Darius Palace in Persepolis
The parade of nations at Darius Palace in Persepolis is probably one of the most outstanding monuments that depict the accomplishment of the Achaemenid Empire. The structure is astounding when we consider the time Darius constructed it. It required extensive labor force to construct the building. Nonetheless, the extensive empire could not fall short of labor. From Ethiopia to Armenia, the king conquered many nations implying that labor was not a problem for the empire. What stands out in the palace is the artistic work used to decorate the structure. The carvings were precise and they fit into the building perfectly. By constructing such a palace therefore, the Achaemenid Empire had gifted artists and painters whose work did not disappoint.
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Away from the impeccable works of art that characterize the palace, the palace also reveals the cultural and political aspects of the empire. First, it is apparent that different people and nations presented the king with diverse gifts. The conquered nations repeated the ritual every year. At the beginning of every spring, all nations presented the king with distinctive gifts from their respective countries.
This is in lieu of the fact that the empire had nations and people who came from different areas that are endowed with different resources. For instance, the palace depicts people of Caspian Sea with magnificent Bactrian camels. They bring cups as gifts to the king. To the contrary, people from poor nations offer low cost gifts to the king including animal skins and rams. This example explains the diversity of the empire and cultures of different people.
Politically, the depiction of Persian soldiers with chariots and different headdresses confirm the political authority of the king. Despite the ability of the other empires to revolt against the king, they humbly present the king with horses and wear distinctive dresses. As such, it is important to highlight that the king wielded overwhelming powers and authority. With this kind of power, the Persian ruler was able to consolidate his rule and solicit loyalty from all people within the empire.
The space that all people in the portraits occupy amazes me. The reason is that all animals share equal space. This is similar to the people depicted in the portraits. The palace shows that all people had equal status as long as they were under the rule of the king. As such, no country within the empire could presuppose to have a higher social status since they all served as the subjects of the ruler. This is despite their economic and political distinctiveness. This leadership quality of Darius helped him to pacify any tensions between nations and people. The parade therefore acted as a symbol of unity for the entire empire given that all nations assembled in the palace regardless of their geographical locations and economic status.
To this end, I suppose that Darius was an astute leader whose leadership skills allowed him to unite people of all nations within his empire. His love for art is apparent in the way various paintings, carvings and decorations are portrayed in the palace. At the time of the construction, the Persian Empire had acquired overwhelming authority over its subjects. Although the subjects may have provided labor for the construction of the palace, it is clear that many of them were proud of the empire. The act of presenting gifts to the king was a unifying factor for the entire empire.
Zubaydah’s road that stretched from Kufa to Mecca was an important route that Muslim pilgrims used in the ancient period. Although it was built using lava and sand, the road reflects one of the historical routes from Iran to Mecca. Apparently, the construction of the road depicts the lack of advanced technology to build such routes at that time. The locals used the available resources to smoothen their journey to Mecca.
At the time, many poor Muslims within the region could not afford camels to Saudi Arabia for the pilgrimage. The road therefore demonstrates the level of poverty and lack of efficient transport systems in the area during the ancient era. I suppose that the Hajj festival is the most important activity in Islamic calendar. The rationale is that many poor people could endure the hardships of the journey including sharp lava stones that hurt their feet on their way to Mecca.
The construction of Zubaydah’s road came at a time when many Muslims had expressed challenges during their annual pilgrimage journey. Its main objective was to alleviate the hardships that poor people encountered during the trip. Apparently, they travelled for over a 1000 kilometers to reach Mecca. As such, there was the need to build stations where they could rest along the way. Zubaydah made over 54 rest places. In the rest places, the work of art and culture of the pilgrims was obvious. The drawings and paintings of nimbus depicted royalty of the Iranians. The decorated carpet is an illustration of work of art of the area.
The presence of camels in the compounds shows that they were the most common modes of transport in the Arabic countries. I tend to think that people who held camels were relatively affluent when compared to the rest of the society. The rest place shows all men wearing hats decorated with nimbus. Nimbus was a symbol of royalty. This implies that the men that the image shows could afford camels and were wealthy.
It is astonishing that the rest places were meant for the poor who had no camels yet the decorations direct us to the contrary. Besides, the rest place indicates that it might have served as a shrine for the pilgrims. This insinuates that a prominent teacher of Islam may have been buried inside the rest place (shrine). Considering the position that an Islamic teacher held within the religion’s hierarchy, the shrine could have been a place reserved for a handful of the pilgrims. Among the 54 rest places built by Zubaydah, some were specifically designed for specific groups of people who might have occupied different socio-economic classes. As such, it is probable that the poor pilgrims had their own specific rest places.
My view is that the road assisted the pilgrims to reach Mecca in a more comfortable way than before. However, it brought about unprecedented social and economic disparities. This implies that not all people could utilize the 54 facilities provided along the way. That notwithstanding, the road is one of the greatest routes in the history of Islamic world and it remains to be a religious route. Due to the advancements in transport systems all over the world, the road has lost its relevance and importance in the modern era.
The siege of Constantinople
The siege of Constantinople in 1453 changed the world’s political arena. Bertrandon’s manuscripts of the siege demonstrate the vulnerability of the Byzantines to the Ottomans during the reign of Murad II. The picture provides an illustration of the technology that ancient armies used to extend their territorial supremacy. Bertrandon’s voyage to the Islamic world could have provided insights to the Byzantines and their allies. Apparently, Ottomans were superior to the French. Having travelled in 1433, he came with tales that could have helped the Byzantines to resist the siege. According to him, the Ottomans had strong soldiers who could travel for long distances with little food. Besides, they possessed many ships and boats that the Byzantines and their allies could not match.
I presume that the siege could have been prevented if the Byzantines had heeded to the advice given by Bertrandon. He was acting as a spy for the French but they did not implement his recommendations. The ability of the Ottomans to provide their soldiers with light armors was a critical element that made them even stronger. It is important to highlight that the Byzantines were acting as though they were mere onlookers who had no persuasion to fight off the advances of the Ottomans. Bertrandon depicts Constantinople as vulnerable to attacks. This did not worry the Byzantines mainly because it took almost two decades before the Ottomans initiated the siege. This complacency allowed the Ottomans to prepare their attack in a calculated way.
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Another aspect that is clear during the siege is the organization and bureaucracy of the Ottoman Empire. To speak to the ruler, a person had to go through four deputies assigned to the ruler. In addition, the Ottoman ruler had four other people who assisted him in making crucial decisions especially those that regarded the siege. In Adrianople, the bureaucracy of the Ottomans astonished Bertrandon. He compares the bureaucracy with that of Byzantines and finds substantial differences and weaknesses in the latter.
The superior chain of command of the Ottomans played a crucial role in the successful siege of Constantinople. Coupled with the ability to utilize technology to construct a bridge near the city, the Ottomans were undoubtedly superior when we compare them to their counterparts. The Ottomans had better engineers who used their resources efficiently. This allowed them to endure the siege incurring only an insignificant number of casualties. Clearly, the Ottomans also possessed the art of making weapons that were more powerful than the weapons held by the French.
The siege however did not stop the daily life of the city. Bertrandon’s depiction of a fishmonger during the period of the siege shows the level of calmness that prevailed within the city. I tend to think that the people of Constantinople were largely unaware of the actual effect of the siege. Besides, the Byzantines seem to have accepted defeat even before they had started the fight with the Ottomans. To this end, the siege of Constantinople could have been impossible if the Byzantines had been well prepared.
They should have begun with an offensive attack as opposed to the defensive response they portrayed. The voyage of Outremer had the objective of gathering information on ways the Byzantines could outdo the Ottomans. This was way before they prepared for the siege. I suppose therefore that the voyage of Outremer did not accomplish its objectives.