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Persepolis - And its sacred geography 01 The Mountain



Type of Spiritual Experience



Persepolis is situated 60 km northeast of the city of Shiraz in Fars Province, Iran. The majority of the excavated city was built during the time of Darius and exemplifies the Achaemenid style of architecture. UNESCO declared the ruins of Persepolis a World Heritage Site in 1979.

But by concentrating on the city that was built with its temples, one overlooks the overall site and the sacredness of its positioning.

Persepolis is near the small river Pulvar, which flows into the Kur River.  So it is a water site.

The site includes a 125,000 square meter terrace, partly artificially constructed and partly cut out of a mountain, with its east side leaning on Rahmet Mountain. Thus we have the combined sacred geography symbols of the enclosure and the mountain.  If one has a mountain this close, one does not actually need a ziggurat or mound.  The early Zoroastrian fire ceremony was carried out on top of mountains, not in the Fire Temple, which was a later adaptation [see the symbolism of Fire].

The other three sides are formed by retaining walls, which vary in height with the slope of the ground. Rising from 5–13 metres (16–43 feet) on the west side was a double stair. From there, it gently slopes to the top. To create the level terrace, depressions were filled with soil and heavy rocks, which were joined together with metal clips.

In some senses, although the earliest remains of the acropolis of Persepolis date back to 515 BC. Cyrus the Great chose the site of Persepolis, because it was already sacred, because he was celebrating its existence and importance symbolically.  Cyrus built an enormous empire not by destructive aggressive behaviour but by embracing the sacredness of what he had found.  Darius I, who built the terrace and the palaces, simply added to its status.

The Greeks were not acquainted with the city until Alexander the Great took and plundered it.  It must have been a terrible blow to the people here – desecration of a sacred site – if we can imagine it, a bit like setting the whole of York with its cathedral on fire.

A description of the experience

The source of the experience


Concepts, symbols and science items



Activities and commonsteps



Creating a sacred geography