24 June 2024 The Future is the Product of the Past

Iran’s legendary ruined city “Susa”

Ancient Susa is one of the oldest cities in the world. The Elamite, Persian, and Parthian empires formerly ruled over the UNESCO-designated city, which is now bordered by the contemporary city of Shush.

Susa is named Shushan in the Book of Esther and other Biblical writings. It is located in the lower Zagros mountain range, some 250 kilometers east of the Tigris river and between the Kharkeh and Dez rivers.

Archaeological evidence suggests that Susa has been continuously inhabited since 4200 BC. Moreover, in Susa, there are traces of a village inhabited around 7000 BC.

Susa’s potters created unrivaled quality pottery in an early period, which they adorned with patterns of birds, mountain goats, and other animals. The city became the capital of Elam in the fourth millennium (the “Uruk Period”) and was able to compete with Sumerian and Akkadian cities in southern Iraq at times.

The city itself expanded eastward to the part of the city that is now called the Royal City. From the written information, we know that there must be a ziggurat. The third part is the artisan area, located further east.

The kings of the Awan dynasty ruled Elam in the last third of the third millennium; they were contemporaries of Sargon of Akkad’s dynasty, which was able to briefly absorb Susa into his kingdom. However, the Awan kings managed to regain their freedom.

Susa- One of the World's Oldest Cities
Susa- One of the World’s Oldest Cities.

When the Gutians descended from the mountains and wreaked devastation on the alluvial plains of Elam and Mesopotamia, the Awan kingdom fell apart.

Elam became autonomous again after the disintegration of the Old Babylonian Empire, and a new dynasty, most likely from Anšan, took control in Elam. The Kidinuids were eventually supplanted by the Igehalkids and the Šutrukids. Susa flourished the most under these dynasties.

Susa after being conquered by Cyrus the Great, was used as the winter home of Persian rulers. In 538 or 539 BC, Cyrus II, the Great incorporated Susa into the Persian Empire.

King Darius the Great (522-486), one of his successors, constructed one of his palaces at Susa. The palace’s inscription, known as DSf, chronicles Darius’ construction. Susa was without a doubt his favorite palace. Another capital was unknown to Herodotus of Halicarnassus, a Greek scholar who wrote extensively on the Achaemenid empire.

According to said, Alexander of Macedonia captured Susa in 330 BC, plundered the city, and seized approximately 40,000 talents gold and silver from the treasury. Alexander the Great’s preference for Babylon kicked off Shushan’s decline, and soon after, after a rebellion, the city was razed to the ground. It was subsequently rebuilt by Sapor II (309-379 AD) and renamed Iranshahr Shapur, and later helped resist the Arab invasion in 645.

Ancient ruins in Susa, Iran ( UNESCO)
Ancient ruins in Susa, Iran ( UNESCO)

The city became part of the Seleucid empire with the collapse of the Achaemenid Empire and the marriage of Alexander the Great, who was reign at Susa. On Eulaeus, it was now known as Seleucia. Next to Darius’ palace, a Greek-style palace was built. The administrative center, on the other hand, was located in the city’s southern section, where almost all Greek and Parthian inscriptions were unearthed. In the Parthian age, the city minted coins.

During the Sassanid era, the city had a large Christian population. It was ransacked by Sassanian King Shapur II, who transferred the population to Iwan-e Karkheh.

Susa was still one of the important cities until the 13th century AD.

Glazed siliceous bricks at Susa, c. 510 BC depicting an Achaemenid soldier ( Wikimedia Commons )
Glazed siliceous bricks at Susa, c. 510 BC depicting an Achaemenid soldier ( Wikimedia Commons )

Susa in the Bible

Susa is well known in the Bible from the tale of Esther, in which Haman the Agagite plots to destroy the Jews of Persia. According to the legend, Esther outwitted Haman by convincing her husband, King Ahasuerus of Persia, to thwart Haman’s plot. According to Ancient Origins, the episode is commemorated each year during the Jewish Purim festival, which is characterized by costumed parties and other celebrations.

Susa is also referenced in the books of Nehemiah and Daniel, both of whom resided in the city during the 6th century BC, during the Babylonian captivity, when numerous Jews were taken hostage following Nebuchadnezzar’s assault of Jerusalem. The Shush-Daniel tomb is said to be that of Daniel himself. It is capped by an unusual white cone which some believe was formerly a stone ‘Star of David’.

Susa was also linked to Daniel’s vision of a ram and a goat in Belshazzar’s third year. Shushan, according to Esther, formerly possessed a splendid palace with a huge hall made up of majestic columns and an extremely striking facade. The palace was erected by the Persian kings Darius and Artaxerxes, according to inscriptions unearthed in the remains. Colored glazed brick panels may still be seen in the remains today, while wood from Lebanon, teak from Gandara, and gold from Sardis and Bactria are all mentioned in various sources.

Following some preliminary soundings in 1854, systematic excavation began in 1884. The French archaeologists, led by Jacques de Morgan, erected a Crusader-style fortress to defend themselves. Research has continued into the twentieth century. Unfortunately, remains were partly destroyed during the First Gulf War.

Source

R. Boucharlat, “Suse à l’ époque sassanide”, in: Mesopotamia 22 (1987) 316-322


R. Boucharlat, “Suse et la Susiane à l’ époque achémenide. Données archéologiques”, in: Achaemenid History 4 (1990) 149-175

Related Articles

Balkanatolia: The Forgotten Continent That Sheds Light On The Evolution Of Mammals

25 February 2022

25 February 2022

A team of French, American and Turkish paleontologists and geologists led by CNRS researchers has discovered the existence of a...

Assyrian Art at Getty Villa

22 June 2021

22 June 2021

The Getty Villa in Malibu, California’s arts complex is showcasing superbly-restored gypsum reliefs from the Assyrian Empire’s palaces for its...

Bidnija olive trees have seen medieval, not the Roman period

13 July 2021

13 July 2021

The olive trees in the Bidnija grove on the island of Malta are believed to be 2000 years old. But...

Royal-Memorial Inscription Attributed to King Sargon II Discovered in Western Iran

25 April 2021

25 April 2021

In western Iran, Iranian archaeologists discovered a part of a royal memorial inscription attributed to the Neo-Assyrian king Sargon II....

Georgia’s Queen of Kings “Tamar the Great”

17 August 2021

17 August 2021

Queen Tamar (1160-1235 CE) reigned during Georgia’s Golden Age, when the country’s frontiers stretched from the Black Sea to the...

The Babylonian captivity or Babylonian exile

16 August 2021

16 August 2021

The Babylonian captivity or exile was an era in ancient Israel’s history. That exile began with a two-stage expulsion in...

From Prehistoric Georgia ‘World’s oldest wine”

12 July 2022

12 July 2022

For many years in a row, wine has been a popular alcoholic beverage consumed worldwide. While we associate many things...

A birthplace of complex musical instruments “Iran”

9 January 2022

9 January 2022

Music is a form of art, which derives from the Greek word meaning “art of the Muses.” While it is...

The Kyrgyz epic ‘Manas’ manuscripts were included in the UNESCO Memory of the World

10 June 2023

10 June 2023

Manuscripts of the Kyrgyz epic “Manas” by narrator Sagymbay Orozbakov have been inscribed on the UNESCO Memory of the World...

Mesopotamian bricks reveal the strength of Earth’s ancient magnetic field

19 December 2023

19 December 2023

Ancient Mesopotamian bricks reveal the details of a curious strengthening of the Earth’s magnetic field, according to a new study...

Al-Aqiser Church, Disappears in the Depths of The Iraqi Desert

10 May 2021

10 May 2021

In a country that has been devastated by successive conflicts and economic crises, Al-Aqiser, like the numerous Christian, Islamic and...

Incredible Mayan Inventions and Achievements

31 July 2022

31 July 2022

The Mayans excelled at agriculture, pottery, writing, calendars, and arithmetic, leaving an incredible quantity of spectacular architecture and symbolic artwork...

Clarifying The Complexities Of Communication Across Millennia In Mesoamerica

20 February 2022

20 February 2022

The long-held consensus that the more populated and “civilized” a society, the more complex their communication may be more nuanced...

A large stone monument depicting the goddess Ishtar has been unearthed in the ancient Assyrian city of Nimrud

26 June 2023

26 June 2023

Archaeologists from the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archeology and Anthropology, working with an Iraqi excavation team, have unearthed a...

Ancient musical instrument “Chang” symbolizing Azerbaijan’s rich cultural heritage

16 March 2022

16 March 2022

Harp is a world-famous, ancient, stringed musical instrument. Chang, in terms of structure, is a harp-like stringed musical instrument. The...