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Coordinates: 33°05′37″N 44°34′50″E / 33.09361°N 44.58056°E / 33.09361; 44.58056

Ctesiphon is located in Iraq
Ctesiphon
Location of the city of Ctesiphon, Iraq

Ctesiphon, the imperial capital of the Parthian Arsacids and of the Persian Sassanids, was one of the great cities of ancient Mesopotamia.

The ruins of the city are located on the east bank of the Tigris, across the river from the Hellenistic city of Seleucia. Today, the remains of both cities lie in Iraq, approximately 35 km south of the city of Baghdad. Ctesiphon 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). In the 6th century, Ctesiphon was the largest city in the world.[1]

Ctesiphon today
Ctesiphon palace ruin, 1864

The Latin name 'Ctesiphon' or 'Ctesifon' (pronounced /ˈtɛsɨfɒn/) derives from Greek 'T(h)esifon' or 'Et(h)esifon', continuing in later Greek as 'Ktēsiphōn' (Κτησιφῶν). In Iranian sources of the Sassanid period it is attested in Manichean Parthian, in Sassanid Middle Persian and in Christian Sogdian as Pahlavi tyspwn, continuing in New Persian as 'Tisfun' (تيسفون). In medieval Arabic texts the name is usually 'Taysafun' (طيسفون) or 'Qataysfun' (قطيسفون), in Modern Arabic 'Madain', 'Maden' or 'Al-Mada'in ' (المدائن). "According to Yaqut [...], quoting Hamza, the original form was Tusfun or Tusfun, which was arabicized as Taysafun."[2] The Armenian name of the city was Tizbon (Տիզբոն).

Contents

Location

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

Ctesiphon is located approximately at Al-Mada'in, 20 miles (32 km) 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). The only visible remain is the great arch Taq-i Kisra or Tagh-e Kasra located in what is now the Iraqi town of Salman Pak.

History

Ctesiphon rose to prominence during the Parthian Empire in the first century BC, and was the seat of government for most of its rulers. The city was located near Seleucia, the Hellenistic capital. Strabo abundantly describes its foundation:

Ruins of Ctesiphon depicted on a 1923 postage stamp of Iraq
"In ancient times Babylon was the metropolis of Assyria; but now Seleuceia is the metropolis, I mean the Seleuceia on the Tigris, as it is called. Near by is situated a village called Ctesiphon, a large village. This village the kings of the Parthians were wont to make their winter residence, thus sparing the Seleuceians, in order that the Seleuceians might not be oppressed by having the Scythian folk or soldiery quartered amongst them. Because of the Parthian power, therefore, Ctesiphon is a city rather than a village; its size is such that it lodges a great number of people, and it has been equipped with buildings by the Parthians themselves; and it has been provided by the Parthians with wares for sale and with the arts that are pleasing to the Parthians; for the Parthian kings are accustomed to spend the winter there because of the salubrity of the air, but they summer at Ecbatana and in Hyrcania because of the prevalence of their ancient renown."
—Strabo XVI, 1, 16[3]

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, the Byzantine Empire, five times in its history, three times in the second century alone. The emperor Trajan captured Ctesiphon in 116, but his successor Hadrian decided to willingly return Ctesiphon 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, 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 following a battle 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 during the caliphate of Umar. However, the general population was not harmed but the palaces and their archives were burned. 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 1915. The Ottoman Empire defeated troops of Britain attempting to capture Baghdad, and drove them back some 40 miles (64 km) before trapping the British force and compelling it to surrender.

Palaces of Ctesiphon

See also: Sassanid architecture

The splendor of the imperial palace complex at Ctesiphon, to include Khosrau I of Persia's palace (Shâhigân-ǐ Sepid = the white palace, now almost totally ruined) and the great arch Taq-i Kisra, remain legendary. The Throne room—presumably under or behind the arch—was more than 36m (110ft) high. The massive barrel vault covered an area 24m (80ft) wide by 50m (160ft) long, and was the largest vault ever constructed in Persia.

See also

References

  1. ^ Rosenberg, Matt T. (2007), Largest Cities Through History, New York: about.com, http://geography.about.com/library/weekly/aa011201a.htm 
  2. ^ Kröger, Jens (1993), "Ctesiphon", Encyclopedia Iranica, 6, Costa Mesa: Mazda, http://www.iranica.com/newsite/articles/v6f4/v6f4a030.html 
  3. ^ Strabo XVI, 1, 16

External links

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1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

CTESIPHON, a large village on the left bank of the Tigris, opposite to Seleucia, of which it formed a suburb, about 25 m. below Bagdad. It is first mentioned in the year 220 by Polybius v. 45.4 When the Parthian Arsacids had conquered the lands east of the Euphrates in 12 9 B.C., they established their winter residence in Ctesiphon. They dared not stay in Seleucia, as this city, the most populous town of western Asia, always maintained her Greek self-government and a strong feeling of independence, which made her incline to the west whenever a Roman army attacked the Parthians. The Arsacids also were afraid of destroying the wealth and commerce of Seleucia, if they entered it with their large retinue of barbarian officials and soldiers (Strabo xvi. 743, Min. vi. 122, cf. Joseph. Ant. xviii. 9, 2). From this time Ctesiphon increased in size, and many splendid buildings rose; it had the outward appearance of a large town, although it was by its constitution only a village. From A.D. 36-43 Seleucia was in rebellion against the Parthians till at last it was forced by King Vardanes to yield. It is very probable that Vardanes now tried to put Ctesiphon in its place; therefore he is called founder of Ctesiphon by Ammianus Marcellinus (xxiii. 6.23), where King Pacorus (78-110) is said to have increased its inhabitants and built its walls. Seleucia was destroyed by the Romans in A.D. 164. When Ardashir I.

founded the Sassanian empire (226), and fixed his residence at Ctesiphon, he built up Seleucia again under the name of VehArdashir. Later kings added other suburbs; Chosroes I. in 540 established the inhabitants of Antiochia in Syria, whom he had led into captivity, in a new city, "Chosrau-Antioch" (or "the Roman city") near his residence. Therefore the Arabs designate the whole complex of towns which lay together around Seleucia and Ctesiphon and formed the residence of the Sassanids by the name Madain, "the cities," - their number is often given as seven. In the wars between the Roman and Persian empires, Ctesiphon was more than once besieged and plundered, thus by Odaenathus in 261, and by Carus in 283; Julian in 363 advanced to Ctesiphon, but was not able to take it (Ammianus xxiv. 7). After the battle of Kadisiya (Qadisiya) Ctesiphon and the neighbouring towns were taken and plundered by the Arabs in 6 3 7, who brought home an immense amount of booty (see CALIPHATE). From then, these towns decayed before the increasing prosperity of the new Arab capitals Basra and Bagdad. The site is marked only by the ruins of one gigantic building of brick-work, called Takhti Khesra, "throne of Khosrau" (i.e. Chosroes). It is a great vaulted hall ornamented with pilasters, the remainder of the palace and the most splendid example of Sassanian architecture (see ARCHITECTURE, vol. ii. p. 558, for further details and illustration). (ED. M.)


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Wiktionary

Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary

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English

Etymology

From Ancient Greek Κτησιφῶν (Ktēsiphōn).

Pronunciation

  • IPA: /ˈtɛsɨfɒn/

Proper noun

Singular
Ctesiphon

Plural
-

Ctesiphon

  1. (historical) Ancient ruined city on the Tigris, near Baghdad, in present-day Iraq. Capital of Parthia and later of Sassanid Empire. Abandoned in 7th and 8th centuries.

Translations

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