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Persepolis and the Rock Tombs


It had been a double bonus to have my trip to Persepolis sorted out this way. Strictly speaking I wondered why the Ozzies had put themselves out for me. It meant having 4 in the back of the taxi and it was a tight squeeze they could have really done without, but I wasnt complaining. It also turned out that as an extra point of interest the taxi driver had previously been an Airforce pilot flying F-14 Tomcats which was something to really float my boat. Iran during the Shah years had been the only export country for this incredible aircraft type and I had long hoped against hope that I might trace some evidence of their now depleted remnants. He had refused to fight against the Iraqis in 1980 however and so was imprisoned for 3 years. Surprisingly he said that life had been better before the revolution, very cheap he said as the Shah had subsidised goods and they got quality stuff from the States. Now due to sanctions they had to pay top dollar for inferior Chinese stuff.


Dual stairways with shallow steps allowed easy access for nobles in their robes. The "Gate of All Lands" led to a palace built by Xerxes circa 486BC where there was a bench of black stone. The gate pillars had Guardian Bulls on them, composites with bearded mens heads and eagles wings. There was a Cunieform inscription above in Old Persian, Elamite and Neo-Babylonian. In it Xerxes praises Lord Ahura Mazda and dedicated the city. A complementing gate the other side exits into the "Army Street", running to the "Unfinished Gate". It was lined with guards during ceremonies. Then there were the renowned Eagle-Griffon (Homa) capitols. They are the symbol of Iran Air but were not thought to have been in favour here, and were rejected. There are links with Turkey though perversely. Then the Hundred Column Hall with columns perhaps 2 metres in diameter. The use of scaffolding is indicated here and the sculpture was worked from the top down. 34,000 clay tablets in Elamite were found here, recording activities of officials. The columns were over 14 metres high covering an area of 4,800 square metres, the largest chamber in Persepolis, an audience hall. The gates depict audience scenes with lance bearers. Then the Central Hall of the Apadana Palace with many massive columns still standing, built in segments but the joins in some of them were barely discernible. Next the "Tachar", a private residence of King Darius. The walls were so polished it was also known as the Mirror Hall with very ornamented stairways. Inscriptions here make it a museum of caligraphy with Cuneiform, Middle Persian, Kufic and Later Persian writings. Next the 'Hadish" Palace, built by Xerxes and destroyed by an Alexandrian fire, the internal drainage is visible. The "Harem of Xerxes" is restored and now houses the museum though at the behest of the Ozzies we did not go in. The "Tripylon" Council Hall, centrally located with as suggested 3 doorways, considered used for calendar and astronomical issues. The Treasury - Fortress like and very little remaining of it except the foundations, there was only one entrance. Reputed to have been one of the richest in the world, Eck the Great needed 3,000 camels and mules to plunder it. Clay tablets were still found left here though. We then walked up to one of the 2 rock hewn tombs overlooking the site.


This is a nearby site which has another 4 similar tombs carved into a golden cliff face to fantastic effect. By them stands a square tower known as the Kabah of Zoroaster which might suggest it to be a fire temple. This is not thought to be the case however, it may simply have been another free standing tomb or a treasury. Certainly it was not designed for every day use as the stairs are too large and unwieldy to readily negiotiate and the doorway was cut to be airtight upon closure. Shapur I had a trilingual genealolgy inscribed upon it, which also detailed the extent of his empire, his 3 victories over the Romans, and details of family and court members. Its exterior was also used as a sun calendar.

A short hop away was another tomb complex cut into the rockface but this time with plainer, squarish holes without decoration used by commoners. Each hole was dedicated to an extended family and you could see how some had been rounded out inside in order to hold funerary urns. In fact, these would have been communal ossaries and might have held several generations after the vultures had done their work.


Across the road from the kings tombs of Nashq-e Rostam were some more carved rock reliefs, hidden from view in a small gully just off the road.

It had then been my understanding that we were to go to the final UNESCO site at Pasergadae, another ruined city of the same dynasties, but in the end nothing was said. Maybe the taxi guy was chancing his arm but considering the time it had taken us to get round all that had come before, it was too far and too late in the day to justify the further 85K trek and so I settled for what had been a really full on spectacle all the same. With the eternal pressure to type the diary it was all I could manage after a really tiring but satisfying day.

Posted by andyhay 00:00 Archived in Iran

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