Livius.Org Anatolia Carthage Egypt Germ. Inf. Greece Judaea Mesopotamia Persia Rome Other

Persepolis: Apadana, East Stairs


General view of the eastern Apadana stairs, Persepolis. Photo Marco Prins.
The eastern stairs
Persepolis (Old Persian Pârsa, modern Takht-e Jamshid): Greek name of one of the capitals of the ancient Achaemenid empire, founded by the great king Darius (522-486 BCE). There were several satellite sites, like Naqš-i Rustam and Takht-e Rostam.
  
History Photos
Ancient-Warfare.com, the online home of Ancient Warfare magazine
General view of the eastern Apadana stairs, Persepolis. Photo Marco Prins. The eastern stairs of the Apadana at Persepolis show a procession of people bringing tribute to the Achaemenid king, Darius the Great (r.522-486). The relief consists of three parts: the northern wall, with representations of Achaemenid dignitaries; the center, with eight soldiers; and the southern wall, showing representatives of all subject nations. The relief miraculously survived the sack of Persepolis by the soldiers of Alexander the Great in 330.
The central scene of the relief. There are eight soldiers, dressed like Medes and Persians. Between them is an empty space, and above them is a traditional representation of a winged sun, flanked by two sphinxes. It is not a very striking image and the simple truth is that it does not belong on this place. It replaces an older relief.
Pharnaces paying honor ('proskynesis') to king Darius the Great. Relief from Persepolis. Archaeological museum of Tehran (Iran).
This the rather damaged original: the king and the crown prince receiving an official, who salutes them (proskynesis). The relief was found in the Treasury. It is not known why it was replaced. The same happened to the central relief of the northern stairs.
The original relief makes it possible to interpret the entire monument. What we see is the king, receiving representations of the various nations in the Achaemenid Empire. Behind him are the crown prince, the aristocrats, and the most important courtiers (northern wall); in front of him is the mayor of the palace, who announces the arrival of the visitors (southern wall).

This picture shows four soldiers of the new relief. Behind him is one of the lion-bull-reliefs, to be discussed below.

One of the soldiers. He belongs to the regiment of "apple bearers" or Immortals. He is ready for battle, carrying a sword, spear, and shield. This is remarkable, because on other reliefs, we see soldiers dressed as civilians.
One of the sphinxes in the upper register. It has the wings of an eagle, the body of a lion, the ears and tail of a bull, and the head of a man. A possible interpretation of this symbol (if an interpretation is needed) is that it represents freedom (the eagle's wings), power (the lion's body), strength (the bull), and intelligence (the human head).

>> part three >>

History Photos
© Jona Lendering for
Livius.Org, 2004
Revision: 14 June 2010
Livius.Org Anatolia Carthage Egypt Germ. Inf. Greece Judaea Mesopotamia Persia Rome Other