Persepolis, Iran: a lost city you can still visit

Founded by Darius I in 518 B.C., Persepolis was the capital of the Achaemenid Empire. It was built on an immense half-artificial, half-natural terrace, where the king of kings created an impressive palace complex inspired by Mesopotamian models. The importance and quality of the monumental ruins make it a unique archaeological site.

Persepolis, whose magnificent ruins rest at the foot of Kuh-e Rahmat (Mountain of Mercy) in south-western Iran, is among the world’s greatest archaeological sites. Renowned as the gem of Achaemenid (Persian) ensembles in the fields of architecture, urban planning, construction technology, and art, the royal city of Persepolis ranks among the archaeological sites which have no equivalent and which bear unique witness to a most ancient civilization. The city’s immense terrace was begun about 518 BCE by Darius the Great, the Achaemenid Empire’s king. On this terrace, successive kings erected a series of architecturally stunning palatial buildings, among them the massive Apadana palace and the Throne Hall (“Hundred-Column Hall”).persepolis

In 330 BCE, Persepolis was captured by Alexander the Great. Before he left the city, he ordered the palace burned to the ground – whether through drunken malice or sober calculation, it is impossible to be sure. Today, the haunting, spectacular ruins of Persepolis reveal both the glory of the Achaemenid Empire, and the abruptness of its passing. The palace is still marked by Alexander’s fire: three feet of ash covered the floor in some places when it was first excavated – and many of the columns are still visibly scarred by those flames which burned over two thousand years ago.


Within the boundaries of the property are located the known elements and components necessary to express the Outstanding Universal Value of the property, including the archaeological remains of the terrace and of its related royal palaces and buildings.

The most significant identified challenge to the integrity of the property and its buffer zone is controlling its borders and boundaries against agricultural, industrial, and constructional development. The principal potential threats are the growth of Marvdasht town, new village developments, and the arrival of polluting industries. These threats are considered to be increasing.


The archaeological ruins at Persepolis are authentic in terms of their locations and setting, materials and substance, and forms and design. The present location of the Persepolis terrace and its related buildings has not changed over the course of time. Restoration work has carefully respected the authenticity of the monuments, utilizing traditional technology and materials in harmony with the ensemble. No changes have been made to the general plan of Persepolis. Moreover, there are no modern reconstructions at Persepolis; the remains of all the monuments are authentic.