Persepolis (pərsĕpˈəlĭs) [key] [Gr., = city of Persia], ancient city of Persia, ceremonial capital of the Achaemenid empire under Darius I and his successors. The administrative capitals were elsewhere, notably at Susa and Babylon. The ruins of Persepolis lie 30 mi (48 km) NE of Shiraz in a fertile plain of the Pulvar River, with strong natural mountain defenses. There are ruins of the palaces of Darius I, Xerxes, and later kings as well as the citadel that contained the treasury looted by Alexander; the ruins lie on a huge platform constructed of limestone from the adjacent mountain. A few miles distant are the rock-hewn tombs of Achaemenid kings and monuments of the Sassanids on a mountainside called by the natives Naqsh-e-Rostam or Naksh-i Rustam [pictures of Rustam] for the legendary Persian hero Rustam. In the same place there is a 3,000-year-old inscription of Shutruk-Nakhkhunte, a famous Elamite king (c.1207–1171 B.C.). Scattered over the plain, a short distance from the platform of Persepolis, are the ruins of Stakhr or Estakhr, the official capital of the Sassanids, whose administrative capital was Ctesiphon. Excavations have disclosed, 2 mi (3 km) away, a village of the Neolithic period, with mural decorations in red ocher that date back to about 4000 B.C.

See E. F. Schmidt, Persepolis (3 vol., 1953–70); M. Wheeler, Flames over Persepolis (1968); D. N. Wilbur, Persepolis, the Archaeology of Parsa (1969).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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