If there was just one historical place you should ever visit in Iran, rest assured it is Persepolis.
The city of Persians was once the centre of the whole known world, and today it stands proudly as an invaluable piece of history, witnessing of the might and splendour of the ancient Persian Empire.
Persepolis should definitely be in your bucket list if your either travelling to Iran or are history nerd.
PERSEPOLIS – THE MYSTERY OF PERSIA UNVEILED.
Persepolis is most likely one of the most important archaeological localities in the world. The beginnings of the city date back to 515 BC, which makes Persepolis almost 2600 years old, and although only a small fraction of the structure remains, you can still easily understand what a magnificent city it must have been in its glory days, making the ruins at the very start of the expansion of the Persian Empire.
Persepolis is the cherry on top of all mysteries about ancient Persia.
Persian Empire, one of the biggest empires the world has ever seen, dominated the Middle East all the way to India, South of Africa and Eastern Europe, Despised by the ancient Greeks who were afraid of power and influence, Persians were their eternal enemy.
As much so that after they finally defeated Persia, they meticulously cared about destroying the traces of that powerful civilisation.
That is one of the reasons why there is little evidence describing Persian Civilization in essence, and one of the reasons why we don’t know much about them.
Luckily, in the year 1930s, a group of archaeologists discovered Persepolis and started excavating the city which was about to tell us more about the Persians. To visit such a place is as if you are visiting the source of knowledge about one of the most important civilisations of the world.
PERSEPOLIS – THE RICHEST CITY UNDER THE SUN.
Once you step onto the vast plain where Persepolis is located, you start feeling deeply humbled. The remainings of the 2500 years old city burst in front of your eyes, expanding in all directions. It was just then when I started to genuinely understand why was this city called The Richest City Under the Sun.
Even though, today, the city of Persepolis is left with just a skeleton of rock made formations, reliefs and columns, one glimpse at the mastery applied to Persepolis architecture will amaze you.
Once the Persepolis was rediscovered, archaeologists also discovered thousands of remaining written records made by the Persians.
Many of the records, carved in hand size rocks, depict the bills and spending needed to raise the city of Persepolis. There it was discovered that the city of Persepolis was paying their craftsman in gold and precious metal, to keep them satisfied and devoted to making the city the most important city of the world.
It seemed the incentives and devotion did their magic, and the remaining artwork continues to stun.
WHAT WAS PERSEPOLIS FOR.
The architecture of Persepolis will simply make you ask one question over and over again. How it is possible that they managed to make such colossal structure such a long time ago and why. The first part of the question still poses mystery, but the purpose of building Persepolis; on the other hand, is clear.
It was a city made to amaze. Built on orders of the king Darius the Great it was the capital of the mighty empire; Persepolis was the political and cultural centre from which the King was holding more than 30 different nations under his hand.
The King of Persepolis was called the King of the World, and this King of the World needed admiration.
The main role of Persepolis was to build and glorified as a place where all of the nations under the Empire, come to bring gifts to the King and pay their respects.
The reliefs placed alongside the main staircase, visible even today and appropriately named Staircase of Nations, show in astounding detail the lines and lines of people coming to Persepolis with gifts in their hands dedicated to the King.
You will notice the variety of gift bearers of all nations carefully presented on the reliefs and don’t be surprised if you find it hard to divert your eyes.
The carvings were so perfectly made that they withheld its full glory hundreds and hundreds of years after the destruction.
The whole complex of the city was planned so that when the visitors come, they pass strategically trough all the paths from which they could admire the size and might of the city. The city builders wanted the visitors to come in fear and leave in awe confronted with the incomparable beauty.
Once you arrive at Persepolis, don’t be surprised if you too began to feel overwhelmed. The size and dominance of the city will impress you and don’t even try to fight it. Remember that’s what Persepolis was made for.
ARCHITECTURE OF PERSEPOLIS.
The city of Persepolis is made upon a big stone terrace as if to further emphasize how the city stood out from the rest of the world.
To enter Persepolis, you will have to walk through the Gate of All Nations. The symbolism is strong already at the entrance. As Persepolis used to be the capital of the mighty empire and the residence of the king, the very entrance to the city has to be monumental to impress or scare away, depending on if you are a friend or a foe.
The entrance is guarded by human-headed bulls.
These were mythical creatures which in the ancient times represented the protection of all the evil which is why they were put on the entrance. And once upon a time before the Persepolis was robbed and burned to the ground by Alexander the Great (Read about my Trip To Babylon here, the place Alexander The Great died), these and many other structures in Persepolis were covered in gold and precious metals.
Passing through the Gate of All Nations, under the massive columns up to 16 meters high, you will Approach the Apadana, the audience hall. The hall had a capacity of 10000 people, and it served as a place to gather gift bearers waiting to pay respects to the king.
They say the place was once covered and dimmed and it was a place made to clearly show to the visitors that they are entering an extraordinary place.
Persepolis was improved and upgraded with every new ruler who was bringing something of his own to the development of Persepolis. It that manner the ruler named Xerxes ordered the creation of the Hall of a Hundred Columns, also a part of the reception space.
Today only some scarce remainings of the glorious hall are left as to spark imagination and witness the old glory of the place.
The Treasury is another part of the complex where all of many riches of Persepolis were held. Up to a point when allegedly there were too many of them. When Persepolis became too rich with gifts of all its nations, they started using even the Hall of a Hundred Columns to keep the valuables.
However, all of these were salvaged by Alexander the Great in 330 BC. He wanted to see Persia on its knees and gave all his strength and army into conquering the Persepolis. Eventually, he made it.
The city was robbed, destroyed and burned to the ground by his army. The valuables were stripped away from the walls and taken out in the wish to destroy the history and legacy of the entire civilization.
But Persepolis wasn’t the last capital of the Persian Empire, that was Ctesiphon the last of the Persian Capitals, located in Iraq.
Persepolis is now a UNESCO World Heritage site, protected, taken care of and reconstructed in such a way to help coming generations to keep absorbing the might of the Empire. It is one of the most visited places in Iran and it keeps bringing people from all around the world to learn about once The Richest City Under the Sun.
The Iranian Government have put a huge amount of money into restoring and protection Persepolis, and the latest update is 3D Virtual Glasses, you can walk around the entire Persepolis looking into how it used to be, it´s very well made and a lot of fun.
HOW TO VISIT PERSEPOLIS.
These days the closest modern city is Shiraz, famous in Iran as the home of poets, but more famous in the west is the origin of the world-renowned grape that’s used in wine, the Syrah Grape.
These days wine and alcohol are strictly forbidden in Iran, but the grape is still abundant.
Shiraz is located about a one hour drive 60/37miles km south-west of Persepolis and is most likely the city you will stay in when making a day trip to the ruins.
There are no local buses taking you right there so travelling with an organized group can be the best solution. Otherwise, you can hire a taxi from one of the nearby cities.
But have in mind that you need to think of a return trip from Persepolis. Namely, it is easy to find a taxi to take you to Persepolis, and many drivers will agree to wait for you for an hour or two, however if you plan to stay longer (which in my personal opinion you definitely should), make sure you organize someone to take you back to one of the nearby cities. It is not necessary to take a guided tour; it´s a lot cheaper to hire a local driver.
DON’T FORGET TO…
Once you set your compass to Persepolis, make sure you have some bare necessities with you. Depending on the time of the year, Persepolis can be quite hot, so make sure to protect yourself from the sun accordingly.
Bring water and snacks too as the locality is quite isolated. Also, you might consider hiring a tour guide to lead you through the history and value of this place to make sure you use your visit at the most.
Do all the prep work needed to be able to freely dive into the magic and mystery of Persepolis, the former center of the world.
ADDITIONAL INFORMATION ABOUT PERSEPOLIS.
First of all, remember to bring a hat and put on suncream. Few places on earth have I encountered such a strong sun as here.
All government-administered sights (mausoleums, Persepolis, most gardens, …) apply a fee of 200 000 Rials foreigners vs 3000 Tomans locals.
32.000 = 1$
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