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January 16, 2003

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People following the steps of Alexander the Great must visit Persepolis. The Greek hero came here to enjoy the palace and pillage the treasury after he conquered Persia (330 BC). Alexander burned Persepolis to the ground. It lay deserted and then covered by sand for centuries until rediscovery and excavation in the 1930's. We arrived in frigid winter, an inappropriate time to visit this summer palace; at least we had it to ourselves. We entered and thought about the great Persian Empire, the superpower of its time, and its great kings, Cyrus, Darius, and Xerxes. They ruled over as much territory as Alexander the Great but no one seems to remember that except the Persians.
Persepolis! An 18 meter high wall surrounds it. Enter through the Grand Monumental Stairway, in the footsteps of kings, or take the back entrance through the servant's quarters.
Bas reliefs carved into the palace wall show the vastness of the Persian Empire (Alexander himself didn't conquer more territory). The carvings show 23 subject nations - among them, Arabs, Indians, Parthians, Cappadocians, Elamites, Afghans, Thracians, even Ethiopians - bringing tribute to the Persian king. Each delegation wore its own traditional garb, adorned in a fantastic array of hats, and carried gifts like lion cubs or camels. The Persians considered those people closest to their homeland as the most important so each delegation was received on the basis of proximity - the Ethiopians came last.
The tombs of Persian Emperors: Darius the Great and Xerxes. Under Darius the Persians expanded their empire to India in the east and the Danube River in the west. Xerxes gained fame for his ambitious yet unsuccessful invasion of Greece. Whatever happened to Darius III, the last king of the Achaemenids and the man who Alexander the Great defeated? No one knows.
The tomb of Cyrus the Great, the man who created the first Persian Empire. Achamenes united the Persian tribes in the 7th century BC. His grandson Cyrus led them to military victory, winning the land from Pakistan to Turkey. Legend says that an inscription on this tomb read: "Oh man, here lies Cyrus the Great, King of the Persians and conqueror of the World. Therefore, do no begrudge me this small monument." Alexander the Great listened and left the tomb unharmed.