Must See: Ancient Persia’s Persepolis

griffin statue Persepolis

Griffin Statue at Persepolis

Persepolis, the ancient ceremonial capital of the Persia Empire, is located in modern day Iran. I became reacquainted with Persepolis during art history classes at University. I thought Lamassus were extremely cool. Ever since I have wanted to see one of the Lamassu guardians in person.


Overview of Persepolis


Persepolis, from the north-east to the Apadana and Darius' Palace

For those of you who don’t know a Lamassu is a mythical creature with the winged body of a bull and the head of a bearded man. The Lamassus were meant to be intimidating. They flanked gates and doors and you were suppose to be in awe of them. The represented the might of Persia.

lion bull bas relief persia

Bas Relief of Lion and Bull

double head griffin

Double Griffin

gate of all nations

Gate of All Nations - Front

Additionally, in Persepolitan architecture they used wood a lot, especially for columns and doors. Stone columns came about only after the Cedars of Lebanon didn’t meet the required sizes. Not surprising when you think of how many civilizations over the centuries practiced extensive deforestation, using the cedars for everything. The trees were used by the Phoenicians (shipbuilding), the Egyptians (resin in mummification), the Sumerians (mentioned in their epic poem of Gilgamesh), the Hebrews (King Solomon’s temple)… and also the Romans, Greeks, Assyrians and Babylonians.

gate of all nations

Gate of All Nations - Back

Procession on Stairs

Procession on Stairs



From these pictures you can get the impression that Persepolis was built on a majestic level. It had to be majestic because the city was meant to be a symbol for the power of the empire and it was located in the middle of mountains. Even so, you’re more likely to know of Susa, Babylon or Ecbatana the other capitals of Persia.  In fact, until Alexander the Great from the Macedonia Empire, captured and plundered Persepolis, the city was unknown to the Greeks.

A sphynx decorating the north wall of the Apadana terrace

A sphynx decorating the north wall of the Apadana terrace

Lamassus at Ancient Persian city of Persepolis

Lamassus at Ancient Persian city of Persepolis

Sites of Note in Pesepolis:

  1. The Great Stairway
  2. The Gate of Nations
  3. The Apadana Palace of Darius
  4. The Hall of a Hundred Columns
  5. The Tripylon Hall
  6. Tachara Palace of Darius
  7. Hadish Palace of Xerxes
  8. Palace of Artaxerxes III
  9. Imperial Treasury
  10. Royal Stables
  11. Chariot House

2 thoughts on “Must See: Ancient Persia’s Persepolis

  • March 22, 2012 at 8:20 pm

    Count me in. This looks fabulous. Wow, wow, wow!

    • March 23, 2012 at 10:40 am

      I think seeing those Lamassus would be amazing. Imagine how tall they must be.


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