Shibboleth: A Templar Monitor, by George Cooper Connor, , at sacred-texts.com
Persepolis.This was the chief city, or capital, of the Persian kingdom proper. Alexander destroyed it, and Darius Hystaspes is supposed to have founded it. To-day its ruins stand in the valley of Schiraz, the wonder of the world. These ruins are an immense platform, fifty feet above the plain, hewn partly out of the mountain itself, the remainder built of marble blocks from twenty to sixty feet in length, so nicely fitted together that the joints are scarcely discernible to-day. This platform is fourteen hundred feet long, and nine hundred feet wide, and faces the four quarters of the world. The ascent from the plain is made by marble steps, passing colossal figures, until you reach the gigantic columns, with their beautiful capitals, twelve to fifteen feet in circumference, and fifty feet high, which supported the cedar roof that protected the residents from the hot sun. And there you see rows of carved images, men of every nation and clime.
This was the palace of Darius. To this palace Ahasuerus may have brought his fair Jewish wife, Esther, from Tusa, and from there had her conducted to the other palace still farther up the mountain, which the drunken Alexander burned B. C. 330.
Susa, or Shushan.So named because of the lilies that abounded in the valley. In Daniel's time it was in possession of the Babylonians, but when Cyrus conquered Babylon he transferred it to Persia.
It was from this city of Shushan that Darius issued his decree for the rebuilding of Jerusalem, and its Temple, it being the winter residence of Darius, and of all the Persian kings after Cyrus. In gratitude for this decree the Jews called the eastern gate of the Second Temple the Gate of Shushan. It is said that a resemblance of the city of Shushan was engraved upon that gate.
Ecbatana.This was a city of the Medes, a beautiful place, and after the union of the Medes and Persians became a favorite summer residence of the Persian monarchs.
In this city is shown to-day the tombs of Mordecai and Esther, but why they should have been interred in that city is a mystery.
It was in Ecbatana that Cyrus held his capital, and in its archives, therefore, was found the roll which proved to Darius that Cyrus had made a decree allowing the Jews to rebuild the Temple.
It is held by many that it was in this city of Ecbatana that Zoroaster made his first appearance.
Up to the seizure of the throne by Smerdis the Magian religion was dominant among the Medes and Persians. That religion abominated the worship of images, as Judaism did, and worshiped the One God only by fire. This religion fell into disgrace when its chief, Smerdis, was driven from the throne with such awful slaughter. Darius was a Magian at that time, and for some time afterwards.
Sabianism was idolatry, the opposite of Magianism, but it gained favor on the disgrace of the Magians. This religion consisted chiefly in the worship of the host of heaven,hence the name from tsaba, host,and the worship of the planets. In his later life this religion became so powerful that Darius gave it his adherence.