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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 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.
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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.

These people are Yaunâ or, as we would call them, Ionian Greeks. They are not represented as we -accustomed to Greek art- would have expected them, which is surprising because these reliefs are believed to have been made by Greek sculptors. Yet, these people wear no Greek dresses: instead they are dressed like Lydians (above). They also have a garment with striped sleeves and low shoes. Unlike their eastern neighbors, the Greeks have no coned hats.
The presents that the inhabitants of the Greek towns bring to the great king are two ribbed metal cups, two pairs of shallow metal bowls, two sets of folded fabrics (perhaps blankets), and two pairs of convex cones that can not be identified with any certainty. On the corresponding relief at the northern stairs of the Apadana, they are replaced by balls.
A Greek. Eastern stairs of the apadana at Persepolis. Photo Marco Prins. However, the cones or balls are likely to have been hanks of threads, probably wool, because the sculptor uses the same gulflike pattern on the striped sleeve and the cones. This suggests that the cones are textiles too.

The Bactrians are easily recognizable because they are accompanied by a Bactrian (or double-humped) camel. They are dressed like Median cavalry men, but their trousers are different.
A camel on the eastern stairs of the Apadana at Persepolis. Photo Marco Prins. The camel. Notice the little bell. The other presents for the great king are two deep and two shallow bowls.
A Bactrian. Eastern stairs of the apadana at Persepolis. Photo Marco Prins. This Bactrian has a wreath in his hair, which is tied in a knot. He also has earrings, which is unusual. The only people with these jewelry are Bactrians, Arachosians (below) and very important court officials like the mayor of the palace. This may or may not indicate that the Bactrians had a special position in the Achaemenid empire, as the apanage of the crown prince (mathišta).

These people are probably Gandarans, or, alternatively, Gandarans and Sattagydians - the problem is that the location of Sattagydia ("land of hundred cows") is unclear. However, they certainly lived in the far east, near the Gandarans, who lived in the valley of the river Cophen.
Their tribute is a buffalo, five lances and a shield. These weapons are probably just ornamental, because the real power of the armies of the Punjab was the archery. The people are dressed in short, armless tunics and capes.

The Arachosians (and Drangians?) lived in the valleys of the rivers Helmand and Tarnak in southern Afghanistan, which means that they were separated from the Bactrians (above) by the Hindu Kush mountains - high but not a real barrier. They may have been ethnically identical, which may or may not explain their similar trousers and earrings.
An Arachosian. Eastern stairs of the apadana at Persepolis. Photo Marco Prins. Like the Bactrians, the Arachosians have no turban but a wreath. Notice the tassel. Their presents are identical to those of the Bactrians: a camel, two deep and two shallow bowls.

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

>> part eight >>

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Revision: 14 June 2010
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