“Now you know why Iranians are so proud,” my wife told me after I visited Persepolis today. “This history is why they think they have everything and no one else – the Americans, the Europeans, no one else – compares to them.”
I’m tempted to deduce just the opposite, that contemporary Iranians – who don’t seem to be able to install a fully-functioning hotel toilet or consistently steer between traffic lanes – have nothing in common with the Aryans who began building Persepolis close to 2,500 years ago.
The technical prowess that went into nearly 200-year-long construction of Persepolis boggles the mind.
The slabs of rock – some weighing hundreds of tons – came from mountains 40 km away. How did they mine mountains of rock 2,500 years ago? By sticking into the cracks slits of wood, then filling the wood with water, then waiting until the water froze and expanded to crack the rock.
The drainage system underneath Persepolis and the surrounding area is so well-engineered it is still protecting this entire plain from floods. Its complexity is a marvel of engineering. Subterranean solid-rock canals are still being discovered.
All the reliefs cut by hand into the rock are so uniform throughout the 125,000 square meter site that almost certainly couldn’t be duplicated today using machines.
These Persians were also the advocates of the kind of human rights that even today haven’t become universal.
Thirty thousand cuneiform tablets found underneath Persepolis say all the construction workers were paid a salary and were insured. The female workers enjoyed guaranteed maternity leave – a right the Republicans in the U.S. Congress still can’t bring themselves to support.
The more our tour guide Ehsan Dehghan explained, the more moody I became. Eventually, I left the group behind and strolled alone, thinking about things like entropy. Could it be that we’re actually devolving?
I walked into the Persepolis museum and read the translation of a cuneiform tablet reporting the sayings of Xerxes.
He says he doesn’t let hearsay affect his judgment, not until evidence is presented in court.
“What things develop in my anger, I hold firmly under the control of my thinking power. I am firmly ruling over my own impulses,” he tells me from about 2,480 years ago.
This really got to me: “Know that the whispers you hear quietly are the most truthful.”
This priceless tablet, a gift from an age so technically and morally advanced we still don’t fully understand it, sits in a glass box originally designed for displaying store clothes, a museum guard explained.
“This entire museum, from the lighting to the ventilation to the signage, every single thing you see around you, is non-standard. That’s just the way it is.
“And don’t ask me why,” he barks before shuffling off.
Yeah, we’re devolving, and very quickly.
Also published on Medium.