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Lost Worlds: Persia's Forgotten Empire (Ancient History Documentary) | Timeline

Lost Worlds: Persia's Forgotten Empire (Ancient History Documentary) | Timeline
lying in the middle of a plane in modern-day Iran is a

forgotten

ancient

city Persepolis built two and a half thousand years ago it was known in its day as the richest city under the Sun Persepolis was the capital of the largest

empire

the world had ever seen but for over two thousand years after its destruction it was largely ignored the life and achievements of the

Persia

ns who built it I raised from

history

the

Persia

ns are still an enigma to us we don't know them as well as we like to
lost worlds persia s forgotten empire ancient history documentary timeline
think we know the Greeks or the Romans or the Egyptians so in a sense they are one of the remaining mysteries of

ancient

civilization it is one of the most undervalued periods of

history

in antiquity that you can think of but no longer through the archaeology the

ancient

texts and work by a new generation of historians we can build a picture of this remarkable civilization and it is this place Persepolis which holds the key to this

Forgotten

Empire

until recently Iran was largely closed to
Western visitors the political turmoil of the 1980s made it almost impossible to come here but in the last few years this has begun to change Iran is opening up you know it's actually welcoming people from the West so now was the time that our study of

ancient

Persia

has to go out the gear 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's been able to visit Persepolis the heart of

Persia

n
civilization we can by coming to places like Persepolis begin to give the

Persia

ns a personality begin to give them an identity it is incredible boy any what they were doing it's incredible amazing you know in the stillness now the morning and just with the the birdsong it's it's just remarkable it really is remarkable Persepolis may be but

history

has never given it its due most of what we know about it we have gleaned from Greek accounts the

Persia

ns themselves left little
written

history

behind but the Greeks were the sworn enemies of the

Persia

ns they defeated them in battle and it's the victors who write the

history

books the Greeks like to paint themselves as the creators of all things civilized and the

Persia

ns as cruel despotic and back we in the West identify with a greco-roman tradition we know the works of Greek and Latin authors and they are going to downplay the importance of

Persia

in its historical setting they're going to say that the

Persia

ns are barbarians and this is the theme that comes over time and time and time again in the sources yet the

Persia

ns cannot be dismissed so easily for 250 years they ruled the largest

empire

the world had ever seen it had humble beginnings among the nomadic tribes who lived on the

Persia

n Plains in 550 BC cyrus a tribal leader set off with his army on a campaign of conquest with his charisma and what the greeks called the fear he inspired and the terror he struck in all men Cyrus took
control of more and more territory in just 30 years he laid the foundations of an

empire

that would stretch from the borders of India in the east to Greece on the Mediterranean down to Egypt in Ethiopia and up to what is now Russia more than 30 different peoples were brought together under the rule of the man who called himself the king of the world and at the heart of this

Empire

stood Persepolis the greatest of all

Persia

n cities and the key to understanding the achievements of the

ancient

Persia

ns Persepolis was begun around 515 BC by Darius the great the 4th King in the

Persia

n dynasty known as the up emanates but much of what we can see today lay hidden under the sands for 2,000 years it was only in the 1930s that many of the wonders of Persepolis were finally uncovered whole staircases adorned with perfectly preserved reliefs were seen for the very first time splendors which their excavation would reveal to the world for more than 22 centuries the capital of the

Persia

n

Empire

lay neglected as well as the reliefs archaeologists found some less spectacular artifacts that would prove vital in uncovering the secrets of the

ancient

Persia

ns 30,000 fragments of these tiny clay tablets were found among the rubble of Persepolis they provide one of the few sources of information about the workings of the

Empire

written by the

Persia

ns themselves the marks on the tablets are the

ancient

Persia

n script known as cuneiform dr. Maria Brosius is one of only a handful of 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 in Persepolis a scribe would pick up a piece of wet clay and he would then hold it in his left hand and that's fits perfectly into the shape of your hand really and then he would inscribe it it's an extraordinary feeling to know that something like this has survived to tell us about life 2,500 years ago information that we otherwise would never have they tell me something
about how people lived and how this

Empire

worked and that's what fascinates so what can the tablets tell us about Persepolis the tablets of the receipts and invoices of the

Empire

including those for the workers who built Persepolis one records one and a half shekels of silver for carpenters making sculptures another details one jug of wine each to the 74 Syrian laborers working on the columned Hall yet another two and a half shekels for the carryin gold 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 from the information on the tablets we can deduce what materials once decorated these massive buildings for decades we have seen only the stone pillars and walls but now we can recreate the halls and palaces of Persepolis in all their dazzling splendor as we do so we can see why persepolis was once known as the richest city under the Sun access to the complex was through the gate of All Nations
human headed bulls announced to visitors they were entering the heart of Royal

Persia

n power it was covered with a cedar wood roof its doors adorned with gold fittings at the heart of the complex was the app Adana where King Darius received his subjects today only 10 of the original columns still stand in antiquity 36 columns 20 meters high held up another massive cedar wood see the walls were covered in sumptuous hangings this enormous hall could accommodate 10,000 people something that was
built with columns 20 meters high I think it was awe-inspiring people were probably looking up when were completely stumped you can see how each of these columns rear up to the sky and they would have held up there an enormous roof of beautiful cedar wood given us this heady scent of cedar wherever we went as well King after king added Tudor eyes his creation Xerxes the Greeks grape foam built this the remarkable haul of a hundred columns and finally we can recreate the private quarters of
derives himself a place that only the king's most intimate advisors would ever have seen would have been dimly lit might would have been streaming through window spaces and in fact we can tell from some of the highly polished don't around you that this would have been gleaming that's helium in fact some people have called this room the hall of mirrors the building sat on a 15 meter high man-made Terrace in terms of beauty it's difficult to find the right words really as a
feature it's an architectural symphony everything is built to harmonize with one another each building is synchronized with with another one to make a beautiful harmonized whole Persepolis is one of the great architectural achievements of the

ancient

world but why did the

Persia

n kings go to such lengths beyond housing the royal entourage what exactly was the purpose of these extraordinary buildings over two and a half thousand years ago the

Persia

ns built the greatest city on earth from
which they ruled most of the known world but this was no ordinary City for it was built with a particular purpose in mind what the city was used for was an integral part of how the

Persia

ns maintained their vast

empire

for 250 years clues to the function of Persepolis lie carved into the walls and staircases of the city in the scenes depicted in its stunning stone reliefs they show the different peoples of the

Empire

coming to Persepolis to give gifts and pay tribute to the great

Persia

n King
lost worlds persia s forgotten empire ancient history documentary timeline
Nubians from Africa Lydians from present-day Turkey back treants from what is now Afghanistan so what you've got 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

Empire

fine horses shaggy mountain goats it's all the wealth of the

Empire

being forced tribute to the Great King so much personality in the face wonderful curved horned sheep and depicted in such detail and they filled up it's a very
stylized way that they do things like the way that they render curls in the hair and the beard in a very artificial manner and then as you come down to the shaggy fleece of the Sheep you can see that that's echoed again so you get these triangles ending in these perfect little swirls and finally this flick of a tail at the bottom as well the costumes for all of these foreign delegates are ended in such detail and it's clear that the

Persia

n artist is fascinated by the variety the ethnic
variety that you get visiting here so this is what Persepolis was for it was not a military capital it was first and foremost a symbolic and ceremonial place from all over the

Empire

subject people's came here to give their gifts to the king the formal presentation of tribute confirmed the loyalty of the subject nations and the power of the king the walk to the king followed a specific route through the complex intended to maximize the impact of the architecture coming up these stairs
would have been an overwhelming experience if you look at the stairs they are not something that you walk up fast they're so shallow that you have to walk very very slowly that all heightened the expectation and I suppose gave you a sense of the Kings power you can't just walk into a room and there you are it is all to do with a procession to the king what you have here are the offering Baris leading their camels bringing their bowls and their jewelry and all the time you have to
imagine an absolute cacophony of noise behind you so if you go all the time your heart is beating faster and faster you're hearing languages you've never heard before seeing sights you've never seen before and you get to this spot and I think your knees are about to give way because this is the so called gate of all nations this is the welcoming portal for all these visitors and straightaway they are faced with this image of kingship these human headed Bulls symbols of royal virility
and strength and power he walks through these enormous full structures and now everything goes dark sunlights taken away from you and you're asked to stand and wait just here and then you turn and you are struck by this amazing Imperial platform and you know that somewhere in there you're literally going to meet your maker you're going to see the great king himself so you walk forward and you approach your hearts really go in some now if I seemed like such a long walk when
you're doing this if you come from the far-flung corners of the

Empire

you will never have seen a structure like this every visitor in

ancient

times who was allowed to come up the Royal Terrace was in total or you have a perfection that is ups that they haven't seen anywhere else and people must have been absolutely stunned and you walk up the Imperial staircase and you find yourself in the heart of the complex okay in front of you now is a great app Adama now this is where the mystery
really starts you can't get any closer to how the

Persia

n kings wanted to present themselves and what they really do here is to show we have conquered the world we don't need to prove anything anymore and so you're offering bearer begins his journey towards the king he would have paused and here he would have done 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 your gifts are given your job is
done you back away slowly out of its the great throne room and your 15 minutes of fame is over with gift-giving at Persepolis was how the

Persia

n kings reinforced the loyalty of their subjects but they had other less benign ways of exercising power the relief at Bisset tune in northwest iran shows the

persia

n king at his most ruthless here King Darius the great enslaves those who threatened his throne it is a public warning to those who might try to resist him

ancient

Greek accounts also suggest
that the

Persia

n kings ruled with an iron fist one tells of how the

Persia

ns cut off the limbs and even noses of their prisoners and yet the reliefs at Persepolis seemed to paint a very different picture there you see these men holding each other's hand or one holding his hand against somebody's shoulder they talk to each other they sort of encourage each other the whole image that is represented 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

Persia

n piece

Persia

n royal inscriptions found at Persepolis reinforce this image of benevolent rule they declare that the King loves peace not war and subject people's are allowed to practice their customs and religions but is all this mere

Persia

n propaganda after all these are reliefs commissioned by the King and tablets written by his loyal servants the Jewish book of Ezra offers an independent account in Chapter 1 the

Persia

ns are praised for
liberating the Jews and allowing them to practice their religion freely I think it's fair to say that the

Persia

ns are unique in the way that they envisage how an

empire

should be run generally in the

ancient

world there seems to be an idea of conquer obliterate and rebuild on our terms we don't find that with

Persia

at all if you paint your tribute if you paint your taxes to the

Persia

n King that was fine that was all the King wanted from you any other form of life of cultural setting
was accepted by allowing subject nations to live their own lives the

Persia

ns ensured that a multi-ethnic multilingual

Empire

flourished in relative peace for 250 years it is tolerance that has a completely political objective the

Persia

n kings objective force if I leave people their ethnicity their religious cults then they have fewer reasons to resist my power yet it took more than tolerance to maintain this vast

empire

empire

s need an infrastructure 50 miles outside Persepolis carved into the
side of the hill is an

ancient

Persia

n road leading to Persepolis the sides of the road are up to 10 meters high such engineering feats were repeated across the

empire

being in charge of an

empire

that stretches about 4000 kilometers just west to east needed to be controlled in order to control that you need a fabulous network a road system that allows you to get information from one corner of the

Empire

to wherever the king is as quickly as possible even the critical Greeks could not fail to be
impressed by the

Persia

n road system it stretched from Persepolis up to another

Persia

n City souza and then 1,500 miles to the west to Ephesus on the Mediterranean roads also went east to India and south into Egypt the Greeks were particularly amazed by the messengers who traveled along these roads keeping the

Persia

n kings at Persepolis informed of everything that went on in the

Empire

the great Greek historian Herodotus wrote at the time that no mortal thing travels faster than the

Persia

n
couriers such speed was possible because of another

Persia

n innovation the staging post what you seem to have here is a system where a messenger rides on one horse gets to a garis and quickly changes straight onto a new horse a fresh horse straight off again and then maybe 20 miles down the road he's onto a new horse again so that the speed keeps going it seems that because the messenger has this pioneering spirit and can keep going as long as he has fresh horses he can do that you know
lost worlds persia s forgotten empire ancient history documentary timeline
right the way through the staging posts manned by

Persia

n soldiers also ensured that for the first time in antiquity travelers and traders could move around a vast tract of land safe from bandits so from Persepolis the

Persia

n kings managed their immense

Empire

tolerant peaceful and wealthy the Achaemenid Kings believed they were the Masters of all they surveyed and to prove their power they set out to create nothing short of paradise on earth the first ever formal gardens in the world two and
a half thousand years ago the

Persia

ns created the largest

empire

the world had ever seen the Greeks said they were an uncultured and warlike race but here at the

ancient

city of posaga day the stones tell a different story posaga day was the palace of cyrus the great founder of the

persia

n

empire

and first king of the accumulate dynasty and here there is evidence of

persia

n culture at its most sophisticated and refined hidden among the undergrowth are irrigation channels for posaga days most
stunning feature its royal gardens it would run all around the garden so that the whole area here in front of Cyrus's residential palace would be irrigated imagine that it was gleaming white it was polished stone it was glittering in the Sun you would have the water floating through it would refresh the area it would cool down the air here no archaeologist has ever found the legendary Gardens of Babylon so these channels are the earliest known evidence of a formal garden anywhere in the
world King Cyrus called his garden Paradiso this

Persia

n word meaning a walled garden is one we still use today paradise it was his paradise and it was the 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 that he resides in he takes great care that there are paradises full of all the beautiful things that the soil will produce it was even
said that cyrus gardened himself he told one greek visitor the arrangement is my own work I swear by the Sun God that I never sat down to dinner without first working at some task of gardening so what actually grew in these

persia

n gardens the clay tablets found at the great city of Persepolis lists the different trees and plants that were planted here they showed that the composition of the garden was deeply symbolic the tablets tell us that there were thousands of seedlings for trees different
kind of trees including olive trees mulberries dates which were collected to be planted in the next spring these were treats that he imported from all over his

empire

to reflect the size and the extent of his

empire

in this garden in this garden space ultimately the

Persia

n garden was a political statement by making plants grow in an otherwise barren landscape the

Persia

n kings showed 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 to produce an order in an unordered in a chaotic otherwise wild nature the garden in a way symbolized the Kings ability to control light the

Persia

ns may have built great cities and gardens but they were still essentially a nomadic people this kind of nomadic feeling always remained with the

Persia

ns despite the fact that they built these vast Imperial cities they were as at home in a city as they were in a tent for the
Greeks the

Persia

ns nomadic lifestyle was a cause for mockery like modern nomads the

ancient

Persia

ns spent the winter months tending their herds on the plains and the hot summer months in the cool of the mountains to the Greeks this escape from the summer heat was evidence of

Persia

n unmanned leanness the Greeks like to criticize the

Persia

ns for this softness they see them as rather hot and moist creatures and the other thing that Greek sea is hot and moist are women this is the way that
women's bodies works if women have our hot and moist and and therefore

Persia

ns are hot and moist they must be one in the same thing basically

Persia

ns are not real men because they can't stand the heat what the Greeks never understood was the traveling was part of the

Persia

n way of life even around great centers such as Persepolis that would have been a city of tents as people came and went certainly within these tents we can imagine that

ancient

Persia

n life would not be too
dissimilar from the kind of images that you can still see today so within these tents what you have is of course your whole lifestyle everything goes on there from cooking of course then there's the rearing of animals and the collecting of foodstuffs as well and also weaving carpets rugs and hangings the very essence of the tent itself but also weaving clothing and this is a traditional women's work of course this is all part of nomadic tradition today and certainly can be reflected back
onto

ancient

Persia

n tradition across the ages fine colorful textiles have been central to

Persia

n culture from the most remote nomadic people of

ancient

Persia

to the shoppers and traders in a modern Iranian Bazaar textiles are a way to express status and wealth I've brought you to a place like the bazaar Shiraz just because there is this long legacy of an artistic tradition and a cultural tradition and one thing we know about life in the

ancient

Near East in general was that they loved
color and textiles these are wonderful turquoises and blues and also wonderful greens as well so we know that these are the colors that they would have had and the colors and they would have loved this idea of a room which is completely covered in textiles is very much part of the

ancient

Near Eastern tradition and certainly something that the

Persia

ns would have identified with textile hangings on the walls are very much part of the

ancient

world culture textiles all over the floors textiles on
couches as well so you know you are surrounded you're swamped by this idea of color and luxury and of course warmth as well now that's the real McCoy okay synthetic modern velvet butter perhaps this gives you a better than anything else sort of idea of the luxury that the

Persia

ns were renowned for its purple which first of all of course is the color of kingship throughout the

ancient

world because purple is so difficult to get in antiquity a good solid deep imperial purple dye you know
this is a modern textile but does the job very well I think it kind of captures what the

Persia

ns are all about for me bit of sparkle really the smells sounds and sights of this Bazaar would be familiar to the

ancient

Persia

ns spices gold and reams of fine brightly colored cloth this modern market reflects what the

Persia

ns were famed for in the

ancient

world their pursuit of luxury the purpose of luxury at Persepolis is mainly to do with the power and the propaganda of kingship because of
course to have superfluous articles of clothing or to have your palace strewn with textiles that are really redundant apart from being you know Laurel dawn or something that covers something or a covering that is then covered by another covering this is all just 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

Persia

ns were the greatest power on earth their style and
fashions were widely copied

Persia

ns take on the aesthetic side of life on the finer points of living everything from how you plant your garden and how you walk in your garden and to how you decorate your walls clearly had an impact on later world civilizations certainly through Greece and into Rome possibly into contemporary Western society as well the

Persia

n approach to architecture gardens and textiles has survived to this day but there were those in the

ancient

world who despised everything
the

Persia

ns stood for this hostility would one day lead to the destruction of the

Persia

n

Empire

and of Persepolis itself 2,500 years ago persepolis was the sumptuous capital of the great

Persia

n

Empire

but what the

Persia

n saw as luxury their greek rivals saw as decadence one custom that both fascinated and appalled the Greeks was the

Persia

n feast most of what we know about

Persia

n feasts of course comes from the Greek sources because the Greeks are so interested or fascinated by this
concept of luxury that obviously feasting is going to be an element of the luxurious lifestyle

Persia

n feasts are going to be opulent all the kind of things which are always associated with luxury drinking was an essential part of the

Persia

n feast Herodotus wrote the

Persia

ns are very fond of wine and no one is allowed to vomit or urinate in the presence of another person the

Persia

ns seem to live by this principle of telling the truth that's something that actually the Greeks regrettably
admire in them and they use drinking as a rather a political system the

Persia

ns tend to get very drunk because only in drink do tell so you know you have your political discretion you drink a lot things get said now everybody goes to bed and mows it over wakes up the next day with a hangover and then everybody comes back together again to have the same conversation to see if they still have those kind of ideas like many

Persia

n traditions feasting was not luxury for luxuries sake it had an
important social role feasting brings you together as a community they are all partaking of the same food and of the same experience so it's a great uniting thing yet to the Greeks it was another example of why the

Persia

ns were an inferior race Alexander the Great warned his own soldiers that gluttony and opulence lead to much on manliness those that eat such enormous meals are far too quickly beaten in battles what the greek sauce is like to play up is this idea that the

persia

ns are
luxurious a feminized luxury loving a feminizing race of no gooders really who are over there somewhere in the east and they are corrupting us and our morals and all that we stand for and it was Alexander the Great who was determined to end the corrupting influence of the

Persia

ns once and for all in 334 BC he began a campaign to take over the

empire

that had ruled the known world for the previous 250 years at the first pitched battle between the two armies and Issus in Turkey Alexander's
Macedonian army scored a resounding victory over the forces of King Darius the third of

Persia

despite being greatly outnumbered a lot probably has to do with different military tactics that the Macedonian army used against the

Persia

ns

Persia

ns were used to fighting in a plane they were using chariots which were not used in the Macedonian army but it was also the Macedonian idea of immediate surprise attack that helped over the next two years Alexander's superior military tactics allowed
him to take over lands that were once under

Persia

n control in 331 BC he reached

Persia

itself by the time he arrived in Persepolis the

Persia

n armies had been routed the 12th and last

Persia

n King Darius the third was dead Alexander entered the undefended City unopposed the ceremonial center that for nearly two centuries had embodied

Persia

n dominance of the world was finally in Greek hands Alexander told his soldiers they were now in the most hateful of cities you've got to remember
where Alexander actually comes from Macedonia okay these are folks mounting thugs this is what Alexander Stock is all about and suddenly comes to this place which after all the

Persia

ns been accused for centuries have been a feat luxury lovers now this stuff is anathema to Alexander's Macedonian and Greek followers Alexander triumphant held a banquet for some of his troops at Persepolis according to the Greek accounts it was here that the city's fate was sealed it's a lot of drinking
going on a lot of bad things get said Alexander has got in his company according to some Greek and later Latin sources a couple of courtesans one of whom is called face who is supposed to be one of the most beautiful courtesans in Greece now she I daresay is a little bit drunk and perhaps a little bit emotional we don't know but she decides to ask Alexander would it be okay if she burns down Persepolis Alexander in his drunken state says sure go ahead Alexander fully understood the symbolic
importance of Persepolis as the very heart of the

Persia

n

Empire

it had to be destroyed Alexander will destroy everything that could be a potential source of resistance and opposition to him Persepolis was that he wanted to make a point of destroying

Persia

n power and so Alexander soldiers began burning and looting 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 to pile up
flammable material furniture curtains and from there the fire started and then of course spread through the whole Terrace it just burned by daresay this night there must have been chaos here so the carnage the chaos must have been horrific Alexander's soldiers just ransacked the city they looted everything that was there they burned the houses I think Alexander is the first recorded hooligan in

history

he used to brood to force violence needlessly destroying a site that had no military
function that was indeed unprotected when he came here it was totally needless to to burn it down to destroy and kill the population of Persepolis the Greeks who claim to be the founders of civilization who call the

Persia

ns barbarians had committed a gross act of vandalism they had destroyed the greatest city on earth it's a sad death of this remarkable Imperial City this this this seat of culture and this seat of ceremony at the time it was the most magnificent city in the non

ancient

world and that Alexander had destroyed and with that an era came to an end but by burning down the city Alexander ironically helped preserve it much of it remained buried under the ashes produced by the fire protected from the elements for the next 2,000 years it was not until the excavations of the 1930s that many of the reliefs and clay tablets that tell us so much about

Persia

n life could be studied for the first time and although the city had been destroyed the legacy of the

Persia

ns
survived they're formal gardens they're ceremonial architecture and their sense of luxury were copied by other civilizations even the Greeks but their greatest achievement of all was the

Empire

itself the first global

empire

in

history

was built on a model of tolerance and respect for other cultures that few great powers have ever matched perhaps now at last the

Persia

ns will take their rightful place as one of the great civilizations of antiquity