Our taxi ride from Yazd to Shiraz was a trip back in time to the days of the Persian Empire. From primary school history we only learned about the Persians from a Greek perspective. The empire stretched from Egypt and Trace (Bulgaria) in the West to Indus valley and Afghanistan in the East, so while for the Greeks it was an existential struggle for the larger empire it was another border war.
Our first stop was Pasargadae, capital of Cyrus the Great who founded the empire around 550BC. Most of what is visible today are the outlines of some key palace buildings, columns, water channels and the tomb of the great man himself.
The very simple tomb of multiple rectangular forms it was reported to have an inscription originally as “Passer-by, I am Cyrus, who gave the Persians an empire, and was king of Asia. Grudge me not therefore this monument”. Humble indeed.
Cyrus is in historical and popular Iranian imagination the paragon of the virtuous king. He gets a particularly good writeup in the Bible as he allowed the Jews to return to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple and returned items taken from it by the Babylonians.
I was sharing the taxi trip with Patrick and also a Spaniard, Tony, who worked as a rigger at concerts and had dyed orange hair. Little did he realise that he would be the biggest tourist attraction with people lining up to take selfies with him! At points it got too much
Another half an hour down the road is the ruins of Parsa or by its Greek name Persepolis. This was one of several capitals of a sprawling, multi-ethic and multi-faith empire. Historians don’t know for sure but it may have served as a ceremonial capital.
That much of it still survives is due to it being covered by sands until rediscovery in 1931.
The site itself is enormous and the imposing entrance stairs lead up to enormous ‘Gate of all Nations’ half horse, half human entrance gates where foreign emissaries and tribute bringers would have entered.
Beyond the gates are various areas such as the ‘Hall of 100 Columns’, the Apadana palace area, the treasury.
The site itself is enormous and we were stretched for time, only having 1.5 hours to get around the site but spent most time admiring the bas reliefs on the Apadana Staircase.
Here are shown all the various nations and tribes bringing offerings for the King, the various courtly and military figures and must have made quite the impression for visiting officials.
Alexander the Great when drunk ordered the destruction of Persepolis in revenge for the Persian burning of Athens centuries earlier – an act he apparently regretted when sober the next day. We’ve all been there but certainly puts the odd mis-sent late night text into perspective!