PERSIAN ART AND ARCHITECTURE
The mingling of different people and ideas created new expressions in art. The Persians were eager to combine new forms of art with their own, and a beautiful and colorful civilization was the result. The capital of Persepolis is a rich example of the how the diversity of cultures within the empire created new forms of artistic expression.
The site of Persepolis is a rocky point jutting out from a line of low hills. It faces west and overlooks a broad, fertile plain. The point was cut down to create a level platform. From the plain below, a great staircase led up to the platform and ended at an entrance gate. Just inside the gate was the portico of “all lands,” which was guarded by huge human-headed, winged bulls carved out of stone brought from Nineveh.
To the south of the portico stood the great apadana, or audience hall. The walls of the apadana and its double staircase were built of stone decorated with carved images of Persian guards in their distinctive Persian and Median dress and long lines of subjects of the empire bringing their offerings for the New Year festival. The hall had six rows of six massive columns, which held up a flat roof covering the entire structure.
To the east of the apadana was yet another hall made up of 100 stone columns. Assyrian columns covered with Egyptian designs rose 60 feet (18.3 m) and supported a structure that measured 40,000 square feet (3,716 sq meters).
Designs, elements, and details from buildings seen in distant lands were used in creating the beauty of Persepolis. From Assyria came the idea of a royal structure being placed on a raised platform, the use of colossal stone bulls, and the composition and style of incised stonework. The influence of Egyptian art brought decorative elements and profiles used in making ornate moldings.
Persepolis was backed by a bare mountainside into which the tomb of Darius I was cut into the face of the cliffs. By contrast, the tomb of Cyrus the Great was built out on the open Murghab plain.
By stacking large blocks of stone almost 35 feet (10.7 m) high, the tomb of Cyrus the Great took on the look of a Mesopotamian ziggurat combined with the features of an Anatolian tomb. Carved on the tomb are these words, “I am Cyrus, who founded the empire of the Persians. Grudge me not therefore, this little earth that covers my body.”
Persia became known for its polished gray pottery, as well as its skill in creating beautiful jewelry. Thick carpets with intricately woven designs unique to the different people of the empire were in high demand. Gold and silver bracelets, earrings, pendants, and necklaces were bought and sold.
Beads of gold, carnelian, coral, amethyst, and lapis lazuli were fashioned into colorful and expensive ornaments. Designs in jewelry would often take on the forms of animals, bells, flowers, or geometric shapes. From Egypt, Persian artisans learned the skill of inlaying precious stones to create beautiful jewelry.