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Frieze of Archers

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The Frieze of Archers from the Palace of Darius I (Achaemenid Persian Period 550-330 BCE). Made from polychrome glazed siliceous bricks.

 


Brief Introduction Edit

Two lines of marching Persian soldiers from Susa , Iran made from polychrome glazed siliceous brick and excavated from the remains of the Palace of Darius I . The decorative frieze measures 4.75 meters by 3.75 meters, and was made around 500-510 BCE. It is currently in the Near Eastern Antiquities section of the Lourve Museum in Paris, France. 

Technical Evaluation Edit

This frieze show s two symmetrical lines of Persian soilders marching. These soldiers have both hands holding the spear in front of them with a bow and quiver around the backs. They are dressed in long Persian robes, are bearded and have thick curly hair massed at the nape of the neck. The scale and direction of the archers is determined by projections and angles along wall surfaces; they may suddenly change direction to face a doorway, or one or more archers in a frieze will suddenly change size to accommodate a wall. Borders of decretive motifs or inscriptions surrounds the archers. These sharp and abrupt cuts separates the Achaemendid brick panels from the carefully fitted bricks of the Neo-Babylonian era. Despite the different colors and sizes all of the soldiers have the same gestures and posture. 

The Frieze of Archers was most likely inspired by the Processional Way in Babylon , built
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Frieze of Archers (510 BCE) made of glazed terracotta bricks.

by Nebuchadnezzar II (604-562 BCE) but, was created using a different technique. The bricks used in this frieze are molded from a quart-based body and are rectangular on the decretive side but taper in the back. This would allow the builders to have room for mortar when all of the rectangular faces were lined up against one another. These friezes have low relief backgrounds and are colors of green, white, yellow and brown. It was Darius I (558-486 BCE) who had the palace constructed in Susa and in Darius's Building Inscription at Susa he tells that it was Babylonian 

people who worked on the glazed bricks. Although the exact location is still unknown due to pieces and fragments have been found all around and in the apadana the strong hypothesis is that Frieze of Archers covered the exterior walls to the apadana. 

While the first excavation of Susa and the palace were made by British archeologist W.K. Loftus in 1851 it was in 1884 that Marcel Dieulafoy , a French archeologist, whose work allowed the Frieze of Archers to find its way to its current home in Paris, France at the Lourve Museum. 

Local Histroical Context 

The Frieze of Archers was created as a decoration for the Palace of Darius I. Darius I was apart of the Achaemendid period (550-330 BCE) of the Persian Empire. During his rule the Persian empire reached its maximum extent. Darius I underwent two major construction projects under his rule and one of them was the building of his palace at Susa in 510 BCE. His palace at Susa would serve as the new capitol of the Persian Empire while 

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Ruins of the Palace of Darius I.

Darius I was alive but the construction of the palace was one that required many resources from around the world. According to Darius's Building Inscription the timber was brought from a mountain named Lebanon, while Assyrian people brought it to Babylon; from Babylon the Carians and the Greeks brought it to Susa. The gold was brought from Lydia and from Bactria. The precious stone turquoise was brought from Chorasmia. The silver and the ebony were brought from Egypt. The ivory was brought from Kush and from India. The stonecutters who worked the stone, those were Greek. The goldsmiths were Medes and Egyptians. The men who made the baked brick were Babylonians. This massive amount of resources and manpower combined together to create what was a magnificent palace. 

According to Walther Heinz "The trilingual inscription of Darius I (558-486) recording the building of his palace at Susa must be must be reckoned among the most important documents contributing to our knowledge of the history of ancient civilization." (See Heinz, "Near Eastern Studies"). Darius I believed that the god Ahuramazda had made him king and commanded that he build this great palace at Susa. When the palace was complete according to the inscription Darius I said "At Susa [much that is s]plendid was ordered, much that is splend[id was built]. Me may Ahuramazda protect and [Hystaspes, wh]o is my father, an[d] my people!" (See Heinz, "Near Eastern Studies"). The Babylonians made the Frieze of Archers but those working would have been slaves of the Persian Empire. 

The soldiers on parade are most accepted as being the "Immortals" from the Persian army. Which was the elite fighting force in Darius's army. They are known as "Immortals " because at full strength they numbered at 10,000 and whenever a soldier would die or fall ill he would immediately be replaced so that they would always remain at their peak. 

World-Historical Significance Edit

The Palace of Darius the Great was the capitol building of the Persian empire at its highest point and the Frieze of Archers are the best preserved figured glazed bricks of the Achaemendid period. The palace itself is a grand achievement of manpower and resources with people and materials being imported from all across the continent. The building of the frieze, and of the palace, shows an assimilation and innovation of cultures. Borrowing from their Assyrian and Babylonian subjects the Persian rulers used ideas such as terraced platforms, sculptured reliefs, and plenty of use of glazed brick to protect and aesthetically improve their mud brick walls. Adapting these techniques the Persians were able to create an architectural style of their own. Their improvement in ceramics and glazed brick making made Persian ceramics a luxuary and desired good all the way until the seventieth century. 

At the death of Darius I his son Xerses I (519-465 BCE) took over his rule and Susa no longer became the only capitol of the Persian empire. It became known as the winter capital of the empire. It was destroyed in a fire under the rule of Artaxerxes I (465-424 BCE) and then later restored by his grandson Artaxerxes II (404-358 BCE). It was conquered and sacked by Alexander the Great in 330 BCE and plundered around 40,000 talents of gold and silver. The Frieze of Archers is one of the few remaining pieces of the once great capital city of the Persian Empire. 

Bibliography Edit

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