Iran Life – What A Relief

Persia and Persepolis – two sides of the same coin. You cannot think of one without the other!

Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi and Farah DibaJ was there in autumn of 1978, just a few months before the revolution that overthrew the despotic regime of the Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi and his queen, Farah Diba. In 1971 Persepolis was used as a backdrop for the celebrations of the 2500th anniversary of the Persian Empire founded by Cyrus the Great. Whilst most Iranians lived in poverty, crushed under the heels of the hated, US-trained, SAVAK  secret police, the Pahlavis squandered an estimated $200,000,000 (at 1971 values) on this recreation of the grandeur of a once-great empire. J, was performing at a festival organised by the Shah’s sister and, I hasten to add, was not paid what I consider she is worth and neither did she get a sip of the Château Lafite Rothschild 1945 champers that had flowed so freely seven years earlier! She has wanted to go back ever since.

tent city1

1971 – the ‘tent city’ created around the ‘Field of Cloth of Gold’ theme

Anyway, let’s get back to the touristy bit. Persepolis, I have to say, is a pretty impressive place. If one has just a modicum of imagination it is impossible not to gasp at the size and grandeur of this monument to ancient imperial might.

Art - Reconstruction of Persepolis 8

an aide to a modicum of imagination

There is a mass of information and photos available online so I’m going to concentrate on one particular angle that blew me away – the staggeringly detailed relief work that gave a real insight into the scale and complexity of the empire. That these amazing monuments to the power and reach of Cyrus and the skill and artistry of the masons have survived in such pristine condition is a miracle. If you plan to visit Iran before you die, and you should (visit, that is), then Persepolis is a must.

J and I had the benefit of having a young archaeology student by the name of Vahil as our guide – he was wonderfully enthusiastic, very knowledgeable about his subject and good looking to boot, or so J informed me.

  persepolis monumental gate

J and guide Vahil with the iconic monumental entrance behind

Persepolis monumental gate

the ‘Gate Of All Lands’

Persepolis, Shiraz, Iran

the Armenian delegation – prominent partners of the Persians

Persepolis, Shiraz, Iran

Median (military) nobleman

Persepolis, Shiraz, Iran

astonishing detail from a scabbard

Persepolis, Shiraz, Iran

J pointing out the Ethiopian delegation bearing gifts

The reliefs you are looking at are carved into a type of black basalt rock that is incredibly hard – I imagine it is difficult to work but has resulted in a durability that has sustained them for 2500 years. UNESCO World Heritage status ‘rules’ forbid anything other than brushing away the dirt of centuries. There are, however, one or two places where part of the carving has been polished back to how it would have looked in Cyrus’ time. The Armenian delegation above is an example.

Persepolis, Shiraz, Iran

the iconic lion attacking a bull theme that appears in many places

Persepolis, Shiraz, Iran cunieform

old Persian cuneiform script

Persepolis, Shiraz, Iran

Cyrus’ elite troops, the Immortals

kings tombs persepolis

finally, a few kilometres away lie the Tombs of the Kings (WikiCommons)

So, ‘What a relief’ I hear you say, ‘that’s the end of that!’

Alan Fenn, Okçular Köyü

28 thoughts on “Iran Life – What A Relief

  1. Absolutely beautiful architecture! It’s always amazing to see how pieces like these have survived for centuries!

  2. We are indeed fortunate to have such a wonder as Persepolis. It could have been otherwise. Alexander the Great burned it down (apparently the burnable part) during his Persian campaign. And then, according to what we were told durning our visit, a religious leader wanted to see it destroyed after the 1979 Iranian Revolution because it represented monarchy and paganism. Fortunately for us, defenders of Persepolis prevailed.

    1. . . between Greeks bearing gifts and clerics who banned women from an international basketball match recently (although they allowed the Ukrainian women supporters in) on grounds that it was morally degenerate – it’s a wonder there is a stone left standing.

  3. I also read that goldie locked Alex burned it down in a fit of drunken petulance. Shame really. It’s on my to do list if I my lotto numbers come up.

    1. if you can get a cheap flight you’ll be quids in as the cost of living is minimal compared to Turkey/UK

        1. plenty of blokes touring and sharing – J and I are sinners of 35+ years standing – just a bit of discretion

          1. Zowie, wowie, what great posts on Iran and what wonderful pictures.
            By the way, Iran is second only to Thailand in gender-shifting operations, and covered by the Iranian NHS. It is also the world capital for nose jobs. (Don’t know if they do both ends at the same time — couldn’t resist.)
            Soooo, there are many layers to the Iranian experience. Don’t believe everything the MSM tell you.

          2. Hi Ulla and welcome to Archers. Thanks for the enthusiastic response – did know about Iran being the nose-job capital but the gender change was learned on our trip there – seems the authorities regard gender change as OK and allowing the individual to ‘fit in’ with religious strictures!

    1. Good morning Terry – it was a great trip – we’re going back in the Spring to tour the mountain villages for three weeks looking for flowers.

  4. Way back when as an 18 yr old first year archaeology student stuck in lectures in B’ham, I was fascinated by those curly beards. Still am now.

    1. pleasure! By the way, I’ve pointed some very good friends towards you – they have a place on Bozcaada and are wandering about the area.

  5. “J was performing at a festival…” ???!! What kind of a tease is that!!

    I, too, get carried away when I see such relief, and in basalt!!! Beautiful photos.

  6. Awwwww, no doubts whatsoever! Just curious about the talents on the other side of the family. ;o) Enjoyed the video, too.

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