Old Nisa – Brief History
The ancient city of Old Nisa is located on the northern slopes of the Kopet Dag mountain range, near the modern-day city of Ashgabat. It was one of the early capitals of the Parthian Empire, one of the most powerful empires in ancient times. It was founded in the 3rd century BC by the Arsacid dynasty and played a significant role in the history of the ancient world. Under the rule of Mithridates I, the city experienced a period of expansion and prosperity, becoming a hub of trade and commerce on the Silk Road. The city’s architecture and design were influenced by Greek and Roman cultures, creating a unique blend of local and Hellenistic styles. During its peak, Old Nisa was a center of art, culture, and learning, however, its decline began in the 1st century BC due to internal conflicts and external pressures from neighboring empires. The city was eventually abandoned in the 3rd century AD, and its ruins were rediscovered in the 19th century. Today, Old Nisa is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that attracts visitors from all over the world, offering a glimpse into the ancient world and the legacy of the Parthian Empire.
The ruins of Nisa include several monumental buildings and fortifications that were built during the Parthian Empire, which ruled over much of Central Asia and the Middle East from 247 BCE to 224 CE. According to the State Museum of Ashgabat, Old Nisa had 43 rectangular towers along its fortification walls. Inside the walls, there were important temple, palatial, and storage buildings.
The most significant of these is the Royal Palace, which was constructed in the 1st century BCE. The palace was a massive structure that covered an area of over 4,000 square meters and was decorated with intricate carvings and frescoes. It was built on a raised platform and was surrounded by a massive wall, which was over 10 meters high in some places. The palace complex also included a large courtyard, a throne room, and several smaller rooms that were likely used for administrative purposes. The palace was constructed using a mixture of stone, mud bricks, and wood, and its design was influenced by both Persian and Hellenistic architectural styles.
In addition to the Royal Palace, the ruins of Nisa also include several other important structures, including the Old and New Fortresses. The Old Fortress was built in the 3rd century BCE and was the original citadel of the Parthian capital. It was a massive structure that covered an area of over 15 hectares and was protected by a series of walls and towers. The New Fortress was built in the 1st century BCE and was located outside the walls of the original city. It was also a massive structure, covering an area of over 100 hectares, and was protected by a series of walls and towers. However, it takes a significant effort of imagination to picture how splendid this place was in the past.
The Ceremonial Complex
It is a large area located in the central part of Old Nisa, which includes several buildings and structures. The most notable feature of the complex is the round hall with large statues that once adorned the site. These statues are known as the “Nisaean Heroes,” and they depict male figures wearing distinctive Parthian armor and holding weapons such as bows, swords, and spears. Archeologists found the statues are over life-size, standing at around 2 meters in height, and are thought to represent the Parthian kings and nobles. Unfortunately, visitors cannot see the hall.
The ruins of Nisa are a testament to the wealth and power of the Parthian Empire, which was one of the most significant empires of the ancient world. The city’s monumental buildings and fortifications are a reminder of the architectural and engineering skills of the Parthians, who were able to construct massive structures using simple tools and techniques.
Nearly 500 ceramic jugs that were utilized for storing wine were discovered by archeologists in the ancient city of Nisa. Alongside these jugs, nine wine storage facilities were also found in the northern part of Old Nisa. The wine was served in unique vessels called rhytons.
At Nisa, a total of 40 rhytons were discovered, with the majority of them crafted from tusks and intricately adorned with ornate decorations. Overall, the discovery of these ivory rhytons provides us with a glimpse into the sophisticated culture and customs of the ancient Nisa, which valued luxury and artistry in their lives.
Overall, Old Nisa is a must-visit destination for history buffs, culture enthusiasts, and anyone interested in the legacy of the Parthian Empire and the ancient world.
One of the options available to you for visiting Old Nisa is by joining us on our Best of Turkmenistan Tour.