Persepolis (Takht-e Jamshid) was an ancient ceremonial capital of the Persian Empire. It lies at the foot of Kuh-i-Rahmat, or "Mountain of Mercy," in the plain of Marv Dasht about 400 miles south of the present capital city of Teheran and some 70 km northeast of the modern city of Shiraz in the Fars Province of Iran.The largest and most complex building in Persepolis was the audience hall or Apadana with 72 columns. In contemporary Persian language the site is known as Takht-e Jamshid (Throne of Jamshid). To the ancient Persians, the city was known as Parsa, meaning The City of Persians, so Persepolis is the Greek interpretation of the mentioned name. The exact date of the founding of Persepolis is not known. It is assumed that Darius I began work on the platform and its structures between 518 and 516 B.C., visualizing Persepolis as a show place and the seat of his vast Achaemenian Empire. But its majestic audience halls and residential palaces perished in flames when Alexander conquered and looted Persepolis in 330 B.C. according to history, 20,000 mules and 5,000 camels carried away its treasures.
The first scientific excavation at Persepolis was carried out by Ernst Herzfeld in 1931, commissioned by the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago. He believed the reason behind the construction of Persepolis was the need for a majestic atmosphere, as a symbol for their empire and to celebrate special events, especially the “Nowruz”, (the Persian New Year held on 21 March). For historical reasons and deep rooted interests it was built on the birthplace of the Achaemenid dynasty, although this was not the centre of their Empire at that time.
The main characteristic of Persepolitan architecture is its columns, which were made of wood. Only when even the largest cedars of Lebanon or the teak trees of India did not fulfill the required sizes did the architects resort to stone. The bases and the capitals were always of stones, even on wooden shafts, but the existence of wooden capitals is probable.
The remains including the bas-reliefs and sculptures provide an insight into hearts and beliefs of the ancient Persians. The buildings at Persepolis are divided into three areas; military quarters, the treasury and the reception and occasional houses for the King of Kings. These included the Great Stairway, the Gate of Nations (Xerxes), the Apadana palace of Darius, the Hall of a Hundred Columns, the Tripylon Hall and Tachara palace of Darius, the Hadish palace of Xerxes, the palace of Artaxerxes III, the Imperial Treasury, the Royal Stables and the Chariot house.
Gray limestone was the main material used in building Persepolis. To reach the top terrace, the construction of a broad Stairway, 20 meters above the ground, was planned to be the only main entrance. This was begun around 518 BC. The dual stairway, known as the Persepolitan stairway, was built in a symmetrical manner on the western side of the Great Wall. Originally the steps were believed to have been constructed to allow for nobles and royalty to ascend by horseback, new theories suggest that this was to allow visiting dignitaries to in fact walk up the stairs while keeping a regal appearance, permissible by the ease in which the stairs could be climbed due to the small distance between each step. Today Persepolis is still full of mystery and majesty.
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