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Alexander The Great campaign Persia 331 BC
Map showing the Babylonian territory upon Hammurabi's ascension in 1792 BC and upon his death in 1750 BC
Achaemenid empire at its greatest extent

Susa was an ancient city of the Elamite, Persian and Parthian empires of Iran, located about 150 miles east of the Tigris River. The modern town of Shush is located at the site of ancient Susa. Shush is the administrative capital of the Shush County of Iran's Khuzestan province.

Origin of name

In Elamite, the name of the city was written variously Ŝuŝan, Ŝuŝun, etc. The origin of the word Susa is from the local city deity Inshushinak.

Variants of name


It is located in the lower Zagros Mountains about 250 km east of the Tigris River, between the Karkheh and Dez Rivers. The site now "consists of three gigantic mounds, occupying an area of about one square kilometer, known as the Apadana mound, the Acropolis mound, and the Ville Royale (royal town) mound."[1]

Jat Gotras Namesake

Jat Gotras Namesake

Mention by Pliny

Pliny[2] mentions Voyages to India..... the river Sitiogagus, from which to Pasargadæ16 is seven days' sail; a navigable river known as the Phristimus, and an island without a name; and then the river Granis17, navigable for vessels of small burden, and flowing through Susiane; the Deximontani, a people who manufacture bitumen, dwell on its right bank.

16 Mentioned again in c. 29 of the present Book. Its modern name is Pasa or Fasa-Kuri, according to Parisot.

17 Supposed to be the stream called by D'Anville and Thevenot the Boschavir, the river of Abushir or Busheer.

Mention by Pliny

Pliny[3] mentions Voyages to India.....They then arrived at the mouth of the Euphrates, and from thence passed into a lake which is formed by the rivers Eulæus18 and Tigris, in the vicinity of Charax19 after which they arrived at Susa20 on the river Tigris.

18 A river of ancient Susiana, the present name of which is Karun. Pliny states, in c. 31 of the present Book, that the Eulæus flowed round the citadel of Susa; he mistakes it, however, for the Coprates, or, more strictly speaking, for a small stream now called the Shapúr river, the ancient name of which has not been preserved. He is also in error, most probably, in making the river Eulæus flow through Messabatene, it being most likely the present Mah-Sabaden, in Laristan, which is drained by the Kerkbah, the ancient Choaspes, and not by the Eulæus.

19 Called, for the sake of distinction, Charax Spasinu, originally founded by Alexander the Great. It was afterwards destroyed by a flood, and rebuilt by Antiochus Epiphanes, under the name of Antiochia. It is mentioned in c. 31.

20 The Shushan of Scripture, now called Shu. It was the winter residence of the kings of Persia, and stood in the district Cersia of the province Susiana, on the eastern bank of the river Choaspes. The site of Sisa is now marked by extensive mounds.

Mention by Pliny

Pliny[4] mentions The Parthian Empire....It is requisite in this place to trace the localities of the Medi also, and to describe in succession the features of the country as far as the Persian Sea, in order that the account which follows may be the better understood. Media8 lies crosswise to the west, and so presenting itself obliquely to Parthia, closes the entrance of both kingdoms9 into which it is divided.

It has, then, on the east, the Caspii and the Parthi; on the south, Sittacene, Susiane, and Persis; on the west, Adsiabene; and on the north, Armenia.

8 Media occupied the extreme west of the great table-land of the modern Iran. It corresponded very nearly to the modern province of Irak-Ajemi.

9 The Upper and the Lower, as already mentioned.

Mention by Pliny

Pliny[5] mentions Tigris....Below31 this district is Susiane, in which is the city of Susa32, the ancient residence of the kings of Persia, built by Darius, the son of Hystaspes; it is distant from Seleucia Babylonia four hundred and fifty miles, and the same from Ecbatana of the Medi, by way of Mount Carbantus.33 Upon the northern channel of the river Tigris is the town of Babytace34, distant from Susa one hundred and thirty-five miles. Here, for the only place in all the world, is gold held in abhorrence; the people collect it together and bury it in the earth, that it may be of use to no one.35 On the east of Susiane are the Oxii, a predatory people, and forty independent savage tribes of the Mizæi.

32 Previously mentioned in c. 26.

33 A part of Mount Zagrus, previously mentioned, according to Hardouin.

34 Its site appears to be unknown. According to Stephanus, it was a city of Persia. Forbiger conjectures that it is the same place as Badaca, mentioned by Diodorus Siculus, B. xix. c. 19; but that was probably nearer to Susa.

Mention by Pliny

Pliny[6] mentions Tigris....Susiane is separated from Elymais by the river Eulæus, which rises in Media, and, after concealing itself in the earth for a short distance, rises again and flows through Mesabatene. It then flows round the citadel of Susa40 and the temple of Diana, which is held in the highest veneration by all these nations; the river itself being the object of many pompous ceremonials; the kings, indeed, will drink of no other water,41 and for that reason carry it with them on their journies to any considerable distance. This river receives the waters of the Hedypnos42, which passes Asylus, in Persis, and those of the Aduna, which rises in Susiane. Magoa43 is a town situate near it, and distant from Charax fifteen miles; some writers place this town at the very extremity of Susiane, and close to the deserts.

40 As mentioned in a previous Note, (67 in p. 77), Pliny mistakes the Eulæus for the Choaspes. In c. 26 he says that Susa is on the river Tigris.

41 Pliny says this in B. xxxi. c. 21 of both the Eulæus and the Choaspes.

42 Most probably the Hedyphon of Strabo, supposed to be the same as that now called the Djerrabi.

43 Parisot thinks that this is the modern Jessed, in the vicinity of the desert of Bealbanet.


Susa is one of the oldest-known settlements of the region and indeed the world, possibly founded about 4200 BCE; although the first traces of an inhabited village have been dated to ca. 7000 BCE. Evidence of a painted-pottery civilization has been dated to ca. 5000 BCE.

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, eg. in Enmerkar and the Lord of Aratta it is described as one of the places obedient to Inanna, patron deity of Uruk.

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.

n 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:

"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."[7]

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 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.

Approximately one century later when Parthia gained its independence from the Seleucid Empire, Susa was made one of the two capitals (along with Ctesiphon) of the new state. 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.

The Roman emperor Trajan captured Susa in 116, but was soon forced to withdraw, because of revolts to his rear. This advance marked the easternmost penetration by the Romans.

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 in Biblical texts

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 BCE. 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.

Ch.16: Escape of Darius into Media.— March of Alexander to Babylon and Susa

Arrian[8] writes.... Immediately after the battle, Darius marched through the mountains of Armenia towards Media, accompanied in his flight by the Bactrian cavalry, as they had then been posted with him in the battle; also by those Persians who were called the king's kinsmen, and by a few of the men called apple-bearers.[1] About 2,000 of his Grecian mercenaries also accompanied him in his flight, under the command of Paron the Phocian, and Glaucus the Aetolian. He fled towards Media for this reason, because he thought Alexander would take the road to Susa and Babylon immediately after the battle, inasmuch as the whole of that country was inhabited and the road was not difficult for the transit of baggage; and besides Babylon and Susa appeared to be the prizes of the war; whereas the road towards Media was by no means easy for the march of a large army. In this conjecture Darius was mistaken; for when Alexander started from Arbela, he advanced straight towards Babylon; and when he was now not far from that city, he drew up his army in order of battle and marched forward. The Babylonians came out to meet him in mass, with their priests and rulers, each of whom individually brought gifts, and offered to surrender their city, citadel, and money.[2] Entering the city, he commanded the Babylonians to rebuild all the temples which Xerxes had destroyed, and especially that of Belus, whom the Babylonians venerate more than any other god.[3] He then appointed Mazaeus viceroy of the Babylonians, Apollodorus the Amphipolitan general of the soldiers who were left behind with Mazaeus, and Asclepiodorus, son of Philo, collector of the revenue. He also sent Mithrines, who had surrendered to him the citadel of Sardis, down into Armenia to be viceroy there.[4] Here also he met with the Chaldaeans; and whatever they directed in regard to the religious rites of Babylon he performed, and in particular he offered sacrifice to Belus according to their instructions.[5] He then marched away to Susa[6]; and on the way he was met by the son of the viceroy of the Susians,[7] and a man bearing a letter from Philoxenus, whom he had despatched to Susa directly after the battle. In the letter Philoxenus had written that the Susians had surrendered their city to him, and that all the money was safe for Alexander. In twenty days the king arrived at Susa from Babylon; and entering the city he took possession of the money, which amounted to 50,000 talents, as well as the rest of the royal property.[8] Many other things were also captured there, which Xerxes brought with him from Greece, especially the brazen statues of Harmodius and Aristogeiton.[9] These Alexander sent back to the Athenians, and they are now standing at Athens in the Ceramicus, where we go up into the Acropolis,[10] right opposite the temple of Rhea, the mother of the gods, not far from the altar of the Eudanemi. Whoever has been initiated in the mysteries of the two goddesses[11] at Eleusis, knows the altar of Eudanemus which is upon the plain. At Susa Alexander offered sacrifice after the custom of his fathers, and celebrated a torch race and a gymnastic contest; and then, leaving Abulites, a Persian, as viceroy of Susiana, Mazarus, one of his Companions, as commander of the garrison in the citadel of Susa, and Archelaüs, son of Theodorus, as general, he advanced towards the land of the Persians. He also sent Menes down to the sea, as governor of Syria, Phœnicia, and Cilicia, giving him 3,000 talents of silver[12] to convey to the sea, with orders to despatch as many of them to Antipater as he might need to carry on the war against the Lacedaemonians.[13] There also Amyntas, son of Andromenes, reached him with the forces which he was leading from Macedonia[14]; of whom Alexander placed the horsemen in the ranks of the Companion cavalry, and the foot he added to the various regiments of infantry, arranging each according to nationalities. He also established two companies in each squadron of cavalry, whereas before this time companies did not exist in the cavalry; and over them he set as captains those of the Companions who were pre-eminent for merit.

1. As to the kinsmen and apple-bearers, see iii. 11 supra.

2. Diodorus (xvii. 63) and Curtius (v. 6) state that from the treasure captured in Babylon, Alexander distributed to each Macedonian horseman about £24, to each of the Grecian horsemen £20, to each of the Macedonian infantry £8, and to the allied infantry two months' pay.

3. Belus, or Bel, the supreme deity of the Babylonians, was identical with the Syrian Baal. The signification of the name is mighty. Cf. Herodotus (i. 181); Diodorus (ii. 9); Strabo (xvi. 1).

4. See i. 17 supra.

5. The Chaldees appear in Hebrew under the name of Casdim, who seem to have originally dwelt in Carduchia, the northern part of Assyria. The Assyrians transported these rude mountaineers to the plains of Babylonia (Isa. xxiii. 13). The name of Casdim, or Chaldees, was applied to the inhabitants of Mesopotamia (Gen. xi. 28); the inhabitants of the Arabian desert in the vicinity of Edom (Job i. 17); those who dwelt near the river Chaboras (Ezek. i. 3; xi. 24); and the priestly caste who had settled at a very early period in Babylon, as we are informed by Diodorus and Eusebius. Herodotus says that these priests were dedicated to Belus. It is proved by inscriptions that the ancient language was retained as a learned and religious literature. This is probably what is meant in Daniel i. 4 by "the book and tongue of the Casdim." Cf. Diodorus (ii. 29-31); Ptolemy (v. 20, 3); and Cicero (De Divinatione, i. 1). See Fürst's Hebrew Lexicon, sub voce כֶּֽשֶֹד.

6. In the Bible this city is called Shushan. Near it was the fortress of Shushan, called in our Bible the Palace (Neb. i. 2; Esth. ii. 8). Susa was situated on the Choaspes, a river remarkable for the excellence of its water, a fact referred to by Tibullus (iv. 1, 140) and by Milton (Paradise Reg., iii. 288). The name Shushan is derived from the Persian word for lily, which grew abundantly in the vicinity. The ruins of the palace mentioned in Esther i. have recently been explored, and were found to consist of an immense hall, the roof of which was supported by a central group of thirty-six pillars arranged in the form of a square. This was flanked by three porticoes, each containing two rows of six pillars. Cf. Strabo (xv. 7, 28).

7. The name of the viceroy was Abulites (Curtius, v. 8).

8. If these were Attic talents, the amount would be, equivalent to £11,600,000; but if they were Babylonian or Aeginetan talents, they were equal to £19,000,000. Cf. Plutarch (Alex., 36, 37); Justin (xi. 14); and Curtius (v. 8). Diodorus (xvii. 66) tells us that 40,000 talents were of uncoined gold and silver, and 9,000 talents of gold bearing the effigy of Darius.

9. Cf. Arrian (vii. 19); Pausanias (i. 8, 5); Pliny (Nat. Hist., xxxiv. 9); Valerius Maximus (ii. 10, 1). For Harmodius and Aristogeiton see Thucydides, vi. 56-58.

10. Polis meant in early times a particular part of Athens, viz. the citadel, usually called the Acropolis. Cf. Aristophanes (Lysistrata, 245 et passim).

11. Demeter and Persephone.

12.About £730,000.

13. Antipater had been left by Alexander regent of Macedonia. Agis III., king of Sparta, refused to acknowledge Alexander's hegemony, and after a hard struggle was defeated and slain by Antipater at Megalopolis, B.C. 330. See Diodorus, xvii. 63; Curtius, vi. 1 and 2.

14. According to Curtius (v. 6) these forces amounted to nearly 15,000 men. Amyntas also brought with him fifty sons of the chief laen in Macedonia, who wished to serve as royal pages. Cf. Diodorus, xvii. 64.



  1. John Curtis (2013). "Introduction". In Perrot, Jean. The Palace of Darius at Susa: The Great Royal Residence of Achaemenid Persia. I.B.Tauris. p. xvi. ISBN 9781848856219.
  2. Natural History by Pliny Book VI/Chapter 26
  3. Natural History by Pliny Book VI/Chapter 26
  4. Natural History by Pliny Book VI/Chapter 29
  5. Natural History by Pliny Book VI/Chapter 31
  6. Natural History by Pliny Book VI/Chapter 31
  7. "Persians: Masters of Empire" ISBN 0-8094-9104-4 p. 7-8
  8. The Anabasis of Alexander/3b, Ch.16