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Ecbatana (Old Persian: Haŋgmatana, Agbatana in Aeschylus and Herodotus, elsewhere Ἐκβάτανα Ecbatana, Agámtanu by Nabonidos, and Agamatanu at Behistunmarker; modern Hamadanmarker, Iranmarker) (literally: the place of gathering) is supposed to be the capital of Astyages (Istuvegü), which was taken by the Persian emperor Cyrus the Great in the sixth year of Nabonidus (549 BC).

Under the Persian kings, Ecbatana, situated at the foot of Mount Alvand, became a summer residence. Later, it became the capital of the Parthian kings, at which time it became their main mint, producing drachm, tetradrachm, and assorted bronze denominations. It is also mentioned in the Hebrew Bible (Ezra 6.2) under the name Achmetha.

Ecbatana/Hamedan (Iran) is not to be confused with Ecbatana/Hamath marker where Herodotus claims that Cambyses II died.


Ecbatana was first excavated in 1913 by Charles Fossey. Another excavation was made in 1971.


The Greeks supposed it to be the capital of Media, and ascribed its foundation to Deioces (the Daiukku of the cuneiform inscriptions), who is said to have surrounded his palace in it with seven concentric walls of different colours. In the fifth century B.C., Herodotus wrote of Ecbatana:
"The Medes built the city now called Ecbatana, the walls of which are of great size and strength, rising in circles one within the other.
The plan of the place is, that each of the walls should out-top the one beyond it by the battlements.
The nature of the ground, which is a gentle hill, favors this arrangements in some degree but it is mainly effected by art.
The number of the circles is seven, the royal palace and the treasuries standing within the last.
The circuit of the outer wall is very nearly the same with that of Athens.
On this wall the battlements are white, of the next black, of the third scarlet, of the fourth blue, the fifth orange; all these colors with paint.
The last two have their battlements coated repectively with silver and gold.
All these fortifications Deioces had caused to be raised for himself and his own palace."

However, there are problems with this association. So far, there is no evidence of Median existence in Hagmatana hill prior to the Parthian era afterwards. Similarly, Assyrian sources never mention Hagmatana/Ecbatana. Some scholars think that the problem can be resolved by identifying the Ecbatana/Hagmatana mentioned in later Greek and Achaemenid sources with the Sagbita/Sagbat frequently mentioned in Assyrian texts, since the Indo-Iranian sound /s/ turned into /h/ in many Iranian languages. The Sagbita mentioned by Assyrian sources was located in proximity of cities of Kishesim (Kar-Nergal) and Harhar (Kar-Sharrukin) .

Sir Henry Rawlinson attempted to prove that there was a second and older Ecbatana in Media Atropatene on the site of the modern Takht-i-Suleimanmarker. However, the cuneiform texts imply that there was only one city of the name, and that Takht-i Suleiman is the Gazaca of classical geography.

See also


  1. Brown, 2009
  2. CHN | News
  3. I.N. Medvedskaya, Were the Assyrians at Ecbatana?, Jan, 2002
  4. Were the Assyrians at Ecbatana? | International Journal of Kurdish Studies | Find Articles at

Further reading

  • Perrot and Chipiez, History of Art in Persia (Eng. trans., 1892);
  • M Dieulafoy, L'Art antique de Ia Perse, pt. i. (1884);
  • J. de Morgan, Mission scientifique en Perse, ii. (1894).

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