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Persian Garden

Persian Garden as a Symbol of Paradise

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19th Century Persian Garden at Bagh-e Eram in Shiraz Iran

19th Century Persian Garden at Bagh-e Eram in Shiraz Iran

dynamosquito Cyrus the Great's Palace at Pasargadae

Cyrus the Great's Palace at Pasargadae

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The Persian garden at Pasargadae was a large, formal garden with stone water channels and orchards. Built during the reign of the Achaemenid dynasty Persian empire king Cyrus the Great (~550-530 BC), Pasargadae's garden is the earliest built garden for which we have evidence. Its location and layout—a lush walled garden in an arid countryside—is believed to represent the Islamic and Judeo-Christian ideals of paradise on earth.

Contents of a Persian Garden

Archaeological evidence—the gardens were excavated by David Stronach in the 1970s—suggests that Pasargadae's palaces were structured to provide private access to the gardens. Pavilions, channels, orchards, pools, terraces, walkways and an enclosing wall (called pairadaeza) characterized the garden, which was laid out symetrically in a four-part system. The fourfold garden is thought to have symbolized the Achmaenid universe of four quarters divided by four rivers: a central pool in the garden led off in channels in four separate directions.

Historical reports of the period describe Persian gardens in several Achmaenid dynasty capitals, including Persepolis and Susa in Iran; Sardis in Lydia (now Turkey), Celaenae in Phyrgia and Belesys in Syria. The gardens were described as including a wide array of exotic animals, and exotic plants used for medicines and perfumes, including tamarisk, oleander, roses and violets.

Pasargadae and Paradise

Other Mediterranean cultures in contact with the Achmaenids adopted the garden notion. The Pasargadae Garden and similar gardens in other Achmaenid dynasty cities are believed to be the model for the gardens of paradise in both Islamic and Judeo-Christian belief systems. The word for the enclosure—pairadaeza—is the basis for our word 'paradise', and the gardens are believed to have been the pattern for the celestial garden described in the Koran, and the model for the Biblical Garden of Eden.

Sources

This glossary entry is a part of the About.com Guide to Persian Empire and part of the Dictionary of Archaeology.

Bedal, Leigh-Ann. 1998. The Petra Pool Complex: A Hellenistic Paradeisos in the Nabataean Capital. Near Eastern Studies Volume 5, Gorgios Press, Piscataway, New Jersey.

Conan, Michel (editor). 2007. Middle East Garden Traditions: Unity and Diversity. Dumbarton Oaks Colloquium on the History of Landscape Architecture, Volume 31. Dumbarton Oaks, Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Hobhouse, Penelope. 2004. Gardens of Persia. Kales Press, San Diego.

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