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PERSE´POLIS (Περσέπολις, Diod. 17.70; Ptol. 6.4.4; Curt. 5.4. 6; Περσαίπολις, Strab. 15.729: Eth. Περσεπολίτης), the capital of Persis at the time of the invasion of Alexander, and the seat of the chief palaces of the kings of Persia. It was situated at the opening of an extensive plain (now called Mardusht), and near the junction of two streams, the Araxes (Bendamír) and the Medus (Pulwán). The ruins, which are still very extensive, bear the local name of the Chel Minar, or Forty Columns. According to Diodorus the city was originally surrounded by a triple wall of great strength and beauty (17.71). Strabo states that it was, after Susa, the richest city of the Persians, and that it contained a palace of great beauty (xv. p. 729), and adds that Alexander burnt this building to avenge the Greeks for the similar injuries which had been inflicted on them by the Persians (xv. p. 730). Arrian simply states that Alexander burnt the royal palace, contrary to the entreaty of Parmenion, who wished him to spare this magnificent building, but does not mention the name of Persepolis. (Anab. 3.18.) Curtius, who probably drew his account from the many extant notices of Alexander's expedition by different officers who had accompanied him, has fully described the disgraceful burning of the city and palace at Persepolis by the Greek monarch and his drunken companions. He adds that, as it was chiefly built of cedar, the fire spread rapidly far and wide.

Great light has been thrown upon the monuments which still remain at Persepolis by the researches of Niebuhr and Ker Porter, and still more so by the interpretation of the cuneiform inscriptions by Colonel Rawlinson and Prof. Lassen. From the result of their inquiries, it seems doubtful whether any portion of the present ruins ascend to so high a period as that of the founder of the Persian monarchy, Cyrus. The principal buildings are doubtless due to Dareius the son of Hystaspes, and to Xerxes. The palace and city of Cyrus was at Pasargada, while that of the later monarchs was at Persepolis. (Rawlinson, Journ. of Roy. As. Soc. vol. x; Lassen, in Ersch and Gruber's Encycl. s.v.; Fergusson, Palaces of Nineveh and Persepolis Restored, Lond. 1851.) It has been a matter of some doubt how far Persepolis itself ever was the ancient site of the capital; and many writers have supposed that it was only the high place of the Persian monarchy where the great palaces and temples were grouped together. On the whole, it seems most probable that the rock on which the ruins are now seen was the place where the palaces and temples were placed, and that the city was extended at its feet along the circumjacent plain. Subsequent to the time of Alexander, Persepolis is not mentioned in history except in the second book of the Maccabees, where it is stated that Antiochus Epiphanes made a fruitless attempt to plunder the temples. (2 Maccab. 9.1.) In the later times of the Muhammedan rule, the fortress of Istakhr, which was about 4 miles from the ruins, seems to have occupied the place of Persepolis; hence the opinion of some writers, that Istakhr itself was part of the ancient city. (Niebuhr, ii. p. 121; Chardin, Voyages, viii. p. 245; Ker Porter, vol. i. p. 576; Ouseley, Travels, ii. p. 222.)


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  • Cross-references from this page (2):
    • Diodorus, Historical Library, 17.70
    • Curtius, Historiarum Alexandri Magni, 5.4.6
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