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Persepolis: Apadana, East Stairs

General view of the eastern Apadana stairs, Persepolis. Photo Marco Prins.
The eastern stairs
Persepolis (Old Persian Pārsa, 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, the online home of Ancient Warfare magazine




*The Egyptians are badly damaged.
Map of the Persian empire. Design Jona Lendering. 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 (picture above). The relief miraculously survived the sack of Persepolis by the soldiers of Alexander the Great in 330 BCE.

The following pictures show the subject nations in the Achaemenid empire, as they are depicted on the southern wall of the eastern stairs of the Apadana at Persepolis. The photos look a bit pale, but you must imagine that everything was once painted in bright colors. These people are Medes, which were related to the Persians. They are the first in the procession. They wear a horseman's dress and cloaks.
Their turbans resemble the Turkish baslik; only the first Mede wears the typical round cap. Their presents are a pitcher, bowls, a sword (akinakes), rings, a cloak, a coat, and trousers.

The Elamites also lived in the center of the empire. Their capital Susa was the favorite residence of king Darius the Great.
This man offers a lion's cub to the great king. He is dressed in a long Elamite cloak that resembles a modern Arabic kaftan. Note that the lioness that walks in front of the man, looks back to its cubs.
An Elamite. Eastern stairs of the apadana at Persepolis. Photo Marco Prins. A detail of the former photo. This man has no turban; instead, he has a wreath in his curly hair. The Greeks called this a diadem, and accepted it as a sign of royalty.
The Elamites offer the great king two bows, decorated with duck's heads, two daggers, a lioness, and two cubs. The lion was another symbol of royalty - and in fact, it still is the "king of the animals". The animal was probably sent to the king's hunting park, the paridaitha (enclosure) or "paradise".

Like their neighbors, the Medes, the Armenians wear horseman's dresses and cloaks. Their tribute consists of a/o a bridled stallion, which more or less confirms the statement by the Greek geographer Strabo of Amasia that the Armenians paid 20,000 colts.
An Armenian. Eastern stairs of the apadana at Persepolis. Photo Marco Prins. This Armenian carries the other present for the king: a beautiful metal vessel with griffin handles. These objects have been found. The Armenian's turban resembles the Median headgear, although he has the cheek parts tied in his neck.

The Parthians are also dressed  in a Median horseman's dress and cloaks, but they have a completely different turban, which is better suited to their country, close to the desert. It protects the face. The leader of the Parthian delegation almost hides himself in his cloak.
A Parthian. Eastern stairs of the apadana at Persepolis. Photo Marco Prins. The presents they are offer are two bowls and a Bactrian (i.e. two-humped) camel. The last member of the delegation wears the skin of a feline. It may be a present, but is also possible that it is a rather unusual dress, which may or may not have some sort of ritual significance. The Arians (below) bring identical presents.

You can find pictures of the faces of all the represented people here.

>> part five >>

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Revision: 14 June 2010
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