The Achaemenid Empire was known for its eclectic style of art and architecture synthesized from many foreign influences between 550 and 330 BCE.
Discuss Achaemenid art and architecture in the Persian Empire
The Achaemenid Empire stretched across western Asia from the Indus Valley in the east to Thrace and Macedon in the west.
The quintessential characteristic of Persian art and architecture is its eclectic nature, combining elements of Median, Assyrian, and Asiatic Greek styles.
The Achaemenid Persians were particularly skilled at constructing complex friezereliefs, crafting precious metals, and glazed brick masonry. They also constructed spectacular cities for governance and habitation, temples for worship and social gatherings, and mausoleums honoring fallen kings.
The ceremonial capital of the Achaemenid Empire was Persepolis, which preserves the best of ancient Persian architecture. It is best known for its pillared Apadana Hall, decorated with complex sculptural reliefs depicting the king and his subjects.
The palace at Persepolis stood for nearly 200 years until it was looted and burned by the armies of Alexander the Great in 330 BCE.
Ancient Persian art developed and flourished under the Achaemenid Persian Empire (550–330 BCE), an Iranian empire in Western Asia, which eventually came to rule the ancient world from the Indus Valley in the east to Thrace and Macedon in the west.
Not only was the Achaemenid Dynasty militarily and politically influential, but it also left a long-lasting social and cultural legacy throughout its vast realms. Among its greatest cultural achievements was the development of Achaemenid art and architecture, which were intimately intertwined, reflected techniques and influences from the many corners of its huge empire, and synthesized different styles to develop a unique Persian style.
The Achaemenid Persians were particularly skilled at constructing complex frieze reliefs; crafting precious metals into jewelry, vessels, statuettes, and a myriad of other shapes; glazed brick masonry; decorating palaces; and creating gardens. They also constructed spectacular cities for governance and habitation, temples for worship and social gatherings, and mausoleums honoring fallen kings. The quintessential characteristic of Persian art and architecture is its eclectic nature, combining elements of Median, Assyrian, and Asiatic Greek styles.
The extraordinary architectural legacy of the Achaemenids is best seen in the ruins of the opulent city of Persepolis, the ceremonial capital of the Achaemenid Empire. Located about 70 kilometers northeast of the modern Iranian city of Shiraz, Persepolis is a wide, elevated complex 40 feet high, 100 feet wide, and a third of a mile long.
It consists of multiple halls, corridors, a wide terrace, and a symmetrical double stairway providing access to the terrace, decorated with reliefs depicting scenes from nature and daily life. The largest hall in the complex is the audience hall of Apadana. This hypostyle hall has a total of 36 flutedcolumns with capitals sculpted into unique forms. It famously features the exquisite"Treasure Reliefs"—friezes emphasizing the divine presence and power of the king and depicting scenes from all across his vast empire and his army of Persian immortals.
The construction of Persepolis was initiated by Darius I (550–486 BCE), who also commissioned the construction of a grand palace in the city of Susa. The palace featured imperial art on an entirely unprecedented scale. Materials and artists were drawn from all corners of the empire to work on it. Styles, tastes, and motifs intermingled in a lavish expression of the hybrid art and architecture that was characteristic of the Persian Achaemenid style. This attention to diversity also appears in the reliefs from the hall of Apadana, in which leaders and dignitaries from various provinces appear in regional fashions beneath a frieze punctuated by male lamassus adopted from previous Mesopotamian cultures.
The palace at Persepolis stood for nearly 200 years. In 330 BCE, the Macedonian emperor Alexander the Great (356–323 BCE) captured the city and allowed his troops to loot the palace. Inscriptions describe a great fire that engulfed "the palace" but do not specify which palace. Scholars believe these writings describe the destruction of Persepolis, based on the condition of the ruins found there. The fire likely started in the living quarters of the former emperor Xerxes I (518–465 BCE) and spread throughout the rest of the city. This event brought an end to the Achaemenid Empire and made Persepolis a Macedonian province.