Today’s virtual journey is dedicated to the first capital of the great Achaemenid Empire, we want to visit the historic Pasargadae complex and go into the mysterious world of this ancient city. We intend to go back in time with you and find out about how this complex was made and see where Pasargadae really is and why it is so important?
Why do we need to visit the Pasargadae Complex?
It’s one of Iran’s historical monuments and it is named in the UNESCO World Heritage list. It is one of the most famous historical attractions of Iran and it hosts the tomb of Cyrus the great. The first capital of the Achaemenid Empire was established here. According to the historical narratives, Cyrus the great constructed most of the complex himself. Visiting this place will help increase your information about Iranian history, especially Achaemenid history. Pasargadae is a valuable and historic complex of Achaemenid monuments and you can travel to this section of Iranian history by visiting it. The Pasargadae Garden which is world renowned is also part of this complex. Although this garden does not exist today, it has inspired famous Iranian gardens.
What do we know about the history of the Pasargadae complex?
To explore the Pasargadae complex, we must travel to southern Iran and Fars province. Somewhere in the Murghab plain and the Pasargadae plain, near the city of Pasargadae, there are ancient structures that have survived from the distant past of Iran and have many stories to tell. Where the great Achaemenid history was founded, known as the first capital of this great empire. This area also has the largest and most extensive Achaemenid site in the world, with the most diverse and greatest structures of this period. In addition, the Pasargadae complex is the fifth Iranian monument on the UNESCO World Heritage List, it cast a 100% of the votes regarding entering the list but before that on September 24, 1931, this historic site was on the list of national monuments with the number 19.
Where is the tomb of Cyrus the great, and what does it look like?
The tomb of Cyrus the Great among the various structures in the Pasargadae complex is considered to be the most important and most famous. This historic site is known for this structure, and to see it, people will do anything. The tomb of Cyrus is located in the southern part of the complex and is said to have been made by Cyrus’ command and under his supervision. A simple, yet beautiful and impressive monument with 156 square meters and an altitude of 11 meters, still stands steadily in the middle of Morghab plain after 25 centuries.
It has a clever design which is similar to the ancient ziggurat and temples, and it attracts attention from everywhere in the plain with its simplicity and beauty. The tomb has a two-part structure, which includes a staircase platform and a tombstone with a hinged roof.
What does Mozaffari Caravanserai look like?
Near Cyrus’s tomb, a 208-square-meter building has been erected with irregular designs made using white stones stolen from Cyrus’s palaces. The building, which is known as the Mozaffari Caravanserai, has a 30.3-meter wide porch with irregular stone linings and quadrangles and small rooms around it. In the past, there was a cemetery around the building which was used for burials right until the reign of Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi. Some of the stones used for the tombstones were the same stones from Cyrus’s palaces. Among the tombstones, there are beautiful inscriptions that have been transferred to Haft Tanan Museum in Shiraz.
What was the Exclusive palace used for?
The exclusive palace is another palace in the Pasargadae complex, with an area of 3,192 square meters, with a central hall and two eastern and western porches. There were also two rooms in the northern and southern corners of the western porch of the palace, but they have been long gone.
As the plan and the building’s architecture shows, the palace was home to Cyrus the Great. On the portals of this palace, there is a picture of the Shah with his servant. The garment that the king is wearing is a kind of Achaemenid style robe, with golden buttons. Unfortunately, the golden parts of these buttons have been removed.
Near the eastern port and on the wall of the porch, there is also a rocky platform facing the garden, most likely used by the king only. The stones used to make this palace are of three types: white marble, black limestone, and gravel sandstone. The combination of black and white rocks in the base of the pillars and porches was considered to be a special architectural innovation at that time. Rui Shahi’s (the pillars underlining parts of the pillars) in the palace are also horizontally decorated.
In the southern corner of the palace, there is also a pillar with a hole inside it which fitted with brick walls of the structure. This contributed to the greater strength of the building at the time of construction. On top of this pillar, there is a script in which Cyrus introduces himself.
What was the importance of the Audience Palace?
Audience Palace was Cyrus’s reception palace, where the shah would welcome the guests and officials of various nations and civilizations under his rule and talk to them about various issues. The palace is said to be the first United Nations headquarters in the world. About twenty-five centuries ago issues such as human rights and freedom and equality among human beings were raised and thereon spread to other parts of the world.
The palace covers an area of 2,472 square meters and is built in the northwest-southeast axis. A palace that houses a large central hall with 8 columns of 705 square meters. On four sides of the palace, there are 4 verandahs which, along with smaller pillars and two other rooms, include the elements of the palace.
The main hall of the palace elevated beyond the ceiling of its surrounding porches and was connected to the four porches through four gateways. Today, from the 8 columns this palace originally had there is only one column left, with a height of 10.13 meters. The pillars had black stones on top and also at the bottom of them. The pillars themselves were made of white stone. The 7 other columns were transferred to around the tomb of Cyrus during Atabeg’s reign so that a mosque could be built; of course, these pillars were returned to their original place.
The four doorways that connected the hall to the porches surrounding the palace were made of black stone and this how they were connected:
Northwest Port: This port which depicts a human foot and an eagle connects to the 16-pillar porch in the Northwest.
Northeast Port: This port was the only connection to the largest porch in the palace with 48 columns.
Southeast port: This port which depicted a combination of human, fish, and cattle, connected to a 16-pillar porch.
Southwest Port: This port which depicted a combination of human and animal foot, connected to a 28-column porch.
In this palace, there are 3 stones left with an inscription saying “I am Cyrus, the Shah, of house Achaemenid” on a cuneiform in three languages such as the ancient Persian, Elamite and Babylon languages.
What does the Pasargadae Persian Garden look like and what’s the history behind it?
Pasargadae Persian Garden is one of the most famous parts of the Pasargadae complex, which is itself listed on the UNESCO World Heritage List along with 8 other Persian gardens. Of course, this garden complex, known as Pasargadae Garden, the Royal Pasargadae Garden and Cyrus The great’s garden does not exist nowadays and only a small amount of it has remained intact. A garden that depicted the image of a garden with Iranian design and taste, and was the root of Iranian garden architecture and a prime example of Iranian gardening. The Royal Pasargadae Garden, at its time, was able to innovate the creation of royal gardens in the plateau of Iran. In addition, the garden is considered to be the mother of Persian gardens of the Safavid period as well as Indian royal gardens.
An interesting point about Pasargadae gardens is that, based on historical sources, Cyrus the Great himself described to the builders how to build the garden, and even the formation of the trees are according to his words. This big garden also hosted buildings and other small gardens, and many refer to it as “garden in the garden.” The evidence and discoveries found surrounding the Pasargadae Gardens show that it included two buildings for resting and it had various trees, colorful flowers, and birds, all of which were gathered according to Cyrus’s taste.
In general, as the research shows, the design of the Pasargadae gardens and the colorful trees and flowers in it seemed to duplicate paradise (garden also means paradise).
What was in the Pasargadae Garden?
The Pasargadae plan was designed to have two kiosks on both sides; the kiosks were for people to relax and watch the beautiful landscape of the garden. Water entered the garden from the channels and sprouted in ponds and irrigated the garden. This water reached Pasargadae Gardens from the Palvar River or Bonab reservoir. To this day, about 1,100 meters of canals in the garden have been discovered from under the soil.
What is Pasargadae Kiosks?
The kiosks in the Pasargadae gardens played a complementary role to the ponds, and today there are only a few remains of them in the eastern and southern parts of the central garden. The two kiosks, known as kiosks A and B, were of a simple structure and they were inspired by the Pasargadae Palace. As evidence shows, the B kiosk was located on a special path (between the two main palaces of the Pasargadae complex) and that made it special.
What was the use of the Pasargadae Garden Canals?
The canals in the Royal Pasargadae Garden, as mentioned above are 1100 meters long (the amount that has been discovered so far) and show the initial location of the passageways, trees, and grass in the garden. These canals had two functions in the garden design; the decorative and beauty aspect and irrigation aspect. Water was used in two forms, one was canals and the other was ponds, where the ponds were tasked with dividing the water and calming its velocity when reaching the canals.
Where is Pasargadae Garden Bridge located?
Another part of the Pasargadae is a bridge located 150 meters west of the “Gate of All Nations” (described later on) constructed on a stream coming from the river from Palvar River. The bridge, whose pillars were 2 meters high, based on David Stronach’s assessments, and was square shaped. Of course, various archaeological findings indicate that the bridge is likely to be had been built in the late Achaemenid or even later.
Where is the Entrance Gate?
The Gate is one of the three palaces discovered in the Pasargadae complex, which is known as the gateway to the site. This palace is very similar to the Gate of All Nations in Persepolis and is about 726 square meters, located in the east of the Pasargadae complex. Although there are not many remnants of this palace today, archaeological evidence suggests that the building covered a total area of 686 square feet, with a ceiling of 8 stone columns standing at 16 meters. Each of these columns was placed underneath cubical columns made of black stone, 2 to 2 meters in size. The magnitude of these pillars shows how impressive they were. Unfortunately, today there is no trace of these columns, but the foundations found at The Entrance Gate are stored in a cob.
The Grand Hall of the Entrance Gate had two main gateways to the northwest and southeast. Two other subways, in the northeast and southwest, linked the hall to the other sections of the palace. Archaeologists have been able to find a cob wall around the palace in their excavations at this palace. Two security guard rooms were also found near the northeastern and southwest ports. According to their findings, the height of each of these ports in the past was 9 meters, and today there are only a few pillars left, as remnants of the northern port. One of the most important signs of the Pasargadae area and the only intact Petroglyph in the complex is “the depiction of A Human with four wings during Prayer”.
Winged Man Petroglyph
We have already said that the Petroglyph of the winged man is the most intact and most beautiful in the Pasargadae complex. The carving was superficial, and unfortunately, over the course of time due to wind and rain, many of its details have been lost and have gone undetected. Of course, there is still so much we don’t know about it.
What is the depiction on the Petroglyph?
In this depiction you will see a man who looks at the center of the palace, with a short beard, he has a crown on his head and has four wings, looking like he is entrapped by them, look at the center of the palace. The height of this guy is 2.35 m from head to toe and 2.90 m with the crown. The man’s image has been sculpted and turned to the left (center of the hall) and it seems the constructor wanted to show that the person is moving towards the hall. The left hand of this man is almost hidden behind his body, but his right hand has risen to the front of his chest and his fingers are completely open. This mode creates a form of salutation or prayer in the mind of the viewer.
The four wings that are depicted in this petroglyph are shown as a pair going upward and a downward. The feathers on these wings have been carved into two or three floors, and the first part of the wings on the left and the front part of the wings are decorated with the flute. The jacket that this winged man has on is a long and loose overall that covers from the neck to the winged man’s foot and is decorated with rosette flowers. It is also not clear in that this man has footwear, but as Stronach describes, he had been without.
We described the status of this winged man and the most attractive and striking part of it, and now the crown that rests on his head. There is a large, round, tangled crown over the statue that covers the corners of his eyes, nose, and ears, and covers the top of his forehead to the back of his neck. The design of this crown has prominences in the form of parallel strands, which indicate that it was made of metal and most likely of gold. From the crown, two rabbit horns come out, each of which flutters in the middle and reaches a sharp tip.
On these two horns, three solar pills are visible, with three concentric circles drawn on it, and on these three circles, there are three cones just like a jug. There are hanging ribbons from the neck of these jars, and three orbits are drawn over them, which today, of course, there is no sign of them. On the two sides of the cones, several leaves have been drawn out with parallel veins, and the head of a snake is drawn from the second flap of each vein. Snakes that have a crown and these orbits seem to be a symbol of the sun.
What are the cultural origins of the winged human symbols?
To shape this statue, the arts and cultures of various nations of that time have been used. For example, the history of such crowns goes back to the Egyptian civilization, and the winged man’s robes are rooted in the culture of Elamite, the use of wings was also commonplace in Assyria. In general, if we want to examine this statue based on religion, it seems that the outstanding role of the winged man is the “magical guard” of the palaces of the Pasargadae complex, whose wings are a sign of the rule of Cyrus on the four corners of the universe.
What is the history of the Stone Tower?
The stone tower is one of the spectacular monuments of the Pasargadae complex, dating back to the earliest years of the establishment of the Achaemenid Empire. Archaeologists have yet to agree on the original use of this building; some believe that it was the tomb of Cambyses (the son and successor of Cyrus the Great), and some say that it was a fire temple. Of course, some also believe that the stone tower was the treasure trove of the Achaemenid state, in which the important documents of the state were kept. With all of these hypotheses and according to the map and architecture of the structure, the likelihood of it being a religious monument is much higher than anything else. There is also a similar tower such as the stone tower in Naqsh-e Rustam with the name of Ka’ba-ye Zartosht, which seems to have been constructed by copying this building. Also in the Islamic period, this building was known as the Solomon Prison.
The stone tower is originally a quadrangle, which today has only one wall left. Its height is 14 meters and its base is 7.27 meters at 7.23 meters, located on a three-step platform.
Access to the stone tower is possible from the northwest, where the entrance is located at an altitude of 7.50 meters from the ground. People climbed 29 sets of stairs in order to reach it. The construction of the stone tower among the structures built in the Achaemenid period is considered one of the masterpieces of engineering and art, but why?
The first reason is how the rocks were put together. These blocks are arranged in such a way that it is very difficult to distinguish between two blocks in the same line. The second reason is the view of the all, with 10 rectangular indentations. The indentations are in the form of a window (blind window) and are decorated with a bunch of black stones.
What is Tall-e Takht and where is it?
Tall-e Takht is the location of Pasargadae Citadel and the capital of the Achaemenid Empire. It is said that Cyrus used the most skilled architects and stonemasons of his empire to build this structure, but he himself died in 530 BC before it was finished. As historical evidence shows, eight years after the death of Cyrus, Darius the Great, made a modification to the original plan; he blocks the two large stairways of the citadel with clay and converts it into a fortress or treasure house of great magnitude. The structure was used as a fortress and garrison by the Macedonian-Greek soldiers until 50 years after the collapse of the Achaemenid rule. However, at the time of the onslaught of Alexander, the treasures inside it were looted.
The interesting thing about Tall-e Takht is the signs that stonemasons have left behind on the stone’s facade to manage the division of labor. It was supposed to be carved out and faded when completed, but it was never done.
What were the sacred areas?
On the northwest side of the Pasargadae complex, two platforms with a height of 2 meters attract attention. At a distance of 120 meters, two Mastabas or holy sites are seen. Albert T. Olmstead believed that they were the double altars of Ahuramazda and Anahita (of the ancient gods), in terms of the use of the two platforms (known as the North and South Platforms). Of course, some believe that the southern platform was used to donate materials such as Haoma to Anahita and the northern platform for offering meat to Mitra or Mehr (the most ancient gods in India and Persia).
But Stronach says Cyrus, like other Achaemenid kings, used the southern platform to pray for the fire that was on the platform. He refers to the three fireplaces found in the Pasargadae area, pointing to the depictions shown on the catacombs.
Now, it’s good to know how they looked and how they were made.
The northern platform has a simple square cube shape and the southern platform is made up of 8 steps as a cube. The staircase platform is located on a pair of rocky fireplaces and there are fireplaces on top of it, the fireplaces that are most likely to have been built at the time of Cyrus.
As we mentioned above, on the western side of the two platforms there is a Mastaba that is located on a natural rock. The structure is made of five masonry platforms, and its construction date seems to be newer than the platforms, but whether it was part of the temple or other structures is unknown.
What is the history of Pasargadae Complex?
Before we look at the history of the Pasargadae Historic Site, it is better to know about this area and the reason for choosing here to build the Pasargadae city. Pasargadae Plain is located in the northern part of the present-day Fars province in between the Zagros Mountains and is part of the Great Plain of Morghab and Tange Balaghi. This area had been the habitat of humans before the Achaemenes and based on archaeological researches, the presence of human beings dates back to the middle ages. In the past, a branch of the Palvar River passed from the middle of this plain, a branch that turned the area into a very lush land, giving it a thicket of trees and streams.
At this point in history, Cyrus the Great defeated the last king of Medes, Astyages, near the Pasargadae Plain and as the first Achaemenid king, he began to rule Iran and the Medes Empire. Although Cyrus had spent the first years of his reign in Fars, Hegmataneh and then Babylon, he had never forgotten Pasargadae. For this reason, when he intended to build a metropolis for his vast empire, he returned to this lush plain and laid the foundations of the Pasargadae city. Historical sources say that after capturing the country of Lydia and returning to his homeland, he brought a group of Indian and Ionian architects and stonemasons to Fars and Pasargadae in order to make magnificent, unique and advanced buildings, such as those they had built in their own country. These architects and stonemasons did their work well, and now after 2500 years, you can still see footprints of these architects in every corner of Pasargadae. The city that became the oldest capital of the Achaemenid Empire and was the basis for the new Achaemenid architecture.
Strabo wrote about Pasargadae construction in his book:
The great praise of Cyrus from Pasargadae was due to the fact that at the site of the city, he had the last battle with Astyages and defeated him badly, the last and final battle that made him the Emperor of Asia. This battle was so significant that in order to make it eternal he ordered to set up the Pasargadae palaces right there.
Pasargadae remained the capital of the empire throughout the reign of Cyrus the Achaemenid kingdom and his son Cambyses II. According to various studies, the oldest building built in Pasargadae is Tall-e Takht. Regarding the exact date of the construction of this building, Roman Ghirshman believed that Tall-e Takht was made during Cambyses I (the father of Cyrus the Great), but David Stronach attributed its construction to the last sixteen years of the reign of the great Cyrus. Today, Stronach’s theory is accepted by historians and archaeologists. Apart from this structure, other buildings in the Pasargadae historical site were also built during the Cyrus period, and some of them were completed at the time of Darius I. Of course, this is not the end of Pasargadae’s story. After Alexander conquered Iran, for the sake of the great respect he had for Cyrus, and regarded himself as his follower, he put guards in charge of protecting his tomb, and they protected it for a long time. At the time of Islam’s entry to Iran, the site was gradually referred to as Mashhad Solomon (the name given to the tomb of Cyrus) and Malik Suleiman among the ordinary people
What did the archaeological excavations find in Pasargadae and when did they take place?
The first archaeological excavations in Pasargadae historic site were conducted in 1928 and led by Ernst Herzfeld. In these explorations, he was able to find the ruins of Tall-e Takht, the fire temples, fireplaces, Cyrus’s Tomb and other Pasargadae ruins and show them to scientists and archaeologists. After him, in 1949, Ali Sami continued the exploration done by Herzfeld and excavated from three palaces. From 1961 to 1963, David Stronach continued the work of previous archaeologists and achieved impressive results.
Some information regarding the Pasargadae complex
There is a lot to talk about regarding the Pasargadae complex and what happened in this ancient city, so much that we cannot cover it all in this article; therefore, we gathered some of the points that we thought were interesting for you:
Who built the Pasargadae Complex?
As we said earlier, and in the writings of Greek and Roman historians, Pasargadae was made on the orders of Cyrus the Great. This theory becomes more certain for a number of reasons:
First: in terms of planning and design, there is a link between the Pasargadae gardens and the palace gates, the Exclusive Palace and Bare Am Palace, and Cyrus’s temple. The constructor of all of them was one person only.
Second: On all the gates and palaces, there is an inscription in three different languages in which Cyrus introduces himself.
Third: the architecture, masonry, and clay used in Pasargadae show the beginning of the Achaemenid architecture and is still not as impressive as the buildings built in the era of Darius the Great. In the architecture of the Pasargadae complex, there is the footprint of stonemasons from Lydia and Ionia, which shows that they began their work in the Great Cyrus’s reign.
What kind of materials were used in Pasargadae historical monuments?
Another interesting point is the materials used to build the complex; materials such as stones, bricks, clay, and wood, each of which had its own benefits. But what were the benefits and how did they form Pasargadae?
Wood: Most of the wood was used to cover the ceiling and, in some cases, some trunks of some trees (such as cedar) were used to build columns.
Raw mortar: Raw clay was used to fill the walls and sometimes lay the rigs.
Bricks: The bricks in Pasargadae were red and they used bituminous mortar to keep them together. These types of mortars were also used in Elamite architecture and in Persepolis architecture.
Rocks: The stones used in Pasargadae are not limited to one type and include a set of rocks. The first is a white limestone that looks like marble, the second is a sapphire that is hard like granite and the third is a black marble, which has a lot of fragilities. The origin of the white rocks is from the mountain of Sivand and the black rocks are from Tang Black and Tang Balaghi mountains.
Why is it called Pasargadae? So far, we have used the name Pasargadae, but what does this name really mean and where does it come from?
There are different theories about the name Pasargadae, and archaeologists and linguists have come up with various explanations. Some of them believe that Pasargadae was original “Parse Kart or Parse Gard” meaning Pars city because, in Persian Grad, Gord and Gerd (like Dastgerd) mean to refer to the word “city”. Herodotus, the Greek historian, remembers the city as Pasargadae in his writings, and Ctesias has used the name Persica in his book. Of course, Herodotus didn’t use the word Pasargadae to refer to a particular place but in fact, he used it to refer to a tribe. This name refers to one of the tribes of the Persian kings and it means “those who hardly pull out a mace”.
On the other hand, some also believe that the Pasargadae was originally used as Pars Kadeh, meaning “Persian Throne”, and gradually it became Pasargadae. Some also believe that Pasargadae is a Greek form of the Achaemenid term “Batrakatsh”, a name that appears on numerous tablets in Persepolis.
In another theory, however, it is explained that the name Pasargadae means good times, and was essentially something like “Pasargadae”, and there is no relation between this name and the word “Pars”.
Where does Pasargadae stand on a national stage?
We have already said that in 2004 the Pasargadae complex was numbered on the UNESCO World Heritage List with the number 1106 allotting 100% of the votes, based on criteria one, two, three and four. These criteria are explained as follows:
Criterion 1: Pasargadae is the first visible sign of the Achaemenid royal architecture.
Criterion Two: Cyrus the Great built this Achaemenid capital in collaboration with various peoples of the Achaemenid Empire. This work is known as a fundamental step in the evolution of Iranian art and classical architecture.
Criterion Three: The Pasargadae Archeological Site Despite having palaces and gardens and hosting the tombs of Cyrus and the Shah of Iran it is a memorial to the Achaemenid civilization.
Fourth criterion: The Chahar Baghi complex located in Pasargadae is a great example of these architectures, and is recognized as the foundation of this form of architecture and design in Western Asia during that particular time.