions and eagles. The columns were joined to each other with the help of oak and cedar beams, which were brought from Lebanon. The walls were covered with a layer of mud and stucco to a depth of 5cm, which was used for bonding, and then covered with the greenish stucco which is found throughout the palaces. At the western, northern and eastern sides of the palace there was a rectangular veranda which had twelve columns in two rows of six. At the south of the grand hall a series of rooms were built for storage. Two grand Persepolitan stairways were built, symmetrical to each other and connected to the stone foundations. To avoid the roof being eroded by rain vertical drains were built through the brick walls. In the four corners of Apadana, facing outwards, four towers were built.
The walls were tiled and decorated with pictures of lions, bulls, and flowers. Darius ordered his name and the details of his empire to be written in gold and silver on plates, and to place them in covered stone boxes in the foundations under the Four Corners of the palace. Two Persepolitan style symmetrical stairways were built on the northern and eastern sides of Apadana to compensate for a difference in level. There were also two other stairways in the middle of the building. The external front views of the palace were embossed with pictures of the Immortals, the Kings' elite guards. The northern stairway was completed during Darius' reign, but the other stairway was completed much later.