Geoheritage Institute of the Middle East

You are here: Home » About Iran » Hamadan »

HAMADAN (Ecbatana) an ancient city of western Persia, situated in a mountainous region on the eastern flanks of the Alvand massif of the Zagros chain, in lat. 37° 47' N., long. 48° 30' E. at an altitude of 1,645 m/5,395 feet.

Hamadan is a very old city. It may conceivably, but improbably, be mentioned in cuneiform texts from ca. 1100 B.C., the time of the Assyrian king Tiglathpileser I, but is certainly mentioned by Herodotus (i. 98), who says that the king of Media Deiokes built the city of Agbatana or Ekbatana in the 7th century B.C. The name has been interpreted as Old Persian *hamgmata-“place of gathering”; an Elamitic form *hal.mata-na suggests a possible meaning “land of the Medes.” The city was well known as the capital of the Medes and then a summer capital of the Achaemenids, and an important point on the trade route connecting Mesopotamia with the East under the Seleucids, Parthians and Sasanids. It appears in Armenian sources as Ahmatan and Hamatan, and in the Biblical Aramaic of the Old Testament as Ahmeta in Ezra, vi. 2, Darius finds in the Median capital a document of Cyrus the Great authorizing the rebuilding of the Temple at Jerusalem. It also figures in Syriac texts in various forms.

 The ancient, but mythical, pre-Islamic history of Hamadan is mentioned in several Arabic sources, notably the geographers. After the battle of Nihavand in A.D. 641 or 642, the Persian commander in Hamadan made peace with the victorious Arabs. The circumstances of the Arab conquest of the city are confused in the sources, but it seems that the Persians broke the initial peace agreement and the city had to be stormed by the commander Jarir b. Abd Allah al-Bajali and his troops, probably in spring 645 (al-Tabari, i, 2650; al-Baladhuri, Futuh, 309). Arabs from the tribes of Rabia and Tjl were apparently settled in the city (al-Tabari, ii, 994), whilst men from Hanzala and Juhayna also settled in the Hamadan area.

The geographers of the 4th/10th century describe Hamadan as a large city, mostly rebuilt since the Arab conquest, with four gates in its walls, three markets and extensive suburbs. The sources state, however, that it was not a cultural centre like Isfahan, Ray, etc., but depended more on commerce, with some goldsmiths’ work and leather goods manufactured there. Al-Maqdisi notes (398) some peculiarities of the New Persian spoken in the city, such as the suffixing of –la to Arabic names.

Under the Il-Khanids Hamadan regained its former importance and Abaqa Khan died there in 680/1282. The city passed from the Jalayirids to Timur, and later to the Aq Qoyunlu, until the Safavids established their rule in the city after 908/1503. Several times during the 10th/16th century Hamadan was occupied by Ottoman troops. In 1136/1724 Ahmed Pasha, the Ottoman governor of Baghdad held the city until he was expelled by Nadir Shah eight years later. After changing fortunes, Hamadan reverted to Persia in 1732. In 1789 the city was taken by _gh_ Muhammad Qajar, founder of the Qajar dynasty, and the citadel, on the hill now called al-Musalla, was destroyed.



Clifford Edmund, Bosworth-Historic Cities of the Islamic World-Brill, Academic Publishers (2008), PP 151-153.