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Pasargadae: Audience Hall ("S")


Pasargadae: one of the oldest residences of the Achaemenid kings, founded by Cyrus the Great (r.559-530).
  
History Photos

The excavators of Pasargadae identified Palace S as a reception hall, because it was halfway the gate and the residential Palace P. The white column they reerected, the oldest known stone pillar in Iran, is more than 13 meters high, which gives an indication of the size of the building. The black capitals resembled bulls, griffins, lions, and horses. The first three of these types are also known from Persepolis.

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The hall itself was 32 x 22 meters, which means that it's oblong, just like Palace P and the buildings at Godin Tepe and Tepe Nush-e Jan, but unlike the palaces of Persepolis. The two structures on the second picture are corners of this hall. Like the monument above, there is an inscription in the Old Persian cuneiform script. Because this type of writing was designed in 521 - it was used for the first time in the Behistun Inscription, which also states that this "Aryan script" was designed especially for the purpose - the text in the Palaces P and S must have been added by Darius I the Great. Probably, this king, an usurper, tried to show continuity with the founder of the Persian Empire by stressing that they belonged to the same Achaemenid family. The text of inscription CMa is:


adam \ kuruš \ xšya-
thiya \ haxmanišiya

I, Cyrus the king, an Achaemenid.

The second and third part of this inscription,, are in Elamite and Babylonian.

On both sides of the entrance of Palace S is a remarkable, damaged relief. On both sides, we can see the feet of two figures. They are walking like human beings, but they are not human. One man has the tail of fish, another one has bull's legs, and there's someone with bird's claws. Only the fourth one seems to have normal feet.

The fish man is also known from Babylonia and Assyria, and is probably identical to Ea or Oannes, who is mentioned by Berossus of Babylon. In his Babyloniaca, he tells how after the Creation, Oannes taught humankind all kinds of useful knowledge (text). He is one of the "seven sages" of the ancient Near East (apkallū). Small figurines of the fishman were often used as protective talismans, but the relief in Palace S is unusually large.

Neo-Assyrian plaque of a Fish Man. Allard Pierson Museum, Amsterdam. Photo Jona Lendering.
Bull man Bull man and fishman A small Assyrian fishman (Allard Piersonmuseum, Amsterdam) Birdman and human

The bull man is another protective demon but may also have belonged to a Creation story. He is usually presented as an attendant of the sun god Šamaš. The man with the bird's claws belongs to the scorpion people (girtablull), who are otherwise known to have a human head and body, a scorpion's tale, and a snake-like penis. They are also known to have played a role in apotropaic magic. The human feet can belong to several protective genies.

A satellite photo can be seen here.


History Photos
Jona Lendering for
Livius.Org, 2004
Revision: 14 June 2010
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