Tuesday, 30 September 2014

The 8 day cultural trip to Iran - "Iranian Treasures" - (Day 3 morning) Persepolis (cont.) - The Apadana, the Northern and Eastern Apadana staircases - The 18th of September 2014


We continued our visit onto the second gate and then slightly backwards onto the Northern Apadana staircase and further along onto the Eastern staircase. 
Past the gate there are examples of bird-headed "push-me-pull you" addorsed animal capitals designed to carry ceiling crossbeams of Lebanese cedars (this homa bird is used as the current logo of IranAir).

The Apadana staircase has quite a few carved figures, with the Medes represented in their rounded caps and knee-length tunics and the Persians in their distinctive "Victoria sponge finger caps" and long pleated robes. They slowly ascend to the left side, chatting, carrying lotus buds, touching arms and holding hands.

To the far right  there is the main Eastern Apadana staircase, which having been uncovered in 1932 is said to have (clearly has) the best preserved reliefs. The right hand section has lines of Medes and Persians representing the famous 10,000 immortals, the imperial bodyguards and attendants leading small horses, some with Elamite chariots or carrying rather intricate furniture or textiles.
To the left side, the panels depict envoys from 23 subject nations, some of which in very fine detail. Their identification depends on the clothing they are wearing, as well as the gifts they bear - people of the eastern regions, possibly called Carians with a bull; Arabs leading a dromedary camel, Ionians holding cloth and balls of yarn; people of Gandhara in Pakistan with a hump bull, Assyrians with sheep, etc.
It was almost impossible to photograph them all, but I wish I had been able to, because each one of them was special in his own particularity, with most of them (not to say all) being beautifully carved to the slightest detail.

On many of the reliefs one could see lions attacking bulls ( said to mean Leo ascendant over Taurus astrologically speaking, - the triumph of the New Year, the Nou Rouz), a recurrent motif which has also been interpreted as the victory of the King over any evil.  

The fact that according to records the Achaemenid ruler received gifts on just two occasions (on the official imperial birthday and the annual scrifice of Mithra) seems to indicate what many have assumed as being a fact - Persepolis was used on the once a year celebration of Nou Rouz, the Spring Equinox.

(To be continued)

The 8 day cultural trip to Iran - "Iranian Treasures" - (Day 3 morning) - Shiraz streets; Persepolis, the Gate of all Lands - The 18th of September 2014

As I woke up and walked out into the hotel room balcony there was a golden light shining over the sand like colour buildings  and the slightly brownish mountains in the distance. It was certainly going to be a hot day and we would mostly be out in the sun all morning once we were heading to the Persepolis archaeological site a few kilometres from Shiraz.

Amongst the Komeyni and Khâmene'i 's posters spread around there were also  quite a few with "unknown" faces on them, which I later found out to be the martyrs of the Irak-Iran war, whose presence was to be felt all the way into Persepolis outskirsts.

Considered to be more than just another ancient site, Persepolis is acknowledged as embodying all the glory and demise of the Persian Empire. Its construction began around 515 BCE under Darius the Great, with his sucessors having added buildings, though by the end of 330 BCE it was still said to be unfinished. 
It is believed to be where the Achaemenid kings received their subjects, celebrated the New Year and  ran their empire, before Alexander the Great burnt the whole thing to the ground, looting the city seven years before his death.

Access to the site was by means of a double stairway at the end of a main road, whose low risers are said to have allowed horses to  be ridden up to the Monumental Gate of all Lands in the past.

Constructed around 475 BCE on the order of Xerxes I, sucessor of Darius the Great, the gate is flanked by giant sculptures of two quadrupeds, while two huge human-headed winged bulls in the Assyrian style face into the palace area.

High over the sculptures there is a trilingual cuneiform inscription proclaiming "I am Xerxes, the great King, King of the kings, King of the lands of many people, King of this great earth far and wide. By Ahura Mazda's favour I have had made this Gate of All Lands. Much that is beautiful has been built in this region which I and my father have built. All that has been built and appears beautiful ... we have built by the favour of Ahura Mazda's".
It is said to be one of the 110 inscriptions there, many of which reaffirm the belief in the Zoroastrian creator God.

I couldn't resist taking photographs from several perspectives, though it was quite difficult due to the increasing number of tourists visiting the site, but the imposing figures were so impressive that I felt it was absolutely imperative, particularly as far as details were concerned. 
It wasn't but when we walked towards the Apadana that we go the real sense of the Gate size (first pictures).

(To be continued)