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Susa: Apadana


The Apadana (Throne hall) at Susa. Photo Marco Prins.
The Apadana
Susa (Elamitic, Babylonian: Šušim; Greek τὰ Σοῦσα): capital of Elam, favorite residence of the Persian king Darius I the Great.
 
 
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The most famous building at Susa is probably the Apadana, the audience hall of the Palace of Darius. It was accessible from the south through the second and third courts. The hall measured 109x109 meter and had thirty-six large columns to support the roof. Three times twelve columns supported the roof of the porticos to the west, north, and east sides of the building.
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Panorama of the Apadana. Photos Marco Prins; panorama made by Robert Vermaat.

Reconstruction of the Apadana

The Apadana was built together with the palace by Darius I the Great (522-486); proof is the inscription known as A2Sa, which was written for Artaxerxes II Mnemon (404-358), who finished the restoration of the complex after a great fire during the reign of his grandfather, Artaxerxes I Makrocheir (465-424/423):

A2Sa in the garden of the Archaeological museum of Susa. Photo Marco Prins.
A2Sa (in the garden of the Museum of Susa)

Artaxerxes, the great king, the king of kings, the king of all nations, the king of this world, the son of king Darius [II Nothus], Darius the son of king Artaxerxes [I Makrocheir], Artaxerxes the son of king Xerxes, Xerxes the son of king Darius, Darius the son of Hystaspes, the Achaemenid, says: my ancestor Darius [I the Great] made this apadana, but during the reign of my grandfather Artaxerxes, it was burnt down; but, by the grace of Ahuramazda, Anahita, and Mithra, I reconstructed this audience hall. May Ahuramazda, Anahita, and Mithra protect me against all evil, and may they never destroy nor damage what I have built.

The throne of the Achaemenid king in the Apadana of Susa. Photo Marco Prins.
The place of the throne (front)

Among the thirty-six column bases is one thirty-seventh foundation, exactly in the center if one looks from the northern, main entrance. This must have been the place of the throne of the Achaemenid king. It is the location of the famous incident told by Herodotus:

When Darius was king of Persia, he summoned the Greeks who happened to be present at his court, and asked them what they would take to eat the dead bodies of their fathers. They replied that they would not do it for any money in the world. Later, in the presence of the Greeks, and through an interpreter, so that they could understand what was said, he asked some Indians of the tribe called Callatiae, who do in fact eat their parents' dead bodies, what they would take to burn them. They uttered a cry of horror and forbade him to mention such a dreadful thing.
[Herodotus, Histories 3.38;
tr. Aubrey de Selincourt]

Capital of a column, now in the Louvre, Paris (France). Photo Marco Prins.
Capital (Louvre)

The Apadana was badly damaged during the First Gulf War (1980-1988), and immediately east of the main hall is a field full of capitals, column bases, and shafts, all very fragmented. The little museum south of the excavation has a good capital and some bases, but for one of the best-preserved capitals one has to travel to Paris, to the Louvre.

Although the apadana of Susa is larger than its counterpart in Persepolis, a visit to this monument is a bit disappointing; the fact that there are no columns left that can be erected, makes it very difficult to imagine what a splendid building the Apadana must have been in Antiquity. In fact, only the bases of the columns are left in Susa, lying in the grass, almost like the decoration of a garden.

A satellite photo can be seen here.

Remains of a capital. Photo Marco Prins. Ruins of the Apadana. Photo Marco Prins. Northern portico of the Apadana. Photo Marco Prins. Ruins of the Apadana. Photo Marco Prins. General view of the Apadana. Photo Marco Prins.
Remains of a capital Ruins of the Apadana Northern portico Ruins of the Apadana General view of the Apadana

History Photos
Jona Lendering for
Livius.Org, 2004
Revision: 20 July 2009
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