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Written by Yotam Ponte

Persia’s ancient empire was the epitome of power. In its golden age from 522 to 486 BC, under the rule of emperor Darius the Great, Persia ruled everywhere from the Indus river to Greece and had a huge influence over everywhere they ruled. In the center of this great empire was the capital city, Persepolis. After the Arab invasion in the 600s, Persepolis was left in ruins and today, Persia is known as Iran. In the graphic novel Persepolis, the author, Marjane Satrapi, never clarifies why she named the novel after this ancient city. However, an assumption can be made that the title is connected to the Arab invasion of Persia, how the destruction of this great city symbolizes the state of her country, and how it illustrates her desire for her country to be as powerful as it once was.   

A possible reason why Satrapi decided to name her novel after Persepolis the city is how the ruins of Persepolis symbolize the current state of her country. In Iran’s more recent history, there have been a series of Shahs which many people detested, that have ruled and taken control over the country. Because of this, an Islamic regime was able to take control during the Islamic revolution. The Arab invasion which had happened 1400 years before, also represents what was happening in Iran then. When Marjane said “The Arabs never liked the Persians. Everyone knows that. They attacked us 1400 years ago. They forced their religion on us,” her dad replied with “Ok enough of that. the real Islamic invasion has come from our own government” (81). The Islamic revolution was a religious revolution which forced Iranians to behave according to the Islamic law, and forced religion onto the people and resulted in the social destruction of a nation. The Arab invasion also forced religion onto the people of Persia and resulted in the destruction of Persepolis. Not everyone agreed with the Islamic regime and this left the country divided. “We found ourselves separated from our friends. And that was that… Everywhere in the streets there were demonstrations for and against the veil.” (4-5). This demonstrates the chaotic situation in Iran because everyone was disagreeing with each other and this affected the strength of the country negatively. Because of these circumstances, it seems as if Satrapi relates this to the ruins of Persepolis which once stood tall and were beautiful and are now destroyed. Iran was once a country that functioned well as a unit but is now in ruins.

A second reason for how Satrapi named her novel would probably be because she yearns for a country that is strong and powerful just like Iran was in its ancient days. In the novel, it is evident that Marjane’s parents raised her to have a strong pride in Iran. However, Marjane struggles to find her sense of nationalism for Iran because she felt angry at the Islamic Republic for being oppressive which caused her to feel bitter towards her country. During the revolution in the novel, Marjane and her family turned on their television to find their national anthem playing. “Suddenly, I heard the Iranian national anthem coming from our TV. Our star spangled banner. It had been forbidden and replaced by the government’s new Islamic hymn. It had been more than a year since we heard it. We were overwhelmed…” (Satrapi, 83). When her country was in a bad situation, Marjane had started to lose pride in her country but when the old national anthem played, it reminded Marjane and her family of older days when there was not as much turmoil in Iran and it was a more stable country. Through this movement, Marjane found her sense of nationalism which is what is symbolized by the ancient Persian empire and specifically Persepolis as a result of its strength.

There are multiple reasons for why Satrapi decided to name her novel Persepolis such as a reference to old national pride that she hopes to regain, a reference to the old Arab invasion, and an association between what is left of Persepolis and what is left of her country. When everyone was arguing and demonstrating it showed the social separation of the country, the old Arab invasion directly symbolized the country’s current status, and when reminded of her country’s old national anthem, Marjane regained her pride in Iran as it was in the past. These examples demonstrate the similarities between Marjane’s story and the ancient capital Persepolis.

Works Cited Edit

"Ancient Persia." Ancient History Encyclopedia. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Dec. 2014. <http://www.ancient.eu/Persia/>.