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Cuneiform Table Lion Decoration from Susa

Updated: Apr 20, 2022

Susa is one of the oldest cities in the world. Excavations have uncovered evidence of continual habitation dating back to 4200 BCE. Susa was a principal city of the Elamite, Persian and Parthian empires (capital of the Elamites) and was originally known to the Elamites as 'Susan’ or 'Susun’. The Greek name for the city was Sousa and the Hebrew, Shushan.

The modern city of Shush, Iran, presently occupies the ancient site. The old city, is situated between the modern rivers Karkheh and Dez (the rivers Choaspes and Eulaeus mentioned in the Biblical Book of Daniel 8:2, where Daniel received his vision), which bring mud down from the Zagros Mountains making the area one of the most fertile in the region. It was the political center of Elam early in the fourth millennium and there is a fortress, still extant, which dates back to this period.

The Assyrian king Ashurbanipal destroyed Susa completely between 645-640 BCE to avenge the perceived wrongs the people of Mesopotamia had suffered at the hands of the Elamites. The city was rebuilt and inhabited sometime after Ashurbanipal’s attack only to be conquered by the Persian king Cyrus the Great (559-530 BCE) in 540 BCE. It was made the capital of the Persian Empire by Cambyses II (died 522 BCE) and was rebuilt and expanded upon by the Persian king Darius the Great (522-486 BCE) who favored it over his other residences.

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