Ruins of the Parthian City of Hatra (World Heritage)

Ruins of the Parthian City of Hatra (World Heritage)


The ancient city of Hatra, the seat of its own Parthian dynasty since the 1st century AD, was destroyed by the Persian Sassanids in the 3rd century. The remains of the city document its former importance and illustrate the connection between Hellenistic and Oriental culture.

Ruins of the Parthian city of Hatra: facts

Official title: Ruins of the Parthian city of Hatra
Cultural monument: fortified settlement of a small Arab empire with an exposed palace and several temples
Continent: Asia
Country: Iraq
Location: Hatra, southwest of Mosul
Appointment: 1985
Meaning: important evidence of “oriental-Hellenistic” architecture

Ruins of the Parthian city of Hatra: history

1st century Foundation on an important caravan route in Mesopotamia
107-116 under Emperor Trajan submission of Dacia, Armenia, the Parthian capital Ctesiphon and campaign to the coast of the Persian Gulf
116 unsuccessful siege of Hatra by a Roman army under Trajan
196 and 198 unsuccessful sieges of Hatra by the Roman armies of Emperor Septimius Severus
198 Emperor Septimius Severus adopts the honorary name Parthicus Maximus after taking Babylon and Seleukeia
199 failed spring campaign against Hatra under Septimius Severus
at 240 under Shapur I (239-272) conquered by an army of the Sassanids

Under the wings of the divine eagle

The curly hair of the bearded man oozes out from under a headband that is crowned by an eagle. The right hand is raised in greeting, and the tight upper garment is decorated with curved diamonds and circles. This sculpture, which is now in the Iraqi National Museum in Baghdad, dates from the 2nd century AD and depicts King Sanatruq I, one of the lords of Hatra.

Located between the Euphrates and the Tigris – in northern Mesopotamia – Hatra was a caravan town and cult center at the same time. Thanks to the water that a nearby wadi ran seasonally, a life in the middle of the flat desert steppe was possible. Unlike the great city centers of Mesopotamia, whether Babylon or Ur, Hatra was not a site of early oriental antiquity. Its heyday did not begin until the beginning of the 2nd century AD, when a power vacuum developed between the great empires of Parthia and Rome in northern Mesopotamia. In this political space, Hatra maintained its independence for more than a century before the city received a Roman garrison in 235. Several times before, 116 and 198, the city had defied Roman sieges. This was done using the “Hatrenian Fire”, a burning mixture of bitumen and sulfur that was poured on the attackers. After Hatra was conquered and destroyed by an army of the Sassanid Empire in the middle of the third century AD, the once fortified city was never rebuilt. In 2006, with the help of aerial archeology, the huge fortifications of the Sassanid camp from the time of 239/240 east of Hatra were discovered.

The city’s heyday began with the reign of a certain Mannuq, known as “Lord of the Frontier Arabs,” and ended with Abed-Samia. Sanatruq I, who directed the fortunes of Hatra in the second half of the 2nd century, was the first Hatrener to be called “King of the Arabs, the Victorious”.

From a cultural point of view, the peculiar desert city belongs to the so-called “Hellenized Orient”, which has not yet been explored, and which arose after the Greek conquest under Alexander the Great and his successors. The fact that Hatra referred more to the Eastern heritage than to Greek culture is shown by the numerous inscriptions found in the ruined city, which were recorded in Aramaic script – in the imperial language of the Persian Empire, which was overthrown by Alexander the Great. Visit for travel in the middle east.

The structure of the city can best be seen from the air: an almost circular city wall, almost six kilometers long, made of adobe bricks, was secured by towers and broken through by four gates. Inside, the residential districts with an oriental maze of alleys adjoined the wall ring. The center of the city complex forms – enclosed by a wall and divided into an antechamber and a main courtyard – the sanctuary of the god Shamash. After entering the sanctuary from the east, the main courtyard opens up before you come across a podium temple with a double portico, built on the Greek model, shortly before the dividing wall. Its style differs significantly from the other sacred buildings, including four temples in the smaller courtyard.

The strongest impression is made by the main building, a huge complex adorned with sculptures and with a structure of Iranian origin: the four ivans, vaulted halls that open out onto a courtyard with a large arch.

In Hatra, in addition to the shamash, the ancient Babylonian sun god, the ancient Arab goddess Allat, the “guard dog” Nergal, the moon god Shahiru and the moon goddess Nanai were worshiped either in human-like statues or in the form of cult standards. Incense was offered to these deities on fire altars. The symbolic animal of the shamash, celebrated in inscriptions as “Lord of Hatra”, was the eagle, under whose protection King Sanatruq I also placed himself. Its “personal” sanctuary lay behind the great southern Ivan and was designed as a temple of transformation. The Iwane themselves are believed to have served religious gatherings and the taking of cult meals.

Ruins of the Parthian City of Hatra (World Heritage)