The first dynastic capital of the First Persian Empire

Farzad Hosseinpour May 4, 2019 3 min read

Pasargadae is the resting place of Cyrus the Great, the “King of the Four Corners of the World”. It is located in Dasht-e Morghab (the Morghab Plain) about 50 kilometers north of Persepolis. The monument features six stone tiers with a rectangular burial chamber on top.

Tomb of Cyrus the Great in Pasargadae
Tomb of Cyrus the Great in Pasargadae

The site was ringed by a well-watered lush garden before the incursion by the armies of Alexander the Great. You can see the remains of Cyrus’s Private Palace one kilometer north of the tomb. The remains include the columns of its central hall, the Audience Palace and the prison of Solomon near the tomb.

Each year on Nowruz, large crowds of Iranians gather at Pasargadae to pay tribute to Cyrus the Great and celebrate the New Year. Pasargadae was the first dynastic capital of the Achaemenid Empire, the first great multicultural Empire in Western Asia. Cyrus the Great founded the dynasty in the 6th century BCE. He chose the site because it was near the scene of his victory over Astyages, the last king of the Median Empire.

Pasargadae Ruins
Pasargadae Ruins

At its prime, the Achaemenid kingdom spanned from the Eastern Mediterranean and Egypt in the west to the Indus River in the East. It was the first empire that respected the cultural diversity of its different peoples. This was evident in Achaemenid architecture, a synthetic representation of different cultures. Today, Pasargadae is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Pasargadae in History

You can find the most extensive historical account of Pasargadae in the writings of Greek historian Arrian. He quotes Aristobulus while describing the ancient monument:

“In the building, lay a golden coffin, in which the body of Cyrus had been buried, and by the side of the coffin was a couch, the feet of which were of gold wrought with the hammer. A carpet of Babylonian tapestry with purple rugs formed the bedding, upon it were also a Median coat with sleeves and other tunics of Babylonian manufacture. Aristobulus adds that Median trousers and robes dyed the color of hyacinth were also lying upon it, as well as others of purple and various other colors; moreover there were collars, sabers, and earrings of gold and precious stones soldered together, and near them stood a table.”

The palaces, gardens and the tomb are outstanding examples of the first stage of the Achaemenid art and architecture. They also serve as exceptional testimonies to the grandeur of the Persian civilization. Pasargadae is not as well-preserved as Persepolis but it still retains some of its past glory.

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