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Coordinates: 34 ° 48 ′ 23.4 "  N , 48 ° 30 ′ 58.5"  E

Map: Iran
Achaemenid golden rhyton and golden bowl - now in the Iranian National Museum Tehran, 5th century BC Chr.

Ekbatana ( old Persian Hañgmatana  - "meeting", Agbatana at Aeschylus ) was the capital of the Medes Empire and later the royal residence in the Persian Achaemenid Empire . It was probably located on the site or in the vicinity of today's Iranian city ​​of Hamadan .


As early as 470 BC Ekbatana was mentioned by the Greek poet Aeschylus in the drama The Persians . The historian Herodotus ascribes outstanding importance to the city when the Mede Empire was founded. According to him, Ekbatana was founded as the future royal residence under the Median prince Deiokes . In the meantime, modern research has shown that Deiokes was not a Mede, but a Mannaean king. Deiokes is said to have ordered his people to build a palace on a hill and to settle the land only around it. Around the city seven different colored wall rings were built in such a way that the inner one always towered over the one outside. The hilly location of the city favored this building specification. The palace and the treasure houses are said to have stood in the innermost ring, and the city itself, in terms of its size, resembled Herodotus' Athens .

Archaeological excavations and further investigations into Median history, however, have made Herodotus' statements appear as a political ideal that does not correspond to the actual historical conditions.

Fortifications of the type described are characterized by Assyrian reliefs from the first half of the 1st millennium BC. Occupied. They seem to have been widespread in the entire Middle East and can also be assumed for the mountainous region between Mesopotamia and the Iranian highlands. However, the extent of the complex described by Herodotus seems somewhat exaggerated.

Golden rhyton from the Achaemenid period - today in the Iranian National Museum in Tehran

The Ekbatana described in the historical sources was one of the largest and most influential cities of pre-Achaemenid Iran. It was the center of the Median power structure and therefore had outstanding administrative and representative tasks. Consequently, it was also the first target of the Achaemenid Cyrus II during his campaigns of conquest in the 6th century BC. When Cyrus also became king of the Meder Empire after taking the city in personal union, he took over Ekbatana as the royal seat. Under him and his son and successor Cambyses II , Ekbatana was the most important royal residence. According to Herodotus, Cambyses is said to have died in an accident with his own sword in a city of the same name in Syria. Ekbatana lost some of its importance when Darius I raised Persepolis and Susa to royal residences as well. According to Xenophon , Ekbatana became a summer residence.

Ganj Nameh inscription from the Achaemenid period
The Behistun inscription shows the report of the victories of the great king Dareios I in three languages

The city was an important transport hub. The royal road from the Persian heartland to rich Bactria led through Ekbatana. A second road across the Zagros Mountains connected the city directly with Mesopotamia. This road led, directly behind Ekbatana, past the Darius and Xerxes inscriptions of Ganj Nameh and then passed a good 100 km as the crow flies to the southwest of Bisutun , which became famous for a series of Persian king reliefs and inscriptions .

The Sikayawautisch castle , where Darius I and his seven co-conspirators murdered the usurper Gaumata , who had his residence here, was also located near Ekbatana .

330 BC Ekbatana was conquered by the troops of Alexander the great in the hope of finding the fleeing king Dareios III. to be found, who was already on the way to Bactria. In Ekbatana, Alexander officially ended his campaign of revenge against the Persians and released the soldier to continue fighting as a mercenary under his leadership. General Parmenion was left in the city with administrative duties and was later murdered here.

Later, as Epiphaneia, Ekbatana became an important center of Hellenism. The Achaemenid palace still served in the 3rd century BC. BC as the residence of the Seleucids . The Seleucid mint was still in operation under Parthian rule.

As the largest and most important city in the media, the Parthians gave Ekbatana a high rank. The Arsacid rulers later used it as a summer residence; There is evidence of brisk construction activity from this epoch.

Under the Sassanids , the city gradually declined. It may have been the royal residence for a short time, but no major construction activity is known from that time. When the Arabs conquered the city, it already had its new name Hamadan.

In Hamadan there is still a lion statue, which due to stylistic parallels in Greece (lion of Chaironeia, erected shortly after 336 BC) can be dated to the Hellenistic period. The reason for the erection of the statue is unclear. Heinz Luschey suggests that the lion was erected by Alexander the Great in memory of his friend Hephaistion, who lived in 324 BC. Died at the victory celebration in Ekbatana (buried in Babylon). However, because Arab sources mention a lion gate (bab ul-asad) in Hamadan, it is also possible that the lion once had a counterpart and served as a guardian of such a gate. Allegedly this statue is supposed to be regarded and revered by the women of the place as a fertility symbol.


The latest research by Azarnoush refutes the previous assumption that the settlement mound in the center of Hamadan could possibly be identified with the Iron Age / Median Ekbatana. According to his statements, even the oldest layers on the existing soil can be addressed as early Arsakid.

According to ancient sources, Ekbatana could also have been in the Amadijah area. In 1847 the archaeologist Layard in Amadijah was told of a Chaldean manuscript in which the same city was once called Ekbatana.

Old testament

Ekbatana is mentioned several times in the Old Testament .

See also



  • Massoud Azarnoush: Gozāreš-e kavoušha-ye layešenakhti-e tapeh hagmatāne, hamadān . In: Iran Cultural Heritage Organization (Ed.): The 9th Annual Symposium on Iranian Archeology (= Archaeological Reports. Volume 7.1). Tehran 2007, pp. 20–37.
  • Roman Ghirshman: Iran. From The Earliest Times To The Islamic Conquest . Paris 1951.
  • Heidemarie Koch : Darius the King announces ... of life in the great Persian empire. (= Cultural history of the ancient world . Volume 55). Philipp von Zabern, Mainz 1992, ISBN 3-8053-1347-0 .
  • Josef Wiesehöfer : Ancient Persia . Artemis and Winkler, Munich / Zurich 1994, ISBN 3-7608-1080-2 . New edition, Albatros, Düsseldorf 2005, ISBN 3-491-96151-3 .

Web links

Commons : Ekbatana  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Heinz Luschey: The Lion of Ekbatana. In: Archäologische Mitteilungen aus Iran , Volume 1, 1968, pp. 115–129.
  2. Massoud Azarnoush: Gozāreš-e kavoušha-ye layešenakhti-e tapeh hagmatāne, hamadān. In: Iran Cultural Heritage Organization (Ed.): The 9th Annual Symposium on Iranian Archeology (= Archaeological Reports. Volume 7). Tehran 2007, p. 31.
  3. Austen Henry Layard : Niniveh and its remains. Leipzig 1854, p. 90.
  4. Search for "Ekbatana" in the standard translation ( www.bibleserver.com )