The ruins of Hatra circa 1988
|Location||Hatra District, Nineveh Governorate, Iraq|
|Type||Arab, (later Parthian and Sasanian)|
|Area||300 ha (740 acres)|
|Founded||3rd or 2nd century BC|
|Public access||Inaccessible (in a war zone)|
|Criteria||ii, iii, iv, vi|
|Designated||1985 (9th session)|
Hatra was a strongly fortified caravan city and capital of the small Kingdom of Hatra, located between the Roman and Parthian/Persian empires. Hatra flourished in the 2nd century, and was destroyed and deserted in the 3rd century. Its impressive ruins were discovered in the 19th century.
Hatra is known as al-Ḥaḍr (الحضر) in Arabic. Its is recorded as ḥṭrʾ 𐣧𐣨𐣣𐣠 (Ḥaṭrā) in Hatran Aramaic inscriptions, probably meaning "enclosure, hedge, fence". In Syriac, it is usually recorded in the plural form Ḥaṭrē. In Roman works, it is recorded as Greek Átra and Latin Hatra and Hatris.
Some believe Hatra may have been built by the Assyrians or possibly in the 3rd or 2nd century BC under the influence of the Seleucid Empire, but there is no reliable information on the city before the Parthian period. Hatra flourished under the Parthians, during the 1st and 2nd centuries AD, as a religious and trading center. Later on, the city became the capital of possibly the first Arab Kingdom in the chain of Arab cities running from Hatra, in the northeast, via Palmyra, Baalbek and Petra, in the southwest. The region controlled from Hatra was the Kingdom of Hatra, a semi-autonomous buffer kingdom on the western limits of the Parthian Empire, governed by Arabian princes.
Hatra became an important fortified frontier city and played an important role in the Second Parthian War, withstanding repeated attacks by the Roman Empire. During the 2nd century CE the city repulsed sieges by both Trajan (116/117) and Septimius Severus (198/199). Hatra's forces defeated the ascendant Sassanid Persians in 238 at the battle of Shahrazoor, but fell shortly after in 241 to the army of Sassanid king Shapur I and was destroyed. The traditional stories of the fall of Hatra tell of al-Nadirah, daughter of the King of Araba, who betrayed the city into the hands of Shapur as she fell in love with him. The story tells of how Shapur killed the king and married al-Nadirah, but later had her killed also after realizing her ingratitude towards her father.
Hatra was the best preserved and most informative example of a Parthian city. Its plan was circular, and was encircled by inner and outer walls nearly 2 kilometres (1.2 mi) in diameter and supported by more than 160 towers. A temenos (τέμενος) surrounded the principal sacred buildings in the city's centre. The temples covered some 1.2 hectares and were dominated by the Great Temple, an enormous structure with vaults and columns that once rose to 30 metres. The city was famed for its fusion of Greek, Mesopotamian, Canaanite, Aramean and Arabian pantheons, known in Aramaic as Beiṯ Ĕlāhā ("House of God"). The city had temples to Nergal (Assyrian-Babylonian and Akkadian), Hermes (Greek), Atargatis (Syro-Aramaean), Allat, Shamiyyah (Arabian), and Shamash (the Mesopotamian sun god). Other deities mentioned in the Hatran Aramaic inscriptions were the Aramaean Ba'al Shamayn, and the female deity known as Ashurbel, which was perhaps the assimilation of the two deities the Assyrian god Ashur and the Babylonian Bel—despite their being individually masculine.
List of rulers
In inscriptions found at Hatra, several rulers are mentioned. Other rulers are sporadically mentioned by classical authors. They appear with two titles. The earlier rulers are titled mrjʾ (māryā, "lord"), the later ones mlkʾ (malkā, "king"). They were called Kings of Arabia as well
|Nashrihab||mrj´||AD 128/29 – 137/38|
|Naṣru||mry´||128/29 – 176/77|
|Wolgash I||mry´ and mlk – King|
|Sanatruq I||mry´ and mlk – King||AD 176/177||ruled together with Wolgash I|
|Wolgash (II?), son of Wolgash (I.)|
|Abdsamiya||mlk – King||AD 192/93 – 201/202||Supported the Roman emperor Pescennius Niger|
|Sanatruq II||mlk – King||AD 207/08 – 229/230||Became a vassal of the Romans under Gordian III during Roman-Persian Wars|
Art of Hatra
According to John M. Rosenfield, the statuary of Hatra belong to the Parthian cultural sphere, with numerous similarities in terms of clothing, decorative elements or posture, which tend to be massive and frontal, with feet often splayed. The architecture of Hatra itself is generally seen as an example of Parthian architecture. Similarities can be seen with the Art of the Kushans as well, due either to direct cultural exchanges between the area of Mesopotamia and the Kushan Empire at that time, or from a common Parthian artistic background leading to similar types of representation. But this is unlikely, as Hatra residents were Arabs. They had no contact with the Parthians.
Victory relief of Sanatruq I. He is using a small altar at his feets.
Military commander from the city of Hatra. National Museum of Iraq
Relief of the god Nergal from Hatra.
Saddam Hussein saw the site's Mesopotamian history as reflecting glory on himself, and sought to restore the site, and others in Ninevah, Nimrud, Ashur and Babylon, as a symbol of Arab achievement, spending more than US$80 million in the first phase of restoration of Babylon. Saddam Hussein demanded that new bricks in the restoration use his name (in imitation of Nebuchadnezzar) and parts of one restored Hatra temple have Saddam's name.
The site was first surveyed by Walter Andrae of the German excavation team working in Assur from 1906 to 1911. But systematic excavations have been undertaken only from 1951 by Iraqi archeologists. From the 1980s, the Italian Archaeological Expedition, directed by R. Ricciardi Venco (University of Turin), made major discoveries at Hatra. The excavations were focused on an important house ("Building A"), located close to the Temenos, and on deep soundings in the Temenos central area. Now the Expedition is active in different projects regarding the preservation and development of the archaeological site. In 1990, a Polish expedition of the Polish Centre of Mediterranean Archaeology University of Warsaw recorded and studied the city's defense walls. The team was directed by Michał Gawlikowski (PCMA UW).
Destruction by ISIL
Actions by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, which occupied the area in mid-2014, have been a major threat to Hatra. In early 2015 they announced their intention to destroy many artifacts, claiming that such "graven images" were un-Islamic, encouraged shirk (or polytheism), and could not be permitted to exist, despite the preservation of the site for 1,400 years by various Islamic regimes. ISIL militants pledged to destroy the remaining artifacts. Shortly thereafter, they released a video showing the destruction of some artifacts from Hatra. After the bulldozing of Nimrud on March 5, 2015, "Hatra of course will be next" said Abdulamir Hamdani, an Iraqi archaeologist from Stony Brook University. On March 7, Kurdish and Iraqi official sources reported ISIS had begun the demolishing the ruins of Hatra. A video released by ISIL during the next month showed the destruction of the monuments.
The pro-Iraqi government Popular Mobilization Forces captured the city on 26 April 2017. A spokeswoman for the militias stated that ISIL had destroyed the sculptures and engraved images of the site, but its walls and towers were still standing though contained holes and scratches received from ISIL bullets. PMF units also stated that the group had mined the site's eastern gates, thus temporarily preventing any assessment of damage by archaeologists. It was reported on 1 May that the site had suffered less damage than feared earlier. A journalist of EFE had earlier reported finding many destroyed statues, burnt buildings as well as signs of looting. Layla Salih, head of antiquities for Nineveh Governorate, stated that most of the buildings were intact and the destruction didn't compare with that of other archaeological sites of Iraq. A PMF commander also stated that the damage was relatively minor.
Hatra has a hot semi-arid climate (Köppen climate classification BSh). Most rain falls in the winter. The average annual temperature in Hatra is 20.7 °C (69.3 °F). About 257 mm (10.12 in) of precipitation falls annually.
|Climate data for Hatra (Al Hadar)|
|Average high °C (°F)||12.8
|Average low °C (°F)||3.2
|Average precipitation mm (inches)||43
- Aramaic of Hatra
- Destruction of cultural heritage by ISIL
- Taq-i Kisra, sharing architectural features with structures at Hatra
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Hatra.|
- Between Rome and Parthia: The Desert City of Hatra
- http://www.bbc.co.uk/archive/chronicle/8612.shtml BBC Chronicle "Lost Kings of the Desert"
- https://hatrasite.com/ Italian Archaeological Expedition at Hatra
- Iraqi forces seize ancient UNESCO site of Hatra from Islamic State as jihadis execute Mosul civilians