0126 GMT August 18, 2022
Creating an architecture that was instantly “classic,” the Achaemenids incorporated some of the most salient aspects of Western Asian palace architecture, such as entrances flanked by guardian figures, grand courtyards, glazed brick decoration, and even foundation deposits.
In all newly built palaces Persian architecture subordinated such features to a distinctive new repertoire of colossal hypostyle halls, which themselves repurposed the effect of a “forest of columns,” earlier achieved in Egyptian and Ionian sacred architecture but developed on a smaller scale in earlier Iranian domestic architecture.
None of these features were deployed in exactly the same way as they were in their original context.
This is most noticeable in the content of the palace’s decoration and inscriptions, which, though extensive, tends to favor presenting the empire as united and peaceful, not the bloody process of creating it, as one would expect from their Assyrian counterparts.
Beyond simply ornamental material, Achaemenid palace architecture encompassed multiple formal traditions.
For the sake of convenience, we can call the two dominant traditions “Persian,” characterized by grand, axial hypostyle halls, and “Mesopotamian,” featuring large blocks of apartments organized around a succession of interior courtyards. These features did not appear in the same recombination at every palace, and no palace was built on exactly the same layout, though several integrated structures were built on similar ground plans.
The above is a lightly edited version of part of chapter entitled, ‘Persian Palatial Cosmologies’, from a book entitled, ‘The Iranian Expanse’, written by Matthew P. Canepa, published by the University of California Press.