Persepolis: Iran’s Ancient Metropolis (video)

Persepolis: Iran’s Ancient Metropolis (video)

Persopolis was one of the greatest places of the Ancient World, and the ceremonial capital of the Achaemenid kings. It’s also a UNESCO World Heritage site and a must-see on many travelers’ bucket lists. It’s an appropriate name as well: Persepolis means “city of Persians.”

What makes travelers speechless at the sight of this 2,500-year-old ancient site in Iran? The vast ruins of Persepolis reflect what’s considered the greatest of Persian dynasties, the Achaemenid, which ruled from the 7th to the 4th century B.C. In this golden era, the empire expanded not only in size but also in political, artistic, and cultural influence. Persepolis symbolized those achievements.

A MIR tour group stands before the ruins of Tachara Palace in PersepolisPhoto credit: Lindsay Fincher

A MIR tour group stands before the ruins of Tachara Palace in Persepolis
Photo credit: Lindsay Fincher

Royal BeginningsThese seemingly everlasting ruins had royal beginnings, with Darius I (the Great) creating the artistic and architectural vision of Persepolis in 518 B.C. A massive 40-acre half-natural, half-artificial stone terrace was cut into a mountainside, serving as a foundation for the palace complex. Visual reminders today of how vast this palatial place once was include double ceremonial staircases; 13 of the original 72 thinnest and tallest columns of that time; carvings, statues, and more statues; the Gate of All Nations; reception halls; bas-reliefs of kings, courtiers, and more. They’re all still here.

Procession of Nations in PersepolisA visitor to Persepolis can’t help but notice the numerous detailed bas-relief carvings along the stairs to the reception hall (Apadana) of men bearing objects, such as vases, vessels, and cups along with gold, silver, and food. Archeologists have discovered these stone reliefs are Persian noblemen from different nations – the so-called “Tribute Bearers” – bringing gifts to the Achaemenid king, Darius I, on the Persian New Year’s Day of Nowruz (also spelled Norooz, Navruz). For many, this is one of the most impressive sights in Persepolis.

Bas-relief details at the ancient ruins of Persepolis, Iran Photo credit: Marina Arkhipova

Bas-relief details at the ancient ruins of Persepolis, Iran
Photo credit: Marina Arkhipova

Persepolis<br>Photo credit: Lindsay Fincher

Monumental columns at Persepolis
Photo credit: Lindsay Fincher

Prayers and PillageDarius’ prayer for his people is still inscribed into the wall of his architectural masterpiece, thousands of years later: “God protect this country from foe, famine, and falsehood.

It was a futile prayer: Alexander the Great conquered the Persians and set Persepolis on fire in 330 B.C., but not before hauling off the capital’s gold, silver, and other treasures on 20,000 mules and 5,000 camels. Abandoned, only in the 1930s were these ruins excavated and their architecture and stories uncovered, once again seeing the light of day – a glimmer of the grandeur of times gone by.

Persepolis<br>Photo credit: Lindsay Fincher

One of many elegant stone carvings at Persepolis
Photo credit: Lindsay Fincher

Travel to Persepolis with MIRYou can experience the grandeur of Persepolis with MIR in several ways:

(Top photo: Persepolis, Iran was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979. Photo credit: Meaghan Samuels)

PUBLISHED: March 5, 2015

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