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Persepolis: Apadana, North 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 northern stairs of the Apadana at Persepolis are hard to date. They may belong to the original design by Darius I the Great, but it seems more likely that they were built after Xerxes had ordered the building of the Gate of All Nations. This was the official access to the terrace, and from here, the easiest entrance of the Apadana were its northern stairs.

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Compared to the eastern stairs, the reliefs are of a rather poor quality. The bales of wool that the Yauna carry on the eastern relief, were not understood by the sculptors of its northern counterpart, where they are carrying some kind of globe. The theme, however, is the same. People are bringing tribute to the great king. Many courtiers are shown, like the Persians and Medes on the pictures below.

Pharnaces paying honor ('proskynesis') to king Darius the Great. Relief from Persepolis. Archaeological museum of Tehran (Iran). Photo Marco Prins.
The central part of the decoration of the northern stairs consisted of this famous relief, showing king Darius, and the mayor of the palace, Pharnaces - and, in a more abstract sense, the rulers and their courtiers. At some point in Antiquity, this relief was removed and placed in the Treasury. It is not known why. Today, it is one of the highlights of the Archaeological museum in Tehran.


The original audience scene was replaced by another relief showing eight guardsmen; these are three of them. An inscription (XPb) was included in the center of the relief.

We can also see the motif of the fight between the lion and the bull is well-known. Its deeper significance is not known. It is sometimes said that it stands for the eternal cosmological struggle, but there is some reasonable doubt (more...).

The first more or less reliable rendering of XPb: Cornelis de Bruijn's drawing from 1704.
The lion-bull fight Inscription XPb This drawing was made in 1704 by the Dutch artist Cornelis de Bruijn, the first western visitor who tried to obtain really reliable information for scholars.

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Livius.Org, 2004
Revision: 27 May 2010
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