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Persepolis: Tomb of Artaxerxes II


The tomb of Artaxerxes II Mnemon. Photo Marco Prins.
The tomb of Artaxerxes II Mnemon
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.
  
History Photos

There are six finished Achaemenid royal tombs. Four of them have been discovered at Naqš-i Rustam and two at Persepolis. The four at Naqš-i Rustam belong to Darius I the Great, Xerxes, Artaxerxes I Makrocheir, and Darius II Nothus. The Persepolis tombs, which appear to be younger, must belong to the next two kings, Artaxerxes II Mnemon (404-358) and Artaxerxes III Ochus (358-338).

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Artaxerxes II on the Mausoleum of Pericles of Limyra. Archaeological Museum of Antalya (Turkey). Photo Jona Lendering.
Artaxerxes II (more; Archaeological Museum of Antalya)

However, we can not be completely certain about the identification. The fact that all tombs look the same (they are all copies of the tomb of Darius the Great) is not a great help either. The two tombs at Persepolis were probably indeed the resting places of the second and third Artaxerxes, but which one is Mnemon's and which one belongs to Ochus, is unclear. The tomb on this picture, usually attributed to Artaxerxes II, may in fact be that of his successor.

As is customary, the relief on the upper part of the tomb (#28 on the Vandenberghe List) shows the king sacrificing to the eternal, sacred fire and the supreme god Ahuramazda. He is standing on a platform that is carried by people that represent the subject nations. It is an exact copy of the upper tier of the tomb of Darius the Great at Naqš-i Rustam. It even contains the inscriptions (A2Pa) that had been left out by the designers of the other tombs.

The upper register of the tomb of Artaxerxes II. Photo Jona Lendering.
The upper register

The lower part contains the entrance to the tomb itself - there is a sarcophagus - and some minor figures, which resemble those on the tomb of Artaxerxes III Ochus.

In front of the tomb is a small, ancient water basin. The Greek historian Arrian of Nicomedia (the author of a book on the campaigns of Alexander the Great), and the Persepolis fortification tablets both mention that Persian Magians made sacrifices for the spirit of the deceased king, and it is possible that water played a part in this ritual.

A satellite photo of the tomb of king Artaxerxes II Mnemon can be seen here.

The tomb of Artaxerxes II. Photo Jona Lendering. The sarcophagus of Artaxerxes II. Photo Jona Lendering. Flowers: detail of the tomb of Artaxerxes II. Photo Jona Lendering. Detail of the Upper Register of the tomb of Artaxerxes II. Photo Jona Lendering.
The tomb of Artaxerxes II Mnemon The sarcophagus of Artaxerxes II Floral motifs. Detail of the Upper Register
The tomb of Artaxerxes II, detail. Photo Jona Lendering. Platform in front of the tomb of Artaxerxes II. Photo Jona Lendering. A water basin near the tomb of Artaxerxes II. Photo Jona Lendering.
The tomb of Artaxerxes II, soldiers on the edge. Platform in front of the tomb of Artaxerxes II The water basin near the tomb of Artaxerxes II Mnemon. Drawing of the tomb by Cornelis de Bruijn. He visited Persepolis in 1704/1705 and returned to Europe with the first reliable scholarly drawings of the ancient city.

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