Lotus symbol HOME  

Did you know...?

facts about ancient Persia for kids and grown-ups

Ancient and modern surprises Ancient Persia built the first "Suez" Canal some 2300 years before the current one.

Ancient Persia gave the world its first Bill of Rights.

Ancient Persia didn't use slaves to build its monuments.

Some women in Ancient Persia were powerful CEOs.

The New York Post Office Motto comes from Ancient Persia.

The "little Cherub" of today was originally a terrifying winged bull-man-monster (karibu) from Ancient Persia (and before)?

The Persian city of Persepolis was founded decades before the Greek Parthenon?

The Persian Empire covered more than 3 million square miles, from Europe to India, from Africa to the Russian Steppes? That's 50% larger than the Roman Empire at it's maximum extent.

Ancient Persia was the bridge that transmitted the scientific achievements of the ancients to Greece and ultimately to western Europe.


murder, plot and intrigue

Murder, regret and propaganda in the Persian court!

What does this sculpture have to do with murder, plot, a miscarriage of justice, intrigue and regret in the Persian court?

This large slab, showing a king attended by important officials, was found  hidden away in the Persepolis treasury. It had clearly been removed from one of the public walls in the palace, and hidden away... but why?

Long before The Russian dictator Stalin began erasing Trotsky from photos, it seems this sculpture also shows figures that someone didn't want to be seen.

In the year 466 BC, the emperor Xerxes was murdered. He was killed by Aspamithra the Chamberlain (a eunuch) and Artabanus, the Chiliarch and commander of the royal bodyguard of Immortals. They thought they could get away with it by framing Xerxes' son and heir ( named Darius after his grandfather).

Darius' brother Artaxerxes fell for the lie that Darius had been behind the murder, and he killed Darius! Soon after, the truth came to light but it was too late for Darius. Artaxerxes put Aspamithra and Artabanus to death, and spent the rest of his life wracked by guilt for the unjust killing of his own brother.

He had a problem - the palace had this huge sculpture on public display depicting  his murdered father, his wrongly-executed brother, and the real murderers! It had to go, but Artaxerxes couldn't bear to destroy the sculpture of his father and brother, so instead he had the public sculpture replaced, and hid this one in the palace treasury!

Artaxerxes was a changed man, and ruled with great gentleness and magnanimity thereafter.

source: The Authoritative Guide to Persepolis by A. Shapur Shahbazi

About the book's title:


"Jamshid and the lost Mountain of Light" comes from a legendary king and a royal diamond...

The Persian poet Abolqasem Ferdousi wrote an epic "Book of Kings" or “ Shahnameh ” in the 10th Century, based on earlier texts. One of the first mythical kings in his poem is named Jamshid.

Today, the Iranian name for Persepolis is “Takht-e-Jamshid”, which means “Throne of Jamshid”. Persepolis was one of the capitol cities of Ancient Persia, and its remains can be seen today - click here for photos.

One of the diamonds in British crown jewels is the “Kuh-i-noor”, which means “Mountain of Light” in Farsi (Persian). Legend has it passed between Alexander and India after Persian conquest.


Why all the flowers?

Lotus symbol


The flowers are lotus flowers which had special significance in Ancient Persia. They represent purity -or truth - because even though they grow from the mud they are clean, and water does not touch the leaves.

The 12-petal lotus flower appears everywhere in Persepolis, and that is why it appears in the book.

Why the bull and lion?

Bull and Lion symbol from Persepolis


Lions and bulls appear in capitols and reliefs all over Persepolis. It may be that the bull represents winter and the lion represents summer. The Bull also represents the first animal in the world. It was white and bright as the moon, but it was killed by Angra Mainyu (the devil) and its seed was taken to the moon. Once purified, its seed gave rise to many animals and plants (from " Persian Myths by Vesta Sarkhosh Curtis).
The influence of Ancient Persia today
Ancient Persia represents a remarkable period of our history.

It Influenced western culture through its influence on  Greek culture. It also had considerable influence in the Bible (Daniel, Esther, Haggai, Esdras), and the religion of Persia at the time (Zoroastrianism) influenced the Judeo-Christian-Islamic traditions of today.

The society was unprecedented in its multicultural nature and tolerance. The stable and secure empire allowed trade across a huge territory from India to Europe, from Africa to the Steppes. Its monuments were built by paid laborers and artisans from across the empire, without slavery. Women held positions of power and influence.

Even 2500 years ago, the land was already ancient. The early Mesopotamian civilizations of Akkad, Sumer, and Ur date back to 2900BC, and earlier settlements go back to the Late Neolithic. Ancient-rooted stories such as those of Noah and Gilgamesh (a king who ruled around 2700BCE) survive to this day.

Cyrus the Great (576 — August 530 BCE) was the founder of Achaemenid Persian Empire. He is credited with the world's first first bill of rights. The famous Cyrus Cylinder guaranteed freedom of religion, freedom to intermarry, and freedom from tyranny. A replica of the cylinder is kept at the United Nations, New York, between the Security Council and the Economic and Social Council chambers.

Cyrus used Satrapies, a form of devolved government, to control his empire. He is credited with the return of Israelites to Judea & enabling the temple rebuilding in Jerusalem. He is the only ‘anointed’ gentile.

Darius the Great (549– 486/485 BCE) came to power by crushing a rebellion inspired by religious clerics (the Magi). Darius oversaw the largest extent of the Persian Empire. He expanded use of Satrapies, standardized weights & measures, reformed laws, and delivered on Cyrus’ pledge to Jerusalem.

Darius developed an extensive road and messenger network referenced even today in the New York City Post Office motto inscribed around its walls:

“Neither rain nor hail nor sleet nor snow nor heat of day nor dark of night shall keep this carrier from the swift completion of his appointed rounds”

from the Greek historian Herodotus’ description of Darius' messenger network.

Darius oversaw the first ‘Suez’ canal: His navy could pass from the Mediterranean to the Nile to the Red Sea and then to Persia.

Darius founded the city of Persepolis.


Women in Ancient Persia Some women in Ancient Persia were powerful and held property. Several high-ranking leaders of the workforce were women (like Irdabama). There was no segregation of most of the workforce. Queen Atossa (one of Darius' wives) was extremely powerful, and she determined that her son Xerxes would succeed Darius.

The veil was sign of high status, a concept that no doubt evolved into Islamic hejab.

Despite the role of women in Ancient Persian society, It wasn't exactly feminist. Persepolis shows no women, mothers of boys got twice the rations compared to mothers of girls, and the Emperor took many wives.


Legacy of Greek Propaganda The legacy of Ancient Persia has recently been reevaluated and separated from Greek propaganda

The classical view persists today of a Greek victory against tyranny (for example the film “300”) which ushered in the birth of modern western civilization. Remember that the victor writes history, and the Ancient Greeks despised Persians after the Persian Wars.

In reality, the Greeks (Ionians) prospered in the Persian empire. Greek craftsmen worked in Susa and Persepolis, and some even left graffiti! Asia minor melded Greek & Persian cultural influences.

In Greece, Persian culture was associated with elite power and wealth. For example, Persian Luxury goods were enjoyed by Athenians, Persian Clothing was worn  (but Greek women wore Persian men's fashions). The parasol & fly whisk used as symbols of power in Persia were imported to Greece. Persian money supported Sparta in the Peloponnesian war, and Persia guaranteed settlement of disputes between Greek cities. Persia became a haven for Greek refugees (eg the democratic statesman Themistokles), and even Plato had a Persian student.

Persia was, in effect, the America of the time.


Google Earth locations

Got Google Earth? (available at http://earth.google.com)

links to Google Earth Placemark Files for locations featured in the book:



Chogha Zanbil


The Caves of Ali Sadr (The Caves of Ecbatana)



The Authoritative Guide to Persepolis by A. Shapur Shahbazi The most in-depth guide to Persepolis.


"Forgotten Empire: The World of Ancient Persia "   by  J. E Curtis and N. Tallis. 2005. University of California Press.


"A Taste of Persia ” by Najmieh K. Batmanglij. 2nd edition - 2006. Mage Publishers.

"Ancient Persia” by Josef Wiesehöfer, translated by Azizeh Azodi. 2001 I.B. Tauris & Co Ltd. London, UK.

"Persian Myths (Legendary Past Series)” by Vesta Sarkhosh Curtis. 1993 University of Texas Press.

Historical Atlas of the Ancient World” by John Haywood with Charles Freeman, Paul Garwood, and Judith Toms. 2001 MetroBooks.

Gilgamesh (Looking at Myths and Legends)” by Irving Finkel. 1998 British Museum Press, UK.

"Gilgamesh: A New English Version" by Stephen Mitchell. 2006. Free Press.

Women in Ancient Persia, 559-331 BC (Oxford Classical Monographs) ” by Maria Brosius. 1998 Oxford University Press Inc. New York.

“Irania – Glory Of The Past volume 2: 3rd Millennium BC – 7th Century AD”. Multimedia CD 1998 Vista Ara Cultural Institute, Tehran, Iran.

This diamond is forever” by Gurmukh Singh Sandhu, The Sunday Tribune of India.

"The Persian Expedition (Penguin Classics)” by Xenophon, translated by Rex Warner. 1972 Penguin Books Ltd, London.

"The Education of Cyrus (Agora Editions)” by Xenophon, translated by Wayne Ambler. 2001 Cornell University Press, Ithaca, New York.

"The New English Bible with the Apocrypha" : The books of Daniel, Haggai, 1 Esdras, and Esther (apocryphal chapters).