The Apadana or «The Audience Palace»

The Audience Palace of Darius and Xerxes, the Apadana, consisted of a main square hall with thirty-six columns, three porticos (each with twelve columns) on the north, west and east sides, and a series of storage and guardrooms on the south side. Four towers protected the four corners of the building.

The construction was started by Darius I and completed by Xerxes.

The palace stands upon a podium 3m higher than the level of the Apadana court and the floor of the Gate of All Lands and in many places rests upon the natural rock. Access to it is reached through two double-reversed staircases on the north and east. The facades of these staircases were ornamented with friezesand inscriptions. Seventy-two columns once supported the roof of the main hall and the three porticos. Here again the choice of the number was deliberate as 72 was a symbolic number. Of these, only fourteen are still standing; one of which (in the northeastern corner of the eastern portico) was reassembled and restored by us in the late 1970s. However, from the accounts and illustrations by European travelers who have visited Persepolis, we know that in 1619 twenty columns were still standing; this number was reduced in 1627 to nineteen, in1677 to eighteen, in 1694 to seventeen, in 1787 to fifteen, and in 1841 to thirteen. Since then no column has fallen.

Darius the Great placed gold and silver plates bearing a «foundation inscription» inside the four corner walls. In this text he speaks of the extent of his empire «from the Scythians who are beyond Sogdiana up to Kushiya (Ethiopia) and thence to Sardis (Lydia) ». The lack of any reference to the European Scythians, whom Darius fought in 513-12 B.C., or to Skudra (Macedonia) which was occupied a title earlier led Schmidt to conclude that the construction of the Apadana had begun in about 513 B.C., and that at least the preliminary works up to the foundation walls were completed by that date.

The Western Portico of the Apadana

The floor of the western portico stands 14m higher than the level of the plain. Its roof was supported on twelve columns (in two rows of six columns each). Each column was composed of three elements: a base in the shape of a large bell, decorated with vertical petal designs, which reached a height of 1.5m and was covered by a discoid torus, a cylindrical shaft with vertical flutings 15.63m high; and a capital in the form of a double-headed bull whose heads faced north and south. Upon the backs of these double-headed bulls was placed the head of a main-bean, which itself was 1.10m high. The total height of each column was therefore over 19.50 meters, which means that the roof with its crenellations was slightly over 37m higher than the level of the plain. A thick mud-brick wall, 5.32m thick, separated the portico from the main hall, and the middle of it was pierced by a large doorway with a two-leaved door. 

It is quite clear that Darius’ original plan had envisaged a western terrace wall running straight from the southwestern corner all the way to the northwestern corner of the platform. But when a later builder decided to add a court and two small palaces west of the western portico of the Apadana, he had to create an open space

18 meters wide in front of the western portico by erecting a new platform wall.

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World heritage documents


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