Magnificent ancient places on Earth: The Gate of Xerxes

June 20, 2021 - 17:50

TEHRAN - The bronze trumpets that once signaled the arrival of important foreign delegations to Persepolis, the ceremonial capital of the mighty Achaemenid Empire,  may now be silent, but it is still possible to capture the sense of awe while visiting the colossal Gate of Xerxes.

Built during the reign of Achaemenid king Xerxes I (r. 486 – 465 BC), who called this his Gate of All Nations, the pillared entrance is guarded by bearded and hoofed mythical figures in the style of Assyrian gate-guards.

On arrival at Persepolis one is confronted by an imposing wall, completely smooth and plain, about 15 meters tall: this is the artificial terrace on which the palaces were built. This vast terrace of Persepolis, some 450 meters long and 300 meters wide, was originally fortified on three sides by a tall wall. The only access was from the monumental staircase, which leads to the Gate of All Nations.

The gateway bears a cuneiform inscription in Old Persian, Neo-Babylonian, and Elamite languages declaring, among other things, that Xerxes is responsible for the construction of this and many beautiful wonders in Persia. Centuries of graffitists have also left their mark, including explorer Henry Morton Stanley.

A pair of colossal bulls guarded the western entrance; two man-bulls stood at the eastern doorway. Engraved above each of the four colossi is a trilingual inscription attesting to Xerxes having built and completed the gate. The doorway on the south, opening toward the Apadana, is the widest of the three.

According to sources, pivoting devices found on the inner corners of all the doors indicate that they must have had two-leaved doors, which were probably made of wood and covered with sheets of ornamented metal.

Persepolis, also known as Takht-e Jamshid, whose magnificent ruins rest at the foot of Kuh-e Rahmat ("Mountain of Mercy"), was the ceremonial capital of the Achaemenid Empire. It is situated 60 kilometers northeast of the city of Shiraz in Fars Province.

Persepolis was the seat of the government of the Achaemenid Empire, though it was designed primarily to be a showplace and spectacular center for the receptions and festivals of the kings and their empire.

The royal city ranks among the archaeological sites which have no equivalent, considering its unique architecture, urban planning, construction technology, and art.

The city was burnt by Alexander the Great in 330 BC apparently as revenge to the Persians because it seems the Persian King Xerxes had burnt the Greek City of Athens around 150 years earlier.

The immense terrace of Persepolis was begun about 518 BC by Darius the Great, the Achaemenid Empire’s king. On this terrace, successive kings erected a series of architecturally stunning palatial buildings, among them the massive Apadana palace and the Throne Hall (“Hundred-Column Hall”).

This 13-ha ensemble of majestic approaches, monumental stairways, throne rooms (Apadana), reception rooms, and dependencies is classified among the world’s greatest archaeological sites.

AFM

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