The City of a Thousand Pillars

We are hearing much about Iran in the news these days. The nation of 82.5 million people has been a thorn in the side of some Western “democracies” since their Revolution in 1979. Once again that thorn is being cited as a major threat to civilization as we know it. I will not begin to claim that I am knowledgeable enough on modern – or earlier – world politics to understand it all but I can say that Iran has been a country that has fascinated me for many years. And particularly the ancient site of Persepolis.

The Cyrus Cylinder which the Shah claimed was the first declaration of universal human rights was the symbol of the elaborate celebration at Persepolis.

Back in 1971 the media was awash with coverage of the celebration of 2500 anniversary of the Persian Empire. In October of that year Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi – whose link to the Dynastic succession of Cyrus and Darius owed more to US and British intervention than historic fact – held what became known as the “party of the century“. And the site of that mammoth, and expensive, celebration was the ancient ruins of the City of a Thousand Pillars: Persepolis – the City of the Persians. And so an item for my bucket list was born.

The banqueting tent held 600 guests with 60 members of ruling Royal families and Heads of State dinning at a single serpentine table set with a seamless hand woven table cloth. Princess Anne was heard to remark that she hoped never to eat peacock again!

Fast forward to an airline employee contest in 1978 where your’s truly won two tickets on Gulf Air – at the time one of the most luxurious carriers in the world. They flew out of London to Shiraz, a legendary city of poets, literature, wine and gardens; and the gateway to Persepolis. My friend Gary and I had started planning but the best laid plans etc. By January 1979 the Shah had left the country and the Revolution was in full swing. It was no longer safe to travel there. Persepolis was to remain an unchecked item on the bucket list.

So why this lengthy retelling of old disappointments? Well I have had now had a chance to see the City of the Persians if only in photographs. Carole, a French photographer, has made it her mission to follow in the footsteps of the Emperor Hadrian and share her photographic experience. Almost as insatiable in her travels as the Emperor she has covered and photographed much of the world known to the Romans of the time. And this week she took me as close to Persepolis as I will probably get in my lifetime. I thought I’d share it with you.

following hadrian photography

The magnificent ruins of Persepolis, or Parsa, lie at the foot of Kuh-i-Rahmat, roughly 650 kilometres south of the capital city of Tehran, and 70 kilometres northeast of Shiraz in the Fars region of southwestern Iran. Founded around 518 BC by Darius I (the Great), the site served as the ceremonial capital of the Achaemenid Empire and was intended and designed to display the splendour and majesty of an empire that stretched from Greece to India. Sacked by Alexander the Great in 333 BC, the site lay hidden, covered in sand until rediscovered in 1620. Persepolis was declared a UNESCO world heritage site in 1979.

Coordinates: 29° 56′ 4″ N, 52° 53′ 29″ E

Persepolis, a Greek toponym meaning “city of the Persians”, was known to the Persians as Parsa. It was a monument complex of structures built to the commands of the great Achaemenid kings between about 518 and about 450 BC. An inscription…

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