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Hatra ruins.jpg
The ruins of Hatra circa 1988
Hatra is located in Iraq
Shown within Iraq
Alternate name هترا
Location Hatra District, Ninawa Governorate, Iraq
Region Mesopotamia
Coordinates 35°35′17″N 42°43′6″E / 35.58806°N 42.71833°E / 35.58806; 42.71833Coordinates: 35°35′17″N 42°43′6″E / 35.58806°N 42.71833°E / 35.58806; 42.71833
Type Iranian (Parthian and Sasanian)
Founded 3rd or 2nd century BC
Abandoned 241 AD
Site notes
Condition Ruins
Public access Inaccessible (in a war zone)
Official name Hatra
Type Cultural
Criteria ii, iii, iv, vi
Designated 1985 (9th session)
Reference no. 277
Region Arab States

Hatra (Arabic: الحضرal-Ḥaḍr, Persian: هترا) was an ancient city in the Ninawa Governorate of present-day Iraq. The city lies 290 km (180 mi) northwest of Baghdad and 110 km (68 mi) southwest of Mosul.


Some believe Hatra may have been built by the Assyrians or possibly in the 3rd or 2nd century BC under the influence of the Seleucid Empire, but there is no reliable information on the city before the Parthian period.[1] Hatra flourished under the Parthians, during the 1st and 2nd centuries AD, as a religious and trading center.[2] Later on, the city became the capital of possibly the first Arab Kingdom in the chain of Arab cities running from Hatra, in the northeast, via Palmyra, Baalbek and Petra, in the southwest. The region controlled from Hatra was the Kingdom of Araba, a semi-autonomous buffer kingdom on the western limits of the Parthian Empire, governed by Arabian princes.

bronze coin struck in Hatra circa 117-138 AD, obverse depicts radiate bust of Shamash

Hatra became an important fortified frontier city and withstood repeated attacks by the Roman Empire, and played an important role in the Second Parthian War. It repulsed the sieges of both Trajan (116/117) and Septimius Severus (198/199).[3] Hatra defeated the Persians at the battle of Shahrazoor in 238, but fell to the Persia's Sassanid Empire of Shapur I in 241 and was destroyed.[3] The traditional stories of the fall of Hatra tell of Nadera, daughter of the King of Araba, who betrayed the city into the hands of Shapur. The story tells of how Shapur killed the king and married Nadera, but later had her killed also.[2] Hatra was a major city of the Sasanian province of Arbayistan.[4]

External image
Plan of Hatra, whc.unesco.org

Hatra was the best preserved and most informative example of a Parthian city. Its plan was circular,[5] and was encircled by inner and outer walls nearly 2 kilometres (1.2 mi) in diameter[6] and supported by more than 160 towers. A temenos (τέμενος) surrounded the principal sacred buildings in the city's centre. The temples covered some 1.2 hectares and were dominated by the Great Temple, an enormous structure with vaults and columns that once rose to 30 metres. The city was famed for its fusion of Greek, Mesopotamian, Canaanite, Aramean and Arabian pantheons, known in Aramaic as Beiṯ Ĕlāhā ("House of God"). The city had temples to Nergal (Assyrian-Babylonian and Akkadian), Hermes (Greek), Atargatis (Syro-Aramaean), Allat, Shamiyyah (Arabian), and Shamash (the Mesopotamian sun god).[2] Other deities mentioned in the Hatran Aramaic inscriptions were the Aramaean Ba'al Shamayn, and the female deity known as Ashurbel, which was perhaps the assimilation of the two deities the Assyrian god Ashur and the Babylonian Bel—despite their being individually masculine.


In Hatra (Al Hadar), there is a local steppe climate. Most rain falls in the winter. The Köppen-Geiger climate classification is BSh. The average annual temperature in Hatra is 20.7 °C (69.3 °F). About 257 mm (10.12 in) of precipitation falls annually.

Climate data for Hatra (Al Hadar)
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Average high °C (°F) 12.8
Average low °C (°F) 3.2
Average precipitation mm (inches) 43
Source: climate-data.org

List of rulers

In inscriptions found at Hatra, several rulers are mentioned. Other rulers are sporadically mentioned by classical authors. They appear with two titles. The earlier rulers are called mrj´ (translation uncertain), the later ones mlk -king.

Rulers of Hatra
Name Title Years attested Comments
Worod mry´
Ma'nu mry´
Elkud mry´ AD 155/156
Nashrihab mrj´ AD 128/29 - 137/38
Naṣru mry´ 128/29 - 176/77
Wolgash I mry´ and mlk - King
Sanatruq I mry´ and mlk - King AD 176/177 ruled together with Wolgash I
Wolgash (II?), son of Wolgash (I.)
Abdsamiya mlk - King AD 192/93 - 201/202 Supported the Roman emperor Pescennius Niger
Sanatruq II mlk - King AD 207/08 - 229/230

Modern Hatra

Archaeological site of Hatra before destruction, 0:59, UNESCO video

Hatra was used as the setting for the opening scene in the 1973 film The Exorcist,[7] and since 1985 has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site.[8]

Saddam Hussein saw the site's Mesopotamian history as reflecting glory on himself, and sought to restore the site, and others in Ninevah, Nimrud, Ashur and Babylon, as a symbol of Arab achievement,[9] spending more than US $80 million in the first phase of restoration of Babylon. Saddam Hussein demanded that new bricks in the restoration use his name (in imitation of Nebuchadnezzar) and parts of one restored Hatra temple have Saddam's name.[10]

From 1987 the Italian Archaeological Expedition,[11] directed by R. Ricciardi Venco (University of Turin), has worked at Hatra. The excavations were focused on an important house ("Building A"[12]), located close to the Temenos, and on deep soundings in the Temenos central area.[13] Now the Expedition is active in different projects regarding the preservation and development of the archaeological site.[14]

In 2004, The Daily Telegraph stated "Hatra's finely preserved columns and statues make it one of the most impressive of Iraq's archaeological sites"[15]

Demolition by ISIL

Actions by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, which occupied the area in mid-2014, have been a major threat to Hatra. In early 2015 they announced their intention to destroy many artifacts, claiming that such "graven images" were un-Islamic, encouraged shirk (or polytheism), and could not be permitted to exist, despite the preservation of the site for 1,400 years by various Islamic regimes. ISIL militants pledged to destroy the remaining artifacts. Shortly thereafter, they released a video showing the destruction of some artifacts from Hatra.[16][17] After the bulldozing of Nimrud on March 5, 2015, "Hatra of course will be next" said Abdulamir Hamdani, an Iraqi archaeologist from Stony Brook University.[18] On March 7, Kurdish and Iraqi official sources reported ISIS had begun the demolishing the ruins of Hatra.[19][20] A video released by ISIL during the next month showed the destruction of the monuments.[21]

UNESCO and ISESCO issued a joint statement saying "With this latest act of barbarism against Hatra, (the IS group) shows the contempt in which it holds the history and heritage of Arab people."[22]

The pro-Iraqi government Popular Mobilization Forces captured the city on 26 April 2017.[23] A spokeswoman for the militias stated that ISIL had destroyed the sculptures and engraved images of the site, but its walls and towers were still standing though contained holes and scratches received from ISIL bullets. PMF units also stated that the group had mined the site's eastern gates, thus temporarily preventing any assessment of damage by archaeologists.[24] It was reported on 1 May that the site had suffered less damage than feared earlier. A journalist of EFE had earlier reported finding many destroyed statues, burnt buildings as well as signs of looting. Layla Salih, head of antiquities for Nineveh Governorate, stated that most of the buildings were intact and the destruction didn't compare with that of other archaeological sites of Iraq. A PMF commander also stated that the damage was relatively minor.[25]


See also


  1. ^ . Encyclopædia Iranica http://www.iranicaonline.org/articles/hatra.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  2. ^ a b c "Hatra". Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved 14 December 2013. 
  3. ^ a b Advisory Body Evaluation on Hatra. International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS). 1985. pages 1-2.
  4. ^ http://www.iranicaonline.org/articles/arbayistan-name-of-a-mesopotamian-province-in-the-sasanian-empire
  5. ^ Salma , ,, K. Jayyusi; Holod, Renata; Petruccioli, Attilio; André, Raymond (2008). The City in the Islamic World. Leiden: Brill. p. 174. ISBN 9789004162402. 
  6. ^ "Hatra UNESCO World Heritage Centre". http://whc.unesco.org/en. UNESCO. 1992–2015. Retrieved 31 March 2015.  External link in |website= (help)
  7. ^ Freeman, Colin s (25 June 2014). "Iraq's 'Exorcist' temple falls into Isis jihadist hand". The Telegraph. London. Retrieved 7 March 2015. 
  8. ^ "Hatra". whc.unesco.org. UNESCO. Retrieved 7 March 2015. 
  9. ^ Lawrence Rothfield (1 Aug 2009). The Rape of Mesopotamia: Behind the Looting of the Iraq Museum. University of Chicago Press. 
  10. ^ "Ancient Hatra Ruins". Defense Video & Imagery Distribution System. 9 September 2006. 
  11. ^ Hatra - Italian Archaeological Expedition
  12. ^ Building A
  13. ^ deep soundings
  14. ^ projects
  15. ^ Freeman, Colin (4 January 2004). "American troops launch 'Exorcist' tour at ancient temple". The Telegraph. 
  16. ^ Cockburn, Patrick (27 February 2015). "Iraq: Isis militants pledged to destroy remaining archaeological treasures in Nimrud". The Independent. Retrieved 8 March 2015. 
  17. ^ "ISIL video shows destruction of 7th century artifacts". aljazeera.com. 26 February 2015. Retrieved 7 March 2015. 
  18. ^ Karim Abou Merhi (5 March 2015). "IS 'bulldozed' ancient Assyrian city of Nimrud, Iraq says". AFP. Retrieved 5 March 2015. 
  19. ^ Yacoub, Sameer N. (7 March 2015). "IS destroying another ancient archaeological site in Iraq". ArmyTimes. United States. Associated Press. Retrieved 7 March 2015. 
  20. ^ "Islamic state 'demolish' ancient Hatra site in Iraq". BBC. 7 March 2015. Retrieved 7 March 2015. 
  21. ^ Vivian Salama (4 Apr 2015). "Video: Islamic State group shot, hammered away Iraq's Hatra". Associated Press. 
  22. ^ Yacoub, Sameer N.; Salam, Vivian (7 March 2015). "IS destroying another ancient site in Iraq". The Telegraph. Macon, Georgia. Archived from the original on 10 March 2015. Retrieved 8 March 2015. 
  23. ^ "Iraqi forces retake damaged Hatra heritage site from IS". Deutsche Welle. 26 April 2017. Retrieved 29 April 2017. 
  24. ^ Hussain, Rikar (27 April 2017). "Iraqi Militias Find Relics Destroyed by IS in Ancient Town". Voice of America. Retrieved 29 April 2017. 
  25. ^ "Hatra: IS damage to ancient Iraqi city less than feared". BBC. 1 May 2017. Retrieved 1 May 2017. 

External links

  • Between Rome and Parthia: The Desert City of Hatra
  • http://lexicorient.com/e.o/hathra.htm
  • http://www.britannica.com/eb/article-9039509
  • http://shezaf.net/english/Video/Video/Hatra.html
  • http://www.bbc.co.uk/archive/chronicle/8612.shtml BBC Chronicle "Lost Kings of the Desert"
  • https://hatrasite.com/ Italian Archaeological Expedition at Hatra
  • Iraqi forces seize ancient UNESCO site of Hatra from Islamic State as jihadis execute Mosul civilians
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