Lost Worlds: Persia's Forgotten Empire (Ancient History Documentary) | TimelineFeb 17, 2020
Lying in the middle of an airplane in present-day Iran lies an
forgottencity Persepolis built 2,500 years ago was known in its day as the richest city under the sun Persepolis was the capital of the largest
empirethe world had ever seen , but for more than two thousand years after its destruction, the life and achievements of the Persians who built it were largely ignored. I took out of
historythe Persians remain an enigma to us, we don't know them as well as we like think we know the greeks or the romans or the egyptians so in a sense they are one of the remaining mysteries of
ancientcivilization its one of the most underappreciated periods of
historyin antiquity imaginable but It is no longer through archeology, ancient texts and the work of a new generation of historians that we can build a picture of this remarkable civilization and it is this place, Persepolis, that holds the key. see of this Forgotten Empire until recently, Iran was largely closed to the West. visitors the political turmoil of the 1980s made it almost impossible to come here but in recent years this has started to change Iran is opening up you know it's actually welcoming people from the West so now was the time to that our study of ancient Persia has to come out of the team i think we should seize the opportunity dr.
Lloyd Llewellyn Jones has spent 15 years studying ancient Persia, but this is the first time he has been able to visit Persepolis, the heart of Persian civilization. We can, by coming to places like Persepolis, begin to give the Persians a personality, begin to give them an identity. amazing boy everything they were doing is amazing amazing you know in the stillness now the morning and alone with the birds singing it's just remarkable it's really remarkable Persepolis may be but history has never given it its due most of What We Know About It We have gathered from the Greek accounts that the Persians themselves left little written history, but the Greeks were the sworn enemies of the Persians, defeated them in battle, and it is the victors who write the history books.
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The Greeks like to present themselves as the creators of all things. civilized and the Persians as cruel despotic and behind us in the West we identify ourselves with a Greco-Roman tradition we know the works of Greek and Latin auth ores and they are going to minimize the importance of Persia in their historical environment they are going to say that the Persians are barbarians and this is the theme that comes up over and over again in the sources but the Persians cannot be dismissed so they easily ruled for 250 years the greatest
empirethe world had ever seen had humble beginnings among the nomadic tribes who lived on the
persian plains in 550 bc cyrus a tribal leader set out with his army on a campaign of conquest with his charisma and what the greeks called the fear he inspired and the terror he instilled in all men Cyrus took control of more and more territory in In just 30 years he laid the foundations of an empire that would stretch from the borders of India in the east to Greece in the Mediterranean to Egypt in Ethiopia and to what is now e s Russia, more than 30 different peoples were united under the rule of the man who proclaimed himself king of the world and at the heart of this empire stood Persepolis, the greatest of all Persian cities and the key to understanding the achievements of the ancients.
Persepolis began around 515 B.C. hidden beneath the sands for 2,000 years it was only in the 1930s that many of the wonders of Persepolis were finally discovered entire stairways adorned with perfectly preserved reliefs were first seen splendors that their excavation would reveal to the world for more than 22 centuries, the capital of the Persian Empire remained neglected, as well as the reliefs. Archaeologists found some less spectacular artifacts that would prove vital in unlocking the secrets of the ancient Persians. 30,000 fragments of these tiny clay tablets were found in the rubble of Persepolis. They provide one of the few sources of information about the workings of the Empire written by the Persians themselves.
The markings on the tab are going to be the ancient Persian writing known as cuneiform dr. Maria Brosius is one of the few scholars in the world who can decipher what is written on the tablets. What we have here is an example of a clay tablet found at Persepolis. A scribe would take a piece of wet clay and then hold it in his left hand and that really fits the shape of his hand perfectly and then write it down it's an extraordinary feeling to know something like this has survived to tell us about life 2500 years ago information that otherwise we would never have they tell me something about how people lived and how this Empire worked and that is what fascinates so what can the tablets about Persepolis tell us the tablets of the receipts and invoices of the Empire including those of the workers who built it Persepolis one records one and a half shekels of silver for the carpenters making sculptures another details a jug of wine for each of the 74 Syrian laborers working in the hall of columns another two and a half shekels for the goal carried by d workers, the amount of gold that seems to be used here indicates that, again, you know the cost of the site must have been immeasurable as of the i Information from the tablets, we can deduce what materials once decorated these huge buildings for decades, we have only seen the stone. pillars and walls, but now we can recreate the halls and palaces of Persepolis in all their dazzling splendor while we're at it, so we can see why Persepolis was once known as the richest city under the sun.
Access to the complex was through from the door of All Nations human. headed bulls announced to visitors that they were entering the heart of Persian royal power it was covered with a roof of cedar wood its gates adorned with gold ornaments at the heart of the complex was the Adana application where King Darius received his subjects today only 10 of the original columns are still standing in ancient times 36 20 meter high columns supported another huge cedar wood. The walls were covered with sumptuous tapestries that this huge hall could house. 10,000 people something that was built with 20 meter tall columns I think it was impressive the people were probably looking up when they were completely stumped you can see how each of these columns reach up into the sky and would have supported a huge roof there of beautiful cedar wood gave us this heady scent of cedar wherever we went too King after king added Tudor eyes his creation Xerxes the greeks grape foam built this remarkable hundred columned tour and we can finally recreate the private quarters of himself drift a place that only the king's closest advisers would have ever seen it would have been dimly lit it might have been streaming through the window spaces and indeed we can tell from some of the highly polished not around you that this would have been glowing that's helium in fact some people have called this room the hall of mirrors the building sits on a 15 meter high artificial terrace in terms of beauty it is difficult to find the right words rea As a feature, it is an architectural symphony, everything is built to harmonize with each other, each building is synchronized with another to form a beautiful and harmonized whole.
Persepolis is one of the great architectural achievements of the ancient world, but why did the Persian kings go to such lengths beyond housing the royal retinue, what exactly was the purpose of these extraordinary buildings? Over two and a half thousand years ago the Persians built the world's greatest city from which they ruled most of the known world, but this was no ordinary city because it was built with a particular purpose in mind the use of the city was an integral part of how the Persians maintained their vast empire for 250 years Clues to the function of Persepolis lie carved into the city's walls and stairways in scenes depicted in its Impressive stone reliefs showing the different peoples of the Empire arriving to Persepolis to give gifts and pay homage to the great Persian.
The Nubian kings of Africa, the Lydians of present-day Turkey, return from what is now Afghanistan, so what you have here is a series of depictions of tribute bearers who have come to Persepolis and all of them bringing gifts from different parts of the world. Empire. horses hairy ibex is all the wealth of the Empire forced tribute to the Great King so much personality in the face wonderful sheep with curved horns and rendered in such detail and filled in is a very stylized way they do things like the way they do curls on the hair and beard in a very artificial way and then when you go down to the shaggy fleece of the sheep you can see that repeat itself again so you get these triangles ending in these perfect little swirls and finally this wag of a tail at the bottom also the costumes of all these foreign delegates are finished in such detail and it is clear that the Persian artist is fascinated by the ethnic variety that is seen. et visiting here so this is what Persepolis was because it was not a military capital it was first and foremost a symbolic and ceremonial place of the entire Empire subject people came here to give their gifts to the king the formal presentation of tribute confirmed loyalty of the subject nations and the power of the king the walk to the king followed a specific route through the complex with the intention of maximizing the impact of the architecture walking up these stairs would have been an overwhelming experience if you look at the stairs they are not something you climb fast they are so shallow you have to walk very very slowly that raised the expectation and i guess it gave you a sense of the king's power you can't just walk into a room and there you are that's all to do with a procession to the king what you got here are the offering Baris driving their camels bringing their bowls and their jewels and all the time you have to imagine an absolute cacophony of noise b Behind you, like this that if you go all the time, your heart beats faster and faster, you hear languages you've never heard before, you see things you've never seen before and you come to this place and I think your knees are about to give out. because this is the so called gate of all nations, this is the welcome portal for all these visitors and they are immediately faced with this image of royalty, these human headed bulls, symbols of royal manhood, strength and power , he walks through these huge crowded structures and now everything goes dark, they cut off the sunlight and they ask you to stand and wait right here and then you turn around and you're struck by this incredible imperial platform and you know that somewhere place there you will literally meet your maker. you're going to see the great king in person so you walk forward and get close to your hearts really go in a bit now if it seemed like such a long walk to me when you're doing this if you come from the furthest corners of the Empire and you've never seen a structure like this.
All the visitors in ancient times who were allowed to go up to the Royal Terrace were in total or you have a perfection that they have not seen anywhere else and the people must have been absolutely stunned and you go up the imperial staircase and find yourself in the heart of the complex, ok, in front of you now is a big app, Adama, this is where the mystery really begins, you can't get any closer to how the Persian kings wanted to present. themselves and what they are really doing here is proving that we have conquered the world, we don't need to prove anything else and therefore the bearer of the offering begins his journey to the king, he would have stopped and here he would have performed a specific act. he would have fallen to his knees in front of the king and then immediately prostrating himself on the ground and then his gifts are handed to him his job is done you slowly back out of the great throne room and your 15 minutes of fame is over w With the gift giving It was in Persepolis that the Persian kings reinforced the loyalty of their subjects, but they had other, less benign ways of exercising power.
The relief at Bisset Tune in northwestern Iran shows the Persian king in his most ruthless form here. King Darius the Great enslaves those. who threatened his throne is a public warning to those who might try to resist him. Ancient Greek accounts also suggest that the Persian kings ruled with an iron fist. It is told how the Persians lopped off the limbs and even the noses of their prisoners, and yet the Persepolis reliefs seemed to paint a very different picture. There you see these men holding hands or one holding his hand against someone's shoulder. They talk to each other.
They encourage each other. The entire image that is depicted here is an image of peace. and of harmony there is absolutely no battle scene there is no violence depicted here it is one of a kind Persian royal inscriptions found in Persepolis reinfo Due to this image of benevolent rule they declare that the King loves peace not war and the people subjectthey can practice their customs and religions, but all this is mere Persian propaganda after all these are reliefs commissioned by the King and tablets written by his loyal servants. The Jewish Book of Ezra offers a stand-alone account in Chapter 1.
The Persians are praised for freeing the Jews and allowing them to practice their religion freely. I think it's fair to say that the Persians are unique in the way they conceive of how an empire should be run. in general in the ancient world there seems to be an idea of conquer destroy and rebuild on our terms we don't find that with persia at all if you paint your tribute if you paint your taxes the persian king was fine that was the king wanted from you any another cultural milieu way of life was accepted by allowing subject nations to live their own lives the persians ensured that a multi-ethnic and multi-lingual empire flourished in relative peace for 250 years it is tolerance that has an entirely political goal the goal of the persian kings strength if i leave the people their ethnicity their religious cults then they have less reason to resist my power but it took more than tolerance to maintain this vast empire empires need an infrastructure 50 miles outside persepolis carved into the hillside hill there is an ancient persian road leading to persepolis the sides of the road are up to 10 meters high such feats aces of engineering were repeated throughout the empire being in charge of an empire that stretched around 4000 kilometers from west to east needed to be controlled to control that you need a fabulous network a road system that allows you to obtain information from a corner of the Empire to wherever the king is as fast as possible, even Greek critics could not help but be impressed by the Persian road system that stretched from Persepolis to a node his Persian city souza and then 1,500 miles west to Ephesus in the roads from the Mediterranean also went east to India and south to Egypt the Greeks were particularly awed by the messengers who traveled along these roads keeping the Persian kings in Persepolis informed of all that was happening in the Empire, the The great Greek historian Herodotus wrote at the time that no mortal thing travels faster than Persian couriers.
Such speed was made possible by another Persian innovation. the horse comes to a garis and he quickly changes straight to a new horse, a new horse straight back and then maybe 20 miles down the road he is back on a new horse so the speed continues it seems that because the courier has this pioneering spirit and can continue as long as he has fresh horses that can make you taste good through the grooming posts manned by Persian soldiers also ensured that fo For the first time in ancient times travelers and traders could move around a vast expanse of land safe from bandits, so from Persepolis the Persian kings administered their immense tolerant, peaceful and rich empire, the Achaemenid kings believed they were the masters of everything they contemplated and to demonstrate their power they set out to create nothing less than paradise on earth the first formal gardens in the world two and a half thousand years ago the persians created the empire bigger than the world The world had never seen the Greeks they said they were an uneducated and warlike race but here in the ancient city of posaga day the stones tell a different story posaga day was the palace of cyrus the great founder of the persian empire and first king of the accumulated dynasty and here is evidence of persian culture at its most sophisticated and refined hidden in the undergrowth are ditches for posaga days most dazzling feature its royal gardens i would walk the entire garden so that the entire area here in front of Cyrus's residential palace would be irrigated imagine it was shimmering white it was polished stone it shone in the sun you would have the water floating through it it would cool the area it would cool the air here no archaeologist has ever done it they never found the legendary Gardens of Babylon so these canals are the evidence oldest known of a formal garden anywhere in the world.
King Cyrus called his garden Paradiso. This Persian word meaning walled garden is one we still use today. perfection of nature where life grew where water was the essence of life Syrus was famous throughout the ancient world for his love of gardens the Greek historian Xenophon wrote that in all the districts where he resides he takes great care that there are paradises full of all the beautiful things that the earth will produce it was even said that cyrus was a gardener he himself told a greek visitor that the arrangement is my own work, i swear to the sun god i never sat down to dinner without working first on some gardening task then what actually grew in these persian gardens clay tablets found in the great city of Persepolis list the different trees and plants that were planted here showed that the composition of the garden was deeply symbolic the tablets tell us that there were thousands of tree seedlings of different types of trees including olives blackberries dates that were collected to be planted in the pr Next spring these were delicacies that he imported from across his empire to reflect the size and extent of his empire in this garden in this garden space ultimately the persian garden was a political statement by having plants grow in a landscape otherwise barren, the persian kings demonstrated to all who came here that they were the masters of the world the king was practically the king of the world and the garden reflected the power of the Empire what Cyrus did here was bring order to an unord erected in a chaotic, otherwise wild nature, the garden in a way symbolized the king's ability to control light.
The Persians may have built great cities and gardens, but they were still essentially a nomadic people. This kind of nomadic feeling always remained among the Persians despite the fact that they built these vast imperial cities. They felt just as at home in a city as in a tent. For the Greeks, the nomadic lifestyle of the Persians was laughed at. Like modern nomads, the ancient Persians spent the winter months tending their herds on the plains and the hot summer months in the cool of the mountains. For the Greeks, this escape from the summer heat was evidence of unmanned Persian leanness to the Greeks. they like to criticize the persians for this softness they see them as quite warm and wet creatures and the other thing the greek sea is hot and wet is the women this is the way the female body works if women have our heat and humidity and therefore Persians are hot and humid they must b The one in the same thing basically Persians are not real men because they can't stand the heat.
What the Greeks never understood was that traveling was part of the Persian way of life, even around large centers like Persepolis, which would have been a tent city, as people came and went, certainly within these tents we can imagine that the life of the ancient Persians would not be much different from the kind of images that you can still see today, so inside these tents what you have is of course your whole lifestyle, everything happens there. from the kitchen, of course, then there is the raising of animals and the gathering of food, as well as the weaving of carpets, rugs and rugs, the very essence of the shop, but also the weaving of clothes and this is a traditional work of women, of course, this is all part of nomad.
Today's tradition and it can certainly be reflected in ancient Persian tradition throughout the centuries, fine and colorful textiles have been central to Persian culture since the earliest of names. addicts from ancient Persia to shoppers and merchants in a modern Iranian bazaar Textiles are a way of expressing status and wealth. I have brought them to a place like the Shiraz bazaar only because there is a long legacy of artistic and cultural tradition. tradition and one thing we know about life in the ancient Near East in general is that they loved color and textiles these are wonderful turquoises and blues and also wonderful greens so we know these are the colors they would have had and the colors and they would have loved this idea of a room that is completely covered in textiles is a very important part of ancient Near Eastern tradition and certainly something that the Persians would have identified with textile wall hangings is a very important part of Near Eastern culture Ancient world. textiles on all the floors, textiles on the sofas too so you know you're surrounded, you're awash in this idea of color and luxury and of course warmth too now that's th The real McCoy okay butter velvet modern synthetic, perhaps this gives you a better idea than anything else of the luxury that the Persians were famous for their purple, which in the first place of course is the color of royalty throughout the ancient world because purple is so hard to come by in ancient times a nice solid deep imperial purple dye you know this is a modern textile but it does the job really well i think it captures what the persians are all about for me a little bit of shine really the smells sounds and sights of this The bazaar would be familiar to the ancient Persians spices gold and reams of brightly colored fine cloth this modern market reflects the fame of the Persians in the ancient world their pursuit of luxury the purpose of luxury in Persepo Lis has to do mainly with the power and propaganda of royalty because of course having superfluous clothing or having your palace strewn with textiles that are really superfluous other than being, you know, Laurel Dawn or something that covers something or a cover that later it's covered by another cover this all has to do with this idea of power and wealth expressed through material goods it's not just similar to you know the kind of thing that goes on in the west today the ancient persians were the greatest power in the land their style and fashions were widely copied the persians take the aesthetic side of life into the finer points of living everything from how you plant your garden and how you walk in your garden to how you decorate their walls clearly had an impact on civilizations of the world, certainly via Greece and Rome, possibly also in contemporary Western society.
The Persian approach to architecture, gardens, and textiles has survived to this day, but there were those in the ancient world who looked down on everything the Persians stood for. for this hostility would one day lead to the destruction of the persian empire and of persepolis itself 2,500 years ago persepolis was the sumptuous capital of the great persian empire, but what the persians saw as luxury their greek rivals saw as decadence. A custom that fascinated and horrified the Greeks was the Persian festival. Most of what we know about Persian feasts, of course, comes from Greek sources because the Greeks are so interested or fascinated by this concept of luxury that banquets are obviously going to be a lifestyle element. luxurious. party Herodotus wrote that the Persians are very fond of wine and no one can vomit or urinate in the presence of another person the Persians seem to live by this principle of telling the truth that is something the Greeks unfortunately admire about them and use it by drinking as a rather political system, the Persians tend to get very drunk because only in the drink tell them so you know you have your political discretion you drink a lot things are said now everyone goes to bed and cuts it wakes up the next day with a hangover and then everything the world comes together again to have the same conversation to see if they still have those kinds of ideas like many persians traditions partying was not a luxury for luxury's sake, it had an important social role partying unites you as a community everyone partakes of the same food and Same experience, so it's a great uniting thing, but for the Greeks it was another example of why the Persians were an inferior race Alexander the Great warned his own soldiers that gluttony and opulence greatly affect manhood those who eat such large meals are defeated too quickly in battles what the greek sauce represents is this idea that Persians are luxurious, feminized luxury, loving a feminizing race of useless out there somewhere in the east corrupting us, our morals and everything we stand for and it was Alexander the Great who was determined to end the corrupting influence of the Persians once and for all in 334 to. began a campaign to seize the empire that had ruled the known world for the previous 250 years in the first pitched battle between the two armies and Issus in Turkey Alexander's Macedonian army won a resounding victory over the forces of King Darius the Third from Persia despite being greatly outnumbered probably has to do with the different military tactics the Macedonian army used against the Persians that the Persians were used to fighting on a plane they were using chariots which were not used in the Macedonian army , but it was also the Macedonian idea of an immediate surprise attack that helped during the two yearsfollowing.
Alexander's superior military tactics allowed him to seize land once under Persian control. in 331 B.C. C. he reached Persia itself when he reached Persepolis, the Persian armies had been defeated the 12th and last Persian King Darius III had died. Alexander entered the defenseless city without opposition. The ceremonial center that for nearly two centuries had embodied Persian domination of the world was finally in Greek hands. Alexander told his soldiers that they were now in the most hateful city they had. remember where alexander comes from actually macedonia ok this is people riding thugs this is what alexander stock is about and suddenly he comes to this place that after the persians have been accused for centuries , it has been a feat, lovers of luxury now this is anathema for Alexander's Macedonian. and the Greek followers Alexander triumphant held a banquet for some of his troops in Persepolis according to Greek accounts it was here that the fate of the city was sealed there is much drinking many bad things are said that Alexander has in his company according to some Greek sources and later latinas a couple of courtesans one of whom is called cara who is supposed to be one of the most beautiful ul courtesans in greece now i dare say she is a little drunk and maybe a little emotional we don't know but she decides to ask Alexander if it would be okay if she burns down Persepolis Alexander in his drunken state says yes go ahead Alexander fully understood the symbolic importance of Persepolis as the very heart of the Persian Empire that had to be destroyed Alexander will destroy everything could be a potential source of resistance and opposition to him Persepolis was that he wanted to make a point of destroying Persian power and so the soldiers Alexander began to burn and plunder the city itself is described by ancient authors us being unprotected there was no military guard here to defend the population some people say that what he did was pile curtains of furniture made of flammable material and from there the fire started and then of course it spread all over the terrace, it just burned, I would say tonight there must have been chaos here so the carnage must have been chaos.
It was horrible Alexander's soldiers just looted the city looted everything there they burned the houses I think Alexander is the first recorded hooligan in history who used to meditate to force violence by needlessly destroying a site that had no military function which in fact it was unprotected when he came here, it was totally unnecessary to burn it to destroy and kill the population of Persepolis the Greek who claim to be the founders of civilization who call the Persians barbarians had committed a gross act of vandalism they had destroyed the largest city of earth is a sad death for this remarkable Imperial City this is this seat of culture and this seat of ceremony at the time when it was the most magnificent city in the non-ancient world and which Alexander had destroyed and with it came to its end an era, but by burning down the city, Alexander ironically helped preserve it, much of it buried under the ashes produced by the fire.
Protected from the elements for the next 2,000 years, it was not until excavations in the 1930s that many of the reliefs and clay tablets that tell us so much about Persian life could be studied for the first time, and although the city had been destroyed , the legacy of the Persians survived, they are formal gardens, they are ceremonial architecture and their sense of luxury was copied by other civilizations, even the Greeks, but their greatest achievement, more than anything else, was the Empire itself, the first global empire in history. built on a model of tolerance and respect for other cultures that few great powers have ever matched, perhaps now the Persians will finally take their rightful place as one of the great civilizations of antiquity
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