Persepolis—Esther 9:16

The Achaemenid [Persian] emperors ruled their vast territory from several important cities that served as capitals. Pasargadae, Persepolis, Ecbatana, Susa, and Babylon each became centers of royal power at some point in Persian history, most of the time sharing that honor with other cities. Archaeologists have identified the impressive ruins of Persepolis as those close to the modern city of Shiraz in Fars, Iran. The massive remains of colossal architecture testify to the glorious days of the Persian Empire.

Cyrus II the Great (550–530 BC) had chosen Pasargadae as his capital, but he died before its completion. His son Cambyses II (530–522 BC) decided to move the royal seat to Susa, which remained as a political powerhouse. The turbulent rise of Darius I (522–486 BC) required legitimization, and he decided to build a new capital not far from Pasargadae: Parsa (known to the Greeks as the “city of the Persians” [Persepolis]). It was a center of ceremonial activity and imperial art.

Inscriptions and architectural remains at various sites in the ancient Near East indicate that Darius was a patron of building projects. The construction of Parsa began in 515 BC, the same year as the completion of the Jerusalem Temple. The archaeological remains of Persepolis are stunning and include palaces, banquet rooms, and richly decorated halls, all displaying the Persian influence on ancient art and architecture. Among the ruins are the chambers in which Darius’ generals planned his failed campaign against the Greeks, who had viciously burned Sardis in 498 BC. Those turbulent decades in the ancient Near East felt as if God was indeed fulfilling His promise to “shake the nations” (see Haggai 2:7). Darius’ son, Xerxes I (Ahasuerus, 486–465 BC), crossed the Hellespont to avenge his father’s defeat at Marathon (490 BC). Also, he brutally torched Athens in 480 BC as retaliation for the destruction of Sardis.

But the forces of Alexander enacted their vengeance on Persepolis when they utterly destroyed it in 330 BC. One of the worst tragedies was that the fire consumed the Persian parchment records. Since the Persian narratives and royal annals have not survived, what we know about the empire comes mainly through Greek historical accounts. On the other hand, the fire preserved the Persepolis’ clay Treasury and Fortification Tablets and numerous bullae. Such epigraphical remains contain a valuable trove of administrative, economic, and onomastic information. They record the changes in inflation during the time of Xerxes, which could have affected the taxation of Persian territories. The fire preserved references to names of places, personal names, food rations, and other social and administrative information.


Garrison and Cool Root, Seals on the Persepolis Fortification Tablets I: Images of Heroic Encounter.

Henkelman, The Other Gods Who Are: Studies in Elamite-Iranian Acculturation Based on the Persepolis Fortification Texts.

Mousavi, Persepolis: Discovery and Afterlife of a World Wonder.

Silverman, Persepolis and Jerusalem: Iranian Influence on the Apocalyptic Hermeneutic.