2,500 year celebration of the Persian Empire

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]

Some later historians came to think that this excess contributed to events that resulted in the Iranian Revolution and eventual replacement of the Persian monarchy with an Islamic Republic under the Grand Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the leader of the revolution, who was supported by a wide range of people, including various leftist and Islamist organizations,[4] and student movements - most of whom would come to regret that support in the ensuing years after Khomeini began his post-revolution crackdown on political opponents.[5][6]


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.

Tent City of PersepolisEdit

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.

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.

Tent in the Persepolis in 1971.


Tomb of Cyrus at Pasargadae, where the festivities started.
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.

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


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 guestsEdit

Commemorative silver coin from a set of 9 gold and silver coins, minted on the occasion of the celebrations
Overse of the Medal for the 2500 anniversary of the Persian Empire
Reverse of the Medal for the 2500 anniversary of the Persian Empire

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 viceroysEdit

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

Presidents, Prime Ministers and othersEdit

Title Guest Country
President Josip Broz Tito   Yugoslavia
First Lady Jovanka Broz
Chairman of the Presidium Nikolai Podgorny   Soviet Union
President Franz Jonas   Austria
President Todor Zhivkov   Bulgaria
President Emílio Garrastazu Médici   Brazil
President Urho Kekkonen   Finland
President Cevdet Sunay   Turkey
President Pál Losonczi   Hungary
President Suharto   Indonesia
President Ludvík Svoboda   Czechoslovakia
President Yahya Khan   Pakistan
President Suleiman Franjieh   Lebanon
President Jacobus Johannes Fouché   South Africa
President Leopold Sedar Senghor   Senegal
President V. V. Giri   India
President Moktar Ould Daddah   Mauritania
President Hubert Maga   Dahomey
President (Conducător) Nicolae Ceauşescu   Romania[13]
First Lady and Deputy Prime Minister Elena Ceaușescu
President Mobutu Sese Seko   Zaire
President Rudolf Gnägi    Switzerland
Prime Minister Jacques Chaban-Delmas   France
Prime Minister Kim Jong-pil   South Korea
Prime Minister Emilio Colombo   Italy
Prime Minister Prince Makhosini   Swaziland
Deputy Chairman of the Council Of State Mieczysław Klimaszewski   Poland
Vice President Spiro Agnew   United States
Chinese Ambassador to Pakistan Zhang Tong   China
President of the Bundestag Kai-Uwe von Hassel   Germany
Foreign Minister Rui Patrício   Portugal
First Lady Imelda Marcos   Philippines
Cardinal Maximilien de Fürstenberg    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.

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 the 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.


  1. ^ Amuzegar, The Dynamics of the Iranian Revolution, (1991), pp. 4, 9–12
  2. ^ Narrative of Awakening : A Look at Imam Khomeini's Ideal, Scientific and Political Biography from Birth to Ascension by Hamid Ansari, Institute for Compilation and Publication of the Works of Imam Khomeini, International Affairs Division, [no date], p. 163
  3. ^ a b Nina Adler (14 February 2017). "Als der Schah zur größten Party auf Erden lud" (in German). Der Spiegel. Retrieved 14 February 2017.
  4. ^ Jubin M. GOODARZİ (8 February 2013). "Syria and Iran: Alliance Cooperation in a Changing Regional Environment" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 20 October 2013. Retrieved 18 October 2014.
  5. ^ 1948-, Wright, Robin B. (2000). The last great revolution : turmoil and transformation in Iran (1st ed.). New York: A.A. Knopf. ISBN 0375406395. OCLC 41940097.
  6. ^ 1940-, Abrahamian, Ervand (1982). Iran between two revolutions. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press. ISBN 069100790X. OCLC 7975938.
  7. ^ a b c d e f g Kadivar C (25 January 2002). "We are awake. 2,500-year celebrations revisited". Retrieved 23 October 2006.
  8. ^ Van Kemenade, Willem (November 2009). "Iran's relations with China and the West" (PDF). Clingendael. Retrieved 9 August 2013.
  9. ^ Karkowski, Z.; Harley, J.; Szymanksi, F.; Gable, B. (2002). "Liner Notes". Iannis Xenakis: Persepolis + Remixes. San Francisco: Asphodel LTD.
  10. ^ a b "The Persepolis Celebrations". Retrieved 23 October 2006.
  11. ^ British Museum explanatory notes, "Cyrus Cylinder": "For almost 100 years the cylinder was regarded as ancient Mesopotamian propaganda. This changed in 1971 when the Shah of Iran used it as a central image in his own propaganda celebrating 2500 years of Iranian monarchy. In Iran, the cylinder has appeared on coins, banknotes and stamps. Despite being a Babylonian document it has become part of Iran's cultural identity."
  12. ^ Neil MacGregor, "The whole world in our hands", in Art and Cultural Heritage: Law, Policy, and Practice, p. 383–4, ed. Barbara T. Hoffman. Cambridge University Press, 2006. ISBN 0-521-85764-3
  13. ^ a b c d e Tait, Robert (22 September 2005). "Iran to rebuild spectacular tent city at Persepolis". The Guardian. Persepolis. Retrieved 8 August 2013.
  14. ^ [1], spelt as "Kuo Mo-jo"
  15. ^ 庶英, 郭 (24 August 2004). "忆父亲郭沫若". Guangming Online.
  16. ^ Naficy, Hamid (16 December 2003). "Iranian Cinema". In Oliver Leaman (ed.). Companion Encyclopedia of Middle Eastern and North African Film. Routledge. p. 140. ISBN 9781134662524. Retrieved 15 February 2016.
  17. ^ Welles, Orson (1998). This is Orson Welles. Perseus Books Group. p. xxvii. ISBN 9780306808340.
  18. ^ Watson, James A.F. (March 2015). "Stop, look, and listen: orientalism, modernity, and the Shah's quest for the West's imagination" (PDF). The UBC Journal of Political Studies. Vancouver: Department of Political Science at the University of British Columbia. 17: 22–36: 26–28. Archived from the original (PDF) on 22 February 2016. Retrieved 15 February 2016.
  19. ^ Naficy, Hamid (16 September 2011). A Social History of Iranian Cinema, Volume 2: The Industrializing Years, 1941–1978. Duke University Press. p. 139. ISBN 9780822347743. Retrieved 15 February 2016.
  20. ^ Iran Daily (23 June 2007). "Team Named For Renovating Persepolis". Archived from the original on 2 July 2007. Retrieved 9 March 2008.

External linksEdit