Persepolis (Gr., "city of the Persians;" Pers. Istakhr), one of the ancient capitals of Persia. It stood 35 m. N. E. of Shiraz, on a spacious plain now called Merdasht, near the confluence of the Medus and the Araxes (now Pulvar and Bendamir). The plain is naturally one of the richest and most beautiful in the world, and is surrounded by lofty mountains. The remains usually spoken of as the ruins of Persepolis are only those of great palaces situated at a considerable distance from the city. Few traces remain of the capital itself. The group of ruins at the foot of one of the mountains, projecting somewhat beyond the line of the range into the plain, is called by the natives Tchihil Minar, forty columns, or Takht-i-Jemshid, Jemshid's throne. The principal feature is the massiveness of the substructure on which the buildings stood. It is a platform 1,500 ft. long and 936 ft. wide, supported on three sides by walls, the fourth side abutting on the hills. Of the three terraces which compose this platform, the central is the longest and highest, being over 40 ft. high, and measuring 770 ft. in the front. A staircase over 20 ft. wide, and consisting of two flights of broad and low stone steps that can easily be mounted on horseback, leads to the surface of the platform.
Two smaller staircases on the north and south are richly decorated with sculpture. On the northern terrace stand two colossal bulls of an Assyrian type, which once flanked a propylseum 12 ft. wide and over 30 ft. high. Save two fluted pillars 60 ft. high, the hall to which the propylseum gave entrance has entirely disappeared. The great central terrace still bears many fragments of the buildings once standing on the platform. The staircase leading to it is elaborately ornamented with sculptures of chariots drawn by horses, and long rows of warriors, captives, priests, and kings, representing a triumphal procession. Some of the bases of columns and three pillared porticoes formed the great hall of Xerxes. The dimensions of a similar construction, called the "hall of a himdred columns," can also be traced; and the remains of four palaces lie upon the platform, which have been identified as the residences of Cyrus or Oambyses, Darius, Xerxes, and Artaxerxes Ochus. While the ornamentation of the first two palaces consists principally of representations of the kings engaged in combat with lions and monsters, the sculptures of the other two exhibit only scenes of the luxurious life at court. Back of the ruins are seven rock-cut tombs, but only one, that of Darius Hystaspis, has an inscription.
The most interesting relics of the capital itself, about 2 m. N. of the remains just described, are several enormous blocks, which perhaps formed part of one of the city gates, or of a fortified gate like those described by Xenophon. Only one pillar remains erect of a palace, but from the bases of others, and from the traces of the wall, it may be inferred that the Istakhr palace closely resembled the buildings on the platform. Persepolis took the place of Pasargadse, the more ancient capital of Persia proper, from the time of Darius Hystaspis. According to Strabo, in the later times of the empire it was next in rank to Susa, the richest bt all Persian cities. It was wantonly de-stroyed by Alexander the Great in 331 B. 0., and after the time of Antiochus Epiphanes it disappears from history. For the inscriptions found at Persepolis, and their decipherment, see Cuneiform Inscriptions, vol. v., p. 574. - See Fergusson, "Palaces of Nineveh and Persepolis Restored" (London, 1851); Raw-linson, " The Five Great Ancient Monarchies"
Stairs of Palace of Xerxes, Persepolis.
(vol. iii., 2d ed., London, 1871); and P. V. N. Myers, " Remains of Lost Empires " (New York, 1875).