Archaeologists hail discovery of ‘Seleucid satrap tomb’ in west-central Iran

TEHRAN — Archaeologists said on Saturday they discovered what was believed to be the tomb of a Seleucid satrap or general in Hamedan, offering an extraordinary insight into Hellenistic life in west-central Iran.

According to senior archaeologist Mohsen Khanjan, who is leading the excavations, they discovered a tomb, which is likely the burial place of one of the satraps, ILNA reported.

The find is made at Tepe Naqarechi near what archaeologists long traced to unearth the Seleucid temple of Laodicea beneath the modern city of Nahavand in the province of Hamedan.

“Naqarechi is a circular hill with a height of about eight meters located among orchards southeast of Nahavand,” Khanjan said.

“Nahavand was one of the cities the Seleucids built during their Iranian rule over occupied Iran, using their own craftsmen, teachers, artists, historians, traders, … to Greekize Iranian land.”

The archaeologist said the recent discovery could be a clue for the detection of Seleucid burial rituals in Iran or even their inspirations from Iranians at the time.

“Due to the paucity of Seleucid works discovered so far in Iran, we know little about the architecture of Greek dwellings and their burial customs.”

The discovery of this tomb can be of great help to archaeologists to shed light on the dark recesses of the Seleucid period on the Iranian plateau,

Over the past two years, Khanjan has conducted several archaeological campaigns to possibly unearth the Laodicea temple believed to be placed beneath the Dokhaharan shrine.

According to him, in addition to a Greek inscription, other important objects such as bronze statues of Greek gods, a stone altar, a column head, a column shaft, a column base and pieces of pottery had been discovered in the Dokhaharan district.

“Regarding these findings, we have concluded that the history of the city of Nahavand goes back far into prehistory, contrary to previously believed, it only dates back to the Seleucid period.”

“The result of previous excavations determined that a Seleucid city was established on the remains of a prehistoric settlement…”

In the fifth season of excavations, 12 trenches were dug in a watertight manner based on the speculations and discoveries made during the previous four seasons…the season, however, yielded new clues to the ancient sanctuary.

In 1943, archaeologists discovered an ancient inscription measuring 85×36 centimeters with 30 lines written in Greek calling on the people of Nahavand to obey government laws. The inscription indicated the existence of the temple of Laodicea, which had been built by the Seleucid king who reigned over Asia Minor, Antiochus III the Great (223-187 BC), for his wife the queen Laodicea.

Two of the inscriptions along with four bronze statuettes, discovered at the site, are on display at the National Museum of Iran in downtown Tehran. And, the capitals and bases of the columns are currently used as decorations in the Hajian Bazaar of Nahavand and several other parts of the city.

Antiochus was the most distinguished of the Seleucids. After making Parthian vassal states in present-day northeastern Iran and Bactria (a former Central Asian country), he successfully waged war against the Egyptian king Ptolemy V and in 198 BC obtained possession of all Palestine and Lebanon.

Later he became embroiled in conflict with the Romans, who defeated him at Thermopylae in 191 BC and at Magnesia (now Manisa, Turkey) in 190 BC. As a price for peace, he was forced to give up all his estates west of the Taurus Mountains and pay costly tribute. Antiochus, who early in his reign had restored the Seleucid Empire, eventually lost his influence in the eastern Mediterranean through his failure to recognize Rome’s growing power.

The Seleucid Empire was a Hellenistic state ruled by the Seleucid dynasty which existed from 312 BC to 63 BC; Seleucus I Nicator founded it following the division of the greatly expanded Macedonian Empire by Alexander the Great. Seleucus received Babylonia (321 BC) and from there he expanded his domains to include much of Alexander’s Near Eastern territories. At the height of its power, the Empire included central Anatolia, Persia, the Levant, Mesopotamia and what is now Kuwait, Afghanistan and parts of Pakistan and Turkmenistan.


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