human headed winged bull

Architecture (Part 12): The Palace of Darius

Persian architecture is from the 500’s-300’s BC, and is mostly the remains of palace-temples in Pasagardae, Persepolis, and Susa.  This architecture has a mixture of Assyrian, Egyptian and Greek influences.  The Assyrian influences are that the Persians built on mounds or platforms, now with even more magnificent stone staircases, which were lined with carvings depicting animals and the king’s attendants.  They also used large relief decorations and brightly-coloured glazed brickwork like the Assyrians.

Persepolis has the greatest Persian architecture.  Here, the palaces are massive, dominated by huge square audience halls called apadana. The plans were very complex.

Persepolis is surrounded by a wall, with three large terraces inside. The high central terrace is flanked by lower platforms.  The palaces of Darius and Xerxes (his son) are on these terraces.

The Gate of All Nations, also called the Gate of Xerxes, is marked yellow on the second map.  It was built on the northern terrace, and the other buildings were built on the central terrace.  [Referring just to the palaces, or all of the buildings??]

Gate of All Nations.

The Apadana’s construction was begun by Darius, and finished by Xerxes.  It was mostly used for great receptions by the kings.  It had 72 columns, but only 13 are still standing.  There are two staircases, on the northern & eastern sides, lined with stone-carved reliefs of human figures and stylized plant forms, including rosettes.

The Palace of Darius was built in 521 BC, and below is a drawing based on a carving on Darius’ tomb.  A double flight of steps leads up to an open loggia (gallery/room with one/more open sides), which leads to a central hall.  On the roof is a talar (raised platform), where the king performed religious ceremonies, as he was also the high priest.

Remains of the Palace of Darius.

The doorway had a curved, reeded cornice (ornamental moulding just below the top), like over the doorways of Egyptian temples.


In the door-jamb is a carved stone slab, showing a servant escorting the king inside while holding a sunshade.

The palace had a central apadana with 16 columns.  It was surrounded by smaller cells.  Towers at each of the four corners may have contained guard-rooms and stairs.  A view of the open countryside could be seen from the western portico.

The Hall of 100 Columns (Throne Hall on the second map) had a portal in front of it, with human-headed winged stone bulls, similar to the Assyrian lamussu at Nineveh & Nimrud.  They flanked a mud-brick gatehouse, its walls faced with glazed multi-coloured bricks.


Hall of 100 Columns.

Archaeological Victims of ISIS Rise Again, as Replicas in Rome

ROME — A statue of a human-headed winged bull from the Northwest Palace in Nimrud, Iraq, that was bulldozed by the Islamic State last year to great outcry has been faithfully recreated using modern technology and put on exhibit at the Colosseum in Rome to spur discussion of the possible reconstruction of war-torn archaeological sites.

Full-scale reconstructions were also made of two damaged Syrian sites: the archive room of Ebla and a portion of a ceiling from the Temple of Bel in Palmyra, as examples of how conflict can devastate a nation’s fragile heritage.

“Nimrud was the first place to be destroyed,” said Frances Pinnock, the co-director of the Ebla expedition, the most important Italian archaeological expedition to Syria. “It was a palace known as the Versailles of the ancient Near East, and so it was chosen because it was symbolic.” Read more.


Egyptianized Near Eastern Hematite Cylinder Seal, Syria, 1820-1730 BC

In the area that corresponds roughly with the boundaries of modern Syria and Lebanon, there arose in the first half of the second millennium BC many centers of culture that maintained contact with lands both to the east and the west. The seals produced in this region—in a number of local styles—often bear imagery and stylistic features that relate them to Egyptian and Aegean art.

The main scene on this cylinder seal depicts a worshiper (probably the king) before a divinity, who holds a vase (?) and is seated above two human-headed bulls. The god is enthroned on a stool with lion legs of a type known from actual contemporary remains in wood and ivory from both Egypt and Anatolia. The smaller images include a sphinx wearing an Egyptian crown, attacking an antelope; an ankh, the Egyptian symbol for life; a winged solar disc representing Shamash over a recumbent crescent moon representing Sin; two eight pointed stars representing Ishtar; a kneeling bird-man under a plait-like motif which probably represents subterranean fresh water; a quadruped and a monkey are in front of the king, possibly as sacrificial offerings to the seated god.