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Susa: Palace of Darius I


The King's Hall. Photo Marco Prins.
The King's Hall. One of the foundation tablets was found in the square hole in the wall, front left.
Susa (Elamitic, Babylonian: Šušim; Greek τὰ Σοῦσα): capital of Elam, favorite residence of the Persian king Darius I the Great.
 
 
History Photos
 
The Achaemenid palace in Susa was built during the reign of Darius I the Great. It is built on a mighty terrace (cf. the terrace at Persepolis) and the design is closer to the palaces of Babylonia and Syria, with their numerous rooms, than to the Iranian residences (e.g., Pasargadae and the TaÁara in Persepolis). In a famous inscription (known as DSf), discovered in the room that is known as the King's Hall, he describes how all nations of his empire contributed to the building.
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Map of the Achaemenid palace at Susa. Design Jona Lendering.
Achaemenid palace

The cedar timber, this was brought from a mountain named Lebanon. The Assyrian people brought it to Babylon; from Babylon the Carians and the Yaun‚ [=Greeks] brought it to Susa. The yak‚-timber was brought from Gandara and from Carmania.
      The gold was brought from Lydia and from Bactria, which here was wrought. The precious stone lapis lazuli and carnelian which was wrought here, this was brought from Sogdia. The precious stone turquoise, this was brought from Chorasmia, which was wrought here.
      The silver and the ebony were brought from Egypt. The ornamentation with which the wall was adorned, that from Yaun‚ was brought. The ivory which was wrought here, was brought from Kush and from India and from Arachosia.
      The stone columns which were here wrought, a village named Abiradu, in Elam - from there were brought. The stone-cutters who wrought the stone, those were Yaun‚ and Lydians.
     The goldsmiths who wrought the gold, those were Medes and Egyptians. The men who wrought the wood, those were Lydians and Egyptians. The men who wrought the baked brick, those were Babylonians. The men who adorned the wall, those were Medes and Egyptians.

The Third Court. Photo Marco Prins.
The Third Court: the round holes to the left may have been used for flagpoles

The palace and its apadana were destroyed by fire during the reign of Artaxerxes I Makrocheir (465-424/423). Inscription D2Sb proves that he almost finished restoring the palace; the apadana took longer and was, according to A2Sa, not finished until the reign of his grandson Artaxerxes II Mnemon (404-358).

The palace was usually entered from the east, where the visitors were welcomed at the Great Gate. Moving to the west, guests would pass along three or four courts. The Third Court was the largest: was larger than two first courts. It may have been used for military exercises. The Second Court is now easy to recognize because it looks much deeper than the other cours: here, the archaeologists have tried to reach lower, pre-Achaemenid stratums. They confirmed the words from the inscription of Darius the Great, DSf:

The Second Court. Photo Marco Prins.
The Second Court; in the background the castle built by the French archaeologists

Downward the earth was dug, until I reached rock in the earth. When the excavation had been made, then rubble was packed down, some 40 cubits in depth, another part 20 cubits in depth. On that rubble the palace was constructed.

The First Court is probably identical to the Inner Court mentioned in the Biblical book of Esther. It gives access to King's Hall, where the king received his guests; this is also the room where the inscription already quoted was discovered. 

Treasury. Photo Marco Prins.
Treasury

Adjacent to the King's Hall were two smaller rooms without entrance. The only access must have been from above, which suggests that these rooms were treasuries. When Alexander the Great captured Susa in December 330 BCE, he found some 40,000 talents of precious metal.

The most famous part of the palace was the Apadana, directly north of the Second and Third Courts.

A satellite photo can be seen here.

Western Gate. Photo Marco Prins. Foundations. Photo Marco Prins. First Court. Photo Marco Prins.
Western gate Foundations First court

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