Monday, May 7, 2012

#991 Persepolis, Iran

One of the most famous sites of the ancient world, it was sacked by Alexander the Great in 330BC.  Parsa, or Persepolis (meaning city of Persia as it was called by the Greeks) is a city that wasn't really a city. It was purely ceremonial and palatial, with the plebes living half a day's trek away in Istakhr (which remains completely unexcavated, almost a memorial to the conquering massacre of the 8th century).
Why is it amazing?
1. Buried Treasure: Although known and visible, its most precious treasures were completely buried by sand until 1930.
2. Linguistics: There are cuneiform inscriptions in Old Persian, Neo-Babylonian and Elamite.
3. Famous visitors: It is easy to see the graffiti dating through the ages, especially on the famous gateway.
4. Incredibly carvings that tell many stories and document history: bas-reliefs on the Apadana staircase show many traditions of the Achaemenids, and include members of the various ethnicities in the Persian empire like Arabs, Thracians, Indians, Parthians, Cappadocians, Elamites, Medians, and Ethiopians giving offerings to the emperor.
5. Living Iranian/Persian Pride: Iranians love to visit Persepolis during 'No Ruz' and celebrate their New Year (March 21) which dates back to Zoroastrian and Persian times.
6. Controversy: security is tight because Islamic Fundamentalists still try to destroy and deface it.
7. No longevity, but fame: It wasn't actually lived in for that long - only around 250 years, but it is one of the most famous ancient cities, and is taught about in schools around the world.

Information adapted partially from Lonely Planet Iran 5th edition.
Offerings from the various tribes of the Persian empire.
Soldiers lined up on the Apadana staircase. The hairstyle is a distinctively Persian carving style.

The famous mythical bull-like beasts that guard the gates to Persepolis. They were disfigured by Arab conquerors who believed animal/face depictions to be anti-Islamic.
The Necropolis - tombs to famous Achaemenid kings. Note: These are not in Persepolis itself, but close by.
View of Persepolis from the cliff behind.

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