Pasargadae is a tangible cultural heritage of Iran listed by UNESCO as World Heritage Site. When you visit Pasargadae and its monuments, keep in mind that this is the heart of Iran without which there could never be anything called the Persian Empire, Persian culture, Iranian identity, Iran, etc. The historic event that happened at Murghab plain in 550 BC where Pasargadae is located, changed the course of history both for Iranians as well as the people of the world.
It’s highly recommended to the world travelers, who visit Iran, to stop by Pasargadae and spend some time to ponder how a nation was formed by a man whose ambitions took humanity and human values to a whole new level. I’m telling you about the Cyrus the Great. He was from Achaemenian family, a Persian whose ancestors have been ruling in the south and central Iran for a long time either independently or appointed by Medes.
Historical Background of the formation of Pasargadae
At the time when Astyages, the last Median king suppressed his own people in North West of today’s Iran, Medes were so fed up with their everyday lives that had found no choice but to wait for a savior who could help them out of such brutality. Cyrus II, who was then the king of Anshan, fought against him in this plain and defeated him. What he did afterward was even more important. He united Medes and Persians. Later, he brought many other nations and ethnic groups under the same flag of Persian Empire established by him to coexist peacefully.
Cyrus, who is the first historical character titled the great, found a centralized governing system in Iranian plateau for the first time. One of the most outstanding policies he enforced was the tolerance of different beliefs, traditions, ideas, etc. He never forced anyone to change to conform to what he believed. Various groups of people lived in different provinces (called Satrapies) without feeling any religious, or cultural pressure or discrimination.
Once the battle was won, he decided to build a city at the location where Astyages was defeated called Parskadeh or Pasargadae (the place where Persians live). He built a city where Achaemenian art and architecture emerged and Persian gardens were planned for the first time. Murghab plain was much greener at the time when the city was built there. A lot of gardens, flowers, and birds gave particular beauty to the city. Cyrus lived there, ruled there and was buried there after he was killed in a battle.
He was not an emperor ruling from his magnificent throne without knowing what challenges threaten the stability of his country. He was personally involved in the fight against white Huns who were considered the biggest threats to the civilized nations. They attacked Persians from the eastern borders. As long as Persians dominated in the region under the Achaemenian rule, Huns could never cross this country and were always blocked at the east. Later they made it all the way to Europe. Eventually, he died at one of such battles.
The Remnants of Pasargadae
What’s left today from a beautiful city and the heart of an empire that ruled a large part of the world is a few structures that remind us of the splendor and importance of this ancient city. Although the following Achaemenian kings had other capital cities, before taking office, they came to Pasargadae to pay respect to the founder of their country and held coronation ceremonies at his mausoleum.
Alexander who invaded Persia entered Pasargadae and destroyed it like he did so to other major cities of Persia as well as Persepolis. First, the mausoleum couldn’t be found easily as tall trees had surrounded it. Later when he found it and broke into it, he discovered an inscription that said:
“Passer-by, I am Cyrus, who gave the Persians an empire and was king of Asia.
Grudge me not, therefore, this monument.”
Anyway, a few gold items were stolen from the mausoleum and the palaces were plundered.
What you can see in Pasargadae today is:
- Tomb of Cyrus the Great,
- Private (residential) palace of Cyrus,
- Audience hall of Cyrus,
- Eastern (Entrance) Palace,
- Tomb of Cambyses,
- Tall-e Takht (Throne of Solomon),
- A Muzaffarid caravansary
It’s believed that Iranians had changed the name of this mausoleum to the tomb of the mother of Solomon to keep it away from Arab invaders’ assault when they attacked Iran in the 7th century. Even the village nearby is known by the same name of “Mother of Solomon”.
About Achaemenians’ Art & Architecture
The art and architecture found in Pasargadae are inspired from the ones in Elam, Egypt, Babylon, and Assyria. The style applied to put them together is a particular one devised by Persians. Faces are profiles, not full ones. Cuneiform is the script used to convey some messages and introduce some inscriptions. Stones are the main constructional materials used for flooring, gateways, and columns. Walls were made with sun-dried bricks and ceilings were formed by wood.
The tomb itself is the second of its style in ancient Persia inspired by the tomb of Cyrus’ ancestor called Gur-Dokhtar, which is located near Poshtpar, the western part of Fars province.
The residential palace of Cyrus was under construction at the time destruction as it not completed symmetrically. It has a rectangular plan with 30 columns and carved figures at the gateways.
The audience hall is the largest and most spacious building that was used for the meetings and formal occasions. There are eight columns with black bases and white shafts, not fluted, but pretty tall that is believed to had been decorated by horned lions in form of stone capitals.
The Eastern Palace is known to be the first building at the eastern side of the ancient city of Pasargadae where officials entered to meet with the emperor. Little is left from this structure, but the famous winged man relief is standing at this palace. There used to be an inscription at the top of this stone slab on which Cyrus had introduced himself, but it has been taken off.
What’s known as the Tomb of Cambyses is one of the three structures of this type with the best-preserved one known as Zarathustra’s Cube in Naqsh-e-Rostam site near Persepolis. Only one wall is standing from this structure which is also known as the “Prison of Solomon”.
Tall-e Takht (Throne of Solomon) is the gigantic structure on the top of a hill overlooking the ancient city of Pasargadae. It’s a fortified terrace platform built with huge dressed stone blocks laid on top of one another and joined by metal clamps. This was built by Cyrus the great. Later, Darius the great added a brick-made part to this large structure which can be seen once you go to the top.
The Muzaffarid caravansary was built in the 14th century using the stone slabs from the palaces of Cyrus thus damaging a large part of these palaces. The uneven flooring and walls of this caravansary are powerful witnesses that the materials were not made for this structure.
Today’s Importance of Pasargadae
What makes Pasargadae a site for all times for Iranians is the undeniable fact that without Cyrus the great there couldn’t be any country called Iran and we were not here talking about our country. He’s been the architect of a country by this name. He had his own plan to build a nation with his own ideals, which was not realized and Iran went through lots of ups and downs that changed its destiny. His cause and love for a powerful humane state are still revered by many and even is the reason for nostalgia in many minds.