Susa ( , pronounced ; also
Armenian (Shushan); Greek: Σοῦσα ); Syriac: (Shush); was an
ancient city of the Elamite, Persian and Parthian
empires of Iran, located
about 250 km (150 miles) east of the Tigris River.
Iranian town of Shush is located
at the site of ancient Susa.
Susa is one of the oldest-known settlements of the region and
indeed the world, possibly founded about 4200 BC (See List of oldest
continuously inhabited cities
); although the first traces
of an inhabited village have been dated to ca. 7000 BC. Evidence of
a painted-pottery civilization has been dated to ca. 5000 BC.
In historic times, Susa was the primary capital of the Elamite
Empire. Its name in Elamite was written variously
Šušan, Šušun, etc. The city appears in the very
earliest Sumerian records, eg. in Enmerkar and the Lord of
Aratta it is described as one of the places obedient to
Inanna, patron deity of Uruk.
Susa is also mentioned in the Ketuvim
, mainly in Esther
, but also once each in Nehemiah
. Both Daniel and Nehemiah lived in
Susa during the Babylonian
captivity of Judah
of the 6th century BC. Esther
became queen there, and saved the Jews from
genocide. A tomb presumed to be that of Daniel is located in the
area, known as Shush-Daniel
. The tomb is marked by an
unusual white, stone cone, which is neither regular nor symmetric.
Many scholars believe it was at one point a Star of David
Susa is further mentioned in the Book of Jubilees
(8:21 & 9:2) as
one of the places within the inheritance of Shem
and his eldest son Elam; and in 8:1, "Susan" is
also named as the son (or daughter, in some translations) of
incorporated by Sargon the Great
into his Akkadian
Empire in approximately 2330 BC.
capital of an Akkadian province until ca. 2240 BC, when its Elamite
up in rebellion and liberated it, making it a literary center.
However, following this, the city was again conquered by the
dynasty, and held until
Ur finally collapsed at the hands of the Elamites under Kindattu
in ca. 2004 BC. At this time Susa again
became an Elamite capital.
The Elamites under Shutruk-Nahhunte
plundered the original stele
Code of Hammurabi
in ca. 1175 BC
and took it to Susa, where it was found in 1901. However, Nebuchadrezzar I
of the Babylonian
empire managed to plunder Susa in
return, around fifty years later.
In 647 BCE, the Assyrian king Assurbanipal
leveled the city during a war in
which the people of Susa apparently participated on the other side.
unearthed in 1854 by Austen Henry
Layard in Nineveh reveals
Ashurbanipal as an "avenger", seeking retribution for the
humiliations the Elamites had inflicted on the Mesopotamians over
Ninhursag with the spirit of the
forests next to the seven spiked cosmic tree of life.
"Susa, the great holy city, abode of their gods, seat of their
mysteries, I conquered. I entered its palaces, I opened
their treasuries where silver and gold, goods and wealth were
amassed... I destroyed the ziggurat of Susa. I smashed its shining
copper horns. I reduced the temples of Elam to naught;
their gods and goddesses I scattered to the winds. The
tombs of their ancient and recent kings I devastated, I exposed to
the sun, and I carried away their bones toward the land of
Ashur. I devastated the provinces of Elam and on their
lands I sowed salt.
The city was taken by the Achaemenid
Persians under Cyrus the Great
538 BCE. Under Cyrus' son Cambyses II, the capital of the empire moved
from Pasargadae to Susa.
forms the setting of The
Persians (472 BCE), an Athenian tragedy by the ancient
Greek playwright Aeschylus that is the
oldest surviving play in the history
The city lost some of its importance when Alexander of Macedon
conquered it in 331
BCE and destroyed the first Persian Empire. After Alexander, Susa
fell to the Seleucid Empire
Parthian, Sassanian and Arab periods
Approximately one century later when the
Parthian Empire gained its
independence from the Seleucid
Empire, Susa was made one of the two capitals (along with
Ctesiphon) of the new state.
Susa became a frequent
place of refuge for Parthian and later, the Persian Sassanid
kings, as the Romans
sacked Ctesiphon five different times
between 116 and 297 CE. Typically, the Parthian rulers wintered in
Susa, and spent the summer in Ctesiphon.
Islamic art: Cup with rose petals,
Susa was destroyed at least three times in its history. The first
was in 647 BCE, by Assurbanipal
second destruction took place in 638 CE, when the Muslim
armies first conquered Persia
. Finally, in 1218, the city was
completely destroyed by invading Mongols
The ancient city was gradually abandoned in the years that
significant Christian population during the first millennium, and
was a diocese of the Church of the East between the fifth and
thirteenth centuries, in the metropolitan province of Beth Huzaye
The site was examined in 1826 by Henry
and then by A. H. Layard
some modest excavation was done by William Loftus
, who identified it as
In 1885 and 1886 Marcel-Auguste
and Jane Dieulafoy began the first French
Jaques de Morgan conducted major excavations from 1897 until 1911.
These efforts continued under Roland De Mecquenem until 1914, at
the beginning of World War I
work at Susa resumed after the war, led by De Mecquenem, continuing
until World War II
Archaeological results from the later period were very thinly
published and attempts areunderway to remedy this situation.
Roman Ghirshman took over direction of the French efforts in 1946,
after the end of the the war. He continued there until 1967.
Ghirshman concentrated on excavating a single part of the site, the
hectare sized Ville Royale, taking it all the way down to bare
earth. The pottery found at the various levels enabled a
stratigraphy to be developed for Susa.
Shush at the site of ancient Susa is the administrative
capital of the Shush County of Iran's
It had a population 64,960 in
Image:Anthropoid sarcophagus Louvre Sb14393.jpg|Anthropoid
sarcophagusImage:Lion Darius Palace Louvre Sb3298.jpg|Lion on a
decorative panel from Darius I the
's palaceImage:Palmtree vase Susa Louvre
MAOS383.jpg|Islamic art: Vase with palmtrees, 8th–9th
centuriesImage:Susa louvre.jpg|Susa section, Louvre museum,
Sources and notes
- "Persians: Masters of Empire" ISBN 0-8094-9104-4 p. 7-8
- William K. Loftus, Travels and Researches in
Chaldaea and Susiana, Travels and Researches in Chaldaea and
Susiana: With an Account of Excavations at Warka, the "Erech" of
Nimrod, and Shush, "Shushan the Palace" of Esther, in 1849-52,
Robert Carter & Brothers, 1857
-  Jane Dieulafoy, Perzië Chaldea en Susiane De Aarde
en haar Volken 1885-1887, 1886
- Jacques de Morgan de Morgan, Fouilles à Suse
en 1897-1898 et 1898-1899, Mission archéologique en Iran, Mémoires
- Jacques de Morgan, Fouilles à Suse en
1899-1902, Mission archéologique en Iran, Mémoires VII, 1905
- Robert H. Dyson, Early Work on the Acropolis at Susa. The
Beginning of Prehistory in Iraq and Iran, Expedition, vol. 10, no.
4, pp. 21-34, 1968
-  Shelby White - Leon Levy Program funded
project to publish early Susa archaeological results
- Roman Ghirshman, Suse au tournant du III au II millenaire avant
notre ere, Arts Asiatiques, vol. 17, pp. 3-44, 1968
- Hermann Gasche, Ville Royal de Suse: vol I : La poterie elamite
du deuxieme millenaire a.C, Mission archéologique en Iran, Mémoires
- World city populations: Susa