Persepolis – Ceremonial Capital of the Achaemenid Empire

Related Articles

Related Articles

Persepolis is an archaeological site and the ceremonial capital city of the Achaemenid Empire, also called the First Persian Empire that covered an area of 2.1 million square miles from the Balkans and Eastern Europe proper in the west, to the Indus Valley in the east.

The city was constructed northeast of the city of Shiraz in Fars Province, Iran, near the small river Pulvar, which flows into the Kur River.

The first evidence of occupation dates from around 515 BC, possibly established by Cyrus the Great (who founded the Achaemenid Empire), but the first phase of major construction was during the reign of Darius I.


Image Credit : reibai

Darius I ordered the construction of a large hypostyle hall called the Apadana, the Tripylon as well as the main imperial treasury and civic buildings that were completed during the reign of his son, Xerxes I.

The city was organised on a large terrace, accessed by the “Great Staircase” that led to the Great Place of Xerxes, the Palace of Darius, the Palace of Xerxes, and the Second Propylon guarding the entrance to the Palace of 100 columns.

Image Credit : reibai

Although described as the ceremonial capital, the function of Persepolis is debated amongst archaeologists and academics. There were much larger cities in the Achaemenid Empire and Persepolis appears to be occupied seasonally during Nowruz, the Persian New Year, possibly as a site for offering tributes to the Empire by the tributary kingdoms and surrounded city-states.

After Alexander the Great invaded the Achaemenid Empire in 330 BC, Alexander looted the city, evident by a layer of burning in the archaeological record. It is speculated that this may have been in retribution for the burning of the Acropolis of Athens during the second Persian invasion of Greece.

Image Credit : s1ingshot

The scholar and historian Abu Rayhan al-Biruni, who lived during the Islamic Golden Age wrote in his ‘Chronology of the Ancient Nations’ that “Alexander burned the whole of Persepolis as revenge to the Persians, because it seems the Persian King Xerxes had burnt the Greek City of Athens around 150 years ago. People say that, even at the present time, the traces of fire are visible in some places.”

In 316 BC, Persepolis was still a major population centre in the Macedonian Empire, but began to decline under the rule of the Seleucid Empire. The vast palaces were still a ruin from the fire and became known to local inhabitants as ‘the place of the forty columns’ owing to the still-remaining columns standing among the abandoned city remains.

Header Image Credit : Ivar Husevåg Døskeland

Download the HeritageDaily mobile application on iOS and Android

More on this topic


Ancient Mosaic Criticises Christianity

An ancient mosaic from a 4th-century house in the centre of the ancient city of Paphos in Cyprus, was a 'pictorial' criticism of Christianity according to experts.

Geoscience: Cosmic Diamonds Formed During Gigantic Planetary Collisions

It is estimated that over 10 million asteroids are circling the Earth in the asteroid belt. They are relics from the early days of our solar system, when our planets formed out of a large cloud of gas and dust rotating around the sun.

Vettuvan Koil – The Temple of the Slayer

Vettuvan Koil is a rock-cut temple, located in Kalugumalai, a panchayat town on the ancient trade routes from Kovilpatti to courtallam, in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu.

The Testimony of Trees: How Volcanic Eruptions Shaped 2000 Years of World History

Researchers have shown that over the past two thousand years, volcanoes have played a larger role in natural temperature variability than previously thought, and their climatic effects may have contributed to past societal and economic change.

Sentinels of Ocean Acidification Impacts Survived Earth’s Last Mass Extinction

Two groups of tiny, delicate marine organisms, sea butterflies and sea angels, were found to be surprisingly resilient--having survived dramatic global climate change and Earth's most recent mass extinction event 66 million years ago.

The Venerable Ensign Wasp, Killing Cockroaches For 25 million Years

An Oregon State University study has identified four new species of parasitic, cockroach-killing ensign wasps that became encased in tree resin 25 million years ago and were preserved as the resin fossilized into amber.

Modern Humans Reached Westernmost Europe 5,000 Years Earlier Than Previously Known

Modern humans arrived in the westernmost part of Europe 41,000 - 38,000 years ago, about 5,000 years earlier than previously known, according to Jonathan Haws, Ph.D., professor and chair of the Department of Anthropology at the University of Louisville, and an international team of researchers.

Akrotiri – The Ancient Town Buried by a Volcano

Akrotiri is an archaeological site and a Cycladic Bronze Age town, located on the Greek island of Santorini (Thera) near the present-day village of Akrotiri (for which the prehistoric site is named).

Popular stories

The Secret Hellfire Club and the Hellfire Caves

The Hellfire Club was an exclusive membership-based organisation for high-society rakes, that was first founded in London in 1718, by Philip, Duke of Wharton, and several of society's elites.

Port Royal – The Sodom of the New World

Port Royal, originally named Cagway was an English harbour town and base of operations for buccaneers and privateers (pirates) until the great earthquake of 1692.

Matthew Hopkins – The Real Witch-Hunter

Matthew Hopkins was an infamous witch-hunter during the 17th century, who published “The Discovery of Witches” in 1647, and whose witch-hunting methods were applied during the notorious Salem Witch Trials in colonial Massachusetts.

Did Corn Fuel Cahokia’s Rise?

A new study suggests that corn was the staple subsistence crop that allowed the pre-Columbian city of Cahokia to rise to prominence and flourish for nearly 300 years.