Painting of the second Peacock Throne from the Red Fort in Delhi, India. (1850) The first Peacock Throne was taken as a war trophy by the Persian King Nader Shah in 1739 and has been lost ever since.

Thrones of Gods and Kings: Symbols of Power through History

(Read the article on one page)

The Iron Throne from the Game of Thrones is perhaps one of the most iconic objects in 21st century pop culture. The concept of the throne, as many already know, has been in existence for a much longer period of time. The origins of this symbol of power and some famous historical thrones will be examined in this article.

The Origins of a Powerful Symbol

Etymologically speaking, this word has its origins in the Greek language. ‘Thronos’ means an “elevated seat or chair,” and was transmitted into the English language via Latin and Old French. As an ‘elevated chair,’ the throne is commonly understood to be the seat occupied by a reigning monarch. In metonymy (when a word is called by another word associated with it), the word ‘throne’ has also taken on the meaning of the monarchy or the Crown itself.

In the beginning, thrones were associated with the gods. But it did not take long for humans to decide the status symbol of a throne was also an appropriate choice for the highest ranking officials of politics and religion. To “elevate” the rulers from the commoners became a theme and thrones took on more elaborate styles as time passed. Usually the key was to make the throne so magnificent that in itself it became a symbol of power.

The Babylonian sun god Shamash sits on his throne while meeting with a king and two deities.

The Babylonian sun god Shamash sits on his throne while meeting with a king and two deities. (9th Century BC). British Library room 55. ( Prioryman/Wikimedia Commons )

However, this is not necessarily true for all thrones. It has also been argued by many scholars that thrones are not only a symbol of authority, but also a unifying object for the nation or people. The idea being that the nation/people and their monarch/ruler as well as their predecessors are all connected. In this case, the throne takes on a particular ideological or philosophical role through the use of materials chosen and decoration, etc. Following this idea, the throne becomes important for the whole land it belongs to.

The Throne of the Achaemenid Kings: Blow the King a Kiss

Few thrones have survived from the ancient world. Nevertheless, thrones have been represented in the royal art of these ancient civilizations. One example is the throne of the Achaemenid kings. The ancient city of Persepolis (in modern day Fars Province, Iran) was one of the capitals of the Achaemenid Empire, and was founded by Darius I in 518 BC. The oldest building phase of the palace complex contains a section known as the apadana, or ‘Audience Hall’.

It is on the eastern stairs of the apadana that a magnificent relief can be found. This relief depicts representatives from all the nations under the rule of the Achaemenid Empire. These figures, shown wearing their traditional costumes, are bringing tribute to the Achaemenid king. In the center part of the stairs is a relief showing the Achaemenid king himself, often thought to be Darius I. The king is shown seated on a throne, with his feet on a footstool, so that they do not touch the earth. Behind him is his heir, and before him is a courtier performing the proskynesis, a ritual greeting in the Achaemenid court. Depending on the inferior’s rank, he may be required to prostrate himself, kneel in front of, or blow a kiss before the king.

An Achaemenid king (possibly Darius I) seated on his throne, relief from Persepolis, Iran.

An Achaemenid king (possibly Darius I) seated on his throne, relief from Persepolis, Iran. ( Wikimedia Commons )

Greeting Rituals in Imperial Courts – How to Stand (or Kneel) Before the Throne

Such ritual greetings can also be found in other imperial courts. One example is that of the Chinese court. A description of this ritual can be found in a translated account of the coronation of the Daoguang Emperor in 1820:  

“He (the Master of the Ceremonies) shall say “Kneel:” then the kings, and all the ranks downwards kneel. When he says, “Bow your heads to the ground,” and “Rise,” then the kings, and all the ranks downwards, shall kneel thrice, bow the head to the ground nine times, and rise accordingly.”  

In this account, the throne of the Chinese emperor is known as the famous ‘Dragon Throne.’ Following the Boxer Rebellion in 1900, Western troops pushed their way into the Forbidden City in Beijing, and became the first Westerners to come before the Dragon Throne since the 18th century. One observer describes the throne as such:


Too bad the article did not include the Peacock throne in Iran. A much stories seat in itself. Good pictures can be found online about it.

Register to become part of our active community, get updates, receive a monthly newsletter, and enjoy the benefits and rewards of our member point system OR just post your comment below as a Guest.

Related Ancient Origins Articles

Top New Stories

The rock engravings, found at Qubbet el-Hawa, Egypt and dating to around 6000 years ago, can hardly be seen today.
Egyptologists at the University of Bonn, Germany have discovered rock art from the 4th millennium BC during an excavation at a necropolis near Aswan in Egypt. The images were carved into the rock in the form of little dots and portray hunting scenes like those found in shamanic depictions. Experts speculate that they could represent a link between the Neolithic period and ancient Egyptian culture.

Ancient Places

An artist’s representation of Giovanni Battista Belzoni’s expedition. Belzoni is one of many researchers who entered the tomb KV20.
Father and daughter, Tuthmose I and Hatshepsut were two famous pharaohs of the 18th dynasty of the New Kingdom of Egypt; Hatshepsut being only the second confirmed female pharaoh. KV20 is one of the most ancient known tomb sites of the Valley of the Kings, and possibly the first royal tomb to be constructed.


A few weeks ago, astronomers announced that in 2022 something truly spectacular is to occur: a new star will appear in the heavens. It will be the first such event visible with the naked eye for over 400 years. Created by the collision of two relatively dim stars, the resultant explosion is known as a “boom star.”

Our Mission

At Ancient Origins, we believe that one of the most important fields of knowledge we can pursue as human beings is our beginnings. And while some people may seem content with the story as it stands, our view is that there exists countless mysteries, scientific anomalies and surprising artifacts that have yet to be discovered and explained.

The goal of Ancient Origins is to highlight recent archaeological discoveries, peer-reviewed academic research and evidence, as well as offering alternative viewpoints and explanations of science, archaeology, mythology, religion and history around the globe.

We’re the only Pop Archaeology site combining scientific research with out-of-the-box perspectives.

By bringing together top experts and authors, this archaeology website explores lost civilizations, examines sacred writings, tours ancient places, investigates ancient discoveries and questions mysterious happenings. Our open community is dedicated to digging into the origins of our species on planet earth, and question wherever the discoveries might take us. We seek to retell the story of our beginnings. 

Ancient Image Galleries

View from the Castle Gate (Burgtor). (Public Domain)
Door surrounded by roots of Tetrameles nudiflora in the Khmer temple of Ta Phrom, Angkor temple complex, located today in Cambodia. (CC BY-SA 3.0)
Cable car in the Xihai (West Sea) Grand Canyon (CC BY-SA 4.0)
Next article