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Persepolis - And its sacred geography 03 Gate of All Nations

Identifier

022403

Type of Spiritual Experience

Background

The Gate of All Nations or Gate of Xerxes palace is located in the ruins of the ancient city of Persepolis, Iran.

The construction of the Stairs of All Nations and the Gate of All Nations was ordered by the Achaemenid king Xerxes I (486-465 BC), the successor of the principle builder of Persepolis, Darius I the Great.

Building

The structure consisted of one large room whose roof was supported by four stone columns with bell-shaped bases. Parallel to the inner walls of this room ran a stone bench, interrupted at the doorways. The outside walls, made of broad mud block, were bedecked with frequent niches. Each of the three walls, on the east, west, and south, had a very large stone doorway.

A pair of massive bulls secured the western entrance; two Lamassu in the Assyrian style, albeit, of colossal proportions, stood at the eastern doorway.

Engraved above each of the four colossi is a trilingual inscription attesting to Xerxes having built and fulfilled the gate. The doorway on the south, opening toward the Apadana, is the widest of the three. Pivoting devices found on the inner corners of all the doors indicate that they must have had two-leaved doors, which were possibly made of wood and covered with sheets of ornamented metal.

 

Lamassu

A lamassu (Sumerian: dlammař; Akkadian: lamassu; sometimes called a lamassus) is, theoretically, an Assyrian protective deity, often depicted as having a human's head, a body of an ox or a lion, and bird's wings.  The Assyrians typically prominently placed lamassu at the entrances of cities and palaces. From the front they appear to stand, and from the side, walk.

But we find them in Persepolis, a supposedly Zoroastrian and Archaemenid city.  And here are two at the Gate of All Nations.

Cyrus II of Persia, commonly known as Cyrus the Great, was the founder of the Achaemenid Empire and started the building of Persepolis.  Under his rule, the empire embraced all the previous civilized states of the ancient Near East.

The reign of Cyrus the Great only lasted between 29 and 31 years. But, Cyrus built his empire by tackling first the Median Empire, then the Lydian Empire and eventually the Neo-Babylonian Empire.

The lamassu was considered a celestial being and appears frequently in Mesopotamian art. The lamassu and shedu were household protective spirits of the common Babylonian people, becoming associated later as royal protectors.

So what does this tell us?  That there was shared symbolism, that division of cultures into named groups does not work, because where they live tells us nothing of what ideas they have assimilated. 

And that sometimes embracing the symbolic objects of a cultured people results in not ‘subjugation’, but willing co-operation under a strong capable leader.

A description of the experience

The source of the experience

Zoroastrian

Concepts, symbols and science items

Activities and commonsteps

Activities

Suppressions

Creating a sacred geography

Commonsteps

References