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4 / Ceremony and Society

Procession of Tribute Bearers
Procession of Tribute Bearers
Artist / Origin Unknown artist(s), Persepolis
Region: West Asia
Date Achaemenid Period, 559–330 BCE
Period: 500 BCE - 1 CE
Material Stone relief
Medium: Sculpture
Location Persepolis, Iran
Credit © CORBIS

expert perspective

Patrick HuntDirector of the Stanford Alpine Archaeology Project

Additional Resources

Boardman, John. The World of Ancient Art. London: Thames & Hudson, 2006.

Frankfort, Henri. The Art and Architecture of the Ancient Orient, 5th ed. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1996.

Kostof, Spiro. A History of Architecture: Settings and Rituals, 2nd ed. Edited by Gregory Castillo. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 1995.

Van de Mieroop, Marc. A History of the Ancient Near East, ca. 3000–323 BC. Second edition. Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell, 2007.

Procession of Tribute Bearers

» Unknown artist(s), Persepolis

King of Persia and ruler of the Achaemenid Empire, Darius I began building the monumental palace complex at Persepolis in the sixth century BCE.

Over the next two centuries, the site was expanded by Darius’s successors before being looted and burned by the armies of Alexander the Great in 330 BCE. Intended as the capital of the empire, Persepolis was a grand demonstration of the power and resources of the Achaemenids. It was also to serve as the backdrop for various ceremonies of state.

Among the most impressive remains discovered at Persepolis are the two monumental stairways leading to the Apadana, the main reception hall of the Achaemenid kings, started by Darius and completed under his son, Xerxes. These stairways, a portion of which appears here, were decorated with relief carvings of an annual New Year’s festival during which representatives from the empire’s subject nations congregated to pay tribute to the king. The identity of each figure is indicated through his costume, appearance, and also through the gift that he bears—a product of his native land. In addition to these foreign dignitaries, the procession includes courtiers, servants, soldiers, and guards. For those foreign visitors climbing the stairs or even for those members of the king’s retinue stationed at Persepolis, these carvings, which record a ritual of submission, were both a reminder of their relationship to the Persian king and a model of ideal behavior.

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