57 Km from Shirāz city, 10 km from north of Marv-Dasht city, Fārs province, Iran

Founded by Darius I in 518 B.C., Persepolis was the capital of the Achaemenid Empire. It was built on an immense half-artificial, half-natural terrace, where the king of kings created an impressive palace complex inspired by Mesopotamian models. The importance and quality of the monumental ruins make it a unique archaeological site. Persepolis was the ceremonial capital of the Achaemenid Empire (ca. 550–330 BC). It is situated on the northeast of Shirāz city in Fārs Province. The earliest remains of Persepolis date back to 515 BC. It exemplifies the Achaemenid style of architecture. UNESCO declared the ruins of Persepolis a World Heritage Site in 1979.

The English word Persepolis is derived from Ancient Greek Persépolis, meaning “the Persian city” or “the City of the Persians”. To the ancient Persians, the city was known as Pārsa, which is also the word for “Persia”. Due to the belief among Late Antiquity Persians that the monuments were built by Jamshid, an Iranian mythological figure, the site has been known as Takht-e-Jamshid

History & Architecture

Persepolis is near the small river Pulvar, which flows into the Kur River. The site includes a 125,000 square meter terrace, partly artificially constructed and partly cut out of a mountain, with its east side leaning on Rahmat Mountain. The other three sides are formed by retaining walls, which vary in height with the slope of the ground. Rising from 5-13 meters (16-43 feet) on the west side was a double stair. From there, it gently slopes to the top. To create the level terrace, depressions were filled with soil and heavy rocks, which were joined together with metal clips. According the inscriptions, the buildings of Persepolis commenced with the time of Darius I, it was probably established by this king’s order, with whom the scepter passed to a new branch of the royal house, that Persepolis became the capital of Iran. As the hotel or lodging house of the rulers of the empire, however, a remote place in a difficult alpine region was far from convenient. The country’s true capitals were Susa, Babylon and Ecbatana.

Darius I ordered the construction of the Apadana and the Council Hall (Tripylon or the Triple Gate), as well as the main imperial Treasury and its surroundings. These were completed during the reign of his son, Xerxes I. Further construction of the buildings on the terrace continued until the downfall of the Achaemenid Empire. The dual stairway, known as the Persepolitan Stairway, was built symmetrically on the western side of the Great Wall. Originally, the steps were believed to have been constructed to allow for nobles and royalty to ascend by horseback. New theories, however, suggest that the shallow risers allowed visiting dignitaries to maintain a regal appearance while ascending.

Grey limestone was the main building material used at Persepolis. After natural rock had been leveled and the depressions filled in, the terrace was prepared. Major tunnels for sewage were dug underground through the rock. A large elevated water storage tank was carved at the eastern foot of the mountain.

The uneven plan of the terrace, including the foundation, acted like a castle, whose angled walls enabled its defenders to target any section of the external front.


After invading Achaemenid Persia in 330 BC, Alexander the Great sent his army to Persepolis and stormed the “Persian Gates”, a pass through modern-day Zagros Mountains. There Ariobarzanes of Persis successfully ambushed Alexander the Great’s army with his 1000 Persian Immortals, inflicting heavy casualties. The Persian success at the Battle of the Persian Gate didn’t last long; after being held off for 30 days, Alexander the Great destroyed the defenders. Ariobarzanes himself was killed either during the battle or during the retreat to Persepolis. Some sources indicate that the Persian were betrayed by a captured tribal chief who showed the Macedonians an alternate path that allowed them to outflank Ariobarzanes in a reversal of Thermopylae. After several months, Alexander allowed his troops to loot Persepolis.

Gate of All Nations

The Gate of All Nations, referring to subjects of the empire, consisted of a grand hall that was a square of approximately 25 meters (82 ft) in length, with four columns and its entrance on the Western Wall. There were two more doors, one to the south which opened to the Apadana yard and the other opened onto a long road to the east. Pivoting devices found on the inner corners of all the doors indicate that they were twoleafed doors, probably made of wood and covered with sheets of ornate metal. A pair of lamassus, bulls with the heads of bearded men, stand by the western threshold. Another pair, with wings and a Persian Head (Gopät-Shäh), stands by the eastern entrance, to reflect the power of the empire.

The Apadana Palace

Darius I built the greatest palace at Persepolis on the western side. This palace was called the Apadana. The King of Kings used it for official audiences. The work began in 515 BC, and his son, Xerxes I, completed it 30 years later. The palace had a grand hall in the shape of a square, each side 60 meters (200 ft) long with seventy-two columns, thirteen of which still stand on the enormous platform. The tops of the columns were made from animal sculptures such as two-headed bulls, lions and eagles.

Persepolis Palaces

Persepolis Palaces

Persepolis Palaces

Outstanding Universal Value

Persepolis, whose magnificent ruins rest at the foot of Kouh-e Rahmat (Mountain of Mercy) in south-western Iran, is among the world’s greatest archaeological sites. Renowned as the gem of Achaemenid (Persian) ensembles in the fields of architecture, urban planning, construction technology, and art, the royal city of Persepolis ranks among the archaeological sites which have no equivalent and which bear unique witness to a most ancient civilization.

A World Heritage Site

The archaeological ruins at Persepolis are authentic in terms of their locations and setting, materials and substance, and forms and design. The present location of the Persepolis terrace and its related buildings has not changed over the course of time. The remains of all the monuments are authentic. UNESCO declared the ruins of Persepolis as a World Heritage Site in 1979.