Iraq Afghanistan Egypt (Bright Star) United States Department of Defense

Home Major Focus Areas Protecting Cultural Property Iraq Laws, Treaties & Enforcement Test Your Knowledge
History & Culture
Rediscovering the Past
Significant Sites
Iraq Cultural Property Law, 2002
The Impact of War on Iraq's Cultural Heritage

033. Hadhr (ancient: Hatra)

Ninawa Governorate. About 290 kilometers (180 miles) northwest of Baghdad and 110 kilometers (68 miles) southwest of Mosul in the al-Jazira region of Iraq.

Dates: Seleucid-Parthian-Sassanian period (200 BC–200 AD)

       "Hatra is a very impressive place. I was there in 2003 with
        the 101st airborne securing the site from looters. The man
        who was the caretqaker there gave us a tour. I remember
        walking into the city itself, the plaza was impressive, there
        was an arena fairly close to an altar to one of the gods
        I believe. The main building held the throne room, the
        court room and a temple. For me it was my first trip into
        something that old."

                          — Mike Taylor, 101st Airborne, Fort Cambell, KY

Hatra has been well-guarded by Coalition troops since April 2003.

The elegant ancient Arabian city and Parthian capital, a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1985, was founded as an Assyrian city by the Seleucid Empire during the 3rd century BC. A religious and trading center of the Parthian empire, Hatra flourished during the 2nd and 1st centuries BC. Later, 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.

Hatra became an important fortified frontier city and withstood repeated attacks by the Roman Empire from Trajan (116/117) and Septimius Severus (198/199) before eventually falling to the Sassanians in 241 AD who razed the city.

While the most important temple at Hatra was to Shamash, the sun god common to all Semitic peoples, the city had a high degree of religious pluralism, and syncretism, with temples to Sumer-Akkadian Nergal, Greek Hermes, Aramean goddess Atar’at and Arabian deities Allat and Shamiya all co-existing peacefully. The city was justly fames for its fusion of Greek, Mesopotamian, Syrian and Arabian-style pantheons.

The traditional stories of the fall of Hatra tell of an-Nadira, 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 an-Nadira, but later had her killed also.

May 12, 2003 Cultural Assessment of Hatra by Orieintal Institute, University of Chicago, and the National Geographic Society: "Like Nimrud, Hatra has a round-the-clock US military guard. Damage to the standing remains prior to their arrival consisted of the loss of the head of a figure which decorated an arch in one of the smaller northern "iwans" or porches within the temple complex. This head had been shot off, and had apparently been taken away by looters. In addition, a small camel in relief from a doorway frieze from one of the outer temples had also been broken off and removed, but this was recovered by the Department of Antiquities staff and is now in storage. "

  35° 35' 17.0053"'
  35.58805764002º N
  42° 43' 0.7695"
  42.71688045513° E

GoogleEarth satellite view of Hatra (external resource)

See the Global Heritage Fund description of Hatra.

See site photo of Hatra made
by Joanne Farchakh-Bajjaly during 2002-2004.

See the Oriental Institute, University of Chicago site photos of Hatra.

Read the September 9, 2004 letter of concern to DoD from the Archaeological Institute of America addressing reports of ordinance detonation near Hatra.