Ctesiphon is now a part of suburban Baghdad, but it does have a
It lies on the left bank of the Tigris, about 32 km away from central Baghdad
at the mouth of the Diyala river, opposite Seleucia.
It was founded in the second century B.C. by Parthian Persians and
after about 129 B.C. was used as the winter palace by the ruling kings.
A.D. it was captured by Arasdhir I and became the capital city of the
In 116 the Romans under Emperor Trajan
captured the town. This was to become part of a pattern,
in the second and third centuries A.D. the Romans attacked and took the city
In 166 Emperor Verus practically destroyed Selucia and Ctesiphon, and
celebrated the great victory with Marcus Aurelius in Rome.
Severus plundered Ctesiphon after a siege in 198 AD, slaying
"a vast number of people, besides taking a hundred thousand captives".
In 283 Emperor Carus took the city without a fight after threatening his armies
"would render their country as bare of trees as the emperor's own bald head!".
They didn't have it all their own way, in 363 after failing
to capture the city, Julian the Apostate was killed in the rearguard action.
In 637 Arabs plundered it under Khalid ibn Walid, (once one of the prophet
Mohammad's chosen companion-in-arms) after defeating the last
Sassanid king, Yezdigird III. His armies took everything of value and
the main palace was converted into a mosque. They also renamed the town
'al Madain'; when the Abbasids made Baghdad the capital it's place in history
was largely over, and it was abandoned.
Today little is left standing of the original town, the Arch of Ctesiphon is
the only major piece of architecture left, and that was damaged when the
Tigris flooded in 1987.
It is thought to be the largest single span arch in the world, and probably
formed part of a vast banqueting hall in the palace.