Pasargad – Persepolis

Pasargadae (from Ancient Greek: Πασαργάδαι; in Modern Persian: پاسارگاد Pāsārgād), the capital of Cyrus the Great (559–530 BC) and also his last resting place, was a city in ancient Persia (modern-day Iran), located in the city of Shiraz (in Pasargad County) and is today an archaeological site and one of Iran’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

pasargad

pasargad

Pasargadae was one of the oldest residences of the Achaemenid kings, founded by Cyrus the Great (r.559-530). It resembled a park of 2×3 km in which several monumental buildings were to be seen. According to the Roman geographer Strabo of Amasia, the palace of Pasargadae was built on the site where king Cyrus (r.559-530) defeated the leader of the Medes, Astyages, in 550 BCE (Strabo, Geography, 15.3.8). The battle is a fact, also mentioned in the Nabonidus Chronicle, and there is no evidence to contradict that it took place on the Murghab plain, but the context contains errors, so we should not place too much confidence on it. However, that Cyrus was indeed the builder of this town, can be corroborated from the fact that the building inscriptions in the palace, known as CMa, mention Cyrus, the great king, an Achaemenid. If he did not build the palace on this site because of a military victory, there may have been other reasons: the place is beautifully situated in the center of a fertile plain, on all sides surrounded by mountains. It is essentially a valley that was filled by sediments from the river Pulvar. If we ignore the prehistoric site at Tall-e Nokhodi and similar sites, the oldest monument of Pasargadae is the citadel, which is known as Tall-i Takht or “throne hill”. Situated on one of the few hills in the valley, it overlooks the palace complex itself. The citadel may or may not predate the reign of Cyrus, and reminds one of the fortified terrace complex at Masjid-e Solaiman, although masonry is more refined. Cyrus’ palace, situated to the southwest of the Tall-i Takht, consists of two units: the residential Palace P (built from cold white natural stone) and a columned audience hall, Palace S. The audience hall was approached from the south-east; the visitor first had to pass a gate and then had to cross a bridge over a branch of the river Pulvar. It is best to imagine Pasargadae as a group of garden pavilions in a park: essentially a camp of nomads, but made out of natural stone. Stylistically, the Audience Hall, the Residential Palace, the garden pavilions A and B, and the Gate belonged to the architectural tradition of the Iranian nomads, who lived in large tents. However, Cyrus used elements from other cultures as well: sculptures from the Assyrian palaces were used as models, work may have been done by stonemasons from Greek Ionia, and a hybrid demon guarded the gate. Perhaps the population of the city had a similar, mixed character. The small tomb of king Cyrus is situated a little to the southwest. It was venerated by later rulers, a.o. the Macedonian king Alexander the Great, who ordered restorations in January 324 BCE. King Darius I the Great (522-486) built a new capital, Persepolis, forty-three kilometers downstream along the river Pulvar. However, Pasargadae remained an important place, probably as the religious capital of the Achaemenid empire where the inauguration of the kings took place. You can read a description over here. Perhaps, the sanctuary in the northwest played a role in the ceremonies. The site remained occupied after the end of the Achaemenid Empire. There’s some evidence for a great fire on the citadel in c.280, and the presence of coin hoards in the stratum of destruction suggests that the fire was caused by enemies. There is no evidence for war in Persis at that moment, but there is a very tantalizing reference to Bactrian troops (?) at the End of Seleucus Chronicle (rev.8). Reportedly, the remains of the tomb of king Cambyses were identified in 2006.

History

Cyrus the Great began building his capital in 546 BCE or later; it was unfinished when he died in battle, in 530 or 529 BCE. The remains of the tomb of Cyrus’ son and successor, Cambyses II, has been found in Pasargadae, near the fortress of Toll-e Takht, and identified in 2006.
Pasargadae remained the Persian capital until Cambyses II moved it to Susa; later, Darius founded another in Persepolis. The archaeological site covers 1.6 square kilometres and includes a structure commonly believed to be the mausoleum of Cyrus, the fortress of Toll-e Takht sitting on top of a nearby hill, and the remains of two royal palaces and gardens. Pasargadae Persian Garden provide the earliest known example of the Persian chahar bagh, or fourfold garden design (see Persian Gardens).

pasargad

pasargad

Recent research on Pasargadae’s structural engineering has shown that Achaemenid engineers built the city to withstand a severe earthquake, what would today be classified as 7.0 on the Richter magnitude scale.

Tomb of Cyrus

Cyrus

Cyrus

The Tomb of Cyrus is the burial place of the ancient Cyrus the Great of Persia. The tomb is located in modern day Iran, at the Pasargadae World Heritage Site. Cyrus the Great (c. 590 BC; August 529 BC or 530 BC), or Cyrus II of Persia was a Persian Shahenshah (or Emperor), who founded of the Persian Empire under the Achaemenid dynasty. This empire thence expanded under his rule, as Cyrus eventually conquered the majority of Southwest Asia as well as much of Central Asia, from Egypt and the Hellespont to the Indus River in the east, to create the most expansive nation the world had seen up until that era.

Pasargadae Palace

pasargad

pasargad

Cyrus the great’s private palace at Pasargadae. This palace is one of the two first builded in the emerging capital of the founder of the new persian empire. Before Pasargadae, the persian who were nomadic shepperds, had no real architectural traditions of stone and columned palaces. Pasargade changed that, and shows the first attempts to set the persian achaemenian architectural style: Mesopotamian palatial formula associating 2 palaces, one for the audience and one private, first hypostyle halls with ionian greeks columns. The plan of the palaces were about simple and not yet symetrical, but within 2 generations of kings, the persian magnifiscence will raise summits of perfection and beauty at Persepolis and Susa.

Pasargadae’s palaces were surounded by magnificent gardens, wich were known for having been created by Cyrus himself. The beauty of these gardens became legendary as athenian ancient scholar Xenophon himself reported in his Anabasis and his Cyropaedia. This statement was also repeated by Plato. Their name “Paeredysios” have even a legacy in our actual vocabulary as it evolved and gave the word “Paradise”, showing us wich kind of heaven imaging was attached to these gardens.

The Persian Empire

The Achaemenid Empire (/əˈkiːmənɪd/; Old Persian: Pārsa;New Persian: شاهنشاهی هخامنشی c. 550–330 BC), or First Persian Empire, was an empire in Western and Central Asia, founded in the 6th century BC by Cyrus the Great. The dynasty draws its name from king Achaemenes, who ruled Persis between 705 BC and 675 BC. The empire expanded to eventually rule over significant portions of the ancient world, which at around 500 BC stretched from the Indus Valley in the east to Thrace and Macedon on the northeastern border of Greece. The Achaemenid Empire would eventually control Egypt as well. It was ruled by a series of monarchs who unified its disparate tribes and nationalities by constructing a complex network of roads.
By the 600s BC, the Persians (Parsa) had settled in the southwest Iranian plateau, bounded on the west by the Tigris River and on the south by the Persian Gulf; this region came to be their heartland. It was from this region that Cyrus the Great would advance to defeat the Kingdom of Media, the Kingdom of Lydia, and the Babylonian Empire, to form the Achaemenid Empire.
At the height of its power after the conquest of Egypt, the empire encompassed approximately 8 million square kilometers spanning three continents: Asia, Africa and Europe. At its greatest extent, the empire included the modern territories of Iran, Iraq, Syria, Jordan, Israel, Palestine, Lebanon, all significant population centers of ancient Egypt as far west as Libya, Turkey, Thrace and Macedonia, much of the Black Sea coastal regions, Armenia, Georgia, Azerbaijan, much of Central Asia, Afghanistan, northern Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, and parts of Oman and the UAE. It is noted in Western history as the antagonist foe of the Greek city states during the Greco-Persian Wars, for emancipation of slaves including the Jewish people from their Babylonian captivity, and for instituting infrastructures such as a postal system, road systems, and the usage of an official language, Aramaic, throughout its territories. The empire had a centralised, bureaucratic administration under the King and a large professional army and civil services, inspiring similar developments in later empires. The delegation of power to local governments eventually weakened the king’s central authority, causing resources to be expended in attempts to subdue local rebellions. This accounts for the dis-unification of the region by the time Alexander the Great invaded Persia in 334 BC.

persian empire

persian empire

This viewpoint however is challenged by some modern scholars who argue that the Achaemenid Empire was not facing any such crisis around the time of Alexander, and that only internal succession struggles within the Achaemenid family ever came close to weakening the empire. Alexander, an avid admirer of Cyrus the Great, would eventually cause the collapse of the empire and its disintegration around 330 BC into what later became the Ptolemaic Kingdom and Seleucid Empire, in addition to other minor territories which gained independence at that time. The Persian culture of the central plateau, however, continued to thrive and eventually reclaimed power by the 2nd century BC.
The historical mark of the Achaemenid Empire went far beyond its territorial and military influences and included cultural, social, technological and religious influences as well. Many Athenians adopted Achaemenid customs in their daily lives in a reciprocal cultural exchange, some being employed by, or allied to the Persian kings. The impact of Cyrus the Great’s Edict of Restoration is mentioned in Judeo-Christian texts and the empire was instrumental in the spread of Zoroastrianism as far east as China. Even Alexander the Great, the man who would set out to conquer this vast empire, would respect its customs, by enforcing respect for the royal Persian kings including Cyrus the Great, and even by appearing in proskynesis, a Persian royal custom, despite stern Macedonian disapproval. The Persian Empire would also set the tone for the politics, heritage and history of modern Persia (now called Iran).
In 480 BC, it is estimated that 50 million people lived in the Achaemenid Empire.