A Darwin® Book


Persepolis, or Parsa, built primarily by Darius I and his son, Xerxes I, at the height of the Persian Empire, stand as one of the marvels of the ancient world. Its architectural remains and bas-reliefs reflect the full splendor and majesty of the epoch.

     The monumental structures of Parsa were erected between 520 B.C. and 450 B.C. and partially destroyed in 330 B.C., when Alexander the Great swept across Asia. Not until 1930 were excavations begun at the site. The halls and palaces, reliefs and inscriptions, provide the background to the history of the world’s first empire, which seems never to have been recorded by the Persians. For facts, historians rely on Greek sources, chiefly Herodotus, despite the Greeks’ bias against the Persians, whom they called “barbarians.” Herodotus exaggerated the size of Xerxes’ armies, and Aeschylus, a contemporary of Xerxes, named the site “Destroyer of Cities” to commemorate the villainy of Xerxes I, who had destroyed Athens.

     The special character of the architecture at Persepolis is demonstrated by the size of the stone blocks, the perfectly dressed cubes and column drums, and the way the pieces fit together with jigsaw precision. The bas-relief figures, depicting the imperial rulers, traditionally crowned and buried at Persepolis, were exquisitely carved, and many were originally painted in brilliant colors.

     The armies of Alexander carried off great treasures of gold and jewels when they sacked Parsa. The ensuing holocaust brought the Achaemenid Empire to a sudden and decisive end. Long-preserved by a blanket of debris and wind-blown earth, the site is most valuable to archaeology in preserving the remains of an important historic period.

     PERSEPOLIS is the only book about this ancient site for the general reader. It describes the remains of the buildings and treasured reliefs in picture and text, combining historical background with illuminating speculation about the people who sculpted, carved, and erected these monuments. The result is an astounding account of this remarkable site.

     In this newly revised edition of PERSEPOLIS, Dr. Wilber, who personally studied the site, brings a vast knowledge of the history of the excavations, from the initial work of James Henry Breasted through that of Ernst Herzfeld up to the recent work carried out by the Archaeological Service of Iran. He points out that the site has drawn European tourists since the eighteenth century, and archaeologists from all corners of the world since the nineteenth century. Vividly illustrated with seventy-three black-and-white photographs and line drawings, and twenty-seven color plates, PERSEPOLIS remains a unique contribution to the field of archaeological history and a magnificent tribute to a spectacular discovery.

"A lavishly illustrated, detailed study of Parsa, the seat of the ancient Achaemenid empire, based on archaeological excavations."
—Middle East Journal