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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.
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*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.

This is the Babylonian embassy. In his Histories, the Greek researcher Herodotus of Halicarnassus tells us that Babylonia was very wealthy and paid an immense tribute - enough to pay a third of the Persian army.
The Babylonians offer shallow bowls and a garment with a netted and tasseled border. The last man leads a humped bull. These are small presents, which seems to contradict the literary sources. On the other hand, the relief is a piece of art and not an account book.
Two Babylonians. Eastern stairs of the apadana at Persepolis. Photo Marco Prins. A detail. These two Babylonians have conical caps with odd tassels. Their dress resembles a Roman toga: a long, single piece of cloth wrapped around the body.

The Lydian embassy is at the beginning of the lower register, suggesting the importance of their country. Their king Croesus, proverbially rich, had been defeated by Cyrus the Great after 547. From now on, the gold from the Pactolus river near Sardes was Persian.
The Lydian presents are two metal phials, two bowls, two beautifully decorated metal rings with griffins' heads, and a chariot, drawn by two stallions. The chariot seems to be a bit too small to be used in warfare, but this may, again, be the artist's liberty.
The Lydians are dressed in long garments with horizontal stripes. They also have remarkable, conical hats that are not otherwise known. Their shoes are remarbably pointed.
A Lydian. Relief from the eastern apadana stairs, Persepolis. Photo Marco Prins. The Lydian with the two phials. They are of a type that is also known from excavations and may contain gold dust from the Pactolus. (The metal rings are also archaeologically known.)

The Arians are dressed in short cloaks and trousers. Their presents are identical to those of the Parthians (above): two bowls and a Bactrian (i.e. two-humped) camel. Again, the last member of the delegation wears a feline's skin, although he is very damaged.
An Arian. Eastern stairs of the apadana at Persepolis. Photo Marco Prins. An Arian's turban protects him against dust storms of the Kara Kum desert.

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

>> part six >>

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Livius.Org, 2004
Revision: 14 June 2010
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