Hatra is a ruined city that can be considered the symbol of Parthian power which for a long time threatened that of Rome.
This religious and trading center was a fortified city of circular design. Its temples were dominated by the Great Temple, an enormous structure with vaults and columns that once rose to 30 metres.
Community Perspective: Hatra suffered severe damage from ISIS and still is mostly off-limits. Thomas managed to enter in 2021 and found hardly any statues left, but the structures were mostly intact.
Map of HatraLoad map
We visited Hatra in November 2021, and we were not sure up to the last minute if we were allowed in. There was no pre-arranged permit, and we just drove to the main gate, northwest of Telol al baj where the military commander is holding office. Our guide had the necessary connections in Baghdad, but this is the Middle East and you never know. The waiting time was spent with shisha and tea, almost 3 hours, and our passports were scanned and sent to the capital. Suddenly the tension was gone, all smiles in the faces, and we were given the permits. The check-points further on the road were also informed, and we could enter the premises of the archaeological site of Hatra. What a relief! The city was known as "Beit Elaha" (House of God) and became an important religious centre in the Parthian Empire that flourished between the 1st and 3rd Centuries AD. The Roman emperors Trajan and Septimius Severus were not successful to conquer the city. However, about 240 AD Hatra fell to Shapur I, the ruler of the Persian dynasty, and was destroyed for the first time. Just 7 years ago, we sadly had to witness another destruction, this time of religious extremists. ISIS has bulldozed and blown up this great archaeological site, using picks, sledgehammers and assault riffles, and there is hardly any statues left as we wandered through the ruins. Later on we discovered some limestone statues of king Sanatruq I (the first king of Hatra) in the Erbil Civilization Museum in Kurdistan, so luckily some statues are being kept in museums. However, most buildings and temples we have found intact, and there are plans to renovate the site with financial support of various governments, and institutions. We were not allowed to make photos in the inner parts of the Great Temple and were accompanied by the supervisor and some military personnel.
I was a Brigade Intelligence Officer for the 101st Airborne in 2003 and I did a site survey after the "ground war" was over. After coordinating with the caretaker and his family we set up tours for soldiers to view the site. We gave some donations to the family to help them with the tours. The goal was to do more than just guard the site but also to show our soldiers about the historical site. It really is a shame that ISIS has hurt not just the Iraqis but also the world with their destruction.
Hatra was a very impressive place. I was there in 2003 with the 101st airborne. There was a unit there securing the site from looters. The man who was the caretqaker there gave us a tour. I remember walking in to the city itself, the plaza was impressive, there was an arena fairly close to an altar to one of the gods I believe. The main building held the throne room, the court room and a temple. For me it was my first trip into something that old. I loved it.
2015 In Danger
Due to intentional destruction by ISIS
Deferred as conditions under which recommendation made not yet fulfilled
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