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The Harem or Seraglio

Persepolis Shiraz

This palace is known today as the Harem ("the Inviolable Place”), but no structure in Persepolis has provoked more controversial opinions about its function. Scholars try to decide whether the building indeed housed the royal seraglio, or was an administrative structure, or even whether it provided additional storerooms for the Treasury. Some have suggested that the building accommodated the deputes of the subject nations, claiming that the number of the rooms in the building coincided with the number of the nations represented by the gift-bearers on the Apadana stairs. So far, the theory that the palace was the residence of the royal harem has found the staunchest defenders, despite the fact that the very question of whether or not Achaemenid kings had numerous wives remains unsettled. Although Greek sources speak of the numerous consorts and the even more numerous concubines of the rulers, no Achaemenid document mentions them. Furthermore, if the apartments were occupied by women, it seems odd that no personal item has turned up here during excavations.

Another reason why the building is called Harem is that it was enclosed on all sides by a wall, and could have only been entered through a small door in its southwest corner, near the stairways of the Hadish, Xerxes's private palace. Moreover, as it is laid out in a series of similar blocks, each containing a large hall with four columns and accompanied by one or two service rooms, it has seemed appropriate for housing the king's spouses. The palace is L-shaped, with one side adjacent to the south of the Hadish, and the other wing stretching to the west of the Treasury. This wing was reconstructed by archaeologist Ernst Herzfeld and architect Friedrich Krefter in the 1930s and houses the museum and the administrative sections of the complex.