The Vakil Mosque is a mosque in Shiraz, situated to the west of the Vakil Bazaar next to its entrance. This mosque was built between 1751 and 1773, during the Zand period; however, it was restored in the 19th century during the Qajar period. Vakil means regent, which was the title used by Karim Khan, the founder of Zand Dynasty. Shiraz was the seat of Karim Khan’s government and he endowed many buildings, including this mosque.
Vakil Mosque covers an area of 8,660 square meters. It has only two iwans instead of the usual four, on the northern and southern sides of a large open court. The iwans and court are decorated with typical Shirazi haft rangi tiles, a characteristic feature of the art and industry of Shiraz during the latter half of the 18th century. Its night prayer hall (Shabestan), with an area of approximately 2,700 square meters, contains 48 monolithic pillars carved in spirals, each with a capital of acanthus leaves. The minbar in this hall is cut from a solid piece of green marble with a flight of 14 steps and is considered to be one of the master pieces of the Zand period. The exuberant floral decorative tiles largely date from the Qajar period.
Ruins of a number of colossal buildings exist on the terrace. All are constructed of dark-grey marble. Fifteen of their pillars stand intact. Three more pillars have been re-erected since 1970. Several of the buildings were never finished. F. Stolze has shown that some of the mason’s rubbish remains.
Since the time of Pietro Della Valle, it has been beyond dispute that these ruins represent the Persepolis captured and partly destroyed by Alexander the Great.
Behind the compound at Persepolis, there are three sepulchers hewn out of the rock in the hillside. The facades, one of which is incomplete, are richly decorated with reliefs. About 13 km NNE, on the opposite side of the Pulvar River, rises a perpendicular wall of rock, in which four similar tombs are cut at a considerable height from the bottom of the valley. Modern-day Iranians call this place Naqsh-e Rustam (“Rustam Relief”), from the Sasanian reliefs beneath the opening, which they take to be a representation of the mythical hero Rostam. It may be inferred from the sculptures that the occupants of these seven tombs were kings. An inscription on one of the tombs declares it to be that of Darius I, concerning whom Ctesias relates that his grave was in the face of a rock, and could only be reached by the use of ropes. Ctesias mentions further, with regard to a number of Persian kings, either that their remains were brought “to the Persians,” or that they died there.
Gate of All Nations
The Gate of All Nations, referring to subjects of the empire, consisted of a grand hall that was a square of approximately 25 metres (82 ft) in length, with four columns and its entrance on the Western Wall. There were two more doors, one to the south which opened to the Apadana yard and the other opened onto a long road to the east. Pivoting devices found on the inner corners of all the doors indicate that they were two-leafed doors, probably made of wood and covered with sheets of ornate metal. A pair of lamassus, bulls with the heads of bearded men, stand by the western threshold. Another pair, with wings and a Persian Head (Gopät-Shäh), stands by the eastern entrance, to reflect the power of the empire. The name of Xerxes I was written in three languages and carved on the entrances, informing everyone that he ordered it to be built.
Darius I built the greatest palace at Persepolis on the western side of platform. This palace was called the Apadana. The King of Kings used it for official audiences. The work began in 518 BC, and his son, Xerxes I, completed it 30 years later. The palace had a grand hall in the shape of a square, each side 60 metres (200 ft) long with seventy-two columns, thirteen of which still stand on the enormous platform. Each column is 19 metres (62 ft) high with a square Taurus (bull) and plinth. The columns carried the weight of the vast and heavy ceiling. The tops of the columns were made from animal sculptures such as two-headed lions, eagles, human beings and cows (cows were symbols of fertility and abundance in ancient Iran). The columns were joined to each other with the help of oak and cedar beams, which were brought from Lebanon. The walls were covered with a layer of mud and stucco to a depth of 5 cm, which was used for bonding, and then covered with the greenish stucco which is found throughout the palaces. At the western, northern and eastern sides of the palace, there were three rectangular porticos each of which had twelve columns in two rows of six. At the south of the grand hall, a series of rooms were built for storage. Two grand Persepolitan stairways were built, symmetrical to each other and connected to the stone foundations. To protect the roof from erosion, vertical drains were built through the brick walls. In the four corners of Apadana, facing outwards, four towers were built.
The walls were tiled and decorated with pictures of lions, bulls, and flowers. Darius ordered his name and the details of his empire to be written in gold and silver on plates, which were placed in covered stone boxes in the foundations under the Four Corners of the palace. Two Persepolitan style symmetrical stairways were built on the northern and eastern sides of Apadana to compensate for a difference in level. Two other stairways stood in the middle of the building. The external front views of the palace were embossed with carvings of the Immortals, the Kings’ elite guards. The northern stairway was completed during the reign of Darius I, but the other stairway was completed much later.
The reliefs on the staircases allow one to observe the people from across the empire in their traditional dress, and even the king himself, “down to the smallest detail”.
The Throne Hall
Next to the Apadana, second largest building of the Terrace and the final edifices, is the Throne Hall or the Imperial Army’s Hall of Honor (also called the Hundred-Columns Palace). This 70×70 square meter hall was started by Xerxes I and completed by his son Artaxerxes I by the end of the fifth century BC. Its eight stone doorways are decorated on the south and north with reliefs of throne scenes and on the east and west with scenes depicting the king in combat with monsters. Two colossal stone bulls flank the northern portico. The head of one of the bulls now resides in the Oriental Institute in Chicago.
At the beginning of the reign of Xerxes I, the Throne Hall was used mainly for receptions for military commanders and representatives of all the subject nations of the empire. Later, the Throne Hall served as an imperial museum.
Other palaces and structures
Other palaces included the Tachara, which was built under Darius I, and the Imperial treasury, which was started by Darius I in 510 BC and finished by Xerxes I in 480 BC. The Hadish Palace of Xerxes I occupies the highest level of terrace and stands on the living rock. The Council Hall, the Tryplion Hall, the Palaces of D, G, H, storerooms, stables and quarters, the unfinished gateway and a few miscellaneous structures at Persepolis are located near the south-east corner of the terrace, at the foot of the mountain.
It is commonly accepted that Cyrus the Great was buried in Pasargadae, which is mentioned by Ctesias as his own city. If it is true that the body of Cambyses II was brought home “to the Persians,” his burying place must be somewhere beside that of his father. Ctesias assumes that it was the custom for a king to prepare his own tomb during his lifetime. Hence, the kings buried at Naghsh-e Rostam are probably Darius I, Xerxes I, Artaxerxes I and Darius II. Xerxes II, who reigned for a very short time, could scarcely have obtained so splendid a monument, and still less could the usurper Sogdianus. The two completed graves behind the compound at Persepolis would then belong to Artaxerxes II and Artaxerxes III. The unfinished tomb, a kilometer away from the city, is debated to who it belongs. It is perhaps that of Artaxerxes IV, who reigned at the longest two years, or, if not his, then that of Darius III (Codomannus), who is one of those whose bodies are said to have been brought “to the Persians.” Since Alexander the Great is said to have buried Darius III at Persepolis, then it is likely the unfinished tomb is his.
Another small group of ruins in the same style is found at the village of Haji Abad, on the Pulvar River, a good hour’s walk above Persepolis. These formed a single building, which was still intact 900 years ago, and was used as the mosque of the then-existing city of Estakhr.