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In 518 BC the Persian emperor Darius I orders work to begin on a spectactular new palace complex. It is to be an unmistakable statement of the wealth and breadth of his new empire.

The most famous feature of Persepolis, surviving today, is the great staircase up to the throne room. It is flanked with reliefs depicting the envoys from far afield who bring their tribute to the great king - just as real envoys did, up these very steps, at each year's spring festival.

Subsequent emperors continue to build at Persepolis. The great showpiece of the Achaemenid empire lasts two centuries. Then Alexander the Great arrives, in 330 BC. He and his army destroy as much of the palace as will burn (the huge halls have wooden roofs). They do so in a deliberate act, symbolising the triumph at last of Greek over Persian - the end of a quarrel of two centuries begun by Darius, the builder of Persepolis.

But even as a ruin, this place remains one of the marvels of the world.

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