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Level 7

7AACK850 Persepolis

Credit value: 20
Module convenor/tutorDr Lindsay Allen 
Teaching pattern: 10 x 2-hour seminar (weekly)
1 x essay of 5,000 words (100%) 
Availability: Please see module list for relevant year 

Students are reassessed in the failed elements of assessment and by the same methods as the first attempt.

Places on this module will be capped at 12 and will be allocated in the first instance to those students from any College who are following the MA Ancient History degree programme and secondly to students following the King's College London MA Classical World and its Reception degree programme . Any remaining places up the maximum size of the class will then be distributed proportionally between Colleges.

The modules offered in each academic year are subject to change in line with staff availability and student demand: there is no guarantee every module will run. Module descriptions and information may vary between years.

Persepolis (constructed 6th-4th centuries BCE) was perhaps the most significant capital city of the Achaemenid Persian empire and certainly constitutes one of the most important of its remains.  It was also a prominent site in the European imagination between the seventeenth and nineteenth centuries.  Excavations in the 1930s yielded an unmatched archive of thousands of administrative documents, which are still being studied.  The architectural sculpture and inscriptions at the site inspired the first aesthetic and historical images of the ancient Near East and, more recently, have become part of Iranian national and Zoroastrian religious visual vocabulary. 

This module uses Persepolis to consider the character of the first Persian empire, the evolution of historiography about the ancient Near East and ideological and scientific uses of ‘world heritage’ sites.  We will analyse the remains on several different levels: as a centre of dynastic and imperial self-definition, as a node in an unprecedentedly interconnected system, as a medieval ruin and as a presence in post-enlightenment thought and politics.  This layered site biography deploys several detailed contexts: Near Eastern architecture and iconography, early modern exploration, eighteenth century linguistic scholarship, the British East India Company, the history of collecting and nationalism and heritage.  

The study of Persepolis in London is particularly enhanced by one of the largest collections of Achaemenid artefacts outside Iran in the British Museum, including a large number of architectural, Persepolitan fragments. The museum’s holdings are complemented by uniquely rich archival sources in the British Library, some of which relate directly to the history of artefacts in the collection.

Suggested introductory reading

This is suggested reading and purchase of books is not mandatory.

  • Briant, P. et al (eds) 2008 L’archive des fortifications de Persépolis: état des questions et perspectives de recherches, Persika 12 pp. 27-48 (De Boccard).

  • Mousavi, A.  2012 Persepolis: discovery and afterlife of a world wonder (de Gruyter)

  • Schmidt, E. 1953  Persepolis I: Structures, Reliefs, Inscriptions  (Oriental Institute Chicago) [this, along with vols II and III are available for download from the OI website]

For a sample of the London resources, see:

  • Allen, L. 2013 ‘’Come then ye classic thieves of each degree’: the social context of the Persepolis diaspora in the early nineteenth century’, Iran LI, 207-34.

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