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Chapter 2 Mesopotamia and Persia


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  • 1. 1 Chapter 2 Mesopotamia and Persia
  • 2. 2 The Ancient Near East
  • 3. 3 Goals • Understand the cultural changes in the Neolithic Revolution as they relate to the art and architecture. • Understand the concept of civilization and the importance of Sumer in the ancient Near East. • Examine the artistic materials, techniques, subject matter, styles and conventions developed in the ancient Near East.
  • 4. 4 The Cradle of Civilization • Mesopotamia, the core of the region often called the Fertile Crescent and the presumed locale of the biblical Garden of Eden (Gen. 2:10–15), was where humans first learned how to use the wheel and plow and how to control floods and construct irrigation canals. In the fourth millennium bce, the inhabitants of ancient Sumer, the first great Mesopotamian civilization, also established the earliest complex urban societies, called city-states , and invented writing. They may also have been the first culture to use pictures to tell coherent stories, far surpassing Stone Age artists’ tentative efforts at pictorial narration. • The so-called Standard of Ur Fig. 2-1), from the Sumerian city that was home to the biblical Abraham, is one of the earliest extant works incorporating all of the pictorial conventions that would dominate ancient narrative art for more than 2,000 years.
  • 5. • Sumerian 35000 – 2332 • World’s first city states founded and writing invented • Construction of oldest temples on ziggurats • Artists present narratives in register format • Akkadian 2332 – 2150 • First Mesopotamian rulers to call themselves kings • Earliest preserved hollow-cast bronze statuary • Neo-Sumerian and Babylonian 2150 – 1600 • Largest extant ziggurat erected at Ur • Gudea rebuilds temples and commissions portraits • Hammurabi sets up a stele recording his laws • Hittite and Assyrian 1600 – 612 • Hittites sack Babylon and fortify their capital at Hattusa • Assyrians rule a vast empire from citadels guarded by lamassu • Extensive relief cycles celebrate Assyrian military campaigns • Neo-Babylonian and Achaeminid 612 – 559 • Nebuchadnezzar II rebuilds Babylon, which boasts two of the Seven Wonders of the ancient world • Persians build an immense palace complex at Persepolis • Greco-Roman and Sasanian 330 BCE – 636 CE • After conquest by Alexander the Great, Mesopotamia and Persia are absorbed into the Greco- Roman world • New Persian Empire challenges Rome from Ctesiphon 5
  • 6. 6 The Neolithic Revolution • When humans first gave up the dangerous and uncertain life of the hunter and gatherer for the more predictable and stable life of the farmer and herder, the change in human society was so significant that historians justly have dubbed it the Neolithic Revolution (see Chapter 1). This fundamental change in the nature of daily life first occurred in Mesopotamia—a Greek word that means “the land between the [Tigris and Euphrates] rivers.” • Mesopotamia is the region that gave birth to three of the world’s great modern faiths—Judaism, Christianity, and Islam—and consequently has long been of interest to historians.
  • 7. Sumer • The Sumerians were the people who in the fourth millennium bce transformed the vast and previously sparsely inhabited valley between the Tigris and Euphrates into the Fertile Crescent of the ancient world. • Ancient Sumer, which roughly corresponds to southern Iraq today, was not a unified nation, however. Rather, it comprised a dozen or so independent city-states under the protection of different Mesopotamian deities (see “The Gods and Goddesses of Mesopotamia,”). • The city-state was one of the great Sumerian inventions. • Another was writing. The oldest written documents known are Sumerian records of administrative acts and commercial transactions. • The Sumerians also produced great literature. Their most famous work, known from fragmentary cuneiform texts, is the late-third-millennium Epic of Gilgamesh, which antedates the Greek poet Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey by some 1,500 years. It recounts the heroic story of Gilgamesh, legendary king of Uruk and slayer of the monster Huwawa. 7
  • 8. White Temple, Uruk • The layout of Sumerian cities reflected the central role of the gods in daily life. • The outstanding preserved example of early Sumerian temple architecture is the 5,000-year-old White Temple (Fig. 2-2) at Uruk, a city that in the late fourth millennium bce had a population of about 40,000. • As in other Sumerian temples, the corners of the White Temple are oriented to the cardinal points of the compass. The building, probably dedicated to Anu, the sky god, is of modest proportions (61 by 16 feet). By design, it did not accommodate large throngs of worshipers but only a select few, the priests and perhaps the leading community members. • The Sumerians referred to their temples as “waiting rooms,” a reflection of their belief the deity would descend from the heavens to appear before the priests in the cella. Whether the Uruk temple had a roof, and if it did, what kind, are uncertain. 8
  • 9. Figure 2-3 Reconstruction drawing of the White Temple and ziggurat, Uruk (modern Warka), Iraq, ca. 3200–3000 BCE. 9
  • 10. Figure 2-2 White Temple and ziggurat, Uruk (modern Warka), Iraq, ca. 3200–3000 BCE. 10
  • 11. The Gods and Goddesses of Mesopotamia • The Sumerians and their successors in Mesopotamia worshiped numerous deities, mostly nature gods. Listed here are the Mesopotamian gods and goddesses discussed in this chapter. • Anu. The chief deity of the Sumerians. Anu was the god of the sky and of the city of Uruk. One of the earliest Sumerian temples (Figs. 2-2 and 2-3) may have been dedicated to his worship. • Enlil. Anu’s son. Enlil was the lord of the winds and the earth. He eventually replaced his father as king of the gods. 11
  • 12. • Inanna. The Sumerian goddess of love and war, later known as Ishtar. Inanna was the most important female deity in all periods of Mesopotamian history. As early as the fourth millennium bce, the Sumerians constructed a sanctuary to Inanna at Uruk. Amid the ruins, excavators uncovered statues and reliefs (Figs. 2-4 and 2-5) connected with her worship. • Nanna. The moon god, also known as Sin. Nanna was the chief deity of Ur, where the Sumerians erected his most important shrine. • Utu. The sun god, later known as Shamash. Utu was especially revered at Sippar. On a Babylonian stele (Fig. 2-18) of ca. 1780 bce, King Hammurabi presents his laws to Shamash, whom the sculptor depicted as a bearded god wearing a horned headdress. Flames radiate from the sun god’s shoulders. 12
  • 13. • Marduk, Nabu, and Adad. Marduk was the chief god of the Babylonians. His son Nabu was the god of writing and wisdom. Adad was the Babylonian god of storms. Marduk and Nabu’s dragon and Adad’s sacred bull adorn the sixth- century bce Ishtar Gate (Fig. 2-24) at Babylon. • Ningirsu. The local god of Lagash and Girsu. Ningirsu helped Eannatum, one of the early rulers of Lagash, defeat an enemy army. The Stele of the Vultures (Fig. 2-7) of ca. 2600– 2500 bce records Ningirsu’s role in the victory. Gudea (Figs. 2-16 and 2-17), one of Eannatum’s Neo-Sumerian successors, built a great temple around 2100 bce in honor of Ningirsu after the god instructed him to do so in a dream. • Ashur. The local deity of Assur, the city that took his name. Ashur became the king of the Assyrian gods. He sometimes is identified with Enlil. 13
  • 14. 14 Figure 2-4 Female head (Inanna?), from Uruk (modern Warka), Iraq, ca. 3200–3000 BCE. Marble, 8” high. Iraq Museum, Baghdad.
  • 15. 15 Figure 2-5 Presentation of offerings to Inanna (Warka Vase), from Uruk (modern Warka), Iraq, ca. 3200–3000 BCE. Alabaster, 3’ 1/4” high. Iraq Museum, Baghdad.
  • 16. 16 Mesopotamian Religion, Mythology, Gods and Goddesses • Eshnunna Statuettes: Sumerian • All of the statuettes represent mortals, rather than deities, with their hands folded in front of their chests in a gesture of prayer, usually holding the small beakers the Sumerians used for libations (ritual pouring of liquid) in honor of the gods. • The oversized eyes probably symbolize the perpetual wakefulness of these substitute worshipers offering prayers to the deity. The beakers the figures hold were used to pour libations for the gods.
  • 17. 17 Figure 2-6 Statuettes of two worshipers, from the Square Temple at Eshnunna (modern Tell Asmar), Iraq, ca. 2700 BCE. Gypsum inlaid with shell and black limestone, male figure 2’ 6” high. Iraq Museum, Baghdad.
  • 18. 2-6A Seated statuette of Urnanshe, from the Temple of Ishtar at Mari (modern Tell Hariri), Syria, ca. 2600–2500 BCE. Gypsum inlaid with shell and lapis lazuli, 10 1/4” high. National Museum of Damascus, Damascus. 18
  • 19. 19 Figure 2-7 Battle scenes, fragment of the victory stele of Eannatum (Stele of the Vultures), from Girsu (modern Telloh), Iraq, ca. 2600–2500 BCE. Limestone, fragment 2’ 6” high, full stele 5’ 11” high. Louvre, Paris. Cuneiform inscriptions on this stele describe Eannatum’s victory over the city of Umma with the aid of the god Ningirsu. This fragment shows Eannatum, at gigantic size, leading his troops into battle.
  • 20. Standard of Ur, ca. 2600–2400 bce. • This wooden box inlaid with lapis lazuli, shell, and red limestone has broad rectangular faces and narrow trapezoidal ends. It is of uncertain function. The excavator, Leonard Woolley, thought the object was originally mounted on a pole, and he considered it a kind of military standard—hence its nickname. • Using a mosaic-like technique, this Sumerian artist depicted a battlefield victory in three registers. The narrative reads from bottom to top, and the size of the figures varies with their importance in society. • Art historians usually refer to the two long sides of the box as the “war side” and “peace side,” which celebrate the two principal roles of a Sumerian ruler, but the two sides may represent the first and second parts of a single narrative. • The artist divided each side into three horizontal bands. The narrative reads from left to right and bottom to top. 20
  • 21. 21 Figure 2-8 War side of the Standard of Ur, from Tomb 779, Royal Cemetery, Ur (modern Tell Muqayyar), Iraq, ca. 2600 BCE. Wood inlaid with shell, lapis lazuli, and red limestone, 8” x 1’ 7”. British Museum, London.
  • 22. 22 Figure 2-1 Peace side of the Standard of Ur, from Tomb 779, Royal Cemetery, Ur (modern Tell Muqayyar), Iraq, ca. 2600 BCE. Wood inlaid with shell, lapis lazuli, and red limestone, 8” x 1’ 7”. British Museum, London.
  • 23. 23 2.2 Akkadian, Neo-Sumerian, Babylonian, and Hittite Cultures • In 2332 bce, the loosely linked group of cities known as Sumer came under the domination of a great ruler, Sargon of Akkad (r. 2332–2279 bce). • The Akkadians were Semitic in origin—that is, they were a Mesopotamian people who spoke a language related to Hebrew and Arabic. • Akkadian Portraiture: A magnificent copper head Fig. 2-12) found at Nineveh that portrays an Akkadian king embodies this new concept of absolute monarchy. The head is all that survives of a statue knocked over in antiquity • But the damage to the portrait was not the result solely of the statue’s toppling. There are also signs of deliberate mutilation. To make a political statement, the attackers gouged out the eyes (once inlaid with precious or semiprecious stones), broke off the lower part of the beard, and slashed the ears of the royal portrait. Later parallels for this kind of political vandalism abound, for example—in the same region—the destruction of images of Saddam Hussein after the Iraqi ruler’s downfall in 2003.
  • 24. 24 Figure 2-12 Head of an Akkadian ruler, from Nineveh (modern Kuyunjik), Iraq, ca. 2250–2200 BCE. Copper, 1’ 2 3/8” high. Iraq Museum, Baghdad. The sculptor of this oldest known life-size hollow-cast head captured the distinctive features of the ruler while also displaying a keen sense of abstract pattern.
  • 25. Figure 2-11 Banquet scene, cylinder seal (left) and its modern impression (right), from the tomb of Pu-abi (tomb 800), Royal Cemetery, Ur (modern Tell Muqayyar), Iraq, ca. 2600 BCE. Lapis lazuli, 2” high. British Museum, London. 25
  • 26. 26 Ancient Near Eastern Politics and Art • Naram-Sin Stele • The godlike sovereignty the kings of Akkad claimed is also evident in the victory stele Fig. 2-13) Naram-Sin set up at Sippar. The stele commemorates the Akkadian ruler’s defeat of the Lullubi, a people of the Iranian mountains to the east. • It carries two inscriptions, one in honor of Naram-Sin and one naming the Elamite king who captured Sippar in 1157 bce and took the stele as booty back to Susa in southwestern Iran (Map 2-1), the stele’s findspot. • The sculptor depicted Naram-Sin leading his army up the slopes of a wooded mountain. His routed enemies fall, flee, die, or beg for mercy. The king stands alone, far taller than his men, treading on the bodies of two of the fallen Lullubi. He wears the horned helmet signifying divinity—the first time a king appears as a god in Mesopotamian art. At least three favorable stars (the stele is damaged at the top) shine on his triumph.
  • 27. 27 Figure 2-13 Victory stele of Naram-Sin, from Susa, Iran, 2254–2218 BCE. Pink sandstone, 6’ 7” high. Louvre, Paris. To commemorate his conquest of the Lullubi, Naram-Sin set up this stele showing him leading his army up a mountain. The sculptor staggered the figures, abandoning the traditional register format.
  • 28. Important First in the Ancient Near East • In the man’s world of ancient Akkad, one woman stands out prominently—Enheduanna, daughter of King Sargon and priestess of the moon god Nanna at Ur. • Her name appears in several inscriptions, and she was the author of a series of hymns in honor of the goddess Inanna. Enheduanna’s is the oldest recorded name of a poet, male or female—indeed, the earliest known name of the author of any literary work in world history. • The most important surviving object associated with Enheduanna is the alabaster disk Fig. 2-14) found in several fragments in the residence of the priestess of Nanna at Ur. • It also credits Enheduanna with erecting an altar to Nanna in his temple. The dedication of the relief to the moon god explains its unusual round format, which corresponds to the shape of the full moon. 28
  • 29. Figure 2-14 Votive disk of Enheduanna, from Ur (modern Tell Muqayyar), Iraq, ca. 2300 – 2275 BCE. Alabaster, diameter 10”. University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, Philadelphia Enheduanna, daughter of Sargon of Akkad and priestess of Nanna at Ur, is the first author whose name is known. She is the tallest figure on this votive disk, which she dedicated to the moon god. 29
  • 30. Third Dynasty of Ur • Around 2150 bce, a mountain people, the Gutians, brought an end to Akkadian power. The cities of Sumer soon united in response to the alien presence and established a Neo-Sumerian state ruled by the kings of Ur. • Historians call this period the Neo-Sumerian age or the Third Dynasty of Ur. • The most imposing extant Neo-Sumerian monument is the ziggurat Fig. 2-15) at Ur. One of the largest ever erected, with a massive mud-brick base 50 feet high, it is about a millennium later than Uruk’s more modest White Temple (Figs. 2-2 and 2- 3). 30
  • 31. 31 Figure 2-15 Ziggurat (looking southwest), Ur (modern Tell Muqayyar), Iraq, ca. 2100 BCE. The Ur ziggurat is one of the largest in Mesopotamia. It has three (restored) ramplike stairways of a hundred steps each that originally ended at a gateway to a brick temple, which does not survive.
  • 32. 32 Babylon & The Code of Hammurabi • Hammurabi • Babylon was a city-state until its most powerful king, Hammurabi (r. 1792–1750 bce), reestablished a centralized government in southern Mesopotamia in the area known as Babylonia, after its chief city. Perhaps the most renowned king in Mesopotamian history, Hammurabi was famous for his conquests. But he is best known today for his laws Fig. 2-18), which prescribed penalties for everything from adultery and murder to the cutting down of a neighbor’s trees (see “Hammurabi’s Laws,”). • In the early 18th century bce, the Babylonian king Hammurabi formulated a set of nearly 300 laws for his people.
  • 33. 33 Figure 2-18 Stele with law code of Hammurabi, from Susa, Iran, ca. 1780 BCE. Basalt, 7’ 4” high. Louvre, Paris. The collection of Hammurabi’s judicial pronouncements is inscribed on the Susa stele in Akkadian in 3,500 lines of cuneiform characters. Hammurabi’s laws governed all aspects of Babylonian life, from commerce and property to murder and theft to marital infidelity, inheritances, and the treatment of slaves.
  • 34. 34 Hammurabi and Shamash, detail of the stele of Hammaurabi, (fig. 2-17), from Susa, Iran, ca. 1780 BCE.
  • 35. Example of Laws • Here is a small sample of the infractions described and the penalties imposed, which vary with the person’s standing in society and notably deal with the rights and crimes of women as well as men: • If a man puts out the eye of another man, his eye shall be put out. • If he kills a man’s slave, he shall pay one-third of a mina. • If someone steals property from a temple, he will be put to death, as will the person who receives the stolen goods. • If a married woman dies before bearing any sons, her dowry shall be repaid to her father, but if she gave birth to sons, the dowry shall belong to them. • If a man strikes a freeborn woman so that she loses her unborn child, he shall pay ten shekels for her loss. If the woman dies, his daughter shall be put to death. • If a man is guilty of incest with his daughter, he shall be exiled. 35
  • 36. 36 Power and the Assyrians • The Assyrians took their name from Assur, the city on the Tigris River in northern Iraq dedicated to the god Ashur. At the height of their power, the Assyrians ruled an empire that extended from the Tigris River to the Nile and from the Persian Gulf to Asia Minor.
  • 37. 37 Figure 2-20A Reconstruction drawing of the citadel of Sargon II, Dur Sharrukin (modern Khorsabad), Iraq, ca. 720–705 BCE (after Charles Altman).
  • 38. 38 Figure 2-20 Lamassu (winged, human-headed bull), from the citadel of Sargon II, Dur Sharrukin (modern Khorsabad), Iraq, ca. 720–705 BCE. Limestone, 13’ 10” high. Louvre, Paris. Ancient sculptors insisted on complete views of animals. This four-legged composite monster that guarded an Assyrian palace has five legs—two when seen from the front and four in profile view.
  • 39. 2-21 Ashurnasirpal II with attendants and soldier, from the Northwest Palace of Ashurnasirpal II, Kalhu (modern Nimrud), Iraq, ca. 875–860 BCE. Glazed brick, 11 3/4” high. British Museum, London. Paintings on glazed bricks adorned the walls of Assyrian palaces. This rare example shows Ashurnasirpal II paying homage to the gods. The artist represented the king as taller than his attendants.39
  • 40. 40 Figure 2-22 Assyrian archers pursuing enemies, relief from the Northwest Palace of Ashurnasirpal II, Kalhu (modern Nimrud), Iraq, ca. 875–860 BCE. Gypsum, 2’ 10 5/8” high. British Museum, London. Extensive reliefs exalting the king and recounting his great deeds have been found in several Assyrian palaces. This one depicts Ashurnasirpal II’s archers driving the enemy into the Euphrates River.
  • 41. 41 Figure 2-23 Ashurbanipal hunting lions, relief from the North Palace of Ashurbanipal, Nineveh (modern Kuyunjik), Iraq, ca. 645–640 BCE. Gypsum, 5’ 4” high. British Museum, London. In addition to ceremonial and battle scenes, the hunt was a common subject of Assyrian palace reliefs. The Assyrians viewed hunting and killing lions as manly royal virtues on a par with victory in warfare.
  • 42. 42 Mesopotamian Architecture • The most renowned of the Neo-Babylonian kings was Nebuchadnezzar II (r. 605–562 bce), whose exploits the biblical book of Daniel recounts. Nebuchadnezzar restored Babylon to its rank as one of the great cities of antiquity. • The city’s famous hanging gardens were counted among the Seven Wonders of the ancient world. • Nebuchadnezzar’s Babylon was a mud-brick city, but dazzling blue-glazed bricks faced the most important monuments, such as the Ishtar Gate Fig. 2-24), really a pair of gates, one of which has been restored and installed in a German museum. • The Ishtar Gate consists of a large arcuated (arch-shaped) opening flanked by towers, and features glazed bricks with reliefs of animals, real and imaginary. The Babylonian builders molded and glazed each brick separately, then set them in proper sequence on the wall.
  • 43. 43 Figure 2-24 Ishtar Gate (restored), Babylon, Iraq, ca. 575 BCE. Staatliche Museen, Berlin. Nebuchadnezzr II’s Babylon was one of the ancient world’s greatest cities and boasted two of the Seven Wonders. Its Ishtar Gate featured glazed- brick reliefs of Marduk and Nabu’s dragon and Adad’s bull.
  • 44. 44 2.4 Persian Power and Opulence • Although Nebuchadnezzar—the “king of kings” in the book of Daniel (2:37)— had boasted in an inscription that he “caused a mighty wall to circumscribe Babylon … so that the enemy who would do evil would not threaten,” Cyrus of Persia (r. 559–529 bce) captured the city in the sixth century.
  • 45. 45 Persian and Sassanian Splendor • The most important source of knowledge about Persian art and architecture is the ceremonial and administrative complex on the citadel at Persepolis Fig. 2-25), which the successors of Cyrus, Darius I (r. 522– 486 bce) and Xerxes (r. 486–465 bce), built between 521 and 465 bce. Situated on a high plateau, the heavily fortified complex of royal buildings stood on a wide platform overlooking the plain. • Alexander the Great razed the site in a gesture symbolizing the destruction of Persian imperial power. Some said it was an act of revenge for the Persian sack of the Athenian Acropolis in 480 bce (see Chapter 5). Nevertheless, even in ruins, the Persepolis citadel is impressive.
  • 46. 46 Figure 2-25 Persepolis (apadana in the background), Iran, ca. 521–465 BCE. The heavily fortified complex of Persian royal buildings on a high plateau at Persepolis included a royal audience hall, or apadana, with 36 colossa columns topped by animal protomes (Fig. 2-26)
  • 47. 2-26 Columns with animal protomes, from the apadana of the palace, Persepolis, Iran, ca. 521–465 BCE. The 64-foot columns of the Persepolis apadana drew on Greek, Egyptian, and Mesopotamian models but are unique in form. The back-to-back protomes of the capitals supported gigantic wood beams. 47
  • 48. 48 Figure 2-27 Processional frieze (detail) on the terrace of the apadana, Persepolis, Iran, ca. 521–465 BCE. Limestone, 8’ 4” high. The reliefs decorating the walls of the terrace and staircases leading up to the Persepolis apadana Fig. 12-25) included depictions of representatives of 23 nations bringing tribute to the Persian king.
  • 49. 2-26A Rhyton in the form of a winged lion, from Hamadan, fifth to third century BCE. Gold, 8 3/8” high. Archaeological Museum of Iran, Tehran. 49
  • 50. 50 Figure 2-28 Palace of Shapur I, Ctesiphon, Iraq, ca. 250 CE. The last great pre-Islamic civilization of Mesopotamia was that of the Sasanians. Their palace at Ctesiphon, near Baghdad, features a brick audience hall (iwan) covered by an enormous pointed vault.
  • 51. 51 Figure 2-28A Triumph of Shapur I over Valerian, rock-cut relief, Bishapur, Iran, ca. 260 CE.
  • 52. • Sumerian Art ca. 3500–2332 bce • The Sumerians founded the world’s first city-states in the valley between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers and invented writing in the fourth millennium bce. • They were also the first to build towering temple platforms, called ziggurats, and to place figures in registers to tell coherent stories. • Akkadian Art ca. 2332–2150 bce • The Akkadians were the first Mesopotamian rulers to call themselves kings of the world and to assume divine attributes. The earliest recorded name of an author is the Akkadian priestess Enheduanna. • Akkadian artists may have been the first to cast hollow life-size bronze sculptures and to place figures at different levels in a landscape setting. • Neo-Sumerian and Babylonian Art ca. 2150–1600 bce • During the Third Dynasty of Ur, the Sumerians rose again to power and constructed one of the largest ziggurats in Mesopotamia at Ur. • Gudea of Lagash (r. ca. 2100 bce) built numerous temples and placed diorite portraits of himself in all of them as votive offerings to the gods. • Babylon’s greatest king, Hammurabi (r. 1792–1750 bce), formulated wide-ranging laws for the empire he ruled. Babylonian artists were among the first to experiment with foreshortening. 52
  • 53. • Assyrian and Neo-Babylonian Art ca. 900–539 bce • At the height of their power, the Assyrians ruled an empire that extended from the Persian Gulf to the Nile and Asia Minor. • Assyrian palaces were fortified citadels with gates guarded by monstrous lamassu sculptures. Paintings and reliefs depicting official ceremonies and the king in battle and hunting lions decorated the walls of the ceremonial halls. • In the sixth century bce, the Babylonians constructed two of the Seven Wonders of the ancient world. The Ishtar Gate, with its colorful glazed brick reliefs, gives an idea of Babylon’s magnificence under Nebuchadnezzar II (r. 605–562 bce). • Achaemenid and Sasanian Art ca. 559–330 bce and 224–636 ce • The capital of the Achaemenid Persians was at Persepolis, where Darius I (r. 522–486 bce) and Xerxes (r. 486–465 bce) built a huge palace complex with an audience hall that could accommodate 10,000 guests. Painted reliefs of subject nations bringing tribute adorned the terraces. • The Sasanians, enemies of Rome, ruled the New Persian Empire from their palace at Ctesiphon until the Arabs defeated them four years after the death of Muhammad. 53
  • 54. 54 Discussion Questions  Discuss how many artworks are intended to celebrate a ruler’s accomplishments—even if they did not occur? Give specific examples of ancient Near Eastern art and architecture that do this.  Identify evidence of the Sumerian culture’s lasting influence today.  Identify evidence of the Persian Empire’s lasting influence today.