Photographer's Note

Persepolis is one of the ancient capitals of Persia, established by Darius I the Great in the late 6th century BC. Its ruins lie 56km northeast of Shiraz. Darius the Great transferred the capital of the Achaemenid dynasty to Persepolis from Pasargadae, where Cyrus the Great, founder of the Persian Empire, had ruled. Construction of Persepolis began between 518 and 516 BC and continued under Dariuss successors Xerxes I (Khashayarsha in Persian) and Artaxerxes I (Ardeshir in Persian) in the 5th century BC. Known as "Pars" by the ancient Persians, it is known today in Iran as "Takht e Jamshid" (="Throne of Jamshid") after a legendary king. The Greeks called it Persepolis (="City of the Persians").

At its height the Persian Empire stretched from Greece and Libya in the west to the Indus River in present-day Pakistan in the east. The many nations under the empires rule enjoyed considerable autonomy in return for supplying the empires wealth. Each year at New Yearsstill celebrated in Iran on the first day of springrepresentatives from these nations brought tribute to the king. The Persian kings used Persepolis primarily as a residence and for ceremonies such as the New Years celebration. The actual business of government was carried out elsewhere, chiefly at Susa and Ecbatana.

The site of Persepolis consists of the remains of several monumental buildings on a vast artificial stone terrace about 450 by 300 metres. A double staircase, wide and shallow enough for horses to climb, led from the plains below to the top of the terrace. At the head of the staircase, visitors passed through the Gate of Xerxes, a gatehouse guarded by enormous carved stone bulls.

It is now quite clear from the clay tablets discovered by Prof G Cameron of the Chicago University that the construction work was not done by slaves or forced labours, but that each worker was paid according to his skill in silver, wine and meat.

In 330 BC, Alexander III of Macedonia (known by Europeans as "Alexander the Great") plundered the city brutally and burned it for the joy of his Athenian concubine Thais in the course of a drunken revel. He needed 20,000 mules and 5,000 camels to carry away the treasure looted from Persepolis, according to Greek biographer Plutarch.

In 316 BC Persepolis was still the capital of Persia as a province of the Macedonian empire. The city gradually declined in the Seleucid period and after, its ruins attesting its ancient glory. In the 3rd century AD the nearby city of Istakhr became the centre of the Sassanian empire.

Persepolis was eventually abandoned, and it lay buried beneath ashes and rubble until its rediscovery in 1620. Although many people visited Persepolis in the next centuries, excavation of the ruins did not begin until 1931, under the direction of the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago. The outbreak of World War II in 1939 halted this work. The Iranian Archaeological Service continued the excavation and restoration of Persepolis after the war.
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Further information & Full-size photo are available at: http://travels.sfsepehr.com/ancient_persia.html

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