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Article

Margaret Cool Root

Name given to a people of Persian origin, who founded an empire that flourished c. 550–331 bc.

The Achaemenid Persian empire was founded c. 550 bc by Cyrus the Great. At its greatest extent under Darius the Great (reg 522–486 bc), it stretched from the Indus into northern Greece and across Egypt. The Macedonian Alexander the Great (reg 336–323 bc) was able to defeat the Achaemenids in 331 bc only after prolonged military campaigns.

This vast Persian hegemony was rich in legacies of administrative expertise and cultural heritage. Its dynastic name was derived from an 8th-century bc ancestor who ruled as a Persian vassal of the Iranian kingdom of the Medes, who were to inherit great power by conquering the Assyrians in the late 7th century bc. Both the Median overlords and Persian vassals enjoyed access to the Mesopotamian/Iranian artistic heritage. Annals of the Assyrian kings describe the Medes and the Persians living in fortified cities as early as the ...

Article

J. D. Hawkins

[Ayin-Dara]

Site on the west bank of the River Afrin in Syria, about 5 km south of the town Afrin. Attention was drawn to the ancient site by surface finds of sculpture, and a large Neo-Hittite temple of the early 10th century bc was located below five levels of later occupation. Excavations here by the Syrian General Directorate of Antiquities in 1956, 1962 and 1964 have been reported, but more recent work has not been published. Finds are in situ or in the National Museum in Aleppo.

Parts of the north-west and south-west sides, with a fragment of a south-east façade, have been excavated and published. The remains suggest a structure of regular rectangular plan measuring in total not less than 38×32 m. An exterior terrace wall seems originally to have been faced with continuous slabs of fine black basalt on a dressed plinth; some of these were found in situ...

Article

Tahsin Özgüç

Citadel and temple complex of the Urartians, 20 km east of Erzincan, Turkey, which flourished in the 8th and 7th centuries bc. Altıntepe is in the eastern half of the fertile Erzincan plain, on the main Erzincan–Erzurum highway, an east–west trade route of great historical and strategic importance. Systematic excavations began there in 1959 on behalf of the Turkish Historical Society and the Directorate General of Ancient Monuments, under the direction of Tahsin Özgüç, and continued until 1968. The finds are in the Museum of Anatolian Civilizations in Ankara.

Altıntepe is a very steep and rocky natural hill 60 m high and 200 m across, surrounded by two sets of defensive walls. The outer wall, the older of the two, is 12 m thick. These citadel walls are built of huge blocks of stone with square towers placed at regular intervals. Urartian buildings excavated on the hill include a temple, tombs, an open-air shrine, storerooms and living-quarters, as well as a reception hall (...

Article

E. Haerinck

Area in the province of Gilan in northern Iran that has given its name to a series of ancient objects. Since the 1950s the area around the village of Amlash has served as a local market for clandestinely excavated objects from the surrounding valleys. Although the term ‘Amlash’ should only be used in a geographical sense, to indicate material from Gilan, it has often wrongly been given a chronological meaning. Many objects purporting to come from this area (including fakes) have entered collections and museums, but their dating is often problematic.

Iranian and Japanese archaeological teams explored several sites in Gilan, of which Marlik, Kaluraz, Dailaman (including Ghalekuti, Nouruz and Hassani Mahaleh) and Tomadjan are the best known. Excavation of the cemeteries provided evidence that the objects belonged to several periods, from the middle of the 2nd millennium bc to the Islamic era. The area was probably inhabited only from the Late Bronze Age or Early Iron Age by nomads, who buried their dead in stone-built tombs or later in vaulted burial chambers cut into the mountain slopes....

Article

Amman  

Adnan Hadidi, Alastair Northedge and Jonathan M. Bloom

revised by Sheila S. Blair

[Arab. ‛Amman; anc. Rabbath Ammon, later Philadelphia]

Capital of the kingdom of Jordan and site of a city that flourished between the 2nd millennium bc and the 14th century ad. The site lies in a fertile, well-watered area in the tableland to the east of the River Jordan, on the biblical King’s Highway (the ancient Roman Via Nova Traiana), which ran from Bosra in the north to the Red Sea in the south.

The ancient city consisted of the citadel, or acropolis, built in three terraces rising from west to east on a steep-sided, L-shaped hill, and the lower town in the valley of the Wadi ‛Amman to the south. The earliest material found on the citadel dates to the 3rd millennium bc; from c. 1100 bc until 582 bc the city was the capital of the kingdom of Ammon. Excavations around the perimeter of the hill have uncovered Ammonite tombs and Hellenistic and early Roman occupation from the ...

Article

Ammon  

A. R. Millard

Kingdom that flourished from the 11th to the 6th century bc, situated in present-day Jordan. Its capital was at Rabbath-Ammon (Amman). The kingdom was in constant contact and conflict with the Israelites to the west and Damascus to the north. Its pottery bears a general similarity to that on the other side of the River Jordan, with some Ammonite idiosyncrasies in the 7th and 6th centuries bc. Most remarkable are the sculptures. More than 30 human heads and statues, up to 850 mm high and carved in limestone or basalt, have been found in the Amman area (e.g. Amman, Jordan Archaeol. Mus.). Six wear the Egyptian atef crown (a high headdress with a feather at either side), but other elements indicate Syrian influence. Four double-faced female heads were excavated in Amman (Amman, Jordan Archaeol. Mus.); they are about 260 mm high, with inlaid eyes and beads of a choker around the neck, and can be compared with ivory-carvings from Syria. They are a local adaptation of a widespread theme, derived from the Hathor head of Egyptian art, and probably supported the balustrade of a window. Ammonite metalwork and jewellery are not distinctive. The number of seal-stones identifiable as Ammonite by script or form of name exceeds 50 (e.g. Paris, Bib. N.). While many carry only owners’ names and patronyms, like common Hebrew seals, or standard motifs of Egyptian or Babylonian origin, one group has lively animals in the centre (deer, bull, ape)....

Article

Dominique Collon, Donald F. Easton, Jeanny Vorys Canby, J. D. Hawkins, K. Aslihan Yener, Oscar White Muscarella and A. Nunn

Region roughly equivalent to the modern state of Turkey. The name Anatolia was first used by Byzantine writers in the 10th century ad, as an alternative to Asia Minor, and is now often used in its Turkish form, ‘Anadolu’, to describe Turkey in Asia. In this article the term ancient Anatolia covers the cultures and civilizations that flourished in the region from possibly as early as the 14th millennium bc to the 6th century bc. A wealth of remains from the Neolithic period (c. 8000–c. 5800 bc) to the Early Bronze Age (c. 3400–c. 2000 bc) testifies to the advanced prehistoric culture of Anatolia. During the 2nd millennium bc this was succeeded by the civilization of the Hittites (see Hittite), the demise of which was followed by a Dark Age lasting some two centuries. Eastern and south-eastern Anatolia were dominated from the ...

Article

Dominique Collon, J. D. Hawkins, Beatrice Teissier, D. Barag, G. Herrmann, Jack Ogden, Annie Caubet, Joan Allgrove McDowell, Michael Roaf, Vesta Sarḳhosh Curtis, Ian Carradice, G. D. Summers, Seton Lloyd and Geoffrey Turner

Area of the ancient world that extends from Turkey in the west to Iran in the east (see fig.). Although the term Near East is often synonymous with Middle East, the adjective ‘ancient’ is always attached to Near East, and ‘Ancient Middle East’ never occurs. The term Western Asia is sometimes preferred. The ancient history, arts and architecture of the countries in this area are treated elsewhere in this dictionary under the headings Anatolia, ancient, Syria-Palestine, Mesopotamia and Iran, ancient. Vast though this area is, the cultures and civilizations that flourished in the Ancient Near East from prehistoric times to the early centuries ad often exerted an influence that reached still further. In general, however, peripheral regions, such as Arabia and Afghanistan, are not included in this survey. From the time of the campaigns of Alexander the Great (reg 336–323 bc) to the Islamic conquest in the mid-7th century ...

Article

A. R. Millard

Term for an ancient people of the Near East, prominent in the 1st millennium bc. Their origins are obscure; they were probably semi-nomadic tribesmen driven from the Syrian steppe by drought. By about 1000 bc they had occupied an arc of land from Babylonia to southern Lebanon. In the east the ancient local culture absorbed them. In the west they took over the cities and turned many of them into autonomous tribal centres, principally Aram (Damascus), Arpad (Bit-Agusi) to the north of Aleppo, Bit-Adini east of the bend of the River Euphrates, and Bit-Bahiani at Guzana (Halaf, Tell) on the River Khabur. The earlier inhabitants mixed with the newcomers, and at Hamath (Hama) on the River Orontes a local Neo-Hittite dynasty retained control until c. 800 bc. Hardly had Aramaean kings taken power than they had to fight the Assyrians, who campaigned westwards from c. 900 bc, taking Damascus in ...

Article

John M. Russell

[Turk.: ‘lion-stone’ ; anc. Hadatu]

Site in Syria, c. 35 km north-east of Til Barsip on the Harran–Euphrates road. It was an Assyrian town: its ancient name, preserved in two inscriptions from the site, is mentioned elsewhere only in the ‘Harran Census’ (7th century bc). The site was excavated by François Thureau-Dangin in 1928; finds are in the Louvre, Paris, and in the National Museum, Aleppo. The Assyrian features recovered were a town wall with three gates, a palace, a large house and a small temple dedicated to the goddess Ishtar. Later remains included a small Hellenistic temple. The town wall (l. c. 2 km) enclosed a roughly oval area of 30 ha. Two colossal basalt lions in the east gate gave the site its modern name, and fragments of another two were also found in the west gate. A cuneiform inscription on one fragment mentions Hadatu. Another, originally against the wall, is inscribed with a lengthy Aramaic text that includes a fragmentary personal name ...

Article

Marcella Frangipane

[ Malatya]

Site in eastern Turkey, in the Malatya Plain on the right bank of the River Euphrates. It is a large artificial mound (h. c. 30 m) formed by the superposition of successive dwellings from about the 5th millennium bc to the Islamic period, c. 12th century ad. It was a strategic political and economic centre, especially in the Late Uruk period (c. 3300–c. 2900 bc), and was important in the cultural contexts of both Mesopotamia and Anatolia, ancient. Finds from the excavations are housed in the Malatya Museum and the Museum of Anatolian Civilizations, Ankara.

Excavations in the southern area of the mound have revealed a stratified succession of four monumental public buildings of mud-brick at a depth of c. 8 m; radiocarbon dating has suggested that these structures were built c. 3300–3000 bc. Most have thick walls and stone foundations, and contain several rooms. Many niches, plastered and painted white, or more rarely red, are set in the interior walls. Building I, the most recent, has a recognizable temple plan with a rectangular cella containing a central podium and a basin for sacrifices against the end wall; on one side are two communicating rooms for storage. The walls of the main room are richly decorated with concentric ovals stamped with a mould, comparable to an example from southern Mesopotamia (now Iraq) in Uruk itself....

Article

Assur  

[Ashur; now Qal’at ash-Sherqat]

Site in northern Iraq, c. 100 km south of Mosul and Nineveh, on a bluff on the right bank of the River Tigris. It was an important Assyrian city, at a natural crossroads for trade connecting Anatolia, Babylonia and Iran, and from the 3rd millennium bc until 614 bc, just before the fall of the Assyrian empire, it was the cult city of the god Assur. Throughout the 2nd millennium bc it was also the political capital of the land of Assur (see also Assyrian). It was rediscovered in the mid-19th century, and Layard, Sir Austen Henry, Hormuzd Rassam and George Smith worked briefly there (see also Ancient Near East, §III, 1). From 1903 to 1914 the Deutsche Orient-Gesellschaft carried out systematic excavations, concentrating on the northern third of the city where the temples and palaces were located. From 1978 to 1986 the Iraq Department of Antiquities and Heritage conducted excavations and preservation work, and German excavations resumed in ...

Article

John M. Russell

Name given to people of the ancient land of Assur (Assyria) in northern Mesopotamia (now Iraq), named after their state god. The Assyrian heartland is bounded on the north and east by the Zagros Mountains and on the south and west by arid plains that receive insufficient rainfall to support agriculture. The area is well watered by the Tigris, Greater and Lesser Zab rivers and their tributaries, some stretches of which are suitable for irrigation, and also by rainfall, which allows most of the region to grow one crop of wheat annually. The Assyrians, a Semitic people speaking a dialect of Akkadian, appear in the historical record as traders at the beginning of the 2nd millennium bc and developed into an important power in Mesopotamia and then throughout the Ancient Near East until the fall of their empire in 612 bc. The most important Assyrian cities in the 2nd millennium ...

Article

Sophie Page

Astrology is the art of predicting events on earth as well as human character and disposition from the movements of the planets and fixed stars. Medieval astrology encompassed both general concepts of celestial influence, and the technical art of making predictions with horoscopes, symbolic maps of the heavens at particular moments and places constructed from astronomical information. The scientific foundations of the art were developed in ancient Greece, largely lost in early medieval Europe and recovered by the Latin West from Arabic sources in the 12th and 13th centuries. Late medieval astrological images were successfully Christianized and were adapted to particular contexts, acquired local meanings and changed over time.

Astrology developed into a scientific branch of learning in ancient Greece, but because of the opposition of the Church Fathers it was transmitted to early medieval Europe in only fragmentary form in technically unsophisticated textbooks and popular divinatory genres. Literary and scientific texts provided more general ideas about the nature and attributes of the planets which were influential on later iconography. The first significant astrological images appear in 11th-century illustrated astronomical texts (e.g. London, BL, Cotton MS. Tiberius BV), which were acquired and produced by monasteries to aid with time-keeping and the construction of the Christian calendar....

Article

Clare Goff-Hill

[Pers. Bābājān]

Site on the Nurabad plain in the Luristan region, central Iran. The site comprises a group of three mounds that were excavated in 1966–9 and revealed complex buildings of the 1st millennium bc with decorated interiors. The most significant remains date from the 9th to 7th centuries bc, when newcomers established themselves on the summit of the earlier prehistoric mound. Their stone village was soon replaced by a large, fortified, mud-brick ‘manor’, consisting of a central courtyard (17.5×9.5 m) flanked to the west and east by two long, rectangular living rooms, with eight towers defending the perimeter. When the manor was rebuilt (for plan see Iran, ancient, fig.b) most of the towers were demolished and the central courtyard was roofed in, the roof being supported by two irregular rows of wooden columns. Further rooms were added to the sides, and to the east was a long buttressed recess possibly serving as a verandah or portico....

Article

Babylon  

[Akkad. Bab-ilim: ‘gate of god’]

Site in Iraq, 80 km south of modern Baghdad. It was once the capital and most important city of Babylonia (see Babylonian). It first rose to prominence under Hammurabi (reg 1792–1750 bc) and reached its peak of development under the Neo-Babylonian kings in the 6th century bc and was occupied until Sasanian times. Babylon was excavated by Austin Henry Layard (1850), Fulgence Fresnel (1852), Hormuzd Rassam (1879–82), and Robert Koldewey and Walter Andrae (1899–1917). Since 1958, excavations have been carried out by the Directorate-General of Antiquities, Baghdad, and the German Archaeological Institute. Finds from the early excavations are divided between the Iraq Museum in Baghdad and the Pergamonmuseum in Berlin. More recent finds are in Baghdad (Iraq Mus.) and in a museum on the site.

Babylon was the largest settlement in ancient Mesopotamia, extending over an area of some 850 ha. The oldest known reference attests the construction of a temple in Akkadian times (late 3rd millennium ...

Article

Stephan Kroll

[Pers. Basṭām; anc. Rusai.uru.tur]

Site in the north-west of Iran of a major Urartian castle of the first half of the 7th century bc (see Urartian). Bastam lies c. 50 km north of the modern city of Khoy and c. 1300 m above sea-level. The site is on a steep mountain cliff on the left bank of the River Aq Chay, overlooking a wide, fertile plain. In antiquity several channels were diverted from the river to water the adjacent plains. A major east-west route ran past Bastam, connecting the Urartian capital in Van (eastern Turkey) with territories in what are now Azerbaijan and Armenia. The site was discovered in 1967 by Wolfram Kleiss of the German Archaeological Institute in Tehran, who conducted excavations from 1968 to 1978. The finds are in the Archaeological Museum in Tehran.

In reorganizing his kingdom, the Urartian king Rusa II (reg c. 680–640 bc) erected in Bastam one of his three royal residences (...

Article

Bavian  

John M. Russell

Site in northern Iraq, c. 60 km north-east of Mosul. Near the modern village of Bavian, at Khinnis on the River Gomel, is the head of a canal built by the Assyrian king Sennacherib (reg 704–681 bc) to supply water for Nineveh. The site is best known for its Neo-Assyrian rock reliefs (see also Mesopotamia, §III, 6, (i)), which were described and illustrated by Austen Henry Layard and Walter Bachmann. In 1934 Thorkild Jacobsen and Seton Lloyd traced the water transfer system. A large stone block (6×4×8 m; now broken) was placed at the point where water was diverted into the canal. Two of its faces are sculpted with human-headed bull colossi flanking a human figure holding a lion (a group used also on the façades of Sennacherib’s palace at Nineveh) and with images of the king worshipping gods who stand on sacred animals. A large relief (9.3×9.2 m) on the rock face just south of the canal head depicts two gods flanked by two images of the king. The ...

Article

Bisitun  

Vesta Sarḳhosh Curtis

[Pers. Bīsutūn; anc. Bagastāna: ‘Site of the gods’; Behistan, Behistun]

Site in Iran on the eastern edge of the Zagros Mountains, situated on the Great Khorasan Road, the ancient Silk Road, which leads from southern Mesopotamia to Kirmanshah and eastern Iran. Set high on a cliff overlooking the road is the famous rock-relief of the Achaemenid king Darius I (reg 521–486 bc;, which commemorates his victory over Gaumata, the false Smerdis, and nine rebel kings. Work on the relief took from 520 to 519 bc. The relief is accompanied by a trilingual inscription in Elamite, Babylonian and Old Persian. This describes Darius’s royal descent and lineage, his campaigns and his victories over his opponents.

The relief, measuring 3.0×5.5m, shows Darius followed by a spear-bearer and a bow-bearer. He is depicted in profile wearing a crown and a long robe. In triumphant gesture he puts one foot on the defeated Gaumata, who is lying on the ground, pleading to the king of kings. Darius’s right hand is raised towards the figure in a winged disc set above. Behind Gaumata is the row of captured kings roped together at the neck, with their hands tied behind their backs. They include the Persian Martya, the Sagartian Chissantakhma, the Persian Vahyazdata, the Armenian Arakha and the Median Fravartish. The final figure, that of the Scythian Skunkha, was added to the relief at a late stage. The theme, with the king stepping with one foot on the body of an outstretched captive, is similar to that on a relief of King ...

Article

Michael Roaf

[Barsippa, Barsip; now Birs Nimrud]

Ancient site in Iraq, c. 17 km south-west of Babylon. The city flourished in the 2nd and 1st millennia bc and was important for the cult of the Babylonian deity Nabu, god of writing and scribal knowledge. The most impressive feature of the site is the 47 m-high remnant of a ziggurat, part of the Temple of Nabu. In the 19th century the site was thought to be part of the ruins of Babylon and was investigated by Claudius James Rich, Henry Rawlinson and Hormuzd Rassam. In the 20th century it was investigated by Robert Koldewey and later by a team from Innsbruck University. The main collection of finds is in the British Museum, London. The ziggurat was built in the Old Babylonian period (first half of the 2nd millennium bc) and rebuilt in the Neo-Babylonian period (625–539 bc). Its upper portion is vitrified brick, probably burnt as a result of fires that were lit in trenches dug into the top of the ziggurat in the early Islamic period (...