Xerxes, Darius, Artaxerxes. Great names, all somehow connected to ancient Greece, Alexander and others. Spring this year was in many senses dedicated to visit places of Persia and Greece, cities which belonged to either of these ancient people or even with both of them. We started in Persepolis and we ended in Ephesus.
Persepolis is a must see place if you are interested in the ancient world. Karnak was taken by the Persians, this is how you can describe those ruins in the middle of Iran. When Darius I. conquered that super power of Egypt 500 B.C. it must have overwhelmed him. In a statue in the museum of Teheran he shows himself as an Egyptian Pharaoh, the cartouches of the conquered cities below his feet. His personal palace in Persepolis shows Egyptian elements all over, the way, the Persian king sits on his throne and holds the lotus flower in his hand is a perfect copy of the Egyptian tradition.
But the gigantic toppings of the even more gigantic pillars in his Adana hall are not. Shaped as bulls, horses, griffons or lions they have defeated time and are placed all over the palace city.
And those pillars which carried their heavy burden also partly have survived. In size they triumph over Karnak, they are the clear victory sign of Darius. And they were the first to be destroyed when Alexander conquered Iran. However, this large fire could not harm the beauty of the endless reliefs showing us the people of the world (including Egypt) bringing gifts and paying tribute to the Persians. Long lines que up to show their gifts to his majesty, Persian servants lead them with great nobles, their beautiful robes, beards, faces look like they have sprung out of real life. The Bactrians bring their two humped camels, Cappadocians bring their horses, Cretans bring their bejeweled amphorae’s and all of them are the source of the future wealth of Persia.
Wandering through the ruins of this vast and emptied palatial city one cannot help but feel that whatever is built by mankind, is asking for destruction. No temple or palace, no church or mosque is safe from hate or jealousy, no man are obviously willing to let their neighbors live in peace. So no matter of how many ruins dot the world, the world never learns from those mistakes of the past. Reading the words of Darius on the doorstep of his home is impressive, how nice to hear that this rule thought to be the cradle of wisdom and a good father to his people. It did not help him or his nation in the end, but because of his conquest and the riches bestowed upon him, he was able to create. To build. And to bury himself in a way worth of a Pharaoh. Do not miss the tombs once you are near Persepolis.
Many centuries later it was the Sassanids who followed the Achamaenids and the Parthian on the throne of Iran. Their religion was still the same as the one followed by Darius, they still believed in the words of the great Philosopher and Prophet Zarathustra. So no wonder that they used the old places of worship to show their might and power. If it were not for the art and tradition of the Achaemenids, it would be the work of the Sassanids we would admire most of all in Iran. Their powerful and heroic reliefs in the valley of the kings near Persepolis are wonderful reminders of this pre-Islamic dynasty, who even defeated the Romans. Their noble faces and crowns, their well adored clothes and beautiful and strong horses are a great sight of its own. None of these people had a need for tombs since Zarathustrians are not burying their dead in the ground or water nor do they burn them. Darius and his followers choose the burial chambers only because they had seen this tradition along the Nile. Sassanid tombs are unheard of, their place of finally burying the remaining bones are unknown.
So we had been their again. At the heart of ancient Persia. But do not call it a capital, because it never was. It was a palace built to show the might of a new Empire, and it was only used for the feast of spring, the Naw Ruz. A feast, which is still much celebrated in nowadays Iran, not to the liking of the ruling theocrats. But is there anyone who would believe that this dynasty will last as long as the ones we talked about above?