Pasargadae was the first dynastic capital of the Achaemenid Empire, founded by Cyrus II the Great, in Pars, homeland of the Persians, in the 6th century BC. Its palaces, gardens and the mausoleum of Cyrus are outstanding examples of the first phase of royal Achaemenid art and architecture and exceptional testimonies of Persian civilization. Particularly noteworthy vestiges in the 160-ha site include: the Mausoleum of Cyrus II; Tall-e Takht, a fortified terrace; and a royal ensemble of gatehouse, audience hall, residential palace and gardens. Pasargadae was the capital of the first great multicultural empire in Western Asia. Spanning the Eastern Mediterranean and Egypt to the Hindus River, it is considered to be the first empire that respected the cultural diversity of its different peoples. This was reflected in Achaemenid architecture, a synthetic representation of different cultures.
Outstanding Universal Value
Founded in the 6th century BC in the heartland of the Persians (today the province of Fars in southwestern Iran), Pasargadae was the earliest capital of the Achaemenid (First Persian) Empire. The city was created by Cyrus the Great with contributions from the different peoples who comprised the first great multicultural empire in Western Asia. The archaeological remains of its palaces and garden layout as well as the tomb of Cyrus constitute an outstanding example of the first phase of the evolution of royal Achaemenid art and architecture, and an exceptional testimony to the Achaemenid civilisation in Persia. The “Four Gardens” type of royal ensemble, which was created in Pasargadae, became a prototype for Western Asian architecture and design.
The 160-ha archaeological site of Pasargadae presents some of the earliest manifestations of Persian art and architecture. It includes, among other monuments, the compact limestone tomb on the Morgab plain that once held Cyrus the Great’s gilded sarcophagus; Tall-e Takht (“Solomon’s Throne”), a great fortified platform built on a hill and later incorporated into a sprawling citadel with substantial mud-brick defences; and the royal ensemble, which consists of several palaces originally located within a garden layout (the so-called “Four Gardens”). Pasargadae became a prototype for the Persian Garden concept of four quadrants formally divided by waterways or pathways, its architecture characterised by refined details and slender verticality.
Pasargadae stands as an exceptional witness to the Achaemenid civilisation. The vast Achaemenid Empire, which extended from the eastern Mediterranean and Egypt to the Hindus River in India, is considered the first empire to be characterised by a respect for the cultural diversity of its peoples. This respect was reflected in the royal Achaemenid architecture, which became a synthesized representation of the empire’s different cultures. Pasargadae represents the first phase of this development into a specifically Persian architecture which later found its full expression in the city of Persepolis.
Criterion (i):Pasargadae is the first outstanding expression of the royal Achaemenid architecture.
Criterion (ii):The dynastic capital of Pasargadae was built by Cyrus the Great with a contribution by different peoples of the empire created by him. It became a fundamental phase in the evolution of the classic Persian art and architecture.
Criterion (iii):The archaeological site of Pasargadae, with its palaces, gardens, and the tomb of the founder of the dynasty, Cyrus the Great, represents an exceptional testimony to the Achaemenid civilisation in Persia.
Criterion (iv):The “Four Gardens” type of royal ensemble which was created in Pasargadae, became a prototype for Western Asian architecture and design.
Within the boundaries of the archaeological site of Pasargadae are located the known elements and components necessary to express the Outstanding Universal Value of the property, including the tomb of Cyrus the Great, the remains of the Tall-e Takht fortified platform, and the remains of the royal ensemble within the Four Gardens. The ancient capital extended much beyond the inscribed property, but has not yet been excavated.
The main identified pressures on the integrity of the property are from agriculture, and from the possibility of the growth of the villages in the buffer zone. There is also a risk of flooding, which has caused some damage in past years. The violent winds and burning sun of the Morgab plain likewise represent significant threats to some of the archaeological remains. Human interventions also pose threats: damage from vandalism has been noted, and the mud-brick elements of Tall-e Takht are in poor condition because of the excavations carried out there in the 1960s.
There is no doubt that Pasargadae represents the ancient capital of the Achaemenians, and is authentic in terms of its location and setting, materials and substance, and forms and design. The setting of Pasargadae has undergone no change over the course of time, and the site is part of an agricultural landscape that continues to be cultivated. Recent restoration work has respected the authenticity of the monuments, utilizing traditional technology and materials in harmony with the ensemble. No changes have been made to the general plan of Pasargadae, its buildings or its gardens. Moreover, there are no modern reconstructions at Pasargadae; the remains of all the monuments are authentic.
Protection and management requirements
The Pasargadae Ensemble was registered in the national list of Iranian monuments as item no. 19 on the 24th of the month Shahrivar, 1310 SAH (15 September 1931). Relevant national laws and regulations concerning the property include the National Heritage Protection Law (1930, updated 1998) and the 1980 Legal bill on preventing clandestine diggings and illegal excavations. The inscribed World Heritage property, which is owned by the Government of Iran, and its buffer zone are under the legal protection and management of the Iranian Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Organization (which is administered and funded by the Government of Iran). The property and buffer zone are also under a regional master plan with its own regulations. The Pasargadae Management Plan was prepared in 2002 to provide guidance on preserving the value and significance of the archaeological and cultural landscape of this site. Pasargadae Research Base, a management and conservation office established in Pasargadae in 2001, is responsible for the investigation, conservation, restoration, reorganization, and presentation of Pasargadae. Upgrading training and skills is offered by the office in cooperation with universities and scientific institutes in Iran and abroad. Financial resources for Pasargadae are provided through national and provincial budgets, and site admission fees.
Sustaining the Outstanding Universal Value of the property over time will require examining, developing, and implementing methods for controlling erosion resulting from various factors (physical, chemical, environmental, etc.); minimising or eliminating any damage that may result from agriculture or from flooding; avoiding excavations that put the archaeological remains at increased risk; preventing damage caused by vandalism by training the guards and raising the awareness of local people; and preventing any improper expansion of the inhabited areas (villages, for instance) that may have a negative impact on the Outstanding Universal Value, integrity or authenticity of the property.
The dynastic capital of Pasargadae was built by Cyrus the Great in the 6th century BC with contributions from different peoples of the empire created by him. It became a fundamental phase in the evolution of the classic Persian art and architecture. With its palaces, gardens, and the tomb of the founder of the dynasty, Cyrus the Great, Pasargadae represents exceptional testimony to the Achaemenid civilisation in Persia. The ‘Four Gardens’ type of royal ensemble created in Pasargadae became a prototype for Western Asian architecture and design.
Pasargadae is located in the plain on the river Polvar, in the heart of Pars, the homeland of the Persians. The position of the town is also denoted in its name: ‘the camp of Persia’. The core zone of the site is surrounded by a large landscape buffer zone. The core area contains many monuments: the Mausoleum of Cyrus the Great is built from white limestone around 540-530 BCE. The mausoleum chamber, on the top, has the form of a simple gable house with a small opening from the west. In the medieval period, the monument was thought to be the tomb of Solomon’s mother, and a mosque was built around it, using columns from the remains of the ancient palaces. A small prayer niche (mihrab ) was carved in the tomb chamber. In the 1970s, during a restoration, the remains of the mosque were removed, and the ancient fragments were deposited close to their original location.
The Tall-e Takht refers to the great fortified terrace platform built on a hill at the northern limit of Pasargadae. This limestone structure is built from dry masonry, using large regular stone blocks and a jointing technique called anathyrosis, which was known in Asia Minor in the 6th century. The first phase of the construction was built by Cyrus the Great, halted at his death in 530 BCE. The second phase was built under Darius the Great (522-486 BCE), using mud brick construction.
The royal ensemble occupies the central area of Pasargadae. It consists of several palaces originally located within a garden ensemble (the so-called ‘Four Gardens’). The colour scheme of the architecture is given by the black and white stones used in its structure. The main body of the palaces is formed of a hypostyle hall, to which are attached porticoes. The Audience Hall was built around 539 BCE. Its hypostyle hall has two rows of four columns. The column bases are in black stone and the column shafts in white limestone. The capitals were in black stone. There is evidence of a capital representing a hybrid, horned and crested lion. The palace had a portico on each side. Some of the bas-reliefs of the doorways are preserved, showing human figures and monsters.
The Residential Palace of Cyrus II was built 535-530 BCE; its hypostyle hall has five rows of six columns. The Gate House stands at the eastern limit of the core zone. It is a hypostyle hall with a rectangular plan. In one of the door jambs is the famous relief of the ‘winged figure’.
In later periods, Tall-e Takht continued to be used as a fort, whereas the palaces were abandoned and the material was reused. From the 7th century onwards, the tomb of Cyrus was called the Tomb of the Mother of Solomon, and it became a place of pilgrimage. In the 10th century, a small mosque was built around it, which was in use until the 14th century.