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Persepolis: Tomb of Artaxerxes III


The tomb of Artaxerxes III, seen from the Council hall. Photo Marco Prins.
The tomb of Artaxerxes III, seen from the Council hall.
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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Fourth-century relief from Egypt, showing an Achaemenid king, probably identical to Artaxerxes III Ochus. Allard Pierson Museum, Amsterdam (Holland). Photo Jona Lendering.
Fourth-century relief from Egypt, showing an Achaemenid king, probably Artaxerxes III (Allard Piersonmuseum, Amsterdam)

The tomb on this webpage (map #10) is usually attributed to Artaxerxes III, but may in fact be that of king Artaxerxes II Mnemon. If the sarcophagus indeed belonged to the third Artaxerxes, the burial room may also have served as last resting place of Artaxerxes IV Arses and Darius III Codomannus, because their never received a proper burial.

As is customary, the relief on the upper part of the tomb (#27 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 a copy of the upper tier of the tomb of Darius the Great at Naqš-i Rustam, but it is less accurate than the copy that graces the tomb of Artaxerxes II Mnemon, in which the inscription has also been copied.

Bull capital in the tomb of Artaxerxes III Ochus. Photo Jona Lendering.
Bull capital

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 II Mnemon.

The capitals of the pilasters of this tomb are especially well-preserved, They show bulls carrying the roof. The same design was applied in the palaces and audience halls of Persepolis. It is interesting to note that the motif of "carrying" is repeated on the upper level, where people carry the platform with the king.

A satellite photo of the tomb of king Artaxerxes III Ochus can be seen here.

Upper register of the tomb of Artaxerxes III Ochus. Photo Jona Lendering. Sarcophagus in the tomb of Artaxerxes III Ochus. Photo Jona Lendering. Terrace and tomb of Artaxerxes III Ochus. Photo Jona Lendering.
Upper register Sarcophagus Terrace and tomb
Edge of the tomb of Artaxerxes III Ochus. Photo Jona Lendering. Lions above the door of the tomb of Artaxerxes III Ochus. Photo Jona Lendering. Edge of the tomb of Artaxerxes III Ochus. Photo Jona Lendering.
Edge of the tomb Lions above the door Edge of the tomb

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