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About 88 km S-SW of Mosul, in the westernmost part of ancient Assyria, somewhat W of the right bank of the Tigris. Hatra was the capital of a semi-independent frontier principality chiefly of Semitic, Aramaic-speaking population. It flourished as a caravan city on the route between the Persian Gulf and N Syria during the first two and a half centuries A.D. and was normally in the orbit of the rulers of Persia. Hatra's considerable archaeological importance derives from its position on the border between the Classical and the Iranian worlds: Hatran art and architecture (the sculpture is particularly significant) show the influence of both. Trajan and Septimius Severus both besieged the town without success (Dio Cass. 68.31; Amm. Marc. 25.8.5); later, after a brief period as an ally of Rome, it fell to the Sassanians under Shapur I (ca. A.D. 245). The site was deserted when Ammianus saw it in 363.

What can be seen is chiefly later Parthian in date (1st and 2d c. A.D.). A defensive ditch and towered wall (of circular plan, probably in imitation of Ctesiphon) enclose ca. 320 ha. There is no regular street plan. The houses, built around courtyards, are of crude brick; each has an iwan (a vaulted chamber or hall with one side open to a court). At the center of the city was a walled rectangular enclosure (ca. 300 x 450 m), pierced by seven gates and divided into two unequal parts by a transverse wall. Within this precinct were a number of sanctuaries, each of one or more iwans, and perhaps the city administrative center as well.

The chief monument in the enclosure is a great Temple to Shamash, the god of the sun (formerly called the palace, but inscriptions found in it would seem to guarantee its religious function). One inscription records that it was under construction in A.D. 77. The plan is Parthian, the structure Romano-Syrian. Major and minor iwans, the largest spanning ca. 21 m, were vaulted with stone voussoirs, and the walls are of dressed stone facing mortared rubble cores; it is the only known building of this period in Mesopotamia to be constructed in this manner. Molding forms appear that are common to Hatra and Baalbek. Capitals specifically Ionic and Corinthian were used, and there is a garlanded frieze featuring the forequarters of bulls and lions that is unmistakably of Achaemenid origin. Next to the Shamash iwans is a fire temple or platform of square plan with vaulted galleries around it.

The synthetic nature, however creative, of Hatran art is seen also in the sculpture (relief, freestanding, and items of personal adornment). Greek, Neo-Iranian, and Roman Imperial elements mingle here, though the eastern mode predominates (frontality, stylization, patterning). This sculpture can be seen chiefly in the Iraqi Museum at Baghdad and in the Mosul Museum.


W. Andrae, Hatra, 2 vols. (1908-12)MPI; RE VII (1912) 2516-23; H. Ingholt, Parthian Sculptures from Hatra (1954)I; J. Bradford, Ancient Landscapes (1957) 71-75I; EAA 3 (1960) 1116-22I; R. Ghirshman, Iran: Parthians and Sassanians (1962) passimMPI; D. Homès-Fredericq, Hatra et les sculptures Parthes (1963)I; J. B. Ward Perkins, “The Roman West and the Parthian East,” ProcBritAc 51 (1965) 175-99I. See also the journals Sumer (1951ff), Syria (1955ff), RA (1964), and Phoenix (1965ff).


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