The Presentation of Gold in the Reliefs of the Eastern Staircase of the Apadana in Persepolis

Document Type : Research Paper




Delegations of the various satrapies of the Achaemenid Empire are depicted bringing presents to the king on the reliefs of the Apadana in the palace of Persepolis. Among these presents are two which most likely contained gold. One of the members of the Indian delegation carries a pole over his shoulders from which two baskets are hanging filled with two bags each. From the degree of bending of the pole and the size of the bags it can be concluded that the latter contained a granular material with a bulk density of about 6.25 kg/liters. Because of this weight, the material can only have been fine-grained gold, probably the gold “stolen” by the Indians from the Giant Ants to the north of India as reported by Herodotus.
The Ethiopian delegation consists of three young boys before the age of puberty. The middle one carries a cylindrical vessel with a volume of about 1.1 litters, equivalent to approximately one choinix, an Attic measure for e.g. grain. It is suggested here that the vessel must have contained something very valuable, most probably granular gold. The choinix would then represent half of the quantity presented by Ethiopian tribes to the king every three years according to Herodotus