The ancient Greek
name for a city in the Zagros
the river Tigris
, now the city of Hamadan
in west-central Iran
The western terminus of the Silk Road to China, Ecbatana was the
originally the capital of the Medes. According to Herodotus, Median
king Deioces made it his capital around 800 BC. Herodotus describes
a fabulously wealthy city with seven rings of walls, with the palace and
treasury on a hill at the center.
Ecbatana remained the center of an empire until about 549 BC, when Achaemenid
Persian king Cyrus I overthrew Median overlordship. Cyrus made
Ecbatana his summer retreat, a tradition kept by the Achaemenids, as well
as the Seleucid kings and Parthian emperors who followed.
The city is called "Achmetha" in Ezra 6. It also appears under its
Greek name in the apocryphal book of Judith. Esther and Mordecai
are said to be buried there.
In 324 BC, Alexander the Great stopped here for an extended bacchanal,
but his lover Hephaestion ate and drank himself to death, and Alexander
died soon after.
The end of the Parthian Empire came in 641 when the advancing jihad
crushed the Parthians at at the battle of Nahavand near Ecbatana. In
1220 the armies of Genghis Khan destroyed Hamadan. Timur (aka
Tamerlane) destroyed it again in 1386, this time massacring its entire
A mound to the east of Hamadan, called the "Mossala",
is supposed to hold the ruins of ancient Ecbatana, but other sources say
Hamadan itself lies directly on top of the ruins.