Lecture

Date: 
Wednesday, November 16, 2016 - 18:00 to 20:00
Location: 
The British Academy

A lecture by Professor Wathiq Ismail al-Salihi, in memory of Mohammed Ali Mustafa Umo Ali the Shaikh of excavators in Iraq, sponsored by Sabah Zangana 

The site of the city of Hatra is located in a semi-desert area about 110 km south west the city of Mosul and about 50 km north west of Assur , the first capital of the Assyrians. The city played a vital role in the cultural and political development of the area,  because it flourished during the period from the second century B.C.to the third century A.D. when various cultural elements had prevailed and was a great centre of the Arab tribes. Hatra in Aramaic means “the holy place” with a connotation of “forbiddance” and was the capital of an Arab kingdom mentioned in the Aramaic inscription as Arabaya. Its location was strategic in controlling the military and trade routes parallel to the Tigris and Euphrates , especially that connected Seleucia - on – the –Tigris with Antioch in Syria passing by Dura Europus and Palmyra. The rulers of Hatra had enjoyed autonomous rule and independence which entitled them to have their own religious beliefs and to strike their own coins, and they called themselves kings of the Arabs.

Hatra was known to some classical authors as the only city that challenged the power of the Roman emperors and withstood the assaults of Trajan and Septemius Severus, and was famous for its formidable fortifications. The lecture will show that Hatra is almost circular in plan and is surrounded by an outer earth wall followed by a deep moat and then the main defensive wall.  It has four main gates located almost at the cardinal points of the compass. These gates were made to have lateral openings which lead to the centre of the city where the Great Temple is located. The Great Temple is composed of several edifices: the juxtaposed iwans , the square temple of Shamash, the temples of the Triad , Shahiru, Smya , Allat, and the Hellenistic . This Great Temple has chambers along the sides of its surrounding wall and an open forecourt, and had functions similar to those of the Greek agora.

A group of tombs were excavated in order to reveal the burial systems the inhabitants had followed, and the excavations included some private dwellings, which in general follow the earlier Mesopotamian prototypes but with distinctive variations. Fourteen shrines or small temples were excavated, all of which follow the Babylonian Assyrian plan. They were constructed by certain tribes and private citizens and were dedicated to the worship of different deities, Mesopotamian, Arab, and Greek in origin. Finally, Hatra contributed the use of the vaulted iwans and many other distinctive elements to the history of art and architecture of the ancient Near East.

Biography: Professor Wathiq I. Al-Salihi , Ph.D. Princeton University, Princeton, N.J. USA. For many seasons, headed the expedition to Hatra. He was professor of Archaeology at the University of Baghdad and then at the University of Sanaa, Yemen. He has written numerous studies on the history, architecture, and sculpture of Hatra. Now he is retired and living in Canada, currently engaged in writing a book on Hatra.

Read Dr Ted Kaizer's report of the lecture, and listen to the audio recording below. 

Audio: