For the administrative subdivision of Iran, see Pasargad County.
پاسارگاد - Pāsārgād (Persian)

Tomb of Cyrus the Great in Pasargadae
Shown within Iran
Location Fars Province, Iran
Region Iran
Coordinates 30°12′00″N 53°10′46″E / 30.20000°N 53.17944°E / 30.20000; 53.17944Coordinates: 30°12′00″N 53°10′46″E / 30.20000°N 53.17944°E / 30.20000; 53.17944
Type Settlement
Builder Cyrus the Great
Material Stone, Clay
Founded 6th century BCE
Periods Achaemenid Empire
Cultures Persian
Site notes
Archaeologists Ali Sami, David Stronach, Ernst Herzfeld,
Condition In ruins
Official name Pasargadae
Type Cultural
Criteria i, ii, iii, iv
Designated 2004 (28th session)
Reference no. 1106
State Party  Iran
Region Asia-Pacific

Pasargadae (from Ancient Greek: Πασαργάδαι from Persian: پاسارگاد - Pāsārgād) was the capital of the Achaemenid Empire under Cyrus the Great who had issued its construction (559–530 BC); it was also the location of his tomb. It was a city in ancient Persia, located near the city of Shiraz (in Pasargad County), and is today an archaeological site and one of Iran's UNESCO World Heritage Sites.[1]


Cyrus the Great began building the capital in 546 BC or later; it was unfinished when he died in battle, in 530 or 529 BC. The remains of the tomb of Cyrus' son and successor Cambyses II have been found in Pasargadae, near the fortress of Toll-e Takht, and identified in 2006.[2]

Pasargadae remained the capital of the Achaemenid empire until Cambyses II moved it to Susa; later, Darius founded another in Persepolis. The archaeological site covers 1.6 square kilometres and includes a structure commonly believed to be the mausoleum of Cyrus, the fortress of Toll-e Takht sitting on top of a nearby hill, and the remains of two royal palaces and gardens. Pasargadae Persian Gardens provide the earliest known example of the Persian chahar bagh, or fourfold garden design (see Persian Gardens).

Tomb of Cyrus the Great

Main article: Tomb of Cyrus
"I am Cyrus the king, an Achaemenid." in Old Persian, Elamite and Akkadian languages. It is carved in a column in Pasargadae

The most important monument in Pasargadae is the tomb of Cyrus the Great. It has six broad steps leading to the sepulchre, the chamber of which measures 3.17 m long by 2.11 m wide by 2.11 m high and has a low and narrow entrance. Though there is no firm evidence identifying the tomb as that of Cyrus, Greek historians tell that Alexander believed it was. When Alexander looted and destroyed Persepolis, he paid a visit to the tomb of Cyrus. Arrian, writing in the second century AD, recorded that Alexander commanded Aristobulus, one of his warriors, to enter the monument. Inside he found a golden bed, a table set with drinking vessels, a gold coffin, some ornaments studded with precious stones and an inscription on the tomb. No trace of any such inscription survives, and there is considerable disagreement to the exact wording of the text. Strabo reports that it read:

Passer-by, I am Cyrus, who gave the Persians an empire, and was king of Asia.
Grudge me not therefore this monument.

Another variation, as documented in Persia: The Immortal Kingdom, is:

O man, whoever thou art, from wheresoever thou cometh, for I know you shall come, I am Cyrus, who founded the empire of the Persians.
Grudge me not, therefore, this little earth that covers my body.

The design of Cyrus' tomb is credited to Mesopotamian or Elamite ziggurats, but the cella is usually attributed to Urartu tombs of an earlier period.[3] In particular, the tomb at Pasargadae has almost exactly the same dimensions as the tomb of Alyattes II, father of the Lydian King Croesus; however, some have refused the claim (according to Herodotus, Croesus was spared by Cyrus during the conquest of Lydia, and became a member of Cyrus' court). The main decoration on the tomb is a rosette design over the door within the gable.[4] In general, the art and architecture found at Pasargadae exemplified the Persian synthesis of various traditions, drawing on precedents from Elam, Babylon, Assyria, and ancient Egypt, with the addition of some Anatolian influences.


Dovetail Staples from Pasargadae

The first capital of the Achaemenid Empire, Pasargadae lies in ruins 40'40 kilometers from Persepolis, in present-day Fars province of Iran.[5]

Pasargadae was first archaeologically explored by the German archaeologist Ernst Herzfeld in 1905, and in one excavation season in 1928, together with his assistant Friedrich Krefter.[6] Since 1946, the original documents, notebooks, photographs, fragments of wall paintings and pottery from the early excavations are preserved in the Freer Gallery of Art, Smithsonian Institution, in Washington, DC. After Herzfeld, Sir Aurel Stein completed a site plan for Pasargadae in 1934.[7] In 1935, Erich F. Schmidt produced a series of aerial photographs of the entire complex.[8]

From 1949 to 1955, an Iranian team led by Ali Sami worked there.[9] A British Institute of Persian Studies team led by David Stronach resumed excavation from 1961 to 1963.[10][11][12] It was during the 1960s that a pot-hoard known as the Pasargadae Treasure was excavated near the foundations of 'Pavilion B' at the site. Dating to the 5th-4th centuries BC, the treasure consists of ornate Achaemenid jewellery made from gold and precious gems and is now housed in the National Museum of Iran and the British Museum.[13] After a gap, work was resumed by the Iranian Cultural Heritage Organization and the Maison de l'Orient et de la Méditerranée of the University of Lyon in 2000.[14]

Sivand Dam controversy

There has been growing concern regarding the proposed Sivand Dam, named after the nearby town of Sivand. Despite planning that has stretched over 10 years, Iran's own Iranian Cultural Heritage Organization was not aware of the broader areas of flooding during much of this time.

Its placement between both the ruins of Pasargadae and Persepolis has many archaeologists and Iranians worried that the dam will flood these UNESCO World Heritage sites, although scientists involved with the construction say this is not obvious because the sites sit above the planned waterline. Of the two sites, Pasargadae is the one considered to be more threatened. Experts agree that the planning of future dam projects in Iran will merit an earlier examination of the risks to cultural resource properties.[15]

Of broadly shared concern to archaeologists is the effect of the increase in humidity caused by the lake.[16] All agree that the humidity created by it will speed up the destruction of Pasargadae, yet experts from the Ministry of Energy believe it could be partially compensated for by controlling the water level of the reservoir.

Construction of the dam began April 19, 2007.

In culture

In 1930, the Brazilian poet Manuel Bandeira published a poem called "Vou-me embora pra Pasárgada" ("I'm off to Pasargadae" in Portuguese), in a book entitled Libertinagem.[17] It tells the story of a man who wants to go to Pasargadae, described in the poem as a utopian city. This poem has become one of the Portuguese language's classics.

The following is an extract, in the original then in a translation:

Vou‐me embora pra Pasárgada

Vou-me embora pra Pasárgada
Lá sou amigo do rei
Lá tenho a mulher que eu quero
Na cama que escolherei


E quando eu estiver mais triste
Mas triste de não ter jeito
Quando de noite me der
Vontade de me matar
— Lá sou amigo do rei —
Terei a mulher que eu quero
Na cama que escolherei
Vou-me embora pra Pasárgada.

I'm off to Pasargadae

I'm off to Pasargadae
There I am a friend of the king's
There I have the woman I want
On the bed I wish


And when I am sadder
But so sad there's nothing left
When at night I get
A wish to kill myself
— There I am a friend of the king's —
I will have the woman I want
On the bed I wish
I'm off to Pasargadae.

See also


  1. Ancient Pasargadae threatened by construction of dam, Mehr News Agency, 28 August 2004, retrieved Sep 15, 2006.
  2. Discovered Stone Slab Proved to be Gate of Cambyses’ Tomb, CHN.
  3. Hogan, C Michael (Jan 19, 2008), "Tomb of Cyrus", in Burnham, A, [The entire design is old persian as they did in Chogazanbil for more than 1200 years earlier. Mesapotamian and babylonian have to prove if the remains of ziggurats are in fact theirs. The Megalithic Portal] Check |url= value (help).
  4. Ferrier, Ronald W (1989), The Arts of Persia, Yale University Press, ISBN 0-300-03987-5.
  5. Lendering, Jona, Pasargadae, Livius.
  6. Herzfeld, E (1929), Bericht über die Ausgrabungen von Pasargadae 1928 (in German), 1, Archäologische Mitteilungen aus Iran, pp. 4–16,
  7. Stein, A (1936), An Archaeological Tour in Ancient Persis, Iraq, 3, pp. 217–20.
  8. Schmidt, Erich F (1940), Flights Over Ancient Cities of Iran (PDF), University of Chicago Oriental Institute, University of Chicago Press, ISBN 0-918986-96-6.
  9. Ali-Sami (1971) [March 1956], Pasargadae. The Oldest Imperial. Capital of Iran, 4, Rev. RN Sharp transl (2nd ed.), Shiraz: Learned Society of Pars; Musavi Print. Office.
  10. Stronach, David (1963), "First Preliminary Report", Excavations at Pasargadae, Iran, 1, pp. 19–42.
  11. (1964), "Second Preliminary Report", Excavations at Pasargadae, Iran, 2, pp. 21–39.
  12. (1965), "Third Preliminary Report", Excavations at Pasargadae, Iran, 3, pp. 9–40.
  13. British Museum Collection
  14. Boucharlat, Rémy (2002), Pasargadae, Iran, 40, pp. 279–82.
  15. Sivand Dam Waits for Excavations to be Finished, Cultural Heritage News Agency, 26 February 2006, retrieved Sep 15, 2006.
  16. Date of Sivand Dam Inundation Not Yet Agreed Upon, Cultural Heritage News Agency, 29 May 2006, retrieved Sep 15, 2006.
  17. Bandeira, Manuel (2009). "Libertinagem" [Salacity]. In Seffrin, André (organizer). Manuel Bandeira: poesia completa e prosa, volume único [Manuel Bandeira: complete poetry and prose, unique volume] (in Portuguese). Rio de Janeiro [(City) "River of January"], RJ [(State) "River of January"], Brasil [Brazil]: Editora Nova Aguilar [New Aguilar Press]. pp. XXIII, 118–119.


  • Sivand Dam’s Inundation Postponed for 6 Months, Cultural Heritage News Agency, 29 November 2005, retrieved Sep 15, 2006 .
  • Fathi, Nazila (November 27, 2005), "A Rush to Excavate Ancient Iranian Sites", The New York Times ; fully accessible at Fathi, Nazila (27 November 2005), "SF Gate", The San Francisco Chronicle .
  • Ali Mousavi (September 16, 2005), "Cyrus can rest in peace: Pasargadae and rumors about the dangers of Sivand Dam", History, Iranian .
  • Pasargadae Will Never Drown, Cultural Heritage News Agency, 12 September 2005, retrieved Sep 15, 2006 .
  • Matheson, Sylvia A, Persia: An Archaeological Guide .
  • Seffrin, André (2009), Manuel Bandeira: poesia completa e prosa, volume único [Manuel Bandeira: complete poetry and prose, unique volume], Rio de Janeiro: Editora Nova Aguilar, ISBN 978-85-210-0108-9 .
  • Stronach, David (1978), Pasargadae: A Report on the Excavations Conducted by the British Institute of Persian Studies from 1961–63, Oxford University Press, ISBN 0-19-813190-9 .
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