It’s official. I’ve fallen in love, and I’ve fallen hard. The object of my affection has big beautiful eyes, wonderfully styled hair, and elegantly curved nostrils. It’s not often that you admire the nostrils on your true love, but take a look. I’m sure you’ll agree that they’re worth admiring:
Colossal Bull Head, dark gray limestone, from Iran: Persepolis, Hundred Columned Hall, 486-424 BCE; now in the Oriental Institute, University of Chicago
Isn’t he gorgeous? Here’s another view:
Colossal Bull Head, from Iran: Persepolis, Hundred Columned Hall, 486-424 BCE; now in the Oriental Institute, University of Chicago
He’s not all looks, either. In fact, his original context makes him even more attractive. He’s from Persepolis, in modern-day Iran, and more specifically, he stood at the entrance to the Hundred-Column Hall. It doesn’t get more romantic sounding than that! This bull’s body was in relief and was left there, on the gates to the Hundred-Column Hall. (The heads were found on the ground nearby.)
Let me tell you a little bit about Persepolis, then we’ll get back to my boyfriend. Persepolis was a capital city built in what was then Persia (modern-day Iran) by the kings of the Achaemenid (ack-uh- MEN-id) Empire. You may have heard of Cyrus the Great and the Cyrus Cylinder. Well, he was the first Achaemenid king. Other Achaemenid kings include Xerxes (ZERK-seez) and several Dariuses, the third of whom was defeated by Alexander the Great. You might remember seeing him in the famous Alexander Mosaic from Pompeii:
Alexander Mosaic, 100 BCE, found at the House of the Faun in Pompeii, now in the Naples National Archaeological Museum
Darius III is in the center with the yellow headdress; Alexander the Great is bare-headed on our left. (If you saw the recent and mediocre movie about Alexander the Great, they re-enact this battle with a similar-looking Darius. Really the only reason for seeing the movie.)
Cyrus’s grandson, Darius I, began building Persepolis in around 515 BCE as the capital of the extensive Achamenid Empire. Persepolis was envisioned as a place to showcase the extent and talent of the Persian (Achaemenid) Empire, which at its height stretched from northern Greece to Pakistan, from Egypt to Iran, and included the Middle East and many of the countries that made up the former Soviet Union (Georgia, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, etc).
The Achaemenid Empire at its height.
The reliefs that decorate the Apadana (Reception Hall) at Persepolis, although it looks like the same person could be depicted over and over, oompa loompa style, actually show differences in dress, hair, and beards, to indicate natives of the countries that made up the empire.