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April 13, 2008

Pasargadae (Persian: پاسارگاد) was a city in ancient Persia, and is today an archaeological site and one of Iran's UNESCO World Heritage Sites. According to the Elamite cuneiform of the Persepolis fortification tablets the name was rendered as Batrakataš, and the name in current usage derives from a Greek transliteration of an Old Persian Pâthragâda toponym of still-uncertain meaning
Its ruins lie 87 km (54 mi) northeast of Persepolis, in present Fars province of Iran, and was the first capital of the Achaemenid Empire. The construction of the capital city by Cyrus the Great, begun in 546 BCE or later, was left unfinished, for Cyrus died in battle in 530 BCE or 529 BCE. Pasargadae remained the Persian capital until Darius began assembling another in Persepolis. The modern name comes from the Greek, but may derive from an earlier one used during Achaemenid times, Pâthragâda.

The archaeological site covers 1.6 square kilometres and includes a structure commonly believed to be the mausoleum of Cyrus, the fortress of Toll-e Takht sitting on top of a nearby hill, and the remains of two royal palaces and gardens. The gardens provide the earliest known example of the Persian chahar bagh, or four-fold garden design. (See Persian Gardens.)

Latest research on Pasargadae’s structural engineering has shown the Achaemenid engineers constructed the city to withstand a severe earthquake, at what would today be classified as a '7.0' on the Richter magnitude scale. The foundations are today classified as having a "Base Isolation" design, much the same as what is presently used in countries for the construction of facilities - such as nuclear power plants - that require insulation from the effects of an seismic activity.
The most important monument in Pasargadae is the tomb of Cyrus the Great. It has six broad steps leading to the sepulchre, the chamber of which measures 3.17 m long by 2.11 m wide by 2.11 m high, and has a low and narrow entrance. Though there is no firm evidence identifying the tomb as that of Cyrus, Greek historians tell us that Alexander the Great believed it was so. When Alexander looted and destroyed Persepolis, he paid a visit to the tomb of Cyrus. Arrian, writing in the second century of the common era, recorded that Alexander commanded Aristobulus, one of his warriors, 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 of the tomb. No trace of any such inscription survives to modern times, and there is considerable disagreement to the exact wording of the text. Strabo reports that it read:

Passer-by, I am Cyrus, who gave the Persians an empire, and was king of Asia.
Grudge me not therefore this monument.
Another variation, as documented in Persia: The Immortal Kingdom, is:

O man, whoever thou art, from wheresoever thou cometh, for I know you shall come, I am Cyrus, who founded the empire of the Persians.
Grudge me not, therefore, this little earth that covers my body.

According to some classicists,[attribution needed] the style and construction of the tomb show strong connections with Anatolian tombs of a similar period. In particular, the tomb at Pasargadae has almost exactly the same dimensions as the tomb of Alyattes II, father of the Lydian King Croesus; however, many[attribution needed] have refused the claim, (According to Herodotus, Croesus was spared by Cyrus during the conquest of Lydia, and became a member of Cyrus' court.) Some[attribution needed] scholars believe that Cyrus may have "imported" Lydian stonemasons for the construction of the tomb. In general, the art and architecture found at Pasargadae exemplified the Persian synthesis of various traditions, drawing on precedents from Elam, Babylon, Assyria, and ancient Egypt, with the addition of some Anatolian influences.

During the Islamic conquest of Iran, the Arab armies came upon the tomb and planned to destroy it, considering it to be in direct violation of the tenets of Islam. The caretakers of the grave managed to convince the Arab command that the tomb was not built to honor Cyrus, but instead housed the mother of King Solomon, thus sparing it from destruction. As a result, the inscription in the tomb was replaced by a verse of the Qur'an, and the tomb became known as "Qabr-e Madar-e Sulaiman," or the tomb of the mother of Solomon. It is still widely known by that name today.

Sivand Dam controversy
There has been growing concern regarding the proposed Sivand Dam, named after the nearby town of Sivand. Despite planning that has stretched over 10 years, Iran's own Iranian Cultural Heritage Organization was not aware of the broader areas of flooding during much of this time.

Its placement between both the ruins of Pasargadae and Persepolis has many archaeologists and Iranians worried that the dam will flood these UNESCO World Heritage sites, although scientists involved with the construction say this is impossible because the sites sit well above the planned waterline. Of the two sites, Pasargadae is the one considered the most threatened.

The broadly shared concern by archaelogists is the effect of the increase in humidity caused by the lake; experts from the Ministry of Energy however believe it would be compensated by controlling the water level of the dam reservoir. All agree that humidity created by it will speed up the gradual destruction of Pasargadae

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