: Eth. Κτησιφώντιος
), a large city in the southern part of Assyria, on the left or eastern bank of the Tigris, the origin of which is uncertain.
It is first mentioned by Polybius (5.45
), in his narrative of the war between Antiochus the Great and Molo. Ammianus (23.6) attributes its foundation to a Parthian ruler named Vardanes or Varanes, but history has not recorded who he was or at what period he lived.
It is certain, however, that it was not a place of great consequence till the Parthian empire was firmly established.
It rose on the decay of Seleuceia, as that city had upon the fall of the earlier capital, Babylon; and Ammianus may be right in attributing to the Parthian Pacorus, the son of Orodes, the magnificence for which it became celebrated. Strabo (Epit.
11.32) describes Ctesiphon as the winter residence of the Parthian kings, who lived there at that season owing to the mildness of the climate; while they passed their summer in Hyrcania, or at Ecbatana, the ancient and more illustrious royal seat.
It long remained a place of considerable importance, especially at the time of the restoration of the Persian empire under the early Sassanian princes. Tacitus (Tac. Ann. 6.42
) calls it “sedes imperii.” Its population must have been very large, as from it alone Severus carried off 100,000 prisoners. (Herodian, 3.30; Dio Cass. [p. 1.715]
75.9; Spartian. Sever.
100.16; Zosim. 1.8.)
It was still a strong place at the time of Julian's invasion (Amm. Marc. 24.6
; Greg. Naz. Orat. in Julian.
2), and in the time of Gallienus,--for, though Odenathus was able to ravage the whole of the adjoining country as far as Emisa, the walls of Ctesiphon were sufficiently strong to protect those who fled within them. (Zosim. 1.39.) From the fact that Pliny (6.30
) states that Ctesiphon was in Chalonitis and that Polybius (5.44
) speaks of Καλωνίτις,
it has been conjectured by some geographers that Ctesiphon was on the site of the primeval city Chalneh (Genes.
10.10); but there is no reason to suppose that Chalonitis extended so far to the west, and we have no certain evidence that it derived its name from Chalneh. (Hieronym. Quaest. in Genes.
and Comment. Amos.
In more modern times the site of Ctesiphon has been identified with a place called by the Arabs Al Madain
(the two cities). (Abulfeda, Geogr.
and Ibn-al-Vardi's Descript. of Irák,
Niebuhr, vol. ii. p. 305.)
At present there are in the neighbourhood some ruins popularly called Ták Kesra,
or the Arch of Chosroes, which have been noticed by many travellers, and have been supposed to be remains of the palace of one of the Sassanian princes at this place. (Niebuhr, l.c.;
ii. p. 112; Della Valle, i. lett. 18.)