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The valley of Passargadae
The birthplace of Persian Empire

Visual Essays

Jamshid Varza

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The First Declaration of Human Rights by Cyrus the Great,
The founder of Persian Empire, 532 BCE
Cuneiform clay tablet known as Cylinder of Cyrus,
uncovered in temple of Marduk in Babylon, currently in British Museum (see article)


The ancient province of Pars in central Iran is known for being the home of sites of immense importance in the history of the ancient world. When traveling from Shiraz, the fabled capital of Pars, toward Esfahan the second largest city in Iran, the traveler enters a road that takes him to the valley of Passargadae.

Tomb of Cyrus

Welcome to Paradise
Persians gave the world the word "Paradise," or "Pardis" in Farsi, or "Ferdows" in Arabic which all are forms of "Paradeisis" in ancient Persian meaning enclosure or a walled garden. It implies the enclosed garden surrounding the palace of Cyrus the Great.

Perhaps there were reasons for "Paradaeisis" to become the metaphor for heaven "the abode of light" in prominent world religions. Cyrus as a Zoroastrian emperor was mentioned by the ancient historian Herodotus for his kindness equally toward friends and defeated enemies. The scholar Mary Boyce states "of all ancient Persian leaders Cyrus' manners were the most compatible with his Zoroastrian beliefs."

Palace of Audience (P)
Residential Palace (S)

Cyrus in his lifetime built the world's first empire which treated all its subjects as equal. The Persian Empire spanned many nations, cultures and religions in a land mass stretching from India to Greece, and central Asia to Egypt. No other leader prior to Cyrus had faced the challenge of running such a vast empire.
There are a number of references to Cyrus the Great in the Old Testament. Cyrus is referred as the LORD's shepherd and the "anointed one:"

Book of Isaiah 45:1 -- "Thus says the LORD to his anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I have grasped to subdue nations before him..."

Book of Ezra 1:1 -- "In the first year of King Cyrus of Persia, in order that the word of the LORD by the mouth of Jeremiah might be accompanied, the LORD stirred up the spirit of king Cyrus of Persia so that he sent a herald throughout all his kingdom, and also in a written edict declared: "Thus says king Cyrus of Persia: The LORD, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdom of the earth, and he has charged me to build him a house at Jerusalem in Judah. Any of those among you who are of his people -- may their God be with them..."

Zoroastrian Fire Temple

A Cuneiform clay tablet known as Cylinder of Cyrus provides us with a detailed account of Cyrus after his conquest of Babylon. He treat his new subjects with kindness, orders his troops to protect them and avoid any mistreatments. Cyrus restores the temples left in ruins and rebuilds the walls of Babylon. Archeologist Rassam uncovers the Cylinder during an excavation dating 1879 AD in temple of Marduk. It is considered a fortification tablet produced by Babylonian priests, the conquered subjects who mention Cyrus as their protector.

This Cylinder states that Cyrus freed the Jewish people from captivity and slavery in Babylon to return home and rebuild their temple.

Soldier Guard Compound

Zoroastrian Fire Altar

Passargadae, the first Achaemenian capital
The father of history, Herodotus, who lived in Asia minor under Persian rule gives the account of Cyrus' birth and childhood. Cyrus was the son of Cambysis, ruler of the small kingdom of Persia and Mandanes, the daughter of Astyages, the last Median king.

By his talent and leadership Cyrus lead the small army of Persians to fight the larger army of Medians. Herodotus tells us the leaders of the two armies choose not to fight. Instead they joined their forces and annexed the larger kingdom of Media to Persia -- this was certainly the beginning point of the Persian Empire in its long history. From there Cyrus continued to subdue the kingdom of Lydia in Asia minor, and kingdom of Babylonia and annexed them to his empire.

Historian Dandemaev believes the valley of Passargadae was the place where the two armies met and chose not to fight. From that point Cyrus went on to build his empire..

General view of Palace (P)

The valley of Passargadae has produced archeological artifacts dating as far back as the third millennium BCE. Archeologists believe it was one of the earlier places in which a Persian tribe had settled. Herodotus gives the name of this tribe as Passargadaens amongst several other Persian tribes settling in the region.

Persians and Medes were the first descendents of Indo-European people who migrated to the Iranian plateau from the southern steppes of Russia and central Asia. Medes were the first Iranian people who entered ancient historical records and later the Persian built the world's first empire. What history finds remarkable is that Cyrus' empire was built on equality of all subjects.

General view of Palace (P)

An aerial view of Passargadae valley shows ruins of the two palaces, a Zoroastrain fire temple, two stone fire altars, a soldier guard compound, and tomb of the Cyrus the Great. Cyrus used one palace for his private residence and one as an audience palace.

Cyrus was killed at the age of seventy during a war near Oxus river in north eastern frontier of his empire. He body was carried by his soldiers for over 1000 miles to his beloved valley of Passargadae.

A trilingual cuneiform writing on a stone pillar in the palace of Audience translates to "Cyrus the Great King, an Achaemenian." (see image below.)

General views of Palace (P), a close up image shows a trilingual cuneiform inscription in a Palace pillar

The winged genie "Cyrus"

The royal figure carved on a stone pillar stands on palace (S) in Passargadae. It is believed that this figure belongs to Cyrus the Great. The figure wears an Elamite dress, an Egyptian crown, and Assyrian wings -- all members countries of the Persian Empire.

A historian reports a text about the figure's head reads: Kûrush : xshâyathiya : vazraka : Kabûjiya; hyâ : xshâyathiyahyâ : puça : Haxâmanishiya; thâtiy : yathâ ...; ... ... akutâ ...

Cyrus the Great King, son of Cambyses the King, an Achaemenian.
He says: When ... made ...

An ancient construction method

An ancient construction method reveals itself
A closer look at the floor of this ancient palace reveals an ancient method of joining stone slabs; a slot was carved into two slabs, a large piece of flat metal inserted and the slot was filled with molten lead.  To this date the joints seem in place.

Decorative carvings in entry ways

Remaining decorative figures in palaces show Assyrian style carvings in entry ways.