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PERSEPOLIS pər sĕp’ ə lĭs (Περσέπολις, Persian City). This city, mentioned by numerous Gr. historians from Strabo on, apparently was known originally as Πέρσαι Πόλις (Persai Polis), a name which was later contracted. It was built by Darius (520-485 b.c.) in his home province of Pārsa (modern Fārs). Situated about forty m. S of the older Achaemenid capitol at Pasargadae (q.v.) its ruins lie about thirty-five m. NE of modern Shiraz. From about 519 on, it was one of the principal residences of the king. Darius had an enormous terrace constructed near a natural hill, the floor of the terrace being partly excavated and partly raised with massive stone blocks fastened in place by iron staples set with lead. Since Darius made use of craftsmen and builders from Susa, the palace and decorations are very similar to the Achaemenid buildings at that site. On this terrace were raised seventy-two massive columns some sixty-five ft. in height, which were surmounted with elaborate capitals formed like bulls and the majestic horned lion. The severity and simplicity of line characteristic of high Achaemenid art is overwhelming in its closure of space. The entire palace area and the city nearby were enclosed by a triple defense wall and fortified towers. Atop the terrace stood the royal palace, which had inscribed on its walls, “(I am) Darius the Great King, King of Kings, King of (all) lands, the son of Hystaspes, the Achaemenian, who constructed this palace.” (Text and tr. in R. Kent, Old Persian [1950], DPa 135.) Several enormous stairways led to the various parts of the palace. One stairway was enclosed by a long relief showing dignitaries coming before the king. Of special interest are the depictions of the representatives of the various subject peoples bearing the presents and tributes of their respective nations. The execution of the rare and valuable animals and the representation of the bearers of the gifts are one of the high points in Pers. plastic arts. The son and successor of Darius, Xerxes (485-465 b.c.), completed and extended the palace. He finished off the great throne room, or audience hall, called the Apadana, an Old Pers. word meaning “palace” or “hall.” Its numerous side chambers and massive roof supported by the seventy-two columns, enclosed a floor of almost 30,000 square ft. Xerxes imitated the grandiose style of Assyrian bull-monsters and ornate extravagance in his additions to the palace. Xerxes’ son and imperial heir, Artaxerxes I (465-425 b.c.), finished the third great audience hall, which was even larger than that of Xerxes. It was roofed with wooden beams on one hundred stone columns.

After the Gr. victory at Gaugamela in 331 b.c., Alexander the Great bore down upon Persepolis. He looted the famed “treasury,” after which his troops burned the vast palace complex. This wanton destruction was the source of many legends and rival accounts in antiquity. In 166 b.c., Antiochus Epiphanes, the Hellenist ruler, tried to loot the last remaining temple on the site. The ruins are now known as Takht-i Jamshid, “The Throne of Jamshīd,” a legendary Iranian king.


G. G. Cameron, Persepolis Treasury Tablets (1948); E. F. Schmidt, Persepolis, vols. I and II (1953, 1957); R. Ghirshman, Iran (1961).

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)

(2 Macc 9:2; Persepolis, Persaipolis, in Ptolemy Persopolis; original Persian name unknown; Pahlavi Stakhr, now Ictakhr and Shihil Minar, "Forty Turrets"):

1. Location:

The ruins of Persepolis lie about 35 miles Northeast of Shiraz and some 40 miles South of the ruins of Pasargadae.

2. History:

The magnificent palace of which such striking remains are still visible (Takht i Jamshid) was built by Darius and Xerxes of white marble and black stone. The city was captured, pillaged and burnt by Alexander in 324 BC, most of the inhabitants being massacred or enslaved. Much of the treasure of the Persian kings was found there. Curtius says the palace was never rebuilt. Antioehus Epiphanes (166 BC) tried but failed to plunder the temple (of Anaitis, Anihita?) there (2 Macc 9:2; perhaps this is the incident referred to in 1 Macc 6:1 ff, and Polyb. xxxi.11). At Persepolis were the sepulchers of the Achemenian kings (except Cyrus). Long and important inscriptions of Darius and Xerxes are found at Persepolis and the neighboring Naqsh i Rustam, in cuneiform characters and in the Aehaemenian Persian, Assyrian and neo-Susian tongues (published by Spiegel, Rawlinson and Weisbaeh). Clitarehus first among Europeans mentions the city. The writer of this article visited it in 1892. Not now inhabited.


Inscriptions (as above), Arrian, Curtius, Polybius, Pliny, Diod. Siculus, medieval and modern travelers.

W. St. Clair Tisdall