What and Where is Persepolis?

Persepolis is the name of an archaeological ruin, part of the Achaemenid Dynasty of the Persian Empire, established by King Darius about 515 BC. The site is one of the best known archaeological ruins in the world, and probably the most important Achaemenid capital. Persepolis is located about 50 kilometers northeast of Shiraz and is open to visitors.

Persepolis was built on top of a large (455 x 300 meters) man-made terrace. Access to the terrace was by a wide double staircase, and through the Gate of All Nations, featuring two pairs of colossal human-headed winged bulls. The Hall of 100 Columns would have had bull-headed capitals, and still has doorways decorated with stone reliefs. Other important buildings at the site include the Palace of Xerxes, the Talar-e Apadana, and the “Harem”.

Construction projects at Persepolis continued throughout the Achaemenid period (with major projects from Darius, Xerxes, and Artaxerxes I and III (see Achaemenid King List), but it was destroyed by Alexander the Great in 330 BC.

Persepolis and Archaeology

Persepolis was visited by numerous European travelers beginning in the early 17th century, most notably the Dutch artist Cornelis de Bruijn, who published the first detailed description of the site in 1705. The first scientific excavations were conducted at Persepolis by the Oriental Institute in the 1930s; excavations were thereafter conducted by the Iranian Archaeological Service initially led by Andre Godard and Ali Sami. Persepolis was named a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1979.

Achmaenid records reported a guard wall and watchtower on the slopes of nearby Rahmat Mountain, which were thought to possibly represent fortifications for Persepolis, although archaeological evidence has been scanty. Recent remote sensing in the region has confirmed that, finding additional traces of the guard wall surrounding the walls of the palaces of Persepolis.

Alternate names of Persepolis are Takht-e Jamshid, Pârsa (Old Persian), and Tchehelhimar.


A great source of information about the archaeology of Persepolis are the Oriental Institute’s Persepolis and Ancient Iran. The Circle for Iranian Studies has numerous photos of the site.

Aminzadeh, Behnaz and Firuzeh Samani 2006 Identifying the boundaries of the historical site of Persepolis using remote sensing. Remote Sensing of Environment 102(1-2):52-62.

Curtis, John E. and Nigel Tallis. 2005. Forgotten Empire: The World of Ancient Persia. University of California Press, Berkeley.

This glossary entry is part of the Dictionary of Archaeology. Any mistakes are the responsibility of Kris Hirst.

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