Persian Ruins and Persian Historic Sites

If you’re looking to explore Persian ruins and Persian historic sites and want to find the best places to view Persian Empire history then you can explore our interactive map above or navigate further by using the links below.

There’s a great selection of Persian ruins and you can plan some fantastic things to see on your trips. Once you’ve explored the list of Persian historic sites and selected those you wish to visit you can use our itinerary planner tool to plan your trip and then print off a free pocket guidebook. This indispensible holiday guide will help you make the most of your time exploring Persian Empire sites.

Our database of historic places is growing all the time, but we may not cover them all. Remember, if you know of other Persian Empire sites, remains or ruins, you can always add them to Trip Historic now by visiting our upload page.

Persian Empire: Site Index

Photo by Aryobarzan (cc)

Bisotun Archaeological Site

The Bisotun Archaeological Site is known for containing the Behistun Inscription, a contemporary triumphal account of the victories of Darius the Great.

DID YOU KNOW?

The Bisotun Archaeological Site near the modern city of Kermanshah, Iran, is known for containing one of the most important artefacts to have survived from the Persian Empire – the Behistun Inscription.

Carved directly into high rocks, the Behistun Inscription recounts the life and victories of Darius the Great in three different languages - Elamite, Babylonian and Old Persian. Though hard to date exactly, it would have been produced around 520 BC and recounts the campaign waged by Darius to secure his supremacy over usurpers to the throne.

In the mid-nineteenth century a British officer, Sir Henry Rawlinson, was able to copy and translate the inscription and this work was influencial in the future study of these languages, prompting many to liken the Behistun Inscription to the Rosetta Stone.

As well as the inscription, the archaeological site also contains remains from the Median, Achaemenid and post-Achaemenid periods, including a statue of Heracles and a number of other rock-carved reliefs.

The Bisotun Archaeological Site is UNESCO-listed.

Photo by Donna and Andrew (cc)

Ephesus

Ephesus in Turkey was a Greek colony which was later conquered by the Persian Empire before falling to the Macedonians and then Romans.

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Ephesus or "Efes" was a vibrant classical city, now bordering modern day Selçuk in Turkey and representing some of the best preserved Greek and Roman ruins in the Mediterranean. 

Thought to have been founded in the 10th century BC by an Athenian prince named Androklos, Ephesus grew into a thriving city until 650BC when it was attacked and damaged by the Cimmerians. However, the settlement was reconstituted and soon the city began to thrive once more, eventually being conquered by the vast Persian Empire of Cyrus the Great.

The city was involved in the Greco-Persian wars but then fell back under Persian rule until its liberation by Alexander the Great. Fought over continuously by Alexander’s successors and their descendents, Ephesus, like so much of the region, was eventually absorbed into the Roman Republic, in the late second century BC.

Sights at Ephesus

Today, Ephesus is a treasure trove for enthusiasts of Ancient Roman and Greek history, allowing them to walk through its streets and view its magnificent houses, community buildings, temples and stadiums.

Ephesus was once famous for its Temple of Artemis, built in around 650 BC. Sadly, this was destroyed and is now represented by just a solitary column.

Some of the most impressive sites at Ephesus include the Library of Celsus, the ruins of which stand two storeys high, the Temple of Hadrian which was built in 118 AD, the classical theatre where it is believed Saint Paul preached to the Pagans and the Cave of the Seven Sleepers, so called because legend has it that the Romans locked seven Christian boys there in 250 AD, who only awoke in the 5th century.

The cross shaped Basilica of Saint John is also nearby, as is the fourteenth century Isabey Mosque, which is an impressive structure built from the remains of Ephesus.

A trip to Ephesus usually takes at least half a day - some tours include other local sites such as Priene and Miletus - but history enthusiasts will probably want to enjoy this site for a whole day. There is also a great Ephesus Museum displaying artifacts found in the old city. This impressive site features as one of our Top 10 Tourist Attractions in Turkey.

Photo by archer10 (Dennis) (cc)

Gordion

Gordion is an ancient Phrygian city which today contains the astounding burial mound said to belong to King Midas.

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Gordion, also spelt Gordium, in the modern Turkish village of Yassıhöyük is home to what is popularly said to be the tomb of the famous King Midas. This ancient city was once the capital of the Phrygian Empire, who ruled the region from roughly 1200BC-700BC.

Founded in an important strategic location in what is now central Turkey, Gordion was also famous as the place where Alexander the Great cut the Gordian Knot – with the legend stating that whomever achieved this feat would become king of all Asia.

Gordion itself saw many rulers and empires through the centuries. After the fall of the Phrygian Empire, Gordion was conquered by the Lydians, the Persian Empire and Alexander’s Macedonians. It later became a Roman city and survived through to the Byzantine era.

Today visitors to Gordian cannot miss the huge burial mound, or Tumulus, associated with Midas. Visitors can enter the mound through a modern tunnel and view information about the site and the remarkably well preserved burial chamber. However, there’s not much scope to explore the burial mound as the chamber itself is only viewable through the entrance bars.

Across the road from the Midas Tumulus is the Gordion Museum which hosts interesting displays of archaeological finds from the area and gives a background and overview of Gordion’s history. The museum also has a number of other items, as well as mosaics and a Hellenistic tomb.

Also worth exploring is the city’s acropolis, which includes the main excavation area and the ancient palace, temples and public buildings of the city. Don’t miss the looming Phrygian-era gate, which still stands over 10m high, at the south-east side of the Acropolis.

Be warned, exploring Gordion can be a hot and taxing experience – take lots of water and a good hat to keep out the sun!

Pasargadae

Pasargadae was the first capital of the Persian Empire, the UNESCO-listed ruins of which are located in Iran. It ranks amongst the most famous Persian sites.

DID YOU KNOW?

Pasargadae was the capital of the Persian Empire from the sixth century BC until it was conquered by the Macedonians led by Alexander the Great in 330 BC. Now a town in Iran, Pasargadae was established by the first ruler of the Achaemenid Dynasty, Cyrus the Great.

Amongst the sites still visible at Pasargadae, which is a UNESCO World Heritage historical site, are several palaces – including the Presidential Palace - making up a royal complex and a fortress known as the Tall-e Takht.

Most of these structures were built in the sixth century BC under Cyrus the Great and expanded and renovated over the years. King Cyrus’ successor, Cambyses, carried out some of these works, as did Darius the Great.

The Tomb of Cyrus the Great can also still be seen nearby.

Photo by pavdw (cc)

Perge

Perge is a Turkish archaeological site containing mostly Roman ruins, but has a history dating back to Ancient Greece and the Persian Empire.

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The ancient city of Perge near Antalya in Turkey is now an impressive archaeological site containing a wealth of ancient ruins, mostly dating back to the Roman period, though the city itself has a history dating back well into antiquity.

The current city is said to have been founded in circa 1000BC, though settlements may well have existed here earlier; in fact Perge was mentioned in a Hittite tablet discovered in 1986. Though the early history of Perge is more obscure, it is known that the site was captured by the Persians and then later by the armies of Alexander the Great in around 333BC. It then became part of the Seleucid Kingdom.

The Romans arrived in Perge in approximately 188BC and built most of the sites seen there now, including its once 15,000-seat theatre, the agora, gymnasium, baths and necropolis.  During its time under Rome's control the city went on to become an important Roman city and later Byzantine centre. During this period Perge underwent what would probably be its golden age, with a wealth of new public and private buildings and monuments being constructed. Indeed, in the later Roman period Perge became an important Christian city and it is believed that Saint Paul spent time here. During and after the fall of the Byzantine Empire, the city was subjected to a number of attacks and was abandoned during this time.

Today, though Perge may not be as well-known as many ancient Roman cities, there is plenty to see and it’s not far from the popular resort of Antalya. Among the ruins visitors can explore the wonderful colonnaded main streets, the ancient theatre and the 12,000 seat Roman stadium. Also found at the site are the remains of Roman baths, the city’s imposing gates and a number of other ruins, including the impressive 2nd century AD Nymphaeum.

In addition, many of the statues and other finds excavated at Perge can now be found in the Antalya Museum.

Persepolis

Persepolis was the capital of the ancient Persian Empire and today contains many Persian ruins as well as the remains of ancient buildings and monuments.

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Persepolis was the ancient capital of the Persian Empire during the Achaemenid era. Founded by Darius I around 515BC, the city stood as a magnificent monument to the vast power of Persian kings.

Persepolis remained the centre of Persian power until the fall of the Persian Empire to Alexander the Great. The Macedonian conqueror captured Persepolis in 330BC and some months later his troops destroyed much of the city. Famously, the great palace of Xerxes was set alight with the subsequent fire burning vast swathes of the city.

Persepolis does not seem to have recovered from this devastation and the city gradually declined in prestige, never again becoming a major seat of power.

Today the imposing remains of Persepolis stand in modern-day Iran and the site is also known as Takht-e Jamshid. Located roughly 50 miles northeast of Shiraz, the ruins of Persepolis contain the remains of many ancient buildings and monuments. These include The Gate of All Nations, Apadana Palace, The Throne Hall, Tachara palace, Hadish palace, The Council Hall, and The Tryplion Hall.

Persepolis was declared a UNESCO world heritage site in 1979.

Rawansar Tomb

The Rawansar Tomb is an Achaemenid-era ancient rock cut tomb located in the hilltops overlooking the modern town of Rawansar in western Iran.

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The Rawansar Tomb, also called Dekhmeye Rawansar, is an ancient rock cut tomb located in the rocky hilltops which overlook the modern town of Rawansar in western Iran.

Though the evidence relating to the origins of the Rawansar Tomb has been sparse, the archaeological and decorative features of the tomb have seen it dated to the Achaemenid Empire period between the 6th and 4th centuries BC.

The tomb is cut directly into the rock and consists of an entranceway and interior chamber which would likely have contained the remains of those buried inside. It has been speculated that this may have been a private family tomb, but there is no direct evidence that this is the case.

Outside the entranceway a number of partially preserved carvings can be seen on the rockface of a type identified with the Achaemenid period.

The Rawansar Tomb was badly damaged by fire around 2007.

Sagalassos

Sagalassos is an active archaeological site in southwest Turkey which once formed part of the Persian Empire.

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Sagalassos is an active archaeological site in southwest Turkey which contains mostly Hellenistic and Ancient Roman historic ruins, some of them very well preserved.

In particular, the Fountain of Antoninler at Sagalassos still has its pretty facade. There are also the remains of a 9,000 seat theatre, a council hall (bouleuterion), a library, rock carved tombs, temples and baths.

Part of the Phrygian kingdom from the ninth century BC and then part of the Lydian kingdom, Sagalassos became more urbanized under the Persian Empire from 546BC, becoming a focal point in the region of Pisidia over the course of two centuries.

In 334BC, Alexander the Great arrived in the region and attacked Sagalassos, eventually succeeding in destroying it, although its citizens did put up a good fight. Over the coming centuries, the Pisidia region - including Sagalassos - changed hands several times, finally coming under Roman rule in 129BC.

The prosperity of Sagalassos fluctuated over the end of the first century BC, but slowly it became more successful, particularly because of the fertility of its land and the production of a material called Sagalassos Red Slip Ware, a type of tableware. Much of this affluence translated into the construction of buildings and monuments, especially during the second century AD, under Hadrian, and up to the third century.

Sagalassos began to fall into decline in around 500AD and this was accelerated by a devastating earthquake in 590AD. Although abandoned for a long period of time, the area was further inhabited from the tenth century AD.

Taxila

Taxila was the ancient Gandhāran capital city and its incredible ruins are a UNESCO World Heritage site.

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Taxila, also known as the Ancient Gandhāran city of Takshashila, is an ancient site in the Punjab Province of Pakistan dating back as far as the sixth century BC.

One of the factors which make Taxila such a significant archeological site is the fact that, over its five century lifespan, it witnessed the evolution of numerous civilizations, including the Persians, Greeks and Hindus. It was also an important site in the development of the art of Gandhara.

Taxila itself is actually made up of a complex of ruins, including the Khanpur Mesolithic cave, several Buddhist monasteries, medieval mosques and four settlements called Bhir, Sirkap, Saraidala and Sirsukh. In particular, Bhir was probably the earliest settlement in Taxila and, in its excellent condition, boasts street structures, house foundations and stone walls. Alexander the Great conquered Bhir during his victorious route through Taxila.

Sirkap, which was probably founded by the Greeks in the second century BC and destroyed by the Kushanas in the first century AD, also offers a wealth of both religious and cultural archeological finds, particularly as relates to its Hellenistic structure.

Taxila is a UNESCO World Heritage site and a great place to discover the roots of Buddhism, the art of Gandhara and the ancient culture of the subcontinent. If you’re only planning a day’s visit, the Taxlia Museum is probably the best place to get an overview and to see some of the relics as well as the artwork.

Tomb of Cyrus the Great

One of the most famous Persian sites, the Tomb of Cyrus the Great is located in the former Persian capital of Pasargadae, now a UNESCO-listed town in Iran.

DID YOU KNOW?

The Tomb of Cyrus the Great is located in the former Persian capital of Pasargadae, now a UNESCO-listed town in Iran.

Cyrus the Great, also known as Cyrus II, founded the Achaemenid Dynasty in the sixth century BC and with it the capital, Pasargadae. The Achaemenid Dynasty was vitally important, being the first ruling dynasty of the Persian Empire.

The Tomb of Cyrus the Great is one of the main historic sites of modern Pasargadae. A stepped limestone structure crowned with a rectangular chamber, the Tomb of Cyrus the Great dates back to approximately 540-530 BC.

Legend has it that when Alexander the Great conquered Pasargadae in 330 BC, he had the tomb renovated in honour of Cyrus the Great. However, it has never been conclusively proved that this is indeed the tomb of the great Persian king. In fact, it was thought at one point to have been the tomb of the mother of the prophet Sulayman, accounting for various additions such as its carved mihrab, added in the 1970’s.