2,500 year celebration of the Persian Empire

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The Cyrus Cylinder is in the centre of the emblem of the 2,500 Year Celebration Emblem2500Persepolis.jpg
The Cyrus Cylinder is in the centre of the emblem of the 2,500 Year Celebration

The 2,500 year celebration of the Persian Empire (Persian : جشن‌های ۲۵۰۰ سالهٔ شاهنشاهی ایران), officially known as The 2,500th year of Foundation of Imperial State of Iran (Persian : دوهزار و پانصدمین سال بنیانگذاری شاهنشاهی ایران), consisted of an elaborate set of festivities that took place on 12–16 October 1971 to celebrate the anniversary of the founding of the Imperial State of Iran and the Achaemenid Empire by Cyrus the Great. [1] [2] The intent of the celebration was to demonstrate Iran's ancient civilization and history and to showcase its contemporary advances under His Imperial Majesty Mohammad Reza Shah, the last Shah of Iran. [3]

Persian language Western Iranian language

Persian, also known by its endonym Farsi, is a Western Iranian language within the Indo-Iranian branch of the Indo-European language family. It is a pluricentric language primarily spoken in Iran, Afghanistan and Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and some other regions which historically were Persianate societies and considered part of Greater Iran. It is written right to left in the Persian alphabet, a modified variant of the Arabic script.

Pahlavi dynasty Dynasty that ruled Iran from 1925 until 1979

The Pahlavi dynasty was the last ruling house of the Imperial State of Iran from 1925 until 1979, when the Monarchy of Iran was overthrown and abolished as a result of the Iranian Revolution. The dynasty was founded by Reza Shah Pahlavi in 1925, a former brigadier-general of the Persian Cossack Brigade, whose reign lasted until 1941 when he was forced to abdicate by the Allies after the Anglo-Soviet invasion of Iran. He was succeeded by his son, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, the last Shah of Iran.

Achaemenid Empire first Persian Empire founded by Cyrus the Great

The Achaemenid Empire, also called the First Persian Empire, was an ancient Iranian empire based in Western Asia founded by Cyrus the Great. Ranging at its greatest extent from the Balkans and Eastern Europe proper in the west to the Indus Valley in the east, it was larger than any previous empire in history, spanning 5.5 million square kilometers. Incorporating various peoples of different origins and faiths, it is notable for its successful model of a centralised, bureaucratic administration, for building infrastructure such as road systems and a postal system, the use of an official language across its territories, and the development of civil services and a large professional army. The empire's successes inspired similar systems in later empires.


The extravagance of the celebrations was striking. Some later historians came to think that this excess contributed to events that resulted in the Iranian Revolution and eventual replacement of the monarchy with an Islamic Republic under the Grand Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the leader of the revolution. He was supported by a wide range of people, including various Islamist and leftist organizations, [4] and student movements. [5] [6]

Iranian Revolution Revolution in Iran to overthrow the Shah replace him with Ayatollah Khomeini.

The Iranian Revolution, also known as the Islamic Revolution or the 1979 Revolution, was a series of events that involved the overthrow of the last monarch of Iran, Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi, and the replacement of his government with an Islamic republic under the Grand Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, a leader of one of the factions in the revolt. The movement against the United States-backed monarchy was supported by various leftist and Islamist organizations and student movements.

Persian Empire ancient empire, comprising many dynasties

The Persian Empire refers to a series of imperial dynasties that were centred in Persia/Iran from the 6th century BC Achaemenid Empire era to the 20th century AD in the Qajar dynasty era.

Ruhollah Khomeini 20th-century Iranian religious leader and politician

Sayyid Ruhollah Mūsavi Khomeini, also known in the Western world as Ayatollah Khomeini, was an Iranian politician and cleric. He was the founder of the Islamic Republic of Iran and the leader of the 1979 Iranian Revolution, which saw the overthrow of the last Shah of Iran, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, and the end of 2,500 year old Persian monarchy. Following the revolution, Khomeini became the country's Supreme Leader, a position created in the constitution of the Islamic Republic as the highest-ranking political and religious authority of the nation, which he held until his death. He was succeeded by Ali Khamenei on 4 June 1989.

Commemorative Gold Medal for 2500th Anniversary of Foundation of Iranian Emperor. mdl Tly ydbwd sl khwrwsh bzrg.jpg
Commemorative Gold Medal for 2500th Anniversary of Foundation of Iranian Emperor.
2,500 years Medal's ribbon 25th Anniversary Medal 1971.gif
2,500 years Medal's ribbon

Persepolis Medal's ribbon 2500th Anniversary of the Persian Empire Medal 1971.gif
Persepolis Medal's ribbon


2,500 year-celebration of the Persian Empire in Persepolis, October 1971. 2500 year celebration (2).jpg
2,500 year-celebration of the Persian Empire in Persepolis, October 1971.

The planning for the party took a year, according to the 2016 BBC Storyville documentary, Decadence and Downfall: The Shah of Iran's Ultimate Party. The filmmakers interviewed people tasked by the Shah to organize the party. The Cyrus Cylinder served in the official logo as the symbol for the event. With the decision to hold the main event at the ancient city Persepolis near Shiraz, the local infrastructure had to be improved, including the Shiraz International Airport and a highway to Persepolis. While the press and supporting staff would be housed in Shiraz, the main festivities were planned for Persepolis. An elaborate tent city was planned to house attendees. The area around Persepolis was cleared of snakes and other vermin. [7] Trees and flowers were planted, and 50,000 song birds were imported from Europe. [3] Other events were scheduled for Pasargadae, the site of the Tomb of Cyrus, as well as Tehran.

Storyville is a documentary strand presented by the BBC featuring international documentaries.

Cyrus Cylinder ancient cylinder covered with Akkadian cuneiform script

The Cyrus Cylinder or Cyrus Charter is an ancient clay cylinder, now broken into several pieces, on which is written a declaration in Akkadian cuneiform script in the name of Persia's Achaemenid king Cyrus the Great. It dates from the 6th century BC and was discovered in the ruins of Babylon in Mesopotamia in 1879. It is currently in the possession of the British Museum, which sponsored the expedition that discovered the cylinder. It was created and used as a foundation deposit following the Persian conquest of Babylon in 539 BC, when the Neo-Babylonian Empire was invaded by Cyrus and incorporated into his Persian Empire.

Persepolis Ceremonial capital of the Achaemenid Empire

Persepolis was the ceremonial capital of the Achaemenid Empire. It is situated 60 km northeast of the city of Shiraz in Fars Province, Iran. The earliest remains of Persepolis date back to 515 BCE. It exemplifies the Achaemenid style of architecture. UNESCO declared the ruins of Persepolis a World Heritage Site in 1979.

Tent City of Persepolis

Tent City of Persepolis in 1971 Tentcitypersepolis.jpg
Tent City of Persepolis in 1971

The Tent City (also Golden City) was planned by the Parisian interior-design firm of Maison Jansen on 160 acres (0.65 km2). They referred to the meeting between Francis I of France and Henry VIII of England at the Field of the Cloth of Gold in 1520. [7] Fifty 'tents' (prefabricated luxury apartments with traditional Persian tent-cloth surrounds) were arranged in a star pattern around a central fountain. Numerous trees were planted around them in the desert, to recreate how ancient Persepolis would have looked. Each tent was provided with direct telephone and telex connections for attendees to their respective countries. The entire celebration was televised to the world by way of a satellite connection from the site.

Paris Capital city of France

Paris is the capital and most populous city of France, with an area of 105 square kilometres and an official estimated population of 2,140,526 residents as of 1 January 2019. Since the 17th century, Paris has been one of Europe's major centres of finance, diplomacy, commerce, fashion, science, as well as the arts. The City of Paris is the centre and seat of government of the Île-de-France, or Paris Region, which has an estimated official 2019 population of 12,213,364, or about 18 percent of the population of France. The Paris Region had a GDP of €709 billion in 2017. According to the Economist Intelligence Unit Worldwide Cost of Living Survey in 2018, Paris was the second most expensive city in the world, after Singapore, and ahead of Zurich, Hong Kong, Oslo and Geneva. Another source ranked Paris as most expensive, on a par with Singapore and Hong Kong, in 2018. The city is a major railway, highway, and air-transport hub served by two international airports: Paris-Charles de Gaulle and Paris-Orly. Opened in 1900, the city's subway system, the Paris Métro, serves 5.23 million passengers daily, and is the second busiest metro system in Europe after Moscow Metro. Gare du Nord is the 24th busiest railway station in the world, but the first located outside Japan, with 262 million passengers in 2015.

Francis I of France King of France

Francis I was King of France from 1515 until his death in 1547. He was the son of Charles, Count of Angoulême, and Louise of Savoy. He succeeded his cousin and father-in-law Louis XII, who died without a son. Francis was the ninth king from the House of Valois, the second from the Valois-Orléans branch, and the first from the Valois-Orléans-Angoulême branch.

Henry VIII of England 16th-century King of England

Henry VIII was King of England from 1509 until his death in 1547. Henry was the second Tudor monarch, succeeding his father, Henry VII. Henry is best known for his six marriages, in particular his efforts to have his first marriage, to Catherine of Aragon, annulled. His disagreement with the Pope on the question of such an annulment led Henry to initiate the English Reformation, separating the Church of England from papal authority. He appointed himself the Supreme Head of the Church of England and dissolved convents and monasteries, for which he was excommunicated. Henry is also known as "the father of the Royal Navy"; he invested heavily in the Navy, increasing its size greatly from a few to more than 50 ships.

The large Tent of Honor was designed for the reception of the dignitaries. The Banqueting Hall was the largest structure and measured 68 by 24 meters. The tent site was surrounded by gardens of trees and other plants flown in from France and adjacent to the ruins of Persepolis. Catering services were provided by Maxim's de Paris, which closed its restaurant in Paris for almost two weeks to provide for the glittering celebrations. Legendary hotelier Max Blouet came out of retirement to supervise the banquet. Lanvin designed the uniforms of the Imperial Household. 250 red Mercedes-Benz limousines were used to chauffeur guests from the airport and back. Dinnerware was created by Limoges and linen by Porthault.

Jeanne Lanvin French fashion designer

Jeanne-Marie Lanvin was a French haute couture fashion designer. She founded the Lanvin fashion house and the beauty and perfume company Lanvin Parfums.

Mercedes-Benz is a German global automobile marque and a division of Daimler AG. The brand is known for luxury vehicles, buses, coaches, and trucks. The headquarters is in Stuttgart, Baden-Württemberg. The name first appeared in 1926 under Daimler-Benz. In 2018, Mercedes-Benz was the biggest selling premium vehicle brand in the world, having sold 2.31 million passenger cars.

Limousine luxury sedan or saloon car generally driven by a chauffeur

A limousine is a luxury vehicle driven by a chauffeur with a partition between the driver's compartment and the passenger's compartment.

Tent in the Persepolis in 1971. ZeltPersepolis.jpg
Tent in the Persepolis in 1971.


Tomb of Cyrus at Pasargadae, where the festivities started. KyrosCeremonies.jpg
Tomb of Cyrus at Pasargadae, where the festivities started.
Persian Immortals, as portrayed during the celebrations. AchaemenidSoldiers.jpg
Persian Immortals, as portrayed during the celebrations.

The festivities were opened on 12 October 1971, when the Shah and the Shahbanu paid homage to Cyrus the Great at his mausoleum at Pasargadae. For the next two days, the Shah and his wife greeted arriving guests, often directly at the Shiraz airport. On 14 October, a grand gala dinner took place in the Banqueting Hall in celebration of the birthday of the Shahbanu. Sixty members of royal families and heads of state were assembled at the single large serpentine table in the Banqueting Hall. The official toast was raised with a Dom Perignon Rosé 1959.


Shahbanu was the title for queen consort in Persian and other Iranian languages. The two Sassanian empresses regnant, Purandokht and Azarmidokht, c. 630, were the last two that carried the title before Farah Pahlavi, the wife of Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, the last Shah of Iran, assumed the title on being crowned queen in 1967 for the first time since the Arab conquest of Iran in the 7th century.

A mausoleum is an external free-standing building constructed as a monument enclosing the interment space or burial chamber of a deceased person or people. A monument without the interment is a cenotaph. A mausoleum may be considered a type of tomb, or the tomb may be considered to be within the mausoleum.

The food and the wine for the celebration were provided by the Parisian restaurant Maxim's. [8]

Six hundred guests dined over five and a half hours thus making for the longest and most lavish official banquet in modern history as recorded in successive editions of the Guinness Book of World Records. A son et lumière show, the Polytope of Persepolis designed by Iannis Xenakis and accompanied by the specially-commissioned electronic music piece Persepolis [9] concluded the evening. The next day saw a parade of armies of different Iranian empires covering two and half millennia by 1,724 men of the Iranian armed forces, all in period costume. In the evening, a less formal "traditional Persian party" was held in the Banqueting Hall as the concluding event at Persepolis. [10]

On the final day, the Shah inaugurated the Shahyad Tower (later renamed the Azadi Tower after the Iranian Revolution) in Tehran to commemorate the event. The tower was also home to the Museum of Persian History. In it was displayed the Cyrus Cylinder, which the Shah promoted as "the first human rights charter in history". [11] [12] The cylinder was also the official symbol of the celebrations, and the Shah's first speech at Cyrus' tomb praised the freedom that it had proclaimed, two and a half millennia previously. The festivities were concluded with the Shah paying homage to his father, Reza Shah Pahlavi, at his mausoleum. [10]

The event brought together the rulers of two of the three oldest extant monarchies, the Shah and Emperor Haile Selassie I of Ethiopia. Emperor Shōwa of Japan was represented by his youngest brother, Prince Mikasa. By the end of the decade, both the Ethiopian and Iranian monarchies had ceased to exist.

Commemorative set of gold and silver coins for Iranian Empire; Minted in Canada Commemorative set of coins minted for 2500th anniversary of Iranian Monarchy.jpg
Commemorative set of gold and silver coins for Iranian Empire; Minted in Canada


Security was a major concern. Persepolis was a favoured site for the festivities as it was isolated and thus could be tightly guarded, a very important consideration when many of the world's leaders were gathered there. Iran's security services, SAVAK, captured and took into "preventive custody" anyone that it suspected to be a potential threat.


Criticism was voiced in the Western press and by Muslim clerics such as Khomeini and his followers; Khomeini called it the "Devil's Festival". [7] The Ministry of the Court placed the cost at $17 million (at that time); Ansari, one of the organizers, puts it at $22 million (at that time). [7] The actual figure is difficult to calculate exactly and is a partisan issue.

List of guests

Commemorative silver coin from a set of 9 gold and silver coins, minted on the occasion of the celebrations Iran-pasargad-2500-annivers.jpg
Commemorative silver coin from a set of 9 gold and silver coins, minted on the occasion of the celebrations

Queen Elizabeth II had been advised not to attend, with security being an issue. [7] The Duke of Edinburgh and Princess Anne represented her instead. [13] Other major leaders who did not attend were Richard Nixon and Georges Pompidou. Nixon had initially planned to attend but later changed his mind and sent Spiro Agnew instead. [7]

Some materials [14] say that the attendee of China was Guo Moruo; According to his daughter, Guo was originally planned to attend, but he fell ill on the way arriving and then-Chinese Ambassador to Pakistan Zhang Tong attended instead. [15]

Some of the guests who were invited include:

Royalty and viceroys

Emperor Haile Selassie [13] Flag of Ethiopia (1897-1936; 1941-1974).svg  Ethiopia
King Frederick IX Flag of Denmark.svg  Denmark
Queen Ingrid
King Baudouin Flag of Belgium (civil).svg  Belgium
Queen Fabiola
King Hussein Flag of Jordan.svg  Jordan
Princess Muna
King Mahendra Flag of Nepal.svg    Nepal
Queen Ratna
King Olav V Flag of Norway.svg  Norway
Emir Sheikh Isa bin Salman Al Khalifa Flag of Bahrain.svg  Bahrain
Emir Sheikh Ahmad bin Ali Al Thani Flag of Qatar.svg  Qatar
Emir Sheikh Sabah III Al-Salim Al-Sabah Flag of Kuwait.svg  Kuwait
King Konstantínos II Flag of Greece (1970-1975).svg  Greece
Queen Anne-Marie
Sultan Qaboos bin Said al Said Flag of Oman.svg  Oman
Musahiban Abdul Wali Khan Flag of Afghanistan (1931-1973).svg  Afghanistan
Princess Bilqis Begum
King Moshoeshoe II Flag of Lesotho (1966-1987).svg  Lesotho
Yang di-Pertuan Agong Tunku Abdul Halim Flag of Malaysia.svg  Malaysia
Raja Permaisuri Agong Bahiyah
President Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan Flag of the United Arab Emirates.svg  United Arab Emirates
Prince Franz Josef II Flag of Liechtenstein.svg  Liechtenstein
Princess Georgina von Wilczek
Prince Rainier III Flag of Monaco.svg  Monaco
Princess Grace Kelly
Grand Duke Jean Flag of Luxembourg.svg  Luxembourg
Grand Duchess Josephine Charlotte
Prince Bernhard von Lippe-Biesterfeld Flag of the Netherlands.svg  Netherlands
Prince Philip Flag of the United Kingdom.svg  United Kingdom
Princess Anne
Prince Aga Khan IV Flag of France.svg  France
Princess Begum Om Habibeh Aga Khan
Crown Prince Carl Gustaf Flag of Sweden.svg  Sweden
Prince Juan Carlos Flag of Spain (1945-1977).svg  Spain
Princess Sofia
Prince Victor Emmanuel Flag of Italy.svg  Italy
Princess Marina
Prince Takahito Mikasa Flag of Japan.svg  Japan
Princess Yuriko Mikasa
Prince Bhanubandhu Yugala Flag of Thailand.svg  Thailand
Prince Moulay Abdallah Flag of Morocco.svg  Morocco
Princess Lamia
Governor General Roland Michener Flag of Canada (Pantone).svg  Canada
Governor-General Sir Paul Hasluck Flag of Australia (converted).svg  Australia

Presidents, Prime Ministers and others

President Josip Broz Tito Flag of Yugoslavia (1946-1992).svg  Yugoslavia
First Lady Jovanka Broz
Chairman of the Presidium Nikolai Podgorny Flag of the Soviet Union.svg  Soviet Union
President Franz Jonas Flag of Austria.svg  Austria
President Todor Zhivkov Flag of Bulgaria (1971-1990).svg  Bulgaria
President Emílio Garrastazu Médici Flag of Brazil (1968-1992).svg  Brazil
President Urho Kekkonen Flag of Finland.svg  Finland
President Cevdet Sunay Flag of Turkey.svg  Turkey
President Pál Losonczi Flag of Hungary.svg  Hungary
President Suharto Flag of Indonesia.svg  Indonesia
President Ludvík Svoboda Flag of the Czech Republic.svg  Czechoslovakia
President Yahya Khan Flag of Pakistan.svg  Pakistan
President Suleiman Franjieh Flag of Lebanon.svg  Lebanon
President Jacobus Johannes Fouché Flag of South Africa (1928-1994).svg  South Africa
President Leopold Sedar Senghor Flag of Senegal.svg  Senegal
President V. V. Giri Flag of India.svg  India
President Moktar Ould Daddah Flag of Mauritania (1959-2017).svg  Mauritania
President Hubert Maga Flag of Benin.svg  Dahomey
President (Conducător) Nicolae Ceauşescu Flag of Romania (1965-1989).svg  Romania [13]
First Lady and Deputy Prime Minister Elena Ceaușescu
President Mobutu Sese Seko Flag of Zaire.svg  Zaire
President Rudolf Gnägi Flag of Switzerland.svg   Switzerland
Prime Minister Jacques Chaban-Delmas Flag of France.svg  France
Prime Minister Kim Jong-pil Flag of South Korea (1949-1984).svg  South Korea
Prime Minister Emilio Colombo Flag of Italy.svg  Italy
Prime Minister Prince Makhosini Flag of Eswatini.svg  Swaziland
Vice President Mieczysław Klimaszewski Flag of Poland.svg  Poland
Vice President Spiro Agnew Flag of the United States.svg  United States
Chinese Ambassador to Pakistan Zhang Tong Flag of the People's Republic of China.svg  China
President of the Bundestag Kai-Uwe von Hassel Flag of Germany.svg  Germany
Foreign Minister Rui Patrício Flag of Portugal.svg  Portugal
First Lady Imelda Marcos Flag of the Philippines (navy blue).svg  Philippines
Cardinal Maximilien de Fürstenberg Flag of the Vatican City.svg  Holy See


Iran's National Film Board produced a documentary of the celebrations, titled Forugh-e Javidan (Persian: فروغ جاویدان) in Persian and Flames of Persia in English. Farrokh Golestan directed, and Orson Welles who had said of the event "This was no party of the year, it was the celebration of 25 centuries!" [7] agreed to narrate the English text, written by Macdonald Hastings, in return for the Shah's brother-in-law funding Welles' own film, The Other Side of the Wind . [16] [17] The film was aimed at a western audience. [18] Despite a requirement to show the film in 60 cinemas in Tehran, its "overheated rhetoric" and popular resentment at the extravagance of the event meant it did poorly at the domestic box office. [19]


Persepolis tent city ruins in 2007. Persepolistent2007.jpg
Persepolis tent city ruins in 2007.

Persepolis remains a major tourist attraction in Iran and apparently there are suggestions to rehabilitate the archeological site as it is a proclamation of Iranian history. [13] In 2005, it was visited by nearly 35,000 people during the Iranian new year holiday. [13]

The tent city remained operating until 1979 for private and government rent, when it was looted after the Iranian Revolution and the departure of Shah. The iron rods for the tents and roads built for the festival area still remain and are open to the public, but there are no markers making any reference to what they were originally for. [20] The dedicated Shahyad Tower remains as a major landmark in Tehran, although it was renamed Azadi Tower in 1979.

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