Begun under Cyrus the Great in about 546 BC, the ruins of Pasargadae (Pasargad Rd, off Hwy 65; IR200,000; h8am-5pm) are located near the village of the same name, lying some 60km north of Persepolis on a windswept plain surrounded by arid mountains .
Marked by an austere beauty, these ruins of empire will enthral historians and those with a detective interest in piecing together the clues of an ancient civilisation. It has to be said, there are not that many clues to go on, but enough to suggest that the ancients were sophisticated in their tastes and grand in their design.
Proud and alone on the Morghab Plain, the Tomb of Cyrus is the first of the mon-uments encountered on entering the site of Pasargadae. The tomb consists of a modest rectangular burial chamber perched on six tiered plinths. Its unique architecture is a totem of conquest, combining elements of all the major civilisations captured by Cyrus.
‘I am Cyrus, the Achaemenid King’ reads the cunieform inscription on a pillar of Cyrus’ palace complex. The minimal ru-ins of what must have been a grand set of structures lie about 1km north of the king’s tomb. Archaeologists note the unusual plan of the palace with its central hall of 30 columns (the stumps of which remain) and its two great opposing verandahs, but it takes a bit of imagination to reassemble the fallen masonry.
About 250m to the southeast is the rec-tangular Audience Palace, which once had an 18m-high hypostyle hall surrounded by smaller balconies. One of the eight white limestone columns has been reconstructed on a rare black limestone plinth.
Around 500m north of Cyrus’ Private Palace are the remains of the Prison of Solomon (Zendan-e Soleiman), variously thought to be a fire temple, tomb, sundial or store. On the hill beyond is the Tall-e Takht – a monumental 6000-sq-metre cita-del used from Cyrus’ time until the late Sas-sanian period. Local historians believe the references to Solomon date from the Arab conquest, when the inhabitants of Pasarga-dae renamed the sites with Islamic names to prevent their destruction.
Finally, the hard-to-discern remnants of Darius’ garden, added to the World Heritage list as part of a joint entry under Persian gardens, display a sophisticated irrigation system.
The water channels, punctuated by square pools, run along the perimeter of the garden giving a good indi-cation of the enormous scale of the palace project.