1st Edition

The Concept of Monument in Achaemenid Empire

By Mehr Azar Soheil Copyright 2019
    230 Pages
    by Routledge

    230 Pages
    by Routledge

    The aim of this book is to explore the significance of the concept of ‘monument’ in the context of the Achaemenid Empire (550-330 BC), with particular reference to the Royal Ensemble of Persepolis, founded by Darius I and built together with his son Xerxes. While Persepolis was built as an ‘intentional monument’, it had already become an ‘historic monument’ during the Achaemenid period. It maintained its symbolic significance in the following centuries even after its destruction by Alexander of Macedonia in 330 BC. The purpose of building Persepolis was to establish a symbol and a common reference for the peoples of the Empire with the Achaemenid Dynasty, transmitting significant messages and values such as peace, stability, grandeur and praise for the dynastic figure of the king as the protector of values and fighting falsehood.

    While previous research on Achaemenid heritage has mainly been on archaeological and art-historical aspects of Persepolis, the present work focuses on the architecture and design of Persepolis. It is supported by studies in the fields of archaeology, history and art history, as well as by direct survey of the site. The morphological analysis of Persepolis, including the study of the proportions of the elevations, and the verification of a planning grid for the layout of the entire ensemble demonstrate the univocal will by Darius to plan Persepolis following a precise initial scheme. The study shows how the inscriptions, bas-reliefs and the innovative architectural language together express the symbolism, values and political messages of the Achaemenid Dynasty, exhibiting influence from different lands in a new architectural language and in the plan of the entire site.


    1. Introduction to the Ancient Near East

    1.1. Persians in the Ancient Near East

    1.2. Achaemenid Dynasty

    1.3. Administration and Cultural Policy

    1.4. Persian Presence in the Empire

    1.5 Religion of the Persians

    1.6 Achaemenid Art and Architecture

    1.7. Achaemenid Building Works

    2. Persepolis: Description

    2.1. Territory, settlements and choice of site

    2.2. The Terrace and its Construction

    2.3 Functional Typology

    2.4. Apadana Complex

    2.5. Hundred Column Hall Complex (+11.50)

    2.6. Palaces and other structures

    2.7. The Treasury (+8.45m)

    2.8. Royal Tombs

    2.9. Complexes Outside the Terrace

    2.10. Construction techniques

    3. Architectural Morphology and Proportions

    3.1. Morphology of Persepolitan Buildings

    3.2. Metrology

    3.3. Dimensions of the Apadana

    3.4. Reference Grid of the Terrace

    3.5. Design Scheme of Façades

    4. The Concept of Monument

    4.1. Persepolis as a Monument

    4.2. Functions of the Royal Terrace

    4.3. Concept of Kingship

    4.4. Ritual city

    5. Significance of Inscriptions

    5.1. Significance of Writing

    5.2. Form and content

    5.3. Building Work

    5.4. Heritage and Continuity

    6. Significance and Symbolism

    6.1. Significance of Podium

    6.2. Significance of square

    6.3. Significance of Design Scheme

    6.4. Significance of Sculptural Decoration

    6.5. Symbolism and Metaphor

    6.6. Alexander Sarcophagus

    6.8. Respect for the Past and Antiquity Value

    7. Archaeology and restoration

    7.1. Oriental Historians

    7.2. European Travelers

    7.3. Early Explorations

    7.4. Hypothetical Reconstructions

    7.5. Beginning of systematic excavations

    7.6. Restoration and conservation

    7.7. World Heritage

    8. Concluding Considerations


    Mehr Azar Soheil is a conservation architect who graduated from the Faculty of Fine Arts at Tehran University. She has earned her PhD in conservation from the Sapienza University in Rome, where she lives.

    "A complete guide to the most extraordinary architectural achievement of the Achaemenid Dynasty: Persepolis, a monument to the glory of the Persian Empire. The book explores the history of the site, its role in the political life of the Empire, its fate through the centuries. An essential reading."
    Francesco Bandarin, UNESCO Advisor

    "The Achaemenid concept of 'monument' is studied by Soheil in its rich political, symbolic and religious meanings and in concrete cases, where it is revealed to be closer to 'admonition' than 'memory'. The main surviving architectures and inscriptions reveal a picture of great interest helping to better understand a great civilization often presented negatively by ancient Greek authors."
    Giovanni Carbonara, Professor Emeritus in Architectural Conservation, The Sapienza University of Rome

    "A valuable analysis of Achaemenid building projects, this book is innovative in using detailed architectural and epigraphic analysis to argue that certain buildings, at Persepolis in particular, were deliberately created as ‘monuments’ for transmitting values throughout the Achaemenid Empire. It is a fascinating study of the application of the Western concept of ‘monument’ to a non-Western imperial tradition."
    Nicholas Stanley Price

    "The reader will enjoy a very innovative presentation of the site of Persepolis and find in the volume an informed discussion on the main items for a functional understanding of this masterpiece of the Achaemenid architecture. An extremely useful support for those interested in the culture of Persia during the Achaemenid period as well as for those intending to visit and understand the marvelous country of Iran."
    Pierfrancesco Callieri, Professor in Archaeology of Ancient Iran, University of Bologna