Persepolis, Tomb of Artaxerxes II


Persepolis (Old Persian Pârsa, modern Takht-e Jamshid): Greek name of one of the capitals of the ancient Achaemenid Empire, founded by king Darius the Great (r.522-486 BCE). There were several satellite sites, Naqš-e Rustam and Takht-e Rustam.

Tomb of Artaxerxes II Mnemon

There are six finished Achaemenid royal tombs. Four of them have been discovered at Naqš-e Rustam and two at Persepolis. The four at Naqš-e Rustam belong to Darius I the Great and (probably) 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 (r.404-358) and Artaxerxes III Ochus (r.358-338).

Artaxerxes II Mnemon

However, we cannot 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.

Upper register

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.

This relief is an exact copy of the upper tier of the tomb of Darius the Great at Naqš-e Rustam. It even contains the inscriptions (A2Pa) that had been left out by the designers of the other tombs. 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.