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τὰ Ἐκβάτανα; Acmetha).


The capital of Media, situated, according to Diodorus (ii. 13), about twelve stadia from Mount Orontes. The genuine orthography of the word appears to be Agbatana (Ἀγβάτανα), a form employed by Ctesias. Ecbatana, being in a high and mountainous country, was a favourite residence of the Persian kings during summer, when the heat of Susa was almost insupportable. The Parthian kings also, at a later period, retired to it in the summer to avoid the excessive heat of Ctesiphon. According to Herodotus (i. 98), Ecbatana was built near the close of the eighth century B.C. by Deïoces, the founder of the Median monarchy. The Book of Judith (i. 2) assigns the building of this city, or, rather, the erection of its citadel, to Arphaxad, in the twelfth year of the reign of Nebuchadnezzar, king of Assyria. Some writers make Arphaxad the same with Deïoces, while others identify him with Phraortes, the son of the latter, who might have repaired the city or else made some additions to it.

Herodotus furnishes us with no hint whence we may infer the relative position of Ecbatana on the map of Media. His description of the fortress or citadel, however, is particular. “The Medes,” he remarks, “in obedience to their king's command, built those spacious and massive fortifications now called Ecbatana, circle within circle, according to the following plan: each inner circle overtops its outer neighbour by the height of the battlements alone. This was effected partly by the nature of the ground, a conical hill, and partly by the building itself. The number of the circles was seven; within the innermost were built the palace and the treasury. The circumference of the outermost wall and of the city of Athens may be regarded as nearly equal. The battlements of the first circle are white; of the second, black; of the third, scarlet; of the fourth, azure; of the fifth, orange. All these are brilliantly coloured with different paints. But the battlements of the sixth circle are silvered over, while those of the seventh are gilt. Deïoces constructed these walls around his palace for his own personal safety; but he ordered the people to erect their houses in a circle around the outer wall” (i. 98 foll.). The Orientals, however, according to Diodorus Siculus, claimed a far more ancient origin for Ecbatana. Ctesias not only describes it as the capital of the first Median monarchy, founded by Arbaces, but as existing prior to the era of the famed and fabulous Semiramis, who is said to have visited Ecbatana in the course of her royal journeys and to have built there a magnificent palace. She also, with immense labour and expense, introduced abundance of excellent water into the city by perforating the adjacent Mount Orontes, and forming a tunnel, fifteen feet broad and forty feet high, through which she conveyed a lake-stream (Diod. Sic.ii. 13). The palace stood below the citadel. Its tiles were of silver and its capitals, entablatures, and wainscotings of gold and silver. This metal the Seleucidae coined into money, amounting to the sum of 4000 talents, or $4,730,000.

Ecbatana was taken by Cyrus in B.C. 549, and remained a splendid city under the Persian sway, the great king spending at this place the two hottest months of the year. The Macedonian conquest did not prove destructive to Ecbatana, as it had to the royal palace at Persepolis. Alexander deposited in Ecbatana the treasures taken from Persepolis and Pasargada, and one of the last acts of his life was a royal visit to the Median capital. Although not equally favoured by the Seleucidae, it still retained the traces of its former grandeur; and Polybius has left on record a description of its state under Antiochus the Great, which shows that Ecbatana was still a splendid city, though it had been despoiled of many of its more costly decorations (Polyb. x. frag. 4). When the Seleucidae were driven from Upper Asia, Ecbatana became the favourite summer residence of the Arsacidae, and at the close of the first century it still continued to be the Parthian capital (Tac. Ann. xv. 31). When the Persians, under the house of Sassan, A.D. 226, recovered the dominion of Upper Asia, Ecbatana continued to be a favourite and secure place of residence. The natural bulwarks of Mount Zagros were never forced by the Roman legions. Consequently, as we learn from Ammianus Marcellinus, near the close of the fourth century Ecbatana continued to be a strongly fortified city. See G. Rawlinson's Herodotus, vol. i. p. 226 (1875); and on the site, Sir Henry Rawlinson in the Journal of the Royal Geog. Society for 1841.


A town of Syria, in Galilaea Inferior, at the foot of Mount Carmel. Here Cambyses (q.v.) gave himself a mortal wound as he was mounting his horse, and thus fulfilled the oracle which had warned him to beware of Ecbatana (Herod.iii. 64).

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