391 PARTHIA PEOPLE AND ARTS.
and manners, caring little for fixedness,, and not much for visible splendors. The
consideration of the building methods and results in the country is attended with
difficulties from the historical changes to which it was subject. The determination of the
age of a given ruin is uncertain; so that the inquirer may not well ascertain whether the
work has been done by the ancient race, in the Greek period, under the Arsacidae, or under
the subsequent Sassanians. It is the architecture of the Arsacidae only which we should
regard as truly Parthian in its character. The remains of those structures which were made
subsequent to the year 226 A. D must be regarded as the work of a later period. Rawlinson
has determined the time in which the true national building was effected as covering about
two cen- turies; namely, ^he first and second of our era. But we must remember that the
works remaining to us of this period were merely the highest development of a kind of
building which had been cultivated for several preceding centuries.
The unfixedness of Parthian society is well illustrated in the fact that the seat of the
government was not established at any one city, but was transferred from place to place,
according to the preference of the monarch. There were thus several Parthian capitals. At
the time when the Empire was at its greatest expansion, the city of Hatra was perhaps the
most cen- tralized and important place of residence for the Great Kings. It is from the
ruins of this old metropolis that we are best able to gather an adequate idea of the
ancient architecture of the country. By the Greeks the city was called Ctesiphon. It was
situated on the left bank of the Tigris, over against Seleucia, the capital of the
Seleucidae, where the successors of Alexander established themselves. Ctesi- phon was
built by the Parthians across the river from the Greek capital, and at length grew into a
place of importance. With the decline of the Greek power in Asia, Seleucia shrank away,
while the Parthian city was improved and enlarged.
The founding of this Hatra is assigned to Vardanes; not the monarch of that name, but
another, whose history has not
been. determined. It appears that the city flourished greatly in the latter days of the
Parthian Empire, but declined with the dominion of which it constituted one of the.
principal ornaments, only to be revived at a subsequent period by the Sassanian kings. In
the year 232 A. D when the Roman Emperor Severus over- ran the country, the prisoners out
of Ctesi- pTion were estimated at a hundred thousand.
We are here concerned, however, with the character of the architecture of the Parthian
period. Hatra had the novel characteristic of being circular in form.
^~ffQw PLAN OF HATRA
The city was surrounded by a wall, thick and strong, about three miles in circum- ference,
and a true circle in form. The rampart was built of cut stone, strength- ened with
bastions at intervals of a hun- dred and seventy yards. Outside of the wall was a ditch,
broad and deep, and beyond this was a mole, or agger, drawn around after the manner of the
ancients. We thus sec that at the time of the Par- thian ascendancy the building arts and
military expedients of the^West had been introduced to the extent of 'making the
'capital city easily defensible against apow- erful enenay. The nomadic instincts of the
race had stooped to the adoption of those rational means by which cities are
protected from assault.
.From north to south across the circle formed by the great wall, and constituting