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Persian Archeological Sites: Merv & Nimrud

In what is now known as southeastern Turkmenistan, you will find what was known to the ancient Persians at the Merv Oasis , situated in the delta of the Murghab River. Set on the historical Silk Road, Merv was known as a hot spot for politics and culture. In this article, you will learn more about Merv, as well as the ancient city of Nimrud.

Merv (Turkmenistan)

Merv dates back to prehistoric times, where archeological surveys have shown that village life existed as far back as the 3rd millennium BC. When the ancient was “founded” by Cyrus the Great, it was actually re-founded. The levels associated with the Achaemenid Empire were already deeply hidden under the earth.

The city enjoyed many events and connections to historical figures. Alexander the Great paid a visit to the city, which led to the region being named Alexandria for a moment. Following the death of Alexander, Merv was known as the chief city of the province of Margiana and accommodated the Seleucid, Parthian, and Sassanid states. The Seleucid ruler Antiochus Soter renamed the city Antiochia Margiana and the land underwent a rebuilding period. The city was also expanded. When the Sassanid leader Ardashir I took Merv, they produced a series of coins that were minted in the city that shows the lengthy Sassanian rule that continued on for four centuries. During this time, the city became the home for a wide variety of religions. It was a place that Buddhists, Manichaeans, and East Syrian Christians called home.

Historical records state that Merv was at one time the largest city in the world during the 12th century. The ancient site is on the list for UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

Nimrud (Iraq)

The capital city of Nimrud was constructed by the Assyrian king, Ashurnasirpal II, who reigned over the Persian Empire between 883 and 859 BC. Situated on the Tigris River, the city was named after Nimrod , a figure in the Bible was known as a hunting hero. The city covered a land measuring about 16 square miles. The ruins of the city are found in present-day Iraq.

During the 13th century BC, Assyrian king Shalmaneser I made Nimrud the capital. It wasn’t until king Ashurnasirpal II opened the doors for Nimrud to enjoy a certain level of fame. The king constructed a sweeping palace and temples on the site , now all ruins. Archeologists have uncovered an inscribed stele that speaks of a grand opening ceremony in 879 BC that included festivities and a lavish banquet.

Within the city, there was a zoological garden and botanic garden. Following Ashurnasirpal’s efforts, his son Shalmaneser III built the monument called the Great Ziggurat alongside an associated temple. Today, the palace has been restored and turned into a museum for the site. It is one of only two preserved Assyrian palaces that exist in the world. The other is the palace that once belonged to Sennacherib in Nineveh.