The dynastic capital of Pasargadae was built by Cyrus the Great during 6th century BC. with contributions from different peoples of the empire created by him. It became a fundamental phase in the evolution of the classic Persian art and architecture. With its palaces, gardens, and the tomb of the founder of the dynasty, Cyrus the Great, Pasargadae represents exceptional testimony to the Achaemenid civilization in Persia. The “Four Gardens” type of royal ensemble created in Pasargadae became a prototype for Western Asian architecture and design. Pasargadae is located in the plain on the river Polvar, in the heart of Pars, the homeland of the Persians. The position of the town is also denoted in its name: ‘the camp of Persia’. Pasargadae world heritage site includes remaining structures of Tomb of Cyrus.
Tomb of Cyrus the Great, pasargadae, Iran
Pasargadae World Heritage Site
Pasargadae world heritage site includes remaining structures of Tomb of Cyrus, royal garden fountains and decorative channels, gate palace, audience palace, private palace, fire temple, two pavilions, Cambyses’ tomb and Mozaffari caravanserai (14th century). Certainly the tomb of Cyrus is one of the main tourist attractions of this complex. In the past, this place was known as tomb of Solomon’s mother – the biblical Bathsheba, mother of Solomon.
Pasargadae Site Map
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Tomb of Cyrus the Great – Pasargadae
The tomb of Cyrus the great structurally consists of two distinct elements: a high platform composed of six receding levels and a tomb chamber on the top with a steep-pitched gable roof is in form of a simple house with a small opening from the west side. The entire monument, which originally reached almost eleven meters in height, is constructed in massive ashlars masonry with few decorative moldings and designs, creating an overall effect of simplicity of lines combined with volumetric solidness. The rectangular platform is composed of two visually distinct portions; the lower three steps each measure about one meter in height, while the upper three steps are just about half that height.
Schematic diagram of tomb of Cyrus the Great
Although the overall design continues to convey a vital sense of honesty and sanctity, it has been suggested that the idea for the platform and for a completely stepped structure has been inspired from the Babylonian and Elamite ziggurats.
In the medieval period, the monument was thought to be the tomb of Solomon’s mother. A small mosque was built near the tomb by using columns from the remains of the ancient palaces. this mosque was in use until the 14th century. During 10th century, In the 1970s during a restoration, the remains of the mosque were taken back to the place they belong to, and the ancient fragments were deposited close to their original location.
Architecture of Cyrus’ Tomb
The main structure of the tomb consists of two parts: the first part of the building is the base and a platform made of 6 steps. The second part of the tomb is a small room with a gable roof on the sixth step. The total height of the building is a little more than 11 m. The height of the tomb chamber is slightly more than 2 m and its walls are 1.5 m thick. Carved stones in four rows that are beautifully placed on top of each other and two very heavy pieces of stone are located on the floor of the tomb, also the roof of the tomb is made of stone.
The interesting point about the architecture of this building is that no mortar was used in its construction. All the outer parts of the tomb are built on seven floors on top of each other, and the designer probably executed this type of design because of the sanctity of the number seven. This tomb was renovated once in 1971 and again between 2001-2008.
Located about 100 m north of the tomb of Cyrus, is the Mozaffari caravanserai or hostel. It was later made of the transported stones from the original Achaemenid monuments of Pasargadae. The plan is a square 45.20 x 40.30 m. A series of rooms are organized around a court of 18.50 x 16.50. The monument was built under Shah Shoj’a (1358-1374 A.D.), one of the famous rulers of the Mozaffari dynasty in Fars region, who was one of the patrons and supporters of the celebrated Iranian poet, Hafez (Hafiz) . Some scholars believe that it was a theological school (Madrassa) which formed a religious center in the proximity of the Mausoleum of Salomon’s mother (now know as the tomb of Cyrus) after the construction of the mosque around the tomb. It was disaffected later and became a caravanserai probably in the late 18th or early 19th century. In 1951, Mr. Ali Sami director of the excavations at Pasargadae site restored and reconstructed the ruined caravanserai to become the site’s excavation house and offices.
Mozaffari Carvansarai ,Pasargadae
The royal ensemble occupying the central area of Pasargadae consists of several palaces originally located within a garden ensemble (the so-called ‘Four Gardens’). The colour scheme of the architecture is given by the black and white stones used in its structure. The main hall of the palaces is formed of a hypostyle hall, to which are attached porticoes.
Private Palace of Cyrus the Great
the Private Palace has a similar plan to other Palaces of Pasargadae with a central columned hall sliced open by stone doorways in all four walls. although just the west and east (the right and left hand) sides were fronted by porticoes.
The low roof of this hall and a large number of columns, arranged in five rows of six, undoubtedly were composed to create a more intimate environment than that found in the great hall of any other palace.
This Residential Palace of Cyrus was built 535-530 BCE.
The residential palace of Cyrus the great, Pasargadae
Pasargadae Audience Hall
The Audience Hall was built around 539 BCE. This hypostyle hall has two rows of four columns whose bases and capitals are in black stone and their shafts are made from white limestone. There is evidence of a capital representing a hybrid, horned and crested lion. The palace had a portico on each side. Some of the bas-reliefs of the doorways are preserved, showing human figures and monsters. There is a cuneiform inscription on one of the walls that says : I am Cyrus, the Achaemenid King.
Stone tower at Pasargadae
Stone tower of Pasargadae is a 14-meter high tower that still present a more or less intact entrance façade built almost exclusively by finely cut slabs of white limestone with the striking exception of three rows of windows that are in dark limestone. The location of the windows is visibly not related to the interior plan of the building, which was a single room raised above almost 8 meters of solid masonry.
The function of this stone tower is not clear yet but it is believed by most scholars to be the tomb of Cambyses II (Son of Cyrus).
The Tol-e Takht or Tal-e Takht refers to a great fortified terrace platform on a hill at the northern limit of Pasargadae built In later period. This limestone structure is built from dry masonry, using large regular stone blocks and a jointing technique called anathyrosis, which was known in Asia Minor in the 6th century. The first phase of the construction was built by Cyrus the Great, halted at his death in 530 BCE. The second phase was built under Darius the Great (522-486 BCE), using mud brick construction.
According to archaeological findings, the first example of a Persian garden was Pasargadae Garden, founded by Cyrus the Great. The magnificent regularity signifying the universe is used to express the king’s power. What results from a survey of gardens in Mesopotamia show that gardens built in the Achaemenid period were used to represent the country’s political power, and were designed in a way to make it possible for tributaries and taxpayers to understand that they were ruled by a powerful ruler.
Left: Imaginative Pasargadae gardens reconstruction Image excavated irrigation water channels Right: Excavated irrigation channels of Pasargadae gardens
Gate Palace of Pasargadae
Located at the eastern edge of the palace vicinity, Palace R (or Gate Place or Palace with the Relief) is the earliest known example of a freestanding monumental gateway. It may well have served as the inspiration for the later famous Gate of All Nations at Persepolis built under Xerxes. Here, the gate consists of a rectangular columned hall (26.40 m x 22.60 m in size) pierced by two opposite monumental doorways on its long axis and by two side doorways on its cross axis.
The roof of the hall was supported by two rows of four columns, of which only the stone bases are partly preserved under a new brick cover. The large size of the latter (about 2 x 2 meters) suggests that the original stone columns must have towered over 16 m high, which would have made the gate the tallest structure in the complex. Around the palace, there was a high mud-brick wall and two rooms near the northeast and southwest gates for guards. The height of the gates was 9 m and now only one of the piers of the northern gate is left. On this stone pier, they have carved a human figure with four wings in worship. This role is the only almost intact bas-relief in Pasargadae excavation site.
Winged Figure of Pasargadae
The most distinctive feature of the Gate palace is a carved, winged magical guardian figure that miraculously survived on one pier of the small northern doorway. The 3 m high carving shows a four-winged bearded man wearing a crown which is actually an Egyptian Hemhem crown, and a full-length Elamite robe that passes over his right arm. The right hand is raised in front of the chest with the fingers fully extended. The left hand is less preserved. The finely modeled feet are bare.
Undoubtedly, the winged figure of Pasargadae is obviously inspired by concepts from Assyrian, Egyptian, Elamite and pre-Achaemenid Persian art and culture. But here we do not have replica but rather a recreation of an established tradition with a different concept, stressing the power of the new empire to the viewers. All appear to represent a deliberate attempt to apply and adopt the visual traditions of recently conquered regions in order to create a single, powerful, spiritual and protective image.
The use of the art of different nations in this carving is taken from the high human thoughts of Cyrus. In fact, each part represents the presence of a different nation. By creating this symbol, Cyrus created a kind of unity and empathy among the people of different lands with the idea of equality of human beings of any color, race and language.
According to some 19th century travelers’ paintings, a tri-lingual inscription existed above the figure until 1861, translated as “I, Cyrus, the King, an Achaemenian”. This clearly asserted that the winged figure was deliberately created as a spiritual symbol of Cyrus the Great just a short time after his death in 530 BC. This is why many scholars have attributed the figure to Cyrus the Great, while some others doubt this theory and believe it to be a protective genie – like the Assyrian prototypes.