Hamadan and Ecbatana


Ecbatana, modern Hamadan, was one of the most important cities in north-western Turkey. It was the capital of the Medes in the sixth century and later the summer capital of the Achaemenid emperors, and Herodotus gives a glowing account of its palace and its seven concentric walls. It later flourished under the Parthians, but was sacked by the Mongols and declined in the 19th century.

However, in the 20th century great efforts have been made to revive it. In the 1920s, the whole town was given a new circular layout  – such circular layouts were fashionable at the time – compare Yerevan, the capital of Armenia. Great efforts were also made to  celebrate the glories of its past and to excavate the ancient capital of Ecbatana.

Hamadan lion DSC04166

One of the favourite restorations has been this stone lion, originally erected by Alexander the Great over one of the gates. However, it was pulled down and badly mauled in the 10th century, but was rediscovered in the 20th century when it became a love symbol – kiss the lion and you will be fortunate in love. But it has now been rescued from the sloppy kisses of the local maidens, and placed on this plinth  and surrounded by a fine garden.


Avicenna's monument DSC04210Another major monument is a museum erected in memory of the great philosopher and doctor Avicenna (980 – 1039) , who lived for part of his life in Hamadan. A drawing in the Museum shows him at work as a dentist, curing toothache by pouring acid over the tooth and thereby destroying it – ouch! Avicenna cueres toothache DSC04198The man on the left is holding down the victim at the centre – the treatment was somewhat painful.



Excavating Ecbatana


Hamadan was the site of ancient Ecbatana, the capital of the Medes, and major efforts have been made in trying to recover the ancient Ecbatana. A large area in the north of the town, covering some 20 hectares has been made into an archaeological area where extensive excavations have taken place

Ecbatana 260-2 redThe buildings were made of mostly of mud brick which tends to disintegrate when exposed;thus large areas of the early excavations have been marked out by bricks, revealing a very regular rectangular layout. Here in the distance can be seen the cover building that covers more recent excavations.



Inside cover building DSC04288Here is a view inside the cover building showing the walls as excavated. The cover building is very reminiscent of that over the terracotta warriors in China, but somewhat oddly, it is placed at an angle to the layout of the excavated remains.






Ecbatana inside cover building DSC04294 redHere we see a detail of the excavation showing a narrow road between blocks of buildings. They are all very regular as if workmen’s houses or barracks. There is no sign of any Palace, and it appears that the finds are mostly of the Parthian period from the second century BC to the second century A.D.




Ecbatana plan DSC04368

A plan of the excavations in the Museum shows the regularity of what has been discovered so far been excavated so far.





Ecbatana googleCompare this with the Google Earth aerial photo left, which shows the modern town creeping up on the archaeological area






Ecbatana silver bowl DSC02918There is also a small site museum containing  some of the finds from the excavations such as this silver bowl.






Ecbatana Lion's head DSC04340

This Lion’s head ryton shows the quality of some of the early work








Ecbatana animal handle DSC04326

This spindly animal supports a bowl and shows the aquality of some of the work.







Ecbatana bowl with eagle DSC04333

This biownl with its inset eagle is from a later period











On to The Sasanians


26th May. 2017

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