1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Pasargadae

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PASARGADAE, a city of ancient Persia, situated in the modern plain of Murghab, some 30 m. N.E. of the later Parsepolis. The name originally belonged to one of the tribes of the Persians, which included the clan of the Achaemenidae, from which sprang the royal family of Cyrus and Darius (Herod, i. 125; a Pasargadian Badres is mentioned, Herod, iv. 167). According to the account of Ctesias (preserved by Anaximenes of Lampsacus in Steph. Byz. s.v. Πασσαργάδαι; Strabo xv. 730, cf. 729; Nicol. Damasc. fr. 66,68 sqq.; Polyaen. vii. 6, 1. 9. 45, 2), the last battle of Cyrus against Astyages, in which the Persians were incited to a desperate struggle by their women, was fought here. After the victory Cyrus built a town, with his palace and tomb, which was named Pasargadae after the tribe (cf. Curt. v. 6, 10; x. 1, 22). Every Persian king was, at his accession, invested here, in the sanctuary of a warlike goddess (Anaitis?), with the garb of Cyrus, and received a meal of figs and terebinths with a cup of sour milk (Plut. Artax. 3); and whenever he entered his native country he gave a gold piece to every woman of Pasargadae in remembrance of the heroic intervention of their ancestors in the battle (Nic. Damasc. loc. cit.; Plut. Alex. 69). According to a fragment of the same tradition, preserved by Strabo (xv. 729), Pasargadae lay “in the hollow Persis (Coele Persis) on the bank of the river Cyrus, after which the king changed his name, which was formerly Atradates” (in Nic. Damasc. this is the name of his father). The river Cyrus is the Kur of the Persians, now generally named Bandamir; the historians of Alexander call it Araxes, and give to its tributary, the modern Pulwar, which passes by the ruins of Murghab and Persepolis, the name Medos (Strabo xv. 729; Curt. v. 4, 7). The capital of Cyrus was soon supplanted by Persepolis, founded by Darius; but in Pasargadae remained a great treasury, which was surrendered to Alexander in 336 after his conquest of Persis (Arrian iii. 18, 10; Curt. v. 6, 10). After his return from India he visited Pasargadae on the march from Carmania to Persepolis, found the tomb of Cyrus plundered, punished the malefactors, and ordered Aristobulus to restore it (Arrian vi. 29; Strabo xv. 730). Aristobulus' description agrees exactly with the ruins of Murghab on the Bandamir, about 30 m. upwards from Persepolis; and all the other references in the historians of Cyrus and Alexander indicate the same place. Nevertheless, some modern authors[1] have doubted the identity of the ruins of Murghab with Pasargadae, as Ptolemy (vi. 4, 7), places Pasargada or Pasarracha south-eastwards of Persepolis, and mentions a tribe Pasargadae in Carmania on the sea (vi. 8, 12); and Pliny, Nat. hist. vi. 99, names a Persian river Sitioganus “on which one navigates in seven days to Pasargadae.”[2] But it is evident that these accounts are erroneous. The conjecture of Oppert, that Pasargadae is identical with Pishiyauvāda, where (on a mountain Arakadri) the usurper Gaumāta (Smerdis) proclaimed himself king, and where his successor, the second false Smerdis Vahyazdāta, gathered an army (inscrip. of Behistun, i. 11; iii. 41), is hardly probable.

The principal ruins of the town of Pasargadae at Murghab are a great terrace like that of Persepolis, and the remainders of three buildings, on which the building inscription of Cyrus, “I Cyrus the king the Achaemenid” (sc. “have built this”), occurs five times in Persian, Susian and Babylonian. They were built of bricks, with a foundation of stones and stone door-cases, like the palaces at Persepolis; and on these fragments of a procession of tribute-bearers and the figure of a winged demon (wrongly considered as a portrait of Cyrus) are preserved. Outside the town are two tombs in the form of towers and the tomb of Cyrus himself, a stone house on a high substruction which rises in seven great steps, surrounded by a court with columns; at its side the remains of a guardhouse, in which the officiating Magians lived, are discernible. The ruins of the tomb absolutely correspond to the description of Aristobulus.

See Sir W. Gore-Ouseley, Travels in Persia (1811); Morier, Ker Porter, Rich and others; Texier, Description de l'Armenie et la Perse; Flandin and Coste, Voyage en Perse, vol. ii.; Stolze, Persepolis; Dieulafoy, L'Art antique de la Perse; and E. Herzfeld, “Pasargadae,” in Beiträge zur alten Geschichte, vol. viii. (1908), who has in many points corrected and enlarged the earlier descriptions and has proved that the buildings as well as the sculptures are earlier than those of Persepolis, and are, therefore, built by Cyrus the Great. New photographs of the monuments are published by Fr. Sarre, Iranische Felsreliefs (unter Mitwirkung von E. Herzfeld, Berlin, 1908).

(Ed. M.)

  1. E.g. Weissbach in Zeitschr. d. d. morgenl. Ges., 48, pp. 653 sqq.; for the identification cf. Stolze, Persepolis, ii. 269 sqq.; Curzon, Persia, ii. 71 sqq.
  2. In vi. 116, he places “the Castle of Frasargida, where is the tomb of Cyrus, and which is occupied by the Magi”—i.e. the guard of Magians mentioned by Aristobulus, which had to protect the tomb—eastwards of Persepolis, and by a curious confusion joins it to Ecbatana.