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Persepolis was the center of the Great Persian Empire. The Persians called it Takht-E-Djamshid (Throne of Djamshid the Great), the Greeks called it Persepolis (Capital of Persia). Even now, at the site of Persepolis, the remains of the glory of the Persian Empire, which dates back two and a half millennia, can still be found.

The site is located at the foot of a rugged mountain called Kuh-E-Rahmat (Mount of Grace), bordering the eastern end of Marv-dasht plain, and is 60 kilometers to the north of Shiraz, which is the administrative center of the Fars Region.

This area was called Parsa in ancient times, and was the place where Achaemenian Persia saw its rise. But the first capital of this dynasty was Pasargadae, 70 kilometers north of Persepolis. Pasargadae was first built by the first king, Cyrus (who reigned from 558 B.C to 529 B.C.) and before long the capital was moved to Susa (in the western district, then known as Elam), which occupied a more important position in political and economic relationships with Mesopotamia. Since that time, Pasargadae came to hold religious significance rather than political. According to records, Darius I concentrated his energy in the building of Susa, collecting materials and gathering architects and workers from all over the Persian world. He erected palace buildings here including the Apadana. But soon he decided to build a new capital at the present PersepolisFars was the home land of the Achaemenian Dynasty, that the climate of this district was more favorable and perhaps that there was some political necessity. It was around this time that Darius succeeded in suppressing the domestic rebellions and established his firm position as the Persian king. In that sense, too, there must have been a strong desire to build a fine palace in this homeland of the dynasty.

The site of Persepolis consists of many monuments built on a large terrace made by leveling a part of the mountain and piling up blocks of stone. The great terrace measured about 500 meters extending north to south and about 400 meters east to west and is 10 to 13 meters high facing the plain. The buildings include facilities for public ceremonies and reception of foreign delegates, privet royal palace buildings and also such minor ones as treasuries.

The important public buildings are the Hundred Column Hall built by Darius, and the Apadana and the Tripylon completed by his son, Xerxes I. The private palace buildings are that of Darius which was called the Hadish. The minor facilities are exemplified by treasuries, barracks, the stairway of the terrace and the Xerxes gate. Most of the above mentioned buildings were constructed in the reigns of Darius (who reigned from 521 B.C. to 486 B.C.) and Xerxes (reigned 486 B.C. to 465 B.C.), the most prosperous periods of the dynasty. They are magnificent art works as well as living materials for historical studies.

After the time of Darius and Xerxes, the successors of the dynasty added some buildings until this capital was destroyed by Alexander, the ling of Macedonia.

As well as being the capital of a now-defunct empire; Persepolis is also the name of a graphic memoir written and drawn by Marjane Satrapi. I picked it up the other day, and was lucky enough to find a single-volume copy (usually, the story is available in two parts). Persepolis follows the author's experience growing up during the Iranian Revolution and Iran-Iraq war. Being largely oblivious to these historical events, reading Persepolis was extremely enlightening.

Other than a recollection of historical events, Persepolis is a beautifully crafted coming of age story with which evoke the angst-filled teen spirit in any reader. De-virginitising, subsequent heartbreak, drug experimentation, anarchy, conformity into 'rebellious' stereotypes and Someone please kill me are all repeating themes. These themes (with which I am sure the majority of e2 users are familiar with) are often mixed with feelings of strong senses of nationalism, martyrdom, and comradeship.

Placed in the mist of a dirty war and in the context of a child's memories, the humanity of Persepolis quickly will work its way into your subconscious and lay there for fortnights to come.


Other recommended graphic novels: Maus I and II by Art Spiegelman, and Palestine by Joe Sacco

"I remember I led a peaceful, uneventful life as a little girl. I loved fries with ketchup, Bruce Lee was my hero, I wore Adidas sneakers and had two obsessions: Shaving my legs one day and being the last prophet of the galaxy."

The French-language graphic novel series of the same name has also been adapted to film. Persepolis made its debut in 2007 at the Cannes Film Festival, winning Jury Prize - the first animated film to earn distinction at Cannes since René Laloux's The Fantastic Planet in 1973. Persepolis also garnered an Academy Award nomination for Best Animated Feature in 2008, among other distinctions.

Perhaps owing to original author-artist Marjane Satrapi's heavy involvement, the film is a loyal translation of the novels: we experience Marji's coming of age amidst the Iranian Revolution almost entirely in stark black and white flashback, with contrasting transitions in a dully colored "present-day" airport.

Counter to the trend of recent popular animated films, Persepolis retains and embraces Satrapi's bold and simple art style; the charming (and where appropriate, proper cartoony) animation sparks life into the inherent expressiveness and personality of her linework, and builds on her striking use of light and shadow to powerful narrative and cinematic effect. Fresh realizations of the source material are everywhere - look for the Iranian history lessons visualized in puppet theatre, featuring English colonels with a questionable grasp of French.

Despite sweepingly positive reviews worldwide, Persepolis was banned soon after its release in Iran and Lebanon - for "(presenting) an unrealistic face of the achievements and results of the glorious Islamic Revolution" and "(being) offensive to Iran and Islam", respectively. While the ban was later revoked entirely in Lebanon, Iranian cultural authorities only came to allow limited screenings in Tehran, with half a dozen scenes removed due to sexual content. (Interestingly enough, some Iranians had already managed to see the film at home on bootlegged DVDs, which - while strictly forbidden - are discreetly available from various sources for around two dollars.)*

 


*Information on controversy sourced from:

(Rare Iran screening for controversial film 'Persepolis')

(LEBANON: Iran revolution film 'Persepolis' unbanned)

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