Old Nisa

In the 1970s Yu.Y. Khalaminsky described the ruins of the ancient city of Old Nisa, the first capital of the Parthian kingdom that arose in the 3rd century BC: "against the sharp silhouette of Kopet-Dag, standing out among the green of the foothills, the massif of the ancient city beckons stately peace..."

Old Nisa was excavated by archaeologists almost completely

This city was laid by King Mithridates I, the founder of the Arshakid dynasty, and the founder of the Parthian kingdom is considered Arshak - the leader of a nomadic tribe. The name of Parthia (or Parthien) in ancient times extended to the region that covered the south-western part of modern Turkmenistan and the extreme northeast of Iran. After the collapse of the Seleucid state, the Greek-Macedonian rulers established themselves, but around 250 BC power in Parfien passed to parnam, and in 247 BC their leader Arshak took the royal title. This kingdom, the capital of which was Nisa, was destined to become the core of a huge Parthian state - a formidable rival of Rome. According to the testimony of Pliny the Elder, Parthia was not a single state, but rather a confederation of eighteen semi-autonomous kingdoms. Therefore, Nisa could not claim the role of a unifying principle and retained its value only as a sacral center. She became a repository of ancient royal shrines.

At the turn of the I – II centuries AC The Parthian kingdom began to decline. One part of the ancient capital of Parthia (now - the settlement of New Nisa) for many centuries experienced the state of Arshakids. The second part - now the Old Nisa settlement - died along with the Parthian dynasty.

Old Nisa was excavated by archaeologists almost completely. The "southern complex", which today is considered to be the remains of the royal palace, and the "northern complex", which includes the "Square House" - the former royal treasury - and storerooms for wine storage, were found here.

The archive of the royal economy – about 2,5 thousand clay shards with texts – was a very interesting and important find.

One of the main buildings of the Old Nisa - "Square House". The building was a closed brick structure built of raw brick with a spacious courtyard (38x38 m) and twelve storerooms located along the building’s perimeter.

The initial purpose of the Square House is not quite clear; in the last years of its existence, "Square House" was the royal treasury. This is undeniably testified by the very valuable finds made by archaeologists among its ruins. But the most sensational and significant discovery in Old Nisa was the magnificent rhytons - wine containers in the shape of a horn, made of ivory. These large vessels (up to 40–60 cm in height) (II century BC) served for ritual libations. Most likely, wine was spilled over the altar or sacred cup. The sharp end of the horn ended with carvings of gods, griffins, winged elephants, or a bull man. Rhytons from Old Nisa could have been made either by Greek craftsmen, who took Eastern trends, or by carvers from the East, who were well acquainted with Greek mythology.

One of the most important monumental buildings of Old Nisa was the so-called "Square Hall". It is assumed that in the time of the first Arshakids it was a temple of fire. The entire structure was raised on a solid two-meter platform of raw brick. The area of the hall, which led three passes, was 400 square meters (20x20 m), height - 10 m. The hall was blocked by a flat wooden roof with a large skylight in the center, which was supported by four central pillars constructed of curved brick. The three-meter-thick walls were divided into two tiers: the lower one was plastered and whitewashed, and the upper one was painted in dark red, the walls are painted with white-red-black ornaments.

The ensemble of the sacred buildings of Old Nisa included the so-called "Round Temple" - a cylindrical building covered with a high tiled tent and standing on a massive square base. Perhaps it was the tomb of the Parthian kings: although no burials were discovered here, the type of construction itself dates back to very ancient concepts of funerary architecture.

The second temple of Old Nisa, the "Tower Temple", is the worst preserved. In one of his shrines a statue stood on a pedestal, allegedly the founder of the dynasty of the Parthian kings Arshak. But the greatest fame among the sculptures found in Old Nisa was given to the so-called "Rodoguna". This short (about 60 cm) marble figure of a naked woman, depicted in the canonical pose of Aphrodite - however, the sculptor portrayed here not the Greek goddess of love, but the Parthian princess, the brave daughter of Mithridates I - Rodoguna.

Excavations in Old Nisa revealed to the archaeologists many secrets of the culture of Parthia and not only. Old Nisa gave more information about the epoch of Greek domination than the Greek settlements themselves.