This relief of a lion battling a bull is seen at the ancient throne room of Darius in his palace at Persepolis, the seat of his vast Achaemenid Empire. The lion is seen in Persepolis as the symbol of absolute power and heroic triumph. The bull is also a symbol of power in ancient Persia and is seen throughout Persepolis on top of columns and guarding gates. The magnificent palace complex at Persepolis was founded by Darius the Great around 518 BC., although more than a century passed before it was finally completed. Persepolis was called by the Greek historian Diodorus Siculus “the richest city under the sun, with storehouses filled with gold, silver, and all kinds of riches.” When Alexander the Great and his army looted and burned Persepolis in 331 B.C. they did a very thorough job. According to the Greek historian Plutarch Alexander carried away the treasures of Persepolis on “20,000 mules and 5,000 camels.” The Persepolis Lion and Bull Combat is important in the study of Biblical Archaeology and the Persian Period.
“And Ahuramazda was of such a mind, together with all the other gods, that this fortress be built, and then I built it, and I built it secure and beautiful and adequate, just as I was intending to.” – Darius Inscription
“The Levites in the days of Eliashib, Joiada, and Johanan, and Jaddua, were recorded chief of the fathers: also the priests, to the reign of Darius the Persian.” Nehemiah 12:22
Oriental Institute Excerpt
ANCIENT IRAN: Persepolis – Palace of Darius, Facade of W Stairway, Panel with Lion-Bull Combat at S End.
Twelve columns supported the roof of the central hall from which three small stairways descend. Reliefs on these stairways depict servants coming up the steps carrying animals and food in covered dishes to be served at the king’s tables. On the eastern and western doorjambs are reliefs showing the king in formal dress leaving the palace, followed by two attendants; reliefs on the northern and southern doorways depict the king in combat with monsters.