Hatra (Arabic: الحضرal-Ḥaḍr) 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.

Hatra ruins
The ruins of Hatra circa 1988
Hatra is located in Iraq
Shown within Iraq
LocationHatra District, Ninawa Governorate, Iraq
Coordinates35°35′17″N 42°43′6″E / 35.58806°N 42.71833°ECoordinates: 35°35′17″N 42°43′6″E / 35.58806°N 42.71833°E
TypeIranian (Parthian and Sasanian)
Founded3rd or 2nd century BC
Abandoned241 AD
Site notes
Public accessInaccessible (in a war zone)
Official nameHatra
Criteriaii, iii, iv, vi
Designated1985 (9th session)
Reference no.277
RegionArab States


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.

Coin of Hatra
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 as she fell in love with him. The story tells of how Shapur killed the king and married Nadera, but later had her killed also after realizing her ingratitude towards her father.[2][4] Hatra was a major city of the Sasanian province of Arbayistan.[5]

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,[6] and was encircled by inner and outer walls nearly 2 kilometres (1.2 mi) in diameter[7] 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.


Hatra has a hot semi-arid climate (Köppen climate classification BSh). Most rain falls in the winter. 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,[8] and since 1985 has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site.[9]

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,[10] 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.[11]

From 1987 the Italian Archaeological Expedition,[12] directed by R. Ricciardi Venco (University of Turin), has worked at Hatra. The excavations were focused on an important house ("Building A"[13]), located close to the Temenos, and on deep soundings in the Temenos central area.[14] Now the Expedition is active in different projects regarding the preservation and development of the archaeological site.[15]

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"[16]

Destruction 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.[17][18] 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.[19] On March 7, Kurdish and Iraqi official sources reported ISIS had begun the demolishing the ruins of Hatra.[20][21] A video released by ISIL during the next month showed the destruction of the monuments.[22]

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."[23]

The pro-Iraqi government Popular Mobilization Forces captured the city on 26 April 2017.[24] 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.[25] 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.[26]



Remains of several temples and ancient walls (2004)


Overview of the site in 2007


May 2006


May 2006

Hatra Ruins - 2008-07-20

July 2008


November 2008


November 2008

Crazy Troop Visit Ancient Ruins of Hatra 2

American soldiers at the site, September 2010

Crazy Troop Visit Ancient Ruins of Hatra 6

American soldiers at the site, September 2010

Hatra city.jpeg

September 2014


Detail of a temple, showing Hellenistic, Mesopotamian, Iranian, and Roman architecture.


View of iwans


Facade of Temple


Decorated arch with faces


Arch of the temple


Protruded head on a wall


Closeup of an iwan


Statue of the Goddess Shahiro

From left to right, an unidentified ruler, Hermes, a female deity, and Sanatruq I.From Hatra. Erbil Civilization Museum

From left to right, an unidentified ruler, Hermes, a female deity, and Sanatruq I.From Hatra. Erbil Civilization Museum

Door lintel from Hatra. 2nd-3rd century AD. Sulaymaniyah Museum, Iraqi Kurdistan

Door lintel from Hatra. 2nd-3rd century AD. Sulaymaniyah Museum, Iraqi Kurdistan

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. ^ E.J. Brill's First Encyclopaedia of Islam 1913-1936. BRILL. 1987. p. 207a. ISBN 9789004082656.
  5. ^ http://www.iranicaonline.org/articles/arbayistan-name-of-a-mesopotamian-province-in-the-sasanian-empire
  6. ^ Salma, K. Jayyusi; Holod, Renata; Petruccioli, Attilio; André, Raymond (2008). The City in the Islamic World. Leiden: Brill. p. 174. ISBN 9789004162402.
  7. ^ "Hatra UNESCO World Heritage Centre". http://whc.unesco.org/en. UNESCO. 1992–2015. Retrieved 31 March 2015. External link in |website= (help)
  8. ^ Freeman, Colin s (25 June 2014). "Iraq's 'Exorcist' temple falls into Isis jihadist hand". The Telegraph. London. Retrieved 7 March 2015.
  9. ^ "Hatra". whc.unesco.org. UNESCO. Retrieved 7 March 2015.
  10. ^ Lawrence Rothfield (1 Aug 2009). The Rape of Mesopotamia: Behind the Looting of the Iraq Museum. University of Chicago Press.
  11. ^ "Ancient Hatra Ruins". Defense Video & Imagery Distribution System. 9 September 2006.
  12. ^ Hatra - Italian Archaeological Expedition
  13. ^ Building A
  14. ^ deep soundings
  15. ^ projects
  16. ^ Freeman, Colin (4 January 2004). "American troops launch 'Exorcist' tour at ancient temple". The Telegraph.
  17. ^ Cockburn, Patrick (27 February 2015). "Iraq: Isis militants pledged to destroy remaining archaeological treasures in Nimrud". The Independent. Retrieved 8 March 2015.
  18. ^ "ISIL video shows destruction of 7th century artifacts". aljazeera.com. 26 February 2015. Retrieved 7 March 2015.
  19. ^ Karim Abou Merhi (5 March 2015). "IS 'bulldozed' ancient Assyrian city of Nimrud, Iraq says". AFP. Retrieved 5 March 2015.
  20. ^ Yacoub, Sameer N. (7 March 2015). "IS destroying another ancient archaeological site in Iraq". ArmyTimes. United States. Associated Press. Retrieved 7 March 2015.
  21. ^ "Islamic state 'demolish' ancient Hatra site in Iraq". BBC. 7 March 2015. Retrieved 7 March 2015.
  22. ^ Vivian Salama (4 Apr 2015). "Video: Islamic State group shot, hammered away Iraq's Hatra". Associated Press.
  23. ^ 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.
  24. ^ "Iraqi forces retake damaged Hatra heritage site from IS". Deutsche Welle. 26 April 2017. Retrieved 29 April 2017.
  25. ^ Hussain, Rikar (27 April 2017). "Iraqi Militias Find Relics Destroyed by IS in Ancient Town". Voice of America. Retrieved 29 April 2017.
  26. ^ "Hatra: IS damage to ancient Iraqi city less than feared". BBC. 1 May 2017. Retrieved 1 May 2017.

External links


Abdsamiya was a king of Hatra, an ancient city and kingdom in ancient Mesopotamia (Iraq). He reigned from about AD 180 to 205. Abdsamiya was the son of king Sanatruq I and the father of Sanatruq II. Abdsamiya is known from eight inscriptions found at Hatra. One of them reports the building of a porticus for the king and is dated to year 504 of the Seleucid era (AD 192/93). Another inscription appears on a statue and is dated to AD 201/202. Abdsamiya is most likely also mentioned by Herodian (3.1.3). There he appears as Barsemias. He supported in year AD 192 Pescennius Niger against Septimius Severus.

Al-Mada'in District

Al-Mada'in District is a district of the Baghdad Governorate, Iraq. It includes the city of Salman Pak, which incorporates the ancient ruins of Al-Mada'in, and the oldest freestanding mud brick arch in the world. Other metropolitan areas include Jisr Dyala, an urban district that borders the Baghdad city district of (???), the northern village of Nahrawahn with its major brickworks, and the central village of Wahedah that sits astride the Basrah Highway into Wasit Province.

Al-Shatrah District

Al-Shatra District is a district of the Dhi Qar Governorate, Iraq.

Amara District

Amara District (Arabic: حي عمارة) is a district of the Maysan Governorate, Iraq.

The population of Amara District is currently around 1,250,000 people.

Amarah is located inside of Amara District and is the capital and largest city of Maysan Governate, The population of the city is

511,542 and is the 7th largest city in Iraq by population.

Anah District

Anah is a district in Al Anbar Governorate, Iraq. It is centred on the town of Anah.

Aramaic of Hatra

Aramaic of Hatra refers to inscriptions from the site of the ancient city of Hatra that were published by W. Andrae in 1912 and were studied by S. Ronzevalle and P. Jensen. The excavations undertaken by the Iraqi Department of Antiquities brought to light more than 100 new texts, the publication of which was undertaken by F. Safar in the journal Sumer. The first four series were the subject of reviews in the journal Syria. The texts range in date from the 2nd or 3rd century BCE to the destruction of the city c. 240 CE; the earliest dated text provides a date of 98 BCE.

For the most part, these inscriptions are short commemorative graffiti with minimal text. The longest of the engraved inscriptions does not have more than 13 lines. It is therefore difficult to identify more than a few features of the Aramaic dialect of Hatra, which shows overall the greatest affinity to Syriac.

The stone inscriptions bear witness to an effort to establish a monumental script. This script is little different from that of the Aramaic inscriptions of Assur (possessing the same triangular š, and the use of the same means to avoid confusion between m, s, and q). The ds and the rs are not distinguished from one another, and it is sometimes difficult not to confuse w and y.

Destruction of cultural heritage by ISIL

Deliberate destruction and theft of cultural heritage has been conducted by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant since 2014 in Iraq, Syria, and to a lesser extent in Libya. The destruction targets various places of worship under ISIL control and ancient historical artifacts. In Iraq, between the fall of Mosul in June 2014 and February 2015, ISIL had plundered and destroyed at least 28 historical religious buildings. Valuable items from some buildings were looted in order to smuggle and sell them to finance ISIS activities.ISIL uses a unit called the Kata'ib Taswiyya (settlement battalions) to select targets for demolition. UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova branded the ISIS activities in this respect as "a form of cultural cleansing" and launched the Unite4Heritage campaign to protect heritage sites threatened by extremists.

Dujail District

Dujail District (formerly, Al-Faris) is a district in the north-eastern part of Saladin Province, Iraq. Its main settlement is the small town of Dujail. District's population of 91,170 people is nearly entirely Shia (except for a few villages on the banks of the Tigris) on the east. The town of Dujail was subject to a massacre by Saddam Hussein agents, when an assassination was attempted on him while visiting. Ultimately, Saddam was tried, convicted and hanged for the said massacre at Dujail since none other charges needed to be proved for his conviction.

Haditha District

Haditha is a district in Al Anbar Governorate, Iraq. It is centred on the city of Haditha.

Hatra District

Hatra District is a district of the Ninawa Governorate, Iraq.

Hatran alphabet

The Hatran alphabet is the script used to write Aramaic of Hatra, a dialect that was spoken from approximately 98/97 BC (year 409 of the Seleucid calendar) to 240 AD by early inhabitants of present-day northern Iraq. Many inscriptions of this alphabet could be found at Hatra, an ancient city in northern Iraq built by the Seleucid Empire and also used by the Parthian Empire, but subsequently destroyed by the Sassanid Empire in 241 AD. Assur also has several inscriptions which came to an end following its destruction by the Sasanian in 257 AD while the rest of the inscriptions are spread sparsely throughout Dura-Europos, Gaddala, Tur Abdin, Tikrit, Sa'adiya and Qabr Abu Naif. Many of the contemporary ruins were destroyed by Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant in early 2015. It was encoded in the Unicode Standard 8.0 with support from UC Berkeley's Script Encoding Initiative.

Kifri District, Diyala Governorate

Kifri District (Arabic: قضاء كفري‎) is one of the six districts of Diyala Governorate in Iraq. Its main town is Kifri. The population was estimated at 42,010 in 2003.

Kingdom of Araba

The Kingdom of Araba (or simply Araba) was a 2nd-century CE Arab kingdom located between the Roman Empire and the Parthian Empire, mostly under Parthian influence, located in modern-day northern Iraq.The city of Hatra was probably founded in the 3rd or 2nd century BCE, under the Seleucid kingdom. Arabs were common in Mesopotamia at the time of the Seleucids (3rd century BC). In the 1st and 2nd century, Hatra was ruled by a dynasty of Arabian princes. It rose to prominence as the capital of Araba and became an important religious center as a result of its strategic position along caravan trade routes.Araba is one of the first Arab states to be established outside of Arabia, preceded by the Kingdom of Osroene (132 BC–216 AD) and the Kingdom of Emesa (64 BCE–300s CE), and followed by the Ghassanids (220–638) and the Lakhmids (300–602), buffer states of the Roman and Sassanid Empires, respectively.

List of World Heritage Sites in Iraq

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage Sites are places of importance to cultural or natural heritage as described in the UNESCO World Heritage Convention, established in 1972. Iraq accepted the convention on 5 March 1974, making its historical sites eligible for inclusion on the list; as of 2016, five sites in Iraq are included.The first site in Iraq, Hatra, was inscribed on the list at the 9th Session of the World Heritage Committee, held in Paris, France in 1985. Ashur (Qal'at Sherqat) was inscribed in 2003 as the second site, followed by Samarra Archaeological City in 2007. Erbil Citadel and The Ahwar of Southern Iraq were added to the list in 2014 and 2016, respectively, the latter being Iraq's first mixed property.As of 2019, three of the five properties are placed on UNESCO's List of World Heritage in Danger. Ashur (Qal'at Sherqat) was added to the list in 2003, the same year it was inscribed as a World Heritage site, due to concerns that a dam project might partially flood the site; while the project has since been put on hold, the site remains on the list as a result of the lack of protection. Similarly, Samarra Archaeological City was put on the list simultaneously with its World Heritage site inscription in 2007, as authorities have been unable to adequately manage and conserve the site since the outbreak of the Iraq War. Hatra was inscribed on the list in 2015 due to its reported extensive destruction by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.

Mosul District

Mosul District (Arabic: الموصل‎, Syriac: ܢܝܢܘܐ‎, Kurdish: Mûsil‎) is a district in Ninawa Governorate, Iraq. Its administrative center is the city of Mosul. Other settlements include Al-Qayyarah, Al-Shurah, Hamam al-Alil, Al-Mahlaah, and Hamidat. The district is predominantly Sunni Arab, with minorities of Kurds, Assyrians, and Turkmen located in Mosul city.

Parthian style

The Parthian style is a style (sabk) of historical Iranian architecture.

This style of architecture includes designs from the Seleucid (310–140 BCE), Parthian (247 BCE – 224 CE), and Sassanid (224–651 CE) eras, reaching its apex of development in the Sassanid period.

Examples of this style are Ghal'eh Dokhtar, the royal compounds at Nysa, Anahita Temple, Khorheh, Hatra, the Ctesiphon vault of Kasra, Bishapur, and the Palace of Ardashir in Ardeshir Khwarreh (Firouzabad).The Parthi style of architecture appeared after Alexander the Great's conquest of the Achaemenid Empire in the 3rd century BCE, and historically includes the Sassanid, Parthian, and post Islamic eras, up to the 9-10th centuries. The remains of the architectural style of this period are not abundant, and although much was borrowed and incorporated from Greek designs and methods, architects and builders of this age employed many innovative concepts of their own as well.

Qal'at Saleh District

Qal'at Saleh District is a district of the Maysan Governorate, Iraq.

Its district centre is Qal'at Saleh, a town of an estimated 40,000 inhabitants, located on the riverbanks of the Tigris, along the road that links Basra to Amarah, a mere 40 km away. Qalat Saleh’s nearest towns are the district centres of Al-Majar Al Kabeer (20 km north-west), Al Kahlaa (17 km north), and Al Azeer (29 km south).


Wolgash or Vologash was a king of Hatra, an ancient city in nowadays Iraq. He is known from more than 20 inscriptions found at Hatra and reigned from about AD 140 to 180. He was the son of Naṣru who reigned from about AD 128 to 140. He was one of the first rulers of Hatra calling himself mlk (king), but he bears also the title mry' (lord). Both titles are also attested for his brother Sanatruq I. It is unclear whether they both reigned together and took the title king at some point in their reign, or whether Sanatruq succeeded Wolgash. His successor was either his brother or his nephew Abdsamiya.

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