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Pasargadae: Gate "R"


Gate R. Photo Marco Prins.
The Gate from the southeast
Pasargadae: one of the oldest residences of the Achaemenid kings, founded by Cyrus the Great (r.559-530).
  
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In our sense of the word, there was no palace at Pasargadae. King Cyrus the Great (r.559-530) ordered the construction of several buildings in a park: an entrance hall ("Gate R"), an Audience Hall ("Palace S"), two pavilions (A and B), and a Residential Palace ("Palace P"). The ancient Iranian word is *paradaiza, "something surrounded by a wall", and our word "paradise" is derived from this original.

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The cherub of Pasargadae. Photo Marco Prins.
The cherub of Pasargadae

The entrance hall, called Gate R by the excavators, was a large building. It measures about 28½ x 25½ meters, so it must have made a considerable impact upon its visitors - often Iranian nomads, used to living in tents. In fact, this building -like all buildings in Pasargadae- can be seen as a very big tent made of stone. The entrance was guarded by apotropaic (evil-averting) statues of bulls or lamassu's, and it must have looked like the Gate of All Nations in Persepolis. Unfortunately, there are no traces visible.

The building also contained a relief, showing a bearded man with four wings (a cherub, in other words), dressed in an Elamite garment, wearing an Egyptian crown. He is probably another apotropaic figure. One is reminded of the cherubs who, according to the Biblical book of Genesis (3.24) guarded the Garden of Eden.

Detail of the print of an Assyrian seal, showing a four-winged protective deity. Allard Pierson Museum, Amsterdam (Holland). Photo Jona Lendering.
An Assyrian cherub (Allard Piersonmuseum, Amsterdam)

Because there are many parallels for this type of apotropaic genius, the identification of this relief is not really problematic, but some confusion was caused by an inscription, known as CMc, that was once above the man's head. It was still visible in 1861 (when John Ussher made a drawing), but had disappeared fifteen years later, when K.F. Stulze visited the place. The text of the inscription was as follows:
Kûruš \ xšâyathiya \ vazraka \ Kabûjiya
hyâ \ xšâyathiyahyâ \ puça \ Haxâmanišiya \
thâtiy \ yathâ [...]
[... ...] akutâ [... ]

Cyrus the great king,
son of Cambyses the king, an Achaemenid
says: When [...] made [...]


Gate R. Photo Marco Prins.
The Gate from the northwest

This inscription, written in the Persian ("Aryan") cuneiform script that was designed for king Darius I the Great (r.522-486), led to theory that the man on the relief represented king Cyrus himself. A drawing that was inspired by the apotropaic relief, still illustrates many websites on the great conqueror.

You can see the gate on this satellite photo.



History Photos
© Jona Lendering for
Livius.Org, 2004
Revision: 24 May 2010
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