century BC the wondrous cities of the Persian Empire when Aeschylus the father of modern drama and a Greek wrote his play the Persians he portrayed the Persians as an arrogant but humbled people strong and aggressive but thwarted bent and defeated in memorable battles marathon Plataea Salamis but were the Persians only such course adventurers or does the history written by their enemies hide something of the truth in the last century from nearly 250,000 archaeological sites in Persia the modern-day Iran relics and monuments are being unearthed that seemed to contradict the Greeks version of history inscriptions on rocks and walls of ancient Persian cities for ages undecipherable have slowly begun to unravel the mystery come with us now on this journey into the past as we open the doors to secrets of the boundless Persian Empire 2,500 years ago when Persia was the center of the world figures and profile lines of people wearing very different costumes exotic animals gifts coming from the most remote corners of the world ivory tusks pottery textiles and lion skins when archeologists digging at Persepolis first beheld these bar reliefs they were puzzled why depict so many different peoples from such distant lands in one work but slowly Clues fell into place that gave scholars the answers the people with the ivory tusks and the okapi are Ethiopians the dromedary is typical of the Arabs that pointed headdress clearly belongs to the Shiites the Assyrians are portrayed with a cart and here are Indians with a donkey 23 nations and all carved into this stairway representing the first great empire in history the Persian Empire and the many peoples who converged on its capital the vast Persian domain stretched from the African continent to the Indus River it included the fertile lands of Egypt and the Sudan it expanded into Europe with the reins of the Shiites and the Thracians it occupied Arabia and the Babylonian lands between the Tigris and the Euphrates to the northeast had extended as far as today's Uzbekistan and to the southeast it crossed into India and at the center Persia in all its splendor for decades these inscriptions represented an intriguing puzzle for archaeologists in addition to being cuneiform the text was written in three different languages high up on the mountain of baihe stone perched atop a tall ladder English army officers Sir Henry Rawlinson valiantly transcribed the text that was the easy part it then took him ten long years to decipher it thanks to the work of this great archeologist the puzzle was resolved in 1835 and a whole new world opened up to scholars the history of the Persians told this time through their own works the Greek historian Herodotus wrote the Persians adopt foreign customs more readily than any other people this sentence written with perhaps a touch of contempt actually reveals something positive and impressive about the Persians we are in pasar gotti the wing at genie we see here appears to be a typical Assyrian figure he is dressed as an Ella might and wears a showy Egyptian headdress but the genie was not found in either of these lands but here in Persia along with other clues this suggests that the concept of a unified world and perhaps the desire to belong to one originated in Persia and that the Persians found pleasure in trying out the different lifestyles of the Empire's many peoples visarga T founded in 553 BC was the Empire's first capital though later abandoned by the kings in favor of Sousa and Persepolis it was never left to decline inscriptions like this one have survived since that time I am Cyrus and acha menon though it is also trilingual written in babylonian elamite and persian the words call to light one of the greatest world leaders of all time this is the tomb of cyrus the great the man who built a boundless Empire from nothing in just a few years in Syrus time the economy in Asia was expanding the people wanted stability they wanted an end to the discord among the different tribes and people's there was a widespread desire to belong to a unified world today we call this idea ecumenism at that time the concept was that of a universal Empire the first one to appreciate its value and to put it into practice was Cyrus himself in Persia if you wanted to offer a tribute to the gods you'd be hard-pressed for there are no temples here all over Persia just as here around posaga tea altars have been found standing alone on open hilltops the traces left by fire during sacrifices can still be distinguished along with other evidence these discoveries helped archaeologists understand the nature of the Persian religion for the Persians all of creation was divine the sky and the earth and all its elements hence sacrifices were not held in an enclosed temple but out under the open sky they offered their sacrifices to the Sun to the moon to the earth to fire all as elements of a single deity a hora Mazda who incarnated the supreme good an early form of monotheism the Persians however did not force the peoples of their empire to believe in a hora Mazda they allowed freedom of worship you could dedicate your sacrifice on the altars to any god you wished this is souza one of the most important archaeological sites in Iran relics have been found here dating back to 4000 BC years of excavation work have revealed only a fraction of the city yet the great number of foundations and the remains of massive columns and capitals confirm that Suzhou was a palatial city equal in grandeur to Persepolis historical records tell us that under King Darius the first in 512 BC souza brew and splendor becoming a capitol together with Persepolis but why have two capitals at 5,000 feet above sea level Persepolis was covered by snow for most of the winter and thus impractical for many of the governmental functions with such a large Empire to direct the government certainly couldn't just shut down when the weather got bad instead they transferred operations to souza a bonafide imperial capital in its own right in souza archaeologists found glazed tiles that they quickly recognized as pieces of a larger picture when they were arranged like a sort of puzzle they began to tell a story they fit together to make elaborate tunics golden jewelry a gentleman a bow and a quiver but who were these warriors so richly adorned excavation work began in souza in 1884 the first to realize that those Warriors must have belonged to an elite unit where the French husband-and-wife team the Dula fois examining the puzzle in the light of descriptions by Herodotus they figured out that what was taking shape before their eyes was the image of one of the Emperor's personal guard units the legendary immortals there were 10,000 guards to protect the Emperor when one of them was struck down in battle another immediately took his place giving the impression that their ranks were immutable hence the name the Immortals the king they defended represented the unified state the power capable of imposing order and in some parts of the empire he was seen as a divinity the inscription of the base of this statue sculpted in Egypt but found in Souza bears witness to this to you Darius are given power and stability all the plains and mountains are collected under your sandals too you are given upper and lower egypt who worship your wondrous village like that of rah for all time the magnificent archaeological site of Persepolis one of the most important in the world lay hidden for 2,000 years Alexander the Great's troops in a drunken orgy to celebrate the conquest of the Persian capital raised it to the ground then time and sand buried it for centuries one of the excavated areas is the place where the court palaces stood but around them is an entire city of servants houses artisans workshops and everything else that served life in the king's court still waiting to be discovered and to reveal more secrets this nine pound golden tablet a treasure in its own right is a charter and gave scholars insight into the various construction phases of the palace city of Persepolis by examining the remains of the buildings in the light of the translation of this and other inscriptions archeologists were able to attribute each newly excavated area to a particular Emperor what we see here is the original nucleus founded by Darius this area represents a transition from Darius to Xerxes his son who was defeated by the Greeks and this area corresponds entirely to Xerxes the largest part of the archaeological site a sort of second city was built by the succeeding Emperor's down to Darius the third the discovery overturns a conviction passed on to us by the Greeks especially through Aeschylus and his Persians play which relates the inhabitants of the Asian lands no longer obey the Persians they no longer bear the exact in tribute nor do they fall prostrate to let themselves be commanded the Kings greatness is finished nothing could be farther from the truth as we have seen after Xerxes the King Aeschylus refers to Persepolis expanded considerably under his successors and its splendor grew indeed this did not mark the fall of the Empire nor even its decline archeologists have deciphered freezes and bar reliefs portraying a moment of great celebration and expansion of the Empire this alone gives us a sense of just how strong and solid that Empire was quite the opposite of the Barbarian images that the ancient Greeks handed down to us archeologists sifting through this ancient record have found images that portrayed delegations of different people's people with proud faces and erect bearing being led by a Persian master of ceremonies to an audience with the king of kings their precious and symbolic gifts tell a much different tale from that of the other great emperors of history who generally preferred to depict their subjects bound in chains but the biggest revelation of all came from this bar relief found next to the processions of the people's the image is clearly symbolic but what could it mean comparing the astral symbols with the Persian calendar scholars have ascertained that what we see here is the constellation Leo displacing Taurus we are thus at the first day of spring celebration known as ngerous on this day the people streamed in from neighboring areas and put up their tents around the center of the world initiating the Empire's greatest festival activities would take place both outside and inside the palace grounds those invited inside were in for a treat the Royal Palace of Persepolis had two grand public halls for receptions the first one is the apana the second is the Hall of the hundred columns between them is the tripe aisle on a private room for the king and his counselors and behind it by the Royal Apartments only the delegations representing the Imperial domains and the components of the imperial court were allowed to enter the rooms of the court after ascending the great staircase to the level of the Royal chambers 13 feet higher than the rest of the courtyard the delegates crowded into the apana through this grand portico the doors and door jams of the palace were carved in stone which was very abundant around Persepolis perched as it was on a terrace of living rock the walls on the other hand were covered in terracotta the apana also known as the audience chamber held as many as 10,000 people to avoid confusing Babel a common language was adopted during ceremonies and official acts Aramaic an easy idiom of Semitic origin that used the Phoenician alphabet by using a language that they themselves had to study and learn the Persians once again proved to be in the vanguard in desiring a common world that all would want to belong to Aramaic was the official language of the Persian bureaucracy an important step for developing from an empire encompassing many peoples to a state composed of a single people after presiding over the grand procession the King withdrew to this council chamber the try pylon on the door to the try pylon the king is sculpted as being borne aloft by his people an image that might allude to what happened inside here the king is meeting with his trusted aides to improve the organization of his empire and to make revolutionary decisions it would be in this chamber where the council resolved to build new roads chart new sea routes establish a unified system of weights and measures and adopt a common currency using bi-metal coins made of gold and silver the north and south doors to the Tri pylon leading to the Kings private apartments are decorated with bar reliefs showing the king entering and leaving followed by his servants the king and his court would have entered his private apartment up these steps inside the palace of Darius you'd better be on your best behavior or you might have to answer to the Kings watchdog what dinnertime was like is suggested by these bar reliefs the dishes found here are made of precious metals offering further testimony to the luxury that distinguished life in the Kings Court the King Lord of the provinces and armies appointed members of his family for his most trusted men to select positions and rewarded them with fabulous gifts an example is this superb golden sword kept in the Tehran Museum after the meal the king and his entourage would move toward the Hall of the hundred columns this is where the delegations would present their gifts the representatives of the peoples of the Empire would wait in the courtyard and from here when it pleased the king they would be invited into the Hall of the hundred columns for the audience this room was bigger than the first one but located at a lower level there was a grand portico before this hall as well it was richly decorated hinting at the sumptuousness and sacredness of the chamber within not everyone was allowed to approach the king sometimes you'd have to be content with just a glimpse of the Emperor when he sat on his throne in the hall of the hundred columns awaiting gifts to be laid at his feet he was enclosed in curtains and shrouded in shadow the sparkling of his scepter was the signal that granted the right to speak only a very few as we see in this bar relief were allowed to approach him and pay homage with a deferential kiss the hall is so named because it really contained 100 columns in rows of 10 a forest of stone trunks towering almost 65 feet so those who were not lucky enough to catch sight of the king could at least enjoy the magic of this enormous hall which evoked the vastness of the Persian Empire mythological animals on the tops of the columns watched over the king protecting his City and his people a few miles from Persepolis archaeologists discovered this building with a square foundation almost 40 feet high what it was is still a mystery sparking vigorous debate among scholars not just because of its unknown origin but also for its location close to the walls of Mount naqshi roost on here there are decorations carved into the rock strange crosses human figures inscriptions and for openings as if rooms had been dug into the mountain with their entrances off the ground there are several hypotheses regarding this work some say it is a temple of fire others that it is a watchtower but the most alluring idea of all is that it once was a library where sacred texts were kept if you get close enough to the wall you can see figures that more than any others helped scholars understand what is being said here they are Persians who are mourning the death of their Emperor the crosses of Nakuru stop are the royal tombs of Deus the first and his immediate successors Darius the great Conqueror who expanded the Persian Empire from India to Egypt was the first Persian King to have carved into the mountains images and phrases that were true political messages his spiritual Testament it is here on a mountain not in a book that the true history of Persia is written that which was ill done I made good the provinces were in upheaval one man was fighting against the other I brought peace my law keeps the stronger from harming the weaker I repaired the city walls that had fallen from age and I built another wall to serve from now into the future may Ahura Mazda protect me and my royal house and what has been inscribed by me you you more than 2000 years ago the Roman Empire controlled most of the known world rare gifts such as silk frankincense and myrrh were coveted in the kingdom they came from mysterious faraway lands in the east and they were worth as much as gold to deliver these goods to cities in the West caravans undertook long and perilous journeys over dangerous desert sands passing through secluded desert cities like Petra and Palmyra for centuries archaeologists and explorers have attempted to uncover these long-lost desert highways follow us as we journey back in time to the ancient trade routes and discover the lost caravans cities of the Middle East at the height of the Roman Empire the allure of exotic goods such as silk frankincense and myrrh from the Far East was bound up in mystery no one knew the secret of that featherweight fabric called silk and which faraway Kingdom produced it it was believed that Arabia was a mirage and that winged snakes protected its incense because of this veil of mystery and the high cost of transportation the Roman elite regarded these precious commodities as exclusive status symbols for centuries these luxurious Goods traveled thousands of miles along rough and perilous routes that linked the Far East and the West through written accounts and archaeological fieldwork scholars have pieced together enough evidence to trace these ancient routes to their source in the first century AD silk from China traveled along the famous Silk Road to the Roman frontier outpost the city of Palmyra located in modern-day Syria pepper and precious stones were sent across the Indian Ocean to the southern tip of the Arabian Peninsula to what is now Yemen and then on to Petra in modern-day Jordan together with the locally produced incense and myrrh and cinnamon from the Horn of Africa the silk traveled north by caravan of the incense route to North Africa and Europe a whole network of ancient Caravan trading routes and cities such as Petra linked China through Arabia and the Middle East to the great cities of the Mediterranean after searching for many years archaeologists discovered that these time-worn windblown ruins were the remains of the once affluent city of married it was here in Mari that caravans picked up the sap of local frankincense and myrrh bushes that was the source of the incense trade these remaining walls and other finds led to the discovery of an extraordinary work of engineering in both scale and the period when it was built eight centuries before Christ archaeologists realized that the walls were part of a huge hydraulic system the legendary dam of Mari located in the ancient kingdom of the Sabaean in what is now modern-day Yemen imagine a half-mile-long dam built in the middle of the desert the basin of the dam collected the abundant waters from seasonal monsoons that flowed down from the coastal mountain range to the desert the monumental dam lasted almost 1300 years until its collapse in the 5th century AD marking the end of the wealth of the Sabian's the dam at murid was an engineering marvel a complex system of channels distributed water that irrigated over 12,000 acres until it was buried by the desert sands who were the sabian people with the capability to build such a huge project they inhabited the southernmost tip of the Arabian Peninsula more than 2800 years ago their fame is forever linked to a biblical figure the Queen of Sheba this legendary and beautiful Sabian queen crossed the deserts of Arabia to meet the wise Israeli King of the Jews Solomon by whom she had a son historians endeavoured to discover where the beautiful Queen of Sheba came from excavations have uncovered a series of five elegant flat sided monolithic columns which are believed to be the remains of the temple of Bilkis the true name of the queen of sheba and the temple is where she was worshipped by the sabaeans as a goddess further on our lost desert highway we find Sanaa Yemen s magnificent capital where the incense and spice trade still flourish it is here that we find the National Museum and the origin of these ancient people this image is another biblical figure Shem son of Noah Shem founded the age-old capital of Sanaa and gave rise to a Semite tribe one of three ethnic groups into which humanity was divided numerous finds made in yemen tell us more about the sabian civilization these carvings are of particular interest known as Vetal or house of God they are masks venerated as fetishes and were seen as the embodiments of the gods but gods had many forms one of the gods Caravan Chiefs prayed two before setting off into the lonely night of the desert was the moon in a hot country like Arabia the moon was venerated much more than the Sun the resins of the frankincense and myrrh trees that grew only in southern Arabia fueled the luxurious cities along the incense trade routes this is why the Romans called the kingdom of Sheba Arabia Felix happy flourishing Arabia the discovery of this inscription and ex photo revealed a great deal of information about the daily life of those involved in the caravans to Caravan chiefs who survived the perilous journey through the desert wrote this inscription found on the walls of barrack ich in northern Yemen the text bears witness to the wars thieves and natural disasters that the caravans had to endure but perhaps the greatest danger they faced was running out of war the incense route ran north along the Arabian Peninsula ancient wells and villages such as berra Kish provided caravans a place to stop and replenish in barek ish water was collected in a well and an ingenious hydraulic system pumped the cool water to the surface a camel can travel for two to four days without water the caravans traveling the incense route would make about 65 stops for water depending on the season successful water stops were thus an indispensable part of their journeys for centuries legends and age-old texts elaborated on one of these desert ports a fabulous ancient city hidden deep within the Jordanian desert it wasn't until the late 19th century that a Swiss Explorer named John Ludwig Burckhardt began his own search for this fabled lost city that seemed to have disappeared into thin air from Bedouins stories and tales Burkhart believed that the lost city of Sela or in Greek Petra must lie not far from the Red Sea Petra was also mentioned in the Bible as the place where Aaron the brother of Moses was buried Burkhart believed that if he found Aaron's tomb he might also discover the lost city of Petra burkhart knew that the Arabs who venerated Aaron would never allow a Christian near his tomb so disguised as an Arab in Muslim robes Burkhardt hired an Arab guide to take him to Aaron's tomb so that he might make a sacrifice the guide led the Swiss Explorer through a long cleft or seek after walking from more than half an hour burkhart arrived at a stunning sight in front of him was a huge building known from local legend as the Treasury of the Pharaoh carved in the sheer face of the red rock cliffs a carved urn set high in the facade was believed by legend to contain a mysterious treasure many bullets have been fired at the urn to unearth the treasure but to no avail the Treasury of the Pharaoh was only the beginning of one of the most amazing archaeological discoveries ever made the ancient city of Petra burkhart never managed to reach the tomb of Aaron to make his sacrifice his guide suspicious of the Explorers true intentions cut short their tour of Petra but burkhardt's accounts about his journey revealed an ancient city built into the natural amphitheatre of rock that had been lost for a thousand years the incense caravans would arrive at Petra after a six-month journey through the desert the inhabitants of Petra known as the Nabateans would offer them water food protection and their hospitality for a 25% tax on every business transaction the neva tans who lived in tents along the floor of the canyon would offer their humble homes so the Caravan members could rest the purpose of the carved buildings and monumental facades of Petra is still veiled in mystery as puzzling today as it was in burkhardt's time one of the more impressive monuments in Petra is known as de year it is more than 120 feet high and 150 feet wide dating back to the first century BC these rock temples were originally covered with white plaster a marble light effect which likely dazzled visitors today in this city of ghosts the tomb of silk is one of the most famous monuments natural erosion wind and rain have stripped bare any of the original plaster but the infinite veins of natural color and the rock minerals from which it was carved provide an unforgettable spectacle the ancient historian died Doris Siculus said that the population of Petra was composed of settled ex nomads who were forbidden to grow wheat plant fruit trees drink wine or build houses even today no trace of the early private houses has ever been found this would explain them living in tents along the valley floor but the nomadic tradition of hospitality known in ancient times is still carried on by the Bedouin tribes living in camps around the extinct city today with the arrival of the Romans a real city was built in Petra in the 1st century AD as can be seen from the remains of this column lined Avenue and theater the city then declined during the height of the Imperial age from the 3rd century AD onwards when the focus of commercial roots shifted further north Roman historians reported the location of another outpost city at an intersection where the Silk Road and the incense route met many archaeologists set out to locate this mysterious City believed to be buried under the vast expanse of the Syrian desert somewhere between the modern borders of Jordan and Iraq it was in this vast desert that a large number of columns were found various fortified sites or castles built during the Crusades used materials taken from cities constructed almost 1,000 years earlier in fact it was a site found in the desert overlooking one of these Crusader castles that drew the interest of archaeologists as they pieced together the ruins and erected many of the fallen columns in their original placements it was clear what had been found was the remains of the spectacular ancient city of Palmyra in Palmyra the glorious city of palms archaeologists discovered one of the longest and best preserved column lined avenues of the ancient world Palmyra became the focus of the trade caravans and deprived petra of its livelihood because it was so perfectly situated at the intersection of the silk and incense routes the two most precious commodities in a desert are shade and water traders coming to Palmyra could stroll along the city's shady porticos and do business they could also replenish their water supplies from the nearby F qua Oasis in return they would pay a high duty tax which contributed to the city's opulence the original portico was even more ornate than the remains now lead us to imagine this great arch appears quite normal but in fact it is a creative urban design solution to an intricate problem of symmetry the base of the arch is triangular to accommodate two facades that are not parallel this is because the avenues were not all built perfectly straight as Palmira became rich it grew without an overall city plan buildings and roads were constructed and intersected each other at random to deal with these stylistic problems a brilliant urban designer conceived a solution and created a monumental arch with two facades that were perpendicular to the streets they faced the design allowed anyone approaching the arch to enjoy a full frontal view of the monument no matter the direction the ancient caravans traveling north from Petra visited Palmyra as far back as the 1st century BC the archaeological remains that we see there today date from about the 2nd century AD when the city was at its height the shady porticoes statues and magnificent buildings such as the tetrapylon were built during this time the roman theatre is extremely well preserved retaining most of the stage area the theater employed a second floor and together was over 50 feet high and a hundred and fifty feet wide the richly decorated central door the largest of five doors opened onto the stage and was known as the director's door the facade held four main columns with fluoro freezes the theater was positioned so that the Setting Sun would light the stage area bathing the stone in an infinite range of colors the caravan traders having sold their spices incense and myrrh to merchants and Palmyra for gold and precious stones would bid farewell to the city and head back home toward Petra and married before leaving on their dangerous journeys with the risk of bandits and desert storms Caravan traders would beseech the goodwill of the gods for a safe journey home the greatest of the local gods was bailed similar to the Roman god Jupiter this massive temple was built during the Roman period the huge sanctuary built in his honor formed a rectangle 672 feet wide by 688 feet long the temple was located at its center the high outer wall of the sanctuary was smooth and adorned with inset Corinthian pillars on the inside an arcade with a double row of columns numbering almost 300 formed another perimeter the God Bell venerated in the sanctuary was a mixture of the man-like Greek and Roman gods and the embodiment of the natural forces sacred to the Egyptian and Arab peoples of the desert el was the Lord God embodiment of the luxurious vegetation that resulted from the presence of water which could clearly be seen in oasis such as Palmyra the wealth of the city is evident in the long elegant columns and the colonnade that surrounds the temple on four sides the Capitals were actually made out of bronze another clue to how rich the city was in ancient times entering a long stairway located on the wide side of the temple allowed access to the interior of the sanctuary a clear indication of Mesopotamian influence worshippers would climb the stairway to reach a portal and the statue of the God here they would bow down in the presence of power make a sacrifice and a donation to the temple priests an unusual feature of the temple was the opportunity of climbing up to the roof the access stairways were hidden within the four turrets abutting the upper terrace the size difference between the relatively small temple and the much larger surrounding courtyard was another feature of Mesopotamian design this extraordinary temple shows the Mesopotamian influence in the geometric motifs of the roof decorations the Western inspired columns are imports from the Roman culture after sacrificing a goat and making a substantial donation to the temple priests the caravan cheeks would begin the long journey back to their homeland back perhaps to the ancient city of Sanaa capital of Yemen where the incense route began long ago the city is undergone countless transformations over the centuries but still seems to retain a mysterious allure with its magnificent Tower homes its colorful past its legendary Queen of Sheba and its riches Sanaa is endowed with a romantic and fabled history indeed with the stories its ancient caravan Chiefs could tell it could well be a story itself in the Arabian classic a Thousand and One Nights you

Author Since: Mar 11, 2019

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