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Coordinates: 32°11′21″N 48°15′28″E / 32.18922°N 48.257785°E / 32.18922; 48.257785

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Susa (Persian: شوش, pronounced [ʃuʃ]; also Armenian (Shushan); Greek: Σοῦσα [sousa]); Syriac: ܫܘܫ (Shush); was an ancient city of the Elamite, Persian and Parthian empires of Iran, located about 250 km (150 miles) east of the Tigris River.

The modern Iranian town of Shush is located at the site of ancient Susa.


Winged sphinx from the palace of Darius the Great at Susa.

Susa is one of the oldest-known settlements of the region and indeed the world, possibly founded about 4200 BC (See List of oldest continuously inhabited cities); although the first traces of an inhabited village have been dated to ca. 7000 BC. Evidence of a painted-pottery civilization has been dated to ca. 5000 BC. This makes Susa the oldest existing city in the world.

In historic times, Susa was the primary capital of the Elamite Empire. Its name in Elamite was written variously Šušan, Šušun, etc. The city appears in the very earliest Sumerian records, e.g. in Enmerkar and the Lord of Aratta it is described as one of the places obedient to Inanna, patron deity of Uruk.

Tomb of Daniel

Susa is also mentioned in the Ketuvim of the Hebrew Bible, mainly in Esther, but also once each in Nehemiah and Daniel. Both Daniel and Nehemiah lived in Susa during the Babylonian captivity of Judah of the 6th century BC. Esther became queen there, and saved the Jews from genocide. A tomb presumed to be that of Daniel is located in the area, known as Shush-Daniel. The tomb is marked by an unusual white, stone cone, which is neither regular nor symmetric. Many scholars believe it was at one point a Star of David.

Susa is further mentioned in the Book of Jubilees (8:21 & 9:2) as one of the places within the inheritance of Shem and his eldest son Elam; and in 8:1, "Susan" is also named as the son (or daughter, in some translations) of Elam.

Šušan was incorporated by Sargon the Great into his Akkadian Empire in approximately 2330 BC. It remained capital of an Akkadian province until ca. 2240 BC, when its Elamite governor, Kutik-Inshushinak, rose up in rebellion and liberated it, making it a literary center. However, following this, the city was again conquered by the neo-Sumerian Ur-III dynasty, and held until Ur finally collapsed at the hands of the Elamites under Kindattu in ca. 2004 BC. At this time Susa again became an Elamite capital.

The Elamites under Shutruk-Nahhunte plundered the original stele bearing the Code of Hammurabi in ca. 1175 BC and took it to Susa, where it was found in 1901. However, Nebuchadrezzar I of the Babylonian empire managed to plunder Susa in return, around fifty years later.


Ashurbanipal's brutal campaign against Susa in 647 BC is triumphantly recorded in this relief. Here, flames rise from the city as Assyrian soldiers topple it with pickaxes and crowbars and carry off the spoils.

In 647 BCE, the Assyrian king Assurbanipal leveled the city during a war in which the people of Susa apparently participated on the other side. A tablet unearthed in 1854 by Austen Henry Layard in Nineveh reveals Ashurbanipal as an "avenger", seeking retribution for the humiliations the Elamites had inflicted on the Mesopotamians over the centuries:

Ninhursag with the spirit of the forests next to the seven spiked cosmic tree of life. Relief from Susa.

"Susa, the great holy city, abode of their gods, seat of their mysteries, I conquered. I entered its palaces, I opened their treasuries where silver and gold, goods and wealth were amassed... I destroyed the ziggurat of Susa. I smashed its shining copper horns. I reduced the temples of Elam to naught; their gods and goddesses I scattered to the winds. The tombs of their ancient and recent kings I devastated, I exposed to the sun, and I carried away their bones toward the land of Ashur. I devastated the provinces of Elam and on their lands I sowed salt."[1]

The city was taken by the Achaemenid Persians under Cyrus the Great in 538 BCE. Under Cyrus' son Cambyses II, the capital of the empire moved from Pasargadae to Susa.

The city forms the setting of The Persians (472 BCE), an Athenian tragedy by the ancient Greek playwright Aeschylus that is the oldest surviving play in the history of theatre.

The city lost some of its importance when Alexander of Macedon conquered it in 331 BCE and destroyed the first Persian Empire. After Alexander, Susa fell to the Seleucid Empire and was renamed Seleukeia.

Parthian, Sassanian and Arab periods

Letter in Greek of the Parthian king Artabanus III to the inhabitants of Susa in the 1st century CE (the city retained Greek institutions since the time of the Seleucid empire). Louvre Museum.

Approximately one century later when the Parthian Empire gained its independence from the Seleucid Empire, Susa was made one of the two capitals (along with Ctesiphon) of the new state. After Seleucia it was the biggest city in Mesopotamia at the time.[2] Susa used Charax Spasinou as its port. It retained a considerable amount of independence and retained its Greek city state organization well into the Parthian period and seems to have gained independence under a dynasty whose kings bore the name of Kamnaskires in the 1st century CE.[3]

Susa became a frequent place of refuge for Parthian and later, the Persian Sassanid kings, as the Romans sacked Ctesiphon five different times between 116 and 297 CE. Typically, the Parthian rulers wintered in Susa, and spent the summer in Ctesiphon.

Islamic art: Cup with rose petals, 8th–9th centuries

Susa was destroyed at least three times in its history. The first was in 647 BCE, by Assurbanipal. The second destruction took place in 638 CE, when the Muslim armies first conquered Persia. Finally, in 1218, the city was completely destroyed by invading Mongols. The ancient city was gradually abandoned in the years that followed.

Susa had a significant Christian population during the first millennium, and was a diocese of the Church of the East between the fifth and thirteenth centuries, in the metropolitan province of Beth Huzaye (Elam).


The site was examined in 1826 by Henry Rawlinson and then by A. H. Layard. In 1851, some modest excavation was done by William Loftus, who identified it as Susa. [4] In 1885 and 1886 Marcel-Auguste Dieulafoy and Jane Dieulafoy began the first French excavations. [5]

Jaques de Morgan conducted major excavations from 1897 until 1911. These efforts continued under Roland De Mecquenem until 1914, at the beginning of World War I. French work at Susa resumed after the war, led by De Mecquenem, continuing until World War II in 1940. [6] [7] [8] Archaeological results from the later period were very thinly published and attempts are underway to remedy this situation. [9]

Roman Ghirshman took over direction of the French efforts in 1946, after the end of the war. He continued there until 1967. Ghirshman concentrated on excavating a single part of the site, the hectare sized Ville Royale, taking it all the way down to bare earth.[10] The pottery found at the various levels enabled a stratigraphy to be developed for Susa.[11]


Shush at the site of ancient Susa is the administrative capital of the Shush County of Iran's Khuzestan province. It had a population 64,960 in 2005.[12]


  1. "Persians: Masters of Empire" ISBN 0-8094-9104-4 p. 7-8
  2. Hill (2009), p. 219.
  3. Hill (2009), p. 222.
  4. [1] William K. Loftus, Travels and Researches in Chaldaea and Susiana, Travels and Researches in Chaldaea and Susiana: With an Account of Excavations at Warka, the "Erech" of Nimrod, and Shush, "Shushan the Palace" of Esther, in 1849-52, Robert Carter & Brothers, 1857
  5. [2] Jane Dieulafoy, Perzië Chaldea en Susiane De Aarde en haar Volken 1885-1887, 1886
  6. [3] Jacques de Morgan de Morgan, Fouilles à Suse en 1897-1898 et 1898-1899, Mission archéologique en Iran, Mémoires I, 1990
  7. [4] Jacques de Morgan, Fouilles à Suse en 1899-1902, Mission archéologique en Iran, Mémoires VII, 1905
  8. Robert H. Dyson, Early Work on the Acropolis at Susa. The Beginning of Prehistory in Iraq and Iran, Expedition, vol. 10, no. 4, pp. 21-34, 1968
  9. [5] Shelby White - Leon Levy Program funded project to publish early Susa archaeological results
  10. Roman Ghirshman, Suse au tournant du III au II millenaire avant notre ere, Arts Asiatiques, vol. 17, pp. 3-44, 1968
  11. Hermann Gasche, Ville Royal de Suse: vol I : La poterie elamite du deuxieme millenaire a.C, Mission archéologique en Iran, Mémoires 47, 1973
  12. World city populations: Susa


Some or all of this article is forked from Wikipedia. The original article was at Susa. The list of authors can be seen in the page history.

  • Hill, John E. (2009). Through the Jade Gate to Rome: A Study of the Silk Routes during the Later Han Dynasty, First to Second Centuries CE. BookSurge. ISBN 978-1-4392-2134-1. 

See also

  • History of Iran
  • Code of Hammurabi
  • Elam
  • Khuzestan
  • Choqa Zanbil
  • Roman Ghirshman
  • Monsieur Chouchani
  • Cities of the Ancient Near East

External links

Template:Khuzestan Province