Stone relief from Persepolis showing a servant

Achaemenid Persian, 4th century BC
From Persepolis, south-west Iran

A servant in the royal court of Persia

This relief from Persepolis shows a servant wearing so-called Median dress: a distinctive knee-length tunic, tightly fitting trousers and a cap with ear-flaps and neck-guard. This is different from the usual Persian costume of a long pleated dress. He also wears the akinakes, or typical Achaemenid short sword.

In 550BC Cyrus the Great, of the ruling house of Persia, deposed the Median king Astyges, who, according to tradition, was his grandfather. Amongst his ancestors he counted the legendary king Achaemenes, hence 'Achaemenid' as the dynastic name.

Towards the end of the reign of Cyrus' son, Cambyses (530-522 BC), a revolt broke out. On his way to deal with the problem, Cambyses was accidentally killed. The rebellion was eventually crushed by a group of seven conspirators and one of them, Darius, became the next king. He was keen to stress his legitimacy and founded Persepolis as a new royal centre. His successors Xerxes, Artaxerxes I and Artaxerxes III continued to build at Persepolis. This relief probably dates to the reign of Artaxerxes III (359-338 BC) and comes either from the so-called 'Palace of Darius' or from another building known to archaeologists as 'Palace G'. It was therefore among the last sculptures created at Persepolis, as the site was destroyed by Alexander the Great in 330 BC.

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More information

Bibliography

J. Curtis, Ancient Persia-1 (London, The British Museum Press, 2000)

Dimensions

Height: 75.500 cm

Museum number

ME 118868

WCO26451

Location

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