April 04: Persepolis in flames

2012/04/04 § Leave a comment

During this month in 330 BC Alexander the Great burned the Palace at Persepolis to the ground.

Alexander had reached the spectacular Persian capital of the Achaemenids a few months earlier.  After thoroughly ransacking the sixth-century palace, famous for its great richness, he finally torched the place.  According to tradition, the act was (at least in part) retribution for the Persians’ earlier destruction of the Acropolis back in 480 BC.  Alexander’s was more than just payback: it was deep revenge, bent on wiping the slate clean of Persian rule and utterly demolishing the Empire’s key architectural symbol.  Diodorus Siculus remembered the event in his own annals: “As Persepolis had surpassed all other cities in prosperity, so she now exceeded them in misfortune.”

Now, Clio also knows how to hold a grudge, but she also knows how to exercise perspective.  Instead of burning down the palace, Alexander should have written a thank-you note to the descendents of Xerxes, for that earlier Persian attack cleared the way for one of the great rebuilding projects of all time.  From the ashes, Pericles reconstructed the buildings of the Acropolis; at its center rose the Parthenon, one of the great buildings of the world, ever.  Which just goes to show you–although we don’t overall buy into the Futurists (that whole anti-history thing is kind of a deal breaker for Clio), we sort of acknowledge that, once in a while, there is such a thing as a “beneficial demolition.”


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You are currently reading April 04: Persepolis in flames at Clio’s Calendar: Daily Musings on Architectural History.


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