The pillars of Persepolis

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Persepolis was an ancient city that stood at the middle of the Persian empire. It’s old. Really old. Like older than ancient Athens old. In fact it was Alexander who eventually raised it to the ground. But the site and the stonework is pretty well intact. We took an afternoon from Shiraz and went for a visit.

Persepolis was planned and built to be a capital – like Canberra. But despite never having been to Canberra I am confident it is much better. It was only really used one month of the year when the ruler of the Persian Empire would hold court and rulers from around about would gather to offer tribute and advice. You enter today, as they would have done, through the ‘Gate of All Nations’. Good name.

Inside there were Zoroastrian temples, a massive treasury building and a range of private palaces that rich folk stayed while joining the month of festivities. It doesn’t seem like there was much of a permanent population.We’ve seen a bunch of ruins now – in Peru and China – and there are more to come in Turkey. Certainly when restored well they can be very impressive, and quite atmospheric. What I like most, though, are the details that have been passed down, or more likely deduced, from the ruins that say things about what it was like to live within them at their height. Like this: the staircase to the Gate of Nations was made was very shallow steps so nobles approaching the city would not have to change their gate, nor halt their conversation when they arrived. How thoroughly civilised. Steep stairs are the worst.

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