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This article is about the Mesopotamian city. For the Athenian orator, see Ctesiphon (orator).

Coordinates: 33°06′N 44°35′E

Ctesiphon (Parthian and Pahlavi: Tyspwn as well as Tisfun, Persian: تيسفون‎, also known as in Arabic Madain, Maden or Al-Mada'in: المدائن) is one of the great cities of ancient Mesopotamia and the capital of the Parthian Empire and its successor, the Sassanid Empire, for more than 800 years located in the ancient Iranian province of Khvarvaran. It is first mentioned in the Book of Ezra of the Old Testament as Kasfia/Casphia (a derivative of the ethnic name, Cas, and a cognate of Caspian and Qazvin) The Greek colony of Seleucia on the Tigris was directly across the river, and the city is often referred to by the hypenated name Seleucia-Ctesiphon. It is believed that Ctesiphon was the largest city in the world from 570 to 637.[1]


[edit] Location

Ctesiphon (Tâgh-i Kasrâ). Drawn 1824 by Captain Hart.

Ctesiphon is located approximately 20 miles southeast of the modern city of Baghdad, Iraq, along the river Tigris. Ctesiphon measured 30 square kilometers (cf. the 13,7 square kilometers of 4th century imperial Rome).

[edit] History

Image:Stamp Iraq 1923 3a.jpg
Ruins of Ctesiphon depicted on a 1923 postage stamp of Iraq

Ctesiphon rose to prominence during the Parthian Empire in the first century BC, and was the seat of government for most of its rulers. Because of its importance, Ctesiphon was a major military objective for the leaders of the Roman Empire in its eastern wars. The city was captured by Rome or by its successor state, Byzantium, five times in its history, three times in the second century alone. The emperor Trajan captured Ctesiphon in 116, after one year of occupation his successor Hadrian had no choice but to return it in 117 as part of a peace settlement. The Roman general Avidius Cassius captured Ctesiphon during another Parthian war in 164, but abandoned it when peace was concluded. In 197, the emperor Septimius Severus sacked Ctesiphon and carried off thousands of its inhabitants, possibly as many as 100,000, whom he sold into slavery.

Late in the third century, after the Parthians had been supplanted by the Sassanids, the city again became a source of conflict with Rome. In 295, Galerius was defeated by the Persians outside the city. Humiliated, he returned a year later and won a tremendous victory which ended in the fourth and final capture of the city by a Roman army. He returned it to the Persian king Narses in exchange for Armenia. About 325 and again in 410 the city, or the Greek colony directly across the river, was the site of church councils for the Church of the East.

Emperor Julian was killed outside of the city walls in 363 during his war against Shapur II. Finally, in 627, the Byzantine Emperor Heraclius surrounded the city, the capital of the Sassanid Empire, leaving it after the Persians accepted his peace terms.

Ctesiphon fell to the Muslims during the Islamic conquest of Persia in 637 under the military command of Sa'ad Ibn Abi Waqqas (R.A.) during the caliphate of Umar (R.A.). However, the general population was not harmed. Still, as political and economic fortune had passed elsewhere, the city went into a rapid decline, especially after the founding of the Abbasid capital at Baghdad in the 8th century and soon became a ghost town. It is believed to be the basis for the city of Isbanir in the Thousand and One Nights.

The ruins of Ctesiphon were the site of a major battle of World War I in November of 1915. The Ottoman Empire defeated troops of Britain attempting to capture Baghdad, and drove them back some 40 miles before trapping the British force and compelling it to surrender.

[edit] Palaces of Ctesiphon

Main article: Palaces of Ctesiphon
See also: Sassanid architecture

The splendor of imperial palace complex at Ctesiphon to include Khosrau's palace (Shâhigân-ǐ Sepid = the white palace (now almost totally ruined) and the great arch (now, Taq-i-Kisra) remained legendary. The Throne room--presumeably under or behind the arch--was more than 110 ft high. The massive barrel vault covered an area 80ft wide by 160 ft long, and was the largest vault ever constructed in Persia.

The arch of Ctesiphon, or Taq-i-Kisra, is now all that remains above ground of a city that was, for seven centuries, the main capital of the successor dynasties of the Seleucids, Parthians and Sassanids. The structure left today was the main portico of the audience hall of the Sassanids who maintained the same site chosen by the Parthians and for the same reason, namely proximity to the Roman Empire whose expansionist aims could be better contained at the point of contact.

The arch is located in what is now the Iraqi town of Salman Pak (formerly, Mada'in when it was known to the Europeans a Madayn), just to the south of the capital, Baghdad. The monument was in the process of being rebuilt by Saddam Hussein's government in the course of 1980s, when the fallen northern wing was partially rebuilt. All works, however, stopped after 1991 Gulf War. The Iraqi government is cooperating with the University of Chicago's "Diyala Project" to restore the site.

[edit] See also

[edit] External links

da:Ctesiphon de:Seleukia-Ktesiphon es:Ctesifonte fa:تیسفون fr:Ctésiphon it:Ctesifonte he:קטסיפון nl:Ctesiphon no:Ktesifon pl:Ktezyfon sk:Ktésifon


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