Susa, Apadana

Susa (Elamitic, BabylonianŠušim; Greek τὰ Σοῦσα): capital of Elam, favorite residence of the Persian king Darius I the Great.

The Apadana from the south

The most famous building in Susa is without any doubt its "Apadana", the audience hall of the Palace of Darius. It was accessible from the south through the second and third courts of this palace. The audience hall measured 109x109 meters and had thirty-six large columns that supported the roof. Three times twelve columns supported the roofs of the porticos to the west, north, and east sides of the building.

The Apadana from the southwest

The Apadana - the word is only known from Susa - was built together with the palace by Darius I the Great (r.522-486). This can be deduced from the inscription known as A2Sa, which was written for Artaxerxes II Mnemon (r.404-358), who finished the restoration of the complex after a great fire during the reign of his grandfather, Artaxerxes I Makrocheir (r.465-424/423):


Artaxerxes, the great king, the king of kings, the king of all nations, the king of this world, the son of king Darius [II Nothus], Darius the son of king Artaxerxes [I Makrocheir], Artaxerxes the son of king Xerxes, Xerxes the son of king Darius, Darius the son of Hystaspes, the Achaemenid, says: my ancestor Darius [I the Great] made this apadana, but during the reign of my grandfather Artaxerxes, it was burnt down; but, by the grace of Ahuramazda, Anahita, and Mithra, I reconstructed this audience hall. May Ahuramazda, Anahita, and Mithra protect me against all evil, and may they never destroy nor damage what I have built.

Apadana, site of the throne

Among the thirty-six column bases in the audience hall is a thirty-seventh foundation, exactly in the center if one enters from the northern, main entrance. This must have been the place of the throne of the Achaemenid king. It is the location of the famous incident told by the Greek researcher Herodotus of Halicarnassus:

When Darius was king of Persia, he summoned the Greeks who happened to be present at his court, and asked them what they would take to eat the dead bodies of their fathers. They replied that they would not do it for any money in the world. Later, in the presence of the Greeks, and through an interpreter, so that they could understand what was said, he asked some Indians of the tribe called Callatiae, who do in fact eat their parents' dead bodies, what they would take to burn them. They uttered a cry of horror and forbade him to mention such a dreadful thing.note

Apadana, capital

The Apadana was badly damaged during the war between Iran and Iraq (1980-1988). As a consequence, immediately east of the main hall is a field full of capitals, column bases, and shafts, all very fragmented. The little museum south of the excavation has one good capital and some bases, but for one of the best-preserved capitals one has to travel to Paris, to the Louvre.

Although the apadana of Susa is larger than its counterpart in Persepolis, a visit to this monument is a bit disappointing. The fact that there are no columns left that can be erected, makes it very difficult to imagine what a splendid building the Apadana must have been in Antiquity. In fact, only the bases of the columns are left in Susa, lying in the grass, almost like the decoration of a garden.