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What is Takht-E Soleyman?

Brendan McGuigan
Brendan McGuigan

Takht-e Soleyman is an ancient archeological site located in Iran. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and has been since 2003. Although the site is now severely decayed, it remains an exciting example of early regional architecture.

Takht-e Soleyman is literally translated as the Throne of Solomon, and legends surround some sites in the area relating to the historic king. Sometime in the first millennium BCE people began to settle the area, and during the Achaemenian dynasty the area began a center of Zoroastrianism.

Takht-e Soleyman, or the "Throne of Solomon," is an ancient site in Iran.
Takht-e Soleyman, or the "Throne of Solomon," is an ancient site in Iran.

In the middle part of the millennium the enormous Adur Gushasp, also known as Azargoshnasb, was built in the Takht-e Soleyman. This was a large Fire Temple of the Zoroastrian faith. Fire Temples are the primary place of worship for Zoroastrians, bringing together fire and water to create purity. Adur Gushasp in Takht-e Soleyman was the largest Fire Temple in the world, and served as a center for Zoroastrianism for centuries.

The Adur Gushasp at Takht-e Soleyman was an important location for the Sassanids, as well. Before ascending the throne to take control of their empire, each potential ruler would make a pilgrimage to the Fire Temple to bow before it in humility.

During the 3rd century BCE, when Takht-e Soleyman was under the control of the Sassanid Dynasty, the region was further fortified. An enormous wall was built to enclose everything, and nearly forty towers were erected for defense. Takht-e Soleyman continued to grow in popularity as a destination for Zoroastrians, and over the years the flow of pilgrims steadily increased.

In the 6th century the complex was further increased, as Khosrow-Anushrivan built massive temples and lodgings to accommodate the now substantial and regular flow of pilgrims coming to Takht-e Soleyman. Khosrow II continued this expansion into the beginning of the 7th century.

In the early-7th century Khosrow II was defeated by the Romans, and the region fell under Roman control. The Romans pillaged and destroyed Takht-e Soleyman, and the Fire Temple of Adur Gushasp. The temple was never rebuilt, and the flow of pilgrims steadily decreased until the site was virtually forgotten.

In the 13th and 14th centuries, as the Mongols swept through the area, the Takht-e Soleyman saw a brief revitalization, as new buildings were built. People began to use the area again, and for the next few centuries it survived, although it never again thrived the way it had during the Sassanid era. In the 17th century the site was entirely abandoned, and it remained known but rarely visited for the next few centuries. Beginning in the early-part of the 20th century, the site began to be excavated by Western archaeologists. Archeology has continued in the area to the present day.

The nearby Prison of Solomon, or Zendan-e Soleyman, is said to have housed mighty beasts. Legend says that King Solomon would imprison monsters that roamed his lands in this immense crater, which is more than 300 feet (90m) deep.

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    • Takht-e Soleyman, or the "Throne of Solomon," is an ancient site in Iran.
      Takht-e Soleyman, or the "Throne of Solomon," is an ancient site in Iran.