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ATRAE or HATRAE (Ἄτραι, Herodian 3.28; Steph. Byz. s. v.; τὰ Ἄτρα, D. C. 67.31, 85.10; Hatra, Amm. 25.8; Eth. Ἀτρήνοι: Al Hathr, Journ. Geog. Soc., vol. ix. p. 467), a strong place, some days' journey in the desert, west of the Tigris, on a small stream, now called the Tharthar (near Libanae, Steph. B. sub voce βαναί). Herodianus (l.c.) describes it as a place of considerable strength, on the precipice of a very steep hill; and Ammianus (l.c.) calls it Vetus oppidum in media solitudine positum olimque desertum. Zonaras calls it πόλιν Ἀράβιον. Mannert (5.2) suggests that perhaps the βημάτρα of Ptolemy (5.18.13) represents the same place, it being a corruption for Bet-atra; but this seems hardly necessary: moreover, in some of the later editions of Ptolemy, the word is spelt Βιμάτρα. The ruins of Al Hathr, which are very extensive, and still attest the former grandeur of the city, have been visited by Mr. Layard in 1846, who considers the remains as belonging to the Sassanian period, or, at all events, as not prior to the Parthian dynasty. (Nineveh and its Remains, vol. i. p. 110.) Mr. Ainsworth, who visited Al Hathr in company with Mr. Layard in the spring of 1840, has given a very full and interesting account of its present state, which corresponds exceedingly well with the short notice of Ammianus. (Ainsworth, Res. vol. 2.100.35.) It appears from Dio Cassius (preserved in Xiphilinus) that Trajan, having descended the Tigris and Euphrates, and having proclaimed Parthamaspates king of Ctesiphon, entered Arabia against Atra, but was compelled to retire, owing to the great heat and scarcity of water; and that Septimius Severus, who also returned by the Tigris from Ctesiphon, was forced to raise the siege of the city after sitting twenty days before it, the machines of war having been burnt by “Greek fire,” which Mr. Ainsworth conjectures to have been the bitumen so common in the neighbourhood. Its name is supposed by Mr. Ainsworth to be derived from the Chaldee Hutra, “a sceptre” --i. e. the seat of government.


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