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Persepolis (pərsĕpˈəlĭs) [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).

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



(in ancient Persian, Parsa; in Persian, Takhti-Jamshid), a city in ancient Iran, located 50 km northeast of Shiraz; one of the capitals of the Achaemenids. Persepolis was founded in the late sixth century B.C. at the beginning of the reign of Darius I the Great. The city’s chief buildings were erected during the reigns of Darius I and Xerxes. Captured by Alexander the Great in 330 B.C., the city was razed and abandoned. Extensive excavations of Persepolis and its environs were conducted by the German scholar E. Herzfeld from 1931 to 1934 and the American archaeologist E. Schmidt from 1935 to 1939. Since 1939 the Iranian archaeological service has carried on the work, initially under the supervision of the French scholar A. Godard, and later, the Iranian archaeologists M. T. Mus-tafavi and A. Sami. Finds include inscriptions of the Achaeme-nid kings and thousands of clay tablets with text in Elamite containing information about the building of the city and the economy of the region.

Numerous buildings of various eras have been preserved in Persepolis and its environs. The remains of a walled palace (late sixth to fourth centuries B.C.) stand on a stone platform abutting a slope of the Kuh-i-Rahmat. West of the palace are the remains of the city proper. Tombs were built into the cliffs above the platform between 405 and 338 B.C.; near the platform stand the foundations of a temple of fire (third century B.C.). In the environs, at the foot of the Kuh-i-Rahmat, there is a complex of three Sassanid cliff reliefs called the Naksh-i-Radzhab; traces of a round Sassanid city, Darabgerd; and the remains of the city of Istakhr, which was founded by the Achaemenids and abandoned in the tenth century. At the base of the Khosein-Kuh are the necropolis Naksh-i-Rustam, which includes four Achaemenid cliff tombs built between 521 and 405 B.C. and the fire temple of Kabai-Zardusht; Sassanid reliefs; and cliff altars. Nearby is Tali-Bakun, the remains of a settlement that dates back to the fifth millennium B.C.


D’iakonov, M. M. Ocherk istorii Drevnego Irana. Moscow, 1961.
Schmidt, E. F. Persepolis, vols. 1-2. Chicago [1953-57].
Cameron, G. G. Persepolis Treasury Tablets. Chicago, 1948.
Hallock, R. T. Persepolis Fortification Tablets. Chicago, 1969.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


the capital of ancient Persia in the Persian Empire and under the Seleucids: founded by Darius; sacked by Alexander the Great in 330 bc
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005