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Persepolis: Gate of All Nations


A lamassu; eastern entrance of the Gate of All Nations. Photo Marco Prins.
A lamassu; eastern entrance of the Gate of All Nations
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 construction of the Stairs of All Nations and the Gate of All Nations was ordered by the Achaemenid king Xerxes (486-465), the successor of the founder of Persepolis, Darius I the Great. Originally, the main access was in the south; now, one had to ascend to the terrace from the west.

Like Gate R in Pasargadae, the entrance of the Gate of All Nations was protected by bulls (front) and these mythological creatures, called lamassu's, bulls with the head of a bearded man. These bull-men originated in Babylonia and Assyria, but the Persians adopted them. The general idea behind them is that they warded off evil.

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The Gate of all Nations, eastern entrance. Photo Marco Prins.
Gate of all Nations, eastern entrance

The entire monument was a giant construction with two large doors in the west and east and a hall between them. The columns of the central halls were 16½ meters high. The capitals had the form of a double bull. A third entrance was to the south. From here, one could walk to the Apadana.

In the mid-fourth century, the main exit was no longer to the Apadana but to the Hall of hundred columns; when the palaces were sacked by Alexander the Great, Persian artisans were building the Army road that was to connect these two buildings.

Gate of All Nations, inscription XPa. Photo Marco Prins.
Inscription XPa

The ancient inscription in the gate, which is known as XPa. To the left and right of the Old Persian text are Babylonian and Elamite translations.
A great god is Ahuramazda, who created this earth, who created heaven, who created man, who created happiness for man, who made Xerxes king, one king of many kings, commander of many commanders.
I am Xerxes, the great king, the king of kings, the king of all countries and many men, the king in this great earth far and wide, the the son of Darius, an Achaemenid.
King Xerxes says: by the favor of Ahuramazda this Gate of All Nations I built. Much else that is beautiful was built in this Persepolis (Pārsā), which I built and my father built. Whatever has been built and seems beautiful - all that we built by the favor of Ahuramazda.
King Xerxes says: may Ahuramazda preserve me, my kingdom, what has been built by me, and what has been built by my father. That, indeed, may Ahuramazda preserve.

Maurits van Wagenvoort's fake signature on the Gate of All Nations. Photo Jona Lendering.
`Cornelis de Bruijn's signature on the Gate of All Nations. Photo Jona Lendering.
Signature of Malcolm Meade on the Gate of All Nations. Photo Marco Prins.
Maurits van Wagenvoort's fake signature Cornelis de Bruijn's signature Signature of Malcolm Meade
Signature of Henry Stanley on the Gate of All Nations. Photo Marco Prins. Signature of Arthur de Gobineau on the Gate of All Nations. Photo Marco Prins. Signatures on the Gate of All Nations. Photo Marco Prins.
Signature of Henry Stanley Signature of Arthur de Gobineau Various signatures

The first westerner to visit Persepolis and make scientific drawings was Cornelis de Bruijn in the winter of 1704. He inscribed his name in the Gate. Later travelers did the same, but not all of them had the energy to work a day or two. At the beginning of the twentieth century, another Dutchman, Maurits Wagenvoort, left a careless graffito and made a photo to prove that he had traveled in the footsteps of De Bruijn. His name is hardly recognizable, so he "improved" the photo when he published his account.

Many others left their signatures on the walls of the gate, like the American journalist Henry M. Stanley, the British consul Malcolm Meade, and the notorious French racist Arthur de Gobineau.

A satellite photo of the Gate of All Nations can be seen here.

The Gate of All Nations, western entrance. Photo Marco Prins. The Gate of All Nations. Photo Jona Lendering. Columns of the Gate of All Nations. Photo Jona Lendering.
The Gate of All Nations, western entrance The Gate of All Nations, from the Apadana Columns of the Gate of All Nations
A capital on the lintel. Photo Jona Lendering. Part of the lintel. Photo Jona Lendering. The lintel. Photo Jona Lendering.
A capital on the lintel Part of the lintel The lintel

History Photos
© Jona Lendering for
Livius.Org, 2004
Revision: 24 May 2010
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