Persian Land

Archaeological evidence shows that the earliest remains of Persepolis date back to 515 BC. André Godard, the

French archaeologist who excavated Persepolis in the early 1930s, believed that it was Cyrus the Great who

chose the site of Persepolis, but that it was Darius I who built the terrace and the palaces.

Since, to judge from the inscriptions, the buildings of Persepolis commenced with Darius I, it was probably

under this king, with whom the scepter passed to a new branch of the royal house, that Persepolis became the

capital of Iran proper. As the residence of the rulers of the empire, however, a remote place in a difficult alpine

region was far from convenient. The country’s true capitals were Susa, Babylon and Ecbatana. This accounts

for the fact that the Greeks were not acquainted with the city until Alexander the Great took and plundered it

Darius I ordered the construction of the Apadana and the

Council Hall (Tripylon or the “Triple Gate”), as well as the

main imperial Treasury and its surroundings. These were

completed during the reign of his son, Xerxes I. Further

construction of the buildings on the terrace continued until

the downfall of the Achaemenid Empire

Around 519 BC, construction of a broad stairway was begun.
The stairway was initially planned to be the main entrance to
the terrace 20 metres (66 feet) above the ground. The dual
stairway, known as the Persepolitan Stairway, was built
symmetrically on the western side of the Great Wall. The 111
steps measured 6.9 metres (23 feet) wide, with treads of 31
centimetres (12 inches) and rises of 10 centimetres (3.9
inches). Originally, the steps were believed to have been constructed to allow for nobles and royalty to ascend
by horseback. New theories, however, suggest that the shallow risers allowed visiting dignitaries to maintain a
regal appearance while ascending. The top of the stairways led to a small yard in the north-eastern side of the
terrace, opposite the Gate of All Nations

Grey limestone was the main building material used at

Persepolis. After natural rock had been leveled and the

depressions filled in, the terrace was prepared. Major tunnels

for sewage were dug underground through the rock. A large

elevated water storage tank was carved at the eastern foot of

the mountain. Professor Olmstead suggested the cistern was

constructed at the same time that construction of the towers


The uneven plan of the terrace, including the foundation,

acted like a castle, whose angled walls enabled its defenders

to target any section of the external front. Diodorus Siculus writes that Persepolis had three walls with

ramparts, which all had towers to provide a protected space for the defense personnel. The first wall was 7

metres (23 feet) tall, the second, 14 metres (46 feet) and the third wall, which covered all four sides, was 27

metres (89 feet) in height, though no presence of the wall exists in modern times..

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