Behistun. Cliff face in Iran bearing the inscribed "res gestae" (words and deeds) of King Daruis I of Persia (521-486 BC). Inscribed in Elamite, Akkadian, and Old Persian, the inscription, first recorded by British diplomat Sir Henry Rawlinson, led to the decipherment of cuneiform.


Persepolis, Persian Royal Palace constructed by Kings Darius I and Xerxes. The palace embraced hypostyle halls, pleasure gardens and a zoological park. The complex of heavily fortified royal buildings at Persepolis serves as the most important source of information about Persian art and architecture.  Begun by Darius I in 518 BCE, the palace at Persepolis is a blend of materials and design traditions from all corners of the empire.  At the center of the complex stood an enormous platform, 450 x 300m wide and 15m tall, where several palaces, audience halls, and a treasury were erected. The multi-columned audience hall, or apadana, with its soaring open interior supported by widely spaced columns appears to have been a Persian innovation. The terrace walls and staircases leading to the apadana are decorated with reliefs depicting the processions of royal guards, Persian nobles and dignitaries, and representatives from twenty-three subject nations bringing tribute to the Persian king.  All the buildings were constructed of stone and supported by dozens of tall columns with capitals in the shape of griffins or bulls. The capitals are comprised of the front portions of two bulls or similar creatures that served as supports for the ceiling beams. The complex was surrounded by a richly irrigated agricultural landscape with numerous settlements, pleasure gardens, and hunting parks. The monuments themselves appear to have functioned solely as ceremonial centers; archaeologists detected no remains of kitchens or ovens, water sources, nor sewer systems. The actual living quarters of the king and his court stood in the gardens below the terrace platform, where archaeologists revealed the remains of a large structure and a pleasure lake. Archaeologists found thousands of tablets detailing food distributions to the palace hierarchy and staff in the citadel above the complex. The imperial archive has not survived; it was presumably destroyed with the palace complex itself by Alexander the Great in 330 BC.




Assyrian styled griffin employed as door frame to the apadana of Xerxes (Photograph by E. Rauh, left). View shows relief of King Xerxes (485-465 BC) carved on the door frame of the entrance to his hypostyle hall (right).


Aspects of Iranian Hegemony: Busts of Kushan Nobles (above); Rendering of Belt Buckle Displaying Scythian Horse Warrior with Horse  (Artwork by John Hill)


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