The Tomb of Darius



The royal tombs of Darius and his successors lie 4.8 kilometers northwest of Persepolis at Naqshi-i-Rustam.  Darius I was the first to erect his tomb at this site and chose an architectural technique that greatly differed from that of his predecessor, Cyrus.  Cyrus’ tomb is a free standing structure built in such a style that resembles a Greek temple, whereas Darius’ tomb is carved into the side of cliff.  Darius chose Naqsh-i-Rustam as his building site because it was already a well established sacred spot from the Pre-Achaemenid eras.  In summary, the face of the tomb resembles a cross and has three registers.  The top panel depicts Darius before a fire altar with his arms raised in worship of Ahuramazda.  This image, which is also seen in the Behistun rock relief, is common to many Assyrian reliefs.  Figure 1 below is an Assyrian relief which not only depicts this common worship stance, but represents the god as a winged disk as the Achaemenid’s do.  Figure 2 and 3 are the Achaemenid relief from Behistun and the tombs of Darius (respectively).  Both images show Ahuramazda, the supreme god, represented as a winged disk.  By comparing all images below, one can assume that Darius adopted the symbol for god from the Assyrians because it was already a universally recognized image.

Figure 2: Relief from Tomb of Darius 
Figure 3: Assyrian Relief
Figure 4: Behistin Relief

This entire scene shown above is physically supported by representatives of the 28 nations of the Achaemenid Empire and cuneiform inscription indicate the identity of each figure shown.  This concept of throne bearers also appears on the statue of Darius that was discovered in Susa.  Traces of pigment suggest that the stone reliefs had been painted (Iran Chamber Society)

Figure 6: People "Supporting" the Relief of the King at the Tomb of Darius 

Although the relief atop the tomb is inspired by Assyrian art, the overall structure of the tomb is Greek in character.  The Greek-like columns cause the middle register to resemble a Greek Temple.  Scholars note that this central part of the tomb has the same dimensions as the southern entrance of the place of Darius and assume that it is intended to be a copy of the building in Persepolis.  Figure 5 is an image of the tomb of Darius, 6 is an sketch of the entrance to the palace of Darius, and 7 is a sketch of a Greek temple.  It is evident through comparison that both the tomb of Darius and the palace of Darius were inspired by traditional Greek architecture.  Ultimately, the tomb of Darius closely resembles the structure at Persepolis.

Figure 6: Tomb of Darius 
 Figure 7: Sketch of Entrance to The Palace of Darius 
Figure 8: Greek Temple

It is evident from a comparison of the images below that Xeres tomb mimics that of Darius in all ways. Everything from the worship scene to the cross façade of the tomb of Darius is copied in Xeres’ tomb.  Xeres tomb is shown on the left and Darius’ on the right.

 Figure 9: Tomb of Darius
Figure 10: Tomb of Xeres

The investiture scene which resembles that of the Behistun rock relief is seen on other tombs in the area which proceed the reign of Darius. Not only does the relief of Ardaris depicted a winged disk representation of a god, but it shows the king crushing his enemy under his horse as he takes the investiture ring from the god. Figure 10 below is the relief of Ardaris.  Presence of similar themes and technique is evidence that Darius helped to spread the traditional depicting of the investiture scene as it was established by the Assyrian.