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Cyrus the Great was buried in Pasargad following his death in the summer of 530. His tomb located in Fars Province, lies 43 km from the ancient city of Persepolis and is one of Iran’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites. It is said to be the oldest base-isolated structure in the world. Despite having ruled over much of the ancient world, Cyrus the Great designed a tomb that depicts extreme simplicity and modesty when compared to those of other ancient kings and rulers, according to historicaliran.blogspot.com


The tomb is simple in form, constructed of large, carefully dressed ashlar blocks set with precision and secured by dovetail clamps. It has six broad steps leading to the sepulcher. Whereas each of the three upper steps is 0.57 meters high, each of the lower ones is 1.05 meter high. The lowest step seems a bit higher as part of the foundation is exposed. On the northwest side a narrow doorway, 1.39 m high without the sill and 0.78 m wide, leads through a small passage to a chamber measuring 3.17 meters long, 2.11 meters wide and 2.11 meters high. The gabled stone roof is hollow. Around the Tomb are a series of columns although the original structure which they supported is no longer present.

The design of Cyrus tomb is credited to Mesopotamian or Elamite ziggurats, but the inner chamber is usually attributed to Urartu tombs of an earlier period. The main decoration on the tomb is a rosette design over the door within the gable. In general, the art and architecture found at Pasargad exemplified the Persian synthesis of various traditions, drawing on precedents from Elam, Babylon, Assyria, and ancient Egypt, with the addition of some Anatolian influences.

Recent research on Pasargad’s structural engineering shows that Achaemenid engineers built the city to withstand a severe earthquake, what would today be classified as 7.0 on the Richter scale. The foundations are classified as having a base isolation design, much like what is presently used in countries for the construction of facilities, such as nuclear power plants, that require insulation from the effects of seismic activity.


Pasargad was first archaeologically explored by the German archaeologist Ernst Herzfeld in 1905. Though there is no firm evidence identifying the tomb as that of Cyrus, Greek historians tell us that Alexander III of Macedon believed it was. When Alexander looted and destroyed Persepolis, he paid a visit to the tomb of Cyrus.

Greek historian, public servant, military commander and philosopher Arrian of Nicomedia (86 – 160), recorded that Alexander commanded his Macedonian officer Aristobulus 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 survived and there is considerable disagreement to what the exact wording of the text was. It is believed that it originally read “O man! I am Cyrus the Great, who gave the Persians an empire and was the king of Asia. Grudge me not therefore this monument.”


Another proposed, yet unconfirmed, theory is that the body of Cyrus (and his wife) did not lie inside the main chamber, but rather in a narrow crawl space that was discovered in 1959 in between the main chamber and pediment above. However, there is little evidence to suggest that the space actually housed any bodies.


There has been growing concern regarding the Sivand Dam filled in 2007. Its placement between both the ruins of Pasargad and Persepolis has many archaeologists and Iranians worried that the dam will flood these UNESCO World Heritage sites, although scientists involved with the construction claim otherwise, for the sites sit above the planned waterline.

Of the two sites, Pasargad is the one considered the most threatened. A broadly shared concern to archaeologists is the effect of the increased humidity caused by the lake. It is generally agreed that humidity created by it will speed up the destruction of Pasargad.