The term apadāna was possibly used exclusively to describe a distinctive type of columned audience hall introduced by Darius I (r. 522-486 B.C.). It is only known from four extant inscriptions: one of Darius II (r. 424-05 B.C.) and three of his son, Artaxerxes II (r. 405-359 B.C.).


APADĀNA, Old Pers. term referring to audience halls, now specifically to the audience hall in Persepolis.

i. Term.

ii. Building.


i. Term

Apadāna (masc.), which is rendered as Elamite ha-ba-da-na and Babylonian ap-pa-da-an in the parallel versions, occurs only in some building inscriptions of Darius II and Artaxerxes II from Susa and Hamadān (D2Sa 1, A2Hb apadānam acc. sing., and “incorrect” apadāna [perhaps to be interpreted as apadān without ending] in the same function A2Sa 4, 5, A2Ha 5; Kent, Old Persian, pp. 154f.; M.-J. Stève, Studia Iranica 4, 1975, p. 10; M. Mayrhofer, Supplement zur Sammlung der altpersischen Inschriften, Vienna, 1978, p. 30, no. 7.1.1). The word designates a hypostyle hall, i.e., a palace or audience hall of stone construction with columns (E. F. Schmidt, Persepolis I, Chicago, 1953, p. 70). In later times and outside Iran this term survives in the following forms: Parthian ʾpdn(y), ʾpdnk(y) “palace,” Hebrew ʾpdn, Talmudic Aramaic ʾpdnʾ, Palmyrene ʾpdnʾ, Syriac āfa’nā, Arabian fadan and Armenian aparan-kʿ (plurale tantum), some of which are sometimes interpreted as evidence for a geminated Old Persian form appadāna-. This view is, however, by no means cogent, and the same is true for the additional combination with New Persian ayvān “palace, colonnade” and the like. As to the origin of the term, morphological analysis and etymological interpretation have not yet led to unquestionable results, since the often assumed *apa-dāna- (cf. Sanskrit apa-dha- “concealment,” Greek apothḗkē “storehouse”) repeatedly has been doubted, though without being replaced by a better solution. (For the whole problem see Kent, ibid., p. 168a; W. Wüst, Altpersische Studien, Munich, 1966, pp. 10f.; G. Itō, Orient 8, 1972, pp. 46f.)

Bibliography: Given in the text.

(R. Schmitt)


ii. Building

The term apadāna was possibly used exclusively to describe a distinctive type of columned audience hall introduced by Darius I (r. 522-486 B.C.). It is only known from four extant inscriptions: one of Darius II (r. 424-05 B.C.) and three of his son, Artaxerxes II (r. 405-359 B.C.). In the most informative of these texts Artaxerxes II relates that the Apadāna of Susa, built under his great-great-grandfather, Darius I, and burned during the reign of his grandfather, Artaxerxes I, was “built,” i.e., “restored” by himself (A2Sa; Kent, Old Persian, p. 154). It has usually been assumed on the basis of this inscription that the original building was destroyed (cf. Ghirshman, Persia, p. 142), and that it was effectively rebuilt by Artaxerxes II. However, the latest studies of the surviving remains show that the original Apadāna of Darius I (cf. Perrot, “L’architecture,” pp. 90f.) cannot have been severely damaged in the fire; it is more likely that the structure required repair work, which was carried out by Darius II (hence his claim in D2Sa to have “built” an apadāna at Susa “of stone in its column(s)”) and later by his son, who apparently makes no reference to his father’s contribution to the restoration.

The first firm indication of Achaemenid architectural activity at Ecbatana, modern Hamadān, comes from two foundation plaques of Darius I of gold and silver. Each bears a text which exactly parallels that found on the gold and silver foundation plaques of the Apadāna at Persepolis. The fact that one of the Hamadān plaques was found between two finely dressed building stones, that the Hamadān and Persepolis texts are the same (DH and DPh; Kent. op. cit., pp. 136-37, 147) and that the same metals were used, suggests that Darius chose to build an apadāna not only at Persepolis, the newly constituted capital of the Persians, and at Susa, the former capital of the Elamites (a people habitually listed in third place after the Persians and the Medes), but also at Ecbatana, the erstwhile capital of the Medes. Our now extensive knowledge of Achaemenid Susa makes it difficult to suppose that more than one of these monumental, ambitious structures was ever erected at Susa, and we know that Persepolis never had more than one apadāna (for lack of any written confirmation, the appellation can only be bestowed on architectural, not textual, grounds). It must be suspected, therefore, that the two inscriptions of Artaxerxes II which mention the building of an apadāna at Hamadān (A2Ha and A2Hb; Kent, op. cit., p. 155) each refer, in fact, to a restoration of the Hamadān Apadāna of Darius I.

The partially restored plans now available from Susa and Persepolis (Figure 4, a and b) allow us to determine certain of the principal features of an apadāna. Such a building was at least 109 m square with a main hall measuring at least 58 m on each side (cf. Perrot, “L’architecture,” p.89). Thirty-six stone columns, each more than 19 m in height with a square base, a fluted shaft, and a composite capital, supported the roof of the hall. The mud-brick walls of the hall, well over 5 m thick and over 20 m in height, were flanked by four corner towers and by deep recesses on at least three sides. To the north, east, and west these recesses took the form of porticoes, each of which rose to the same height as the central hall and each of which contained two rows of six columns. While each column within the hall rested on a square two-stepped plinth carrying a discoid torus, those in the porticoes rested on circular bell-shaped bases. As we know in particular from Persepolis, however, it was the treatment of the upper portion of the column which distinguished main from subordinate areas. Thus those columns at Persepolis with an ornate composite capital, crowned by addorsed bulls, were reserved for the hall and the principal, northern portico (E. F. Schmidt, Persepolis I, 1953, p. 80), while those columns with addorsed animal capitals set directly on a fluted shaft were restricted to the west and east porticoes (cf. F. Krefter, Persepolis Rekonstruktionen, Berlin, 1971, (app. 3 and 6)). Finally, it may be assumed on the evidence of an ample foundation block found within the Susa Apadāna that a fixed throne was customarily placed in the north-south axis of the main hall, not far from the south wall, where two adjacent doorways (Figure 4, a) provided access to the king’s retiring rooms and/or adjacent residential palace.

The origins of audience halls of this highly specific type (to which one may possibly limit the designation apadāna) are to be sought above all in the four-sided columned halls which were introduced by Cyrus the Great at Pasargadae (D. Stronach, Pasargadae, Oxford, 1978, pp. 56f.), which themselves represent an intriguing amalgam of native and foreign influences (ibid., pp. 70-74). The great halls of Darius differed from those of Cyrus, however, in numerous respects; notably in the elevated locations chosen for them (conceivably a borrowing from Neo-Assyrian or Neo-Babylonian building practice), in their square, not rectangular, plans, in their use of cement rather than stone floors, and in their more impressive dimensions. The porticoes in this new form of audience hall were carried, as in Greek and Egyptian architecture, up to the same height as the ceiling of the main hall; and, where the palaces of Cyrus had been strictly freestanding, the new apadānas were very conveniently and closely adjacent to the residential quarters of the king.

There appear to have been at least two practical functions of an apadāna: to serve as a royal audience hall of unmatched size (it has been calculated that the great halls of Susa and Persepolis could each have held ten thousand persons) and to constitute a suitable backdrop to the elevated, enthroned monarch when he reviewed ceremonies or parades on the plain below. Politically, such buildings were not intended merely to serve as a lasting reflection of the wealth and the power of the Achaemenid monarchy, but to reflect more immediate concerns. The glazed brick friezes of the Susa Apadāna, which was built soon after Darius had seized power, may have had both traditional motifs—processions of lions, winged bulls and winged griffins, (Ghirshman, Persia, figs. 191-93) and long files of royal guards—and a copy of Darius’ forceful image of conquest, such as is still preserved in his rock-cut relief at Bīsotūn (cf. J. V. Canby, “A Note on Some Susa Bricks,” AMI 12, 1979, pp. 315-20). Furthermore, both the contents of the so-called Foundation Charter, in which Darius tends to stress only the most distant or impressive names in his accounts of the construction of the Susa Apadāna (Dsf; Kent, Old Persian, pp. 142-44), and the speed with which the document was produced (Vallat, “Inscriptions élamites,” pp. 4-5), may indicate that the true function of the Charter was to affirm the accession of Darius and the presence of his authority in even the most remote corners of the empire.

The purpose of the Persepolis Apadāna has long been regarded as distinct from that of the Susa Apadāna, if only for sometimes mistaken reasons. Firstly, the difference in time between the two buildings is greater than has usually been assumed, even if inscriptions name Darius as the founder in each ease. It used to be assumed, for example, that the date of the Persepolis Apadāna could be deduced from the “limits” of the Empire cited in the gold and silver plaques buried at opposite corners of the building. Since enumerations included Sardis, but no other more distant western possession, it was argued that the formula for the DPh text could only have been drawn up before Darius’ successful expedition to Thrace and Macedonia. Thus, the Apadāna was thought to have been founded before 513 B.C. (Schmidt, Persepolis I, p. 70). Today, however, it is recognized that rosters of this kind cannot be used uncritically as evidence of a precise date (cf. Cameron, “Darius the Great and his Scythian Campaign,” pp. 86f.). Accordingly close account deserves to be taken of the Lydian and other coins that were buried at the same time as the foundation plaques—and of the fact that the latest issue among these coins points to a date of deposition close to 500 B.C. (M. Price and N. Waggoner, Archaic Greek Coinage: the “Asyut” Hoard, London, 1975, pp. 16, 255).

Such a lengthy delay in the founding of the Apadāna might seem improbable but for evidence that steps were taken to extend the Persepolis platform to the west at the very point where the building now stands (cf. A. B. Tilia, Studies and Restorations at Persepolis and Other Sites in Fars, Rome, 1972, p. 164). Perhaps this work was occasioned by a belated decision to follow the innovative plan at Susa and hence, to build a square not a rectangular, audience hall (cf. Kleiss, in AMI l4, pp. 199f.). At all events the balance of evidence now suggests that while the celebrated relief sculptures which mark the north and east faces of the Apadāna were most probably planned during the reign of Darius, they only came to be carved at some date during the reign of his son and successor, Xerxes (cf. XPb; Kent, Old Persian, p. 148).

In their original state the reliefs showed, in part, twenty-three delegations of subject peoples bringing valuable gifts and rare animals into the presence of the king (Schmidt, Persepolis I, pls. 27f.). Although it has been presumed (cf. Ghirshman, “Notes iraniennes,” pp. 265f.) that these sculptures faithfully reflected an elaborate Persian New Year ceremonial—and although it has been suggested that Persepolis as a whole was primarily designed to meet the needs of such an annual occasion—the entire thesis connecting Persepolis in any specific way with a New Year’s ritual has come under vigorous review. It is more promising to regard the site, as indeed the Persepolis Apadāna itself, as an eloquent expression of Achaemenid kingship; or, more narrowly, as a monument to the no longer contested position of Darius and his descendants. The reliefs of the Apadāna indicate how far Darius had been able to move, late in his reign, from the harsh message of his Bīsotūn tableau. Now that it is known that the finely drawn “Treasure reliefs,” with their evident stress on the presence of the crown prince, had once occupied the central point in each carved facade of the Apadāna, it seems that one of Darius’ final concerns was to provide a symbol of the assured continuity of his line (cf. Root, The King and Kingship, p. 92). There can be little doubt also that Xerxes came to view his labors on the Persepolis Apadāna as an important support to the continued preeminence of the line of Darius, whether we regard the probable carving of the central panels within his reign as a visible affirmation of his prior selection as the heir to the throne or as a reflection of his efforts to secure an unchallenged succession.



See also G. G. Cameron, “Darius the Great and his Scythian (Saka) Campaign, Bisitun and Herodotus,” Acta Iranica 4, 1975, pp. 75-88.

R. Ghirshman, “Notes iraniennes VII, à propos de Persépolis,” Artibus Asiae 20, 1957, pp. 265-78.

Idem, Persia, from the Origins to Alexander the Great, tr. S. Gilbert and J. Emmons, London, 1964.

W. Kleiss, “Zur Entwicklung der achaemenidischen Palastarchitektur,” AMI 14, 1981, pp. 199-211.

J. Perrot, “L’architecture militaire et palatiale des Achéménides à Susa,” Sonderdruck aus 150 Jahre Deutsches archäologisches Institut, 1829-1979, Mainz, 1981, pp. 79-94.

M. C. Root, The King and Kingship in Achaemenid Art, Acta Iranica 19, 1979.

A. S. Shahbazi, “The Persepolis "Treasury Reliefs’ Once More,” AMI 9, 1976, pp. 151-56.

F. Vallat, “Deux inscriptions élamites de Darius Ier (DSf et DSz),” Stud. Ir. I, 1972, pp. 3-13.

(D. Stronach)

(R. Schmitt, D. Stronach)

Originally Published: December 15, 1986

Last Updated: August 5, 2011

This article is available in print.
Vol. II, Fasc. 2, pp. 145-148