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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.
  
History Photos
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Thracians
Sagartians
Bactrians
Egyptians*
Arians
Parthians
Elamites
Medes
Carians
Arabs
Sogdians
Gandarans
Sacae
Syrians
Babylonians
Armenians
Nubians
Libyans
LION/BULL
Indians
Arachosians
Greeks
Cappadocians
Lydians
*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 southernmost apart of the stairs contains five smaller reliefs, dedicated to people on the western periphery of the Achaemenid empire. These are Thracians, from what is now Bulgaria and north-eastern Greece. One of Darius' generals subdued them in ca. 514.
Together with the Macedonians, the Thracians were the only European nations that belonged to the Persian empire. Their tribute consists of two pairs of spears, two round (wicker?) shields, and a stallion.
A Thracian. Eastern stairs of the apadana at Persepolis. Photo Marco Prins. This Thracian's cap, made of felt, is also known from Greek representations. They are dressed in chitons, a garment well-known from Greece.
The Arabs were never completely subdued by the Persians, but those living near Gaza accepted to pay tribute to king Cambyses. They bring a garment with tassels and a dromedary. Unfortunately, the relief is damaged.
An Arab. Relief on the eastern stairs of the apadana, Persepolis. Photo Marco Prins. The Arabs have no caps. They have a light garment, and sandals.
The Carians lived in the southwest of modern Turkey, and were believed to have invented the round shield (hoplon), which they offer the king, together with a spear and a bull.
A Carian. Eastern stairs of the apadana at Persepolis. Photo Marco Prins. Although the Carians were known to the Persians as "cocks" because of the crests on their helmets, this man has a wreath in his head. They are otherwise dressed like Lydians (above).
Libyans, shown on the relief of the eastern stairs of the Apadana at Persepolis. Photo Marco Prins. The Libyans bring an antelope and a chariot. This relief is too damaged to say more about their dress. They may be Nasamones or belong to another tribe of the Libyan desert.
A Libyan. Eastern stairs of the apadana at Persepolis. Photo Marco Prins. Again, the Libyan has no cap or turban. 
Beautifully carved Nubians with an elephant's tusk. To the left, an okapi. A third man brings the king a small bowl with a lid.
A Nubian. Eastern stairs of the apadana at Persepolis. Photo Marco Prins. Two elements are striking. In the first place, the nations of the west (Yaunâ, Carians, Arabs, Libyans, and Nubians) are all shown without caps or turbans. Perhaps, this struck the Persians as odd. In the second place, the conquered nations are shown as bringers of tribute, walking hand in hand with their masters. This is quite different from the Egyptian, Assyrian, and Roman representations of empire, which show the subjects as POWs.

You can find pictures of the faces of all the represented people here.
History Photos
© Jona Lendering for
Livius.Org, 2004
Revision: 14 June 2010
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