Naqsh-e Rostam is situated a few kilometers northwest of Persepolis, the capital of the ancient Achaemenid empire. As is shown by a pre-Achaemenid relief and several old graves, Naqsh-e Rostam was already a place of some importance when king Darius I the Great ordered his monumental tomb to be carved into the cliff. Later, similar royal rock tombs were added. They belong to Darius' son and successor Xerxes, his son Artaxerxes I Makrocheir and his grandson Darius II Nothus . Archaeologists are almost certain that the tombs were closed after the burial. After Alexander the Great had overthrown the Achaemenid Empire, the doors were smashed and the tombs were looted.
After the fall of the Achaemenid Empire, Naqsh-e Rustam remained important to the Persians. After 260 CE, the Sasanian king Shapur I had a monumental relief cut out in the rock, showing how he made Philippus Arabs ruler of the Roman Empire and received the defeated Roman emperor Valerian. Other reliefs were added by Shapur's successors.