(1 Esdras 6:23) or "ECBAT'ANE" (τὰ Ε᾿κβάτανα, 2 Macc. 9:3; Judith 1:1 sq.; Tob. 5:9, etc.; comp. Josephus, Ant. 10:11, 7; 11:4, 6; Α᾿γβάτανα in Ctesias 1; Herod. 1:98; 2:153), the metropolis of Media (Curt. 5:81), situated 88° and 37 degrees, 45 feet, according to Ptolemy (6, 2, 14), and after the time of Cyrus (Strabo, 11:522 sq.; Pausan. 4:24, 1; Xenoph. Cyr. 8:6, 22; Anab. 3, 5, 15) two months in the year the residence of the Persian (later the Parthian) kings. It is somewhat doubtful whether the name of this place is really contained in the Hebrew Scriptures. Many of the best commentators understand the expression בּאִחמתָא, in Ezr 6:2, differently, and translate it in arca "in a coffer" (see Buxtorf and others, and so our English Bible in the margin). The Sept., however, give ἐν πόλει, " in a city," or (in some MSS.) ἐν Α᾿μαθὰ ἐν πόλει, which favors the ordinary interpretation. If a city is meant, there is little doubt of one of the two Ecbatanas being intended; for, except these towns, there was no place in the province of the Medes "which contained a palace" (בַּירָה), or where records are likely to have been deposited. The name Achmetha, too, which at first sight seems somewhat remote from Ecbatana, wants but one letter of Hagmatana, which was the native appellation. The earlier and more correct Greek form of the name, too, was Agbatana (see Steph. Byz. page 19; compare Wesseling ad Herod. 3, 65). Lassen (Biblioth. 3, 36) regards the name as Zendish, Aghwa-Tana, "land rich in horses." Hyde (De rel. vet. Pers. page 541 sq.) compares it with the Persic Abadan, "cultivated place;" Ilgen (on Tobit, l.c.) regards it as Sbemitic; compare Syr. Chamtana, "fortress." For other etymologies, see Simonis Onom. V.T. page 578 sq.; Gesenius, Thes. page 70.
Two cities of the name of Ecbatana seem to have existed in ancient times, one the capital of Northern Media, the Media Atropatene of Strabo; the other the metropolis of the larger and more important province known as Media Magna (see Sir H. Rawlinson's paper on the Atropatenian Ecbatana, in the 10th volume of the Journal of the Geographical Society, art. 2). The site of the former appears to be marked by the very curious ruins at Takht i-Suleiman (lat. 36 degrees 28 feet long. 47 degrees 9 feet); while that of the latter is occupied by hamadan, which is one of the most important cities of modern Persia. There is generally some difficulty in determining, when Ecbatana is mentioned, whether the northern or the southern metropolis is intended. Few writers are aware of the existence of the two cities, and they lie sufficiently near to one another for geographical notices in most cases to suit either site. The northern city was the "seven-walled town" described by Herodotus, and declared by him to have been the capital of Cyrus (Herod. 1:98-99, 153; compare Mos. Choren. 2:84); and it was thus most probably there that the roll was found which proved to Darius that Cyrus had really made a decree allowing the Jews to rebuild their Temple.
Various descriptions of the northern city have come down to us, but none of them is completely to be depended on. That of the Zendavesta (Vendidad, Fargard II) is the oldest and the least exaggerated. "Jemshid," it is said, "erected a var, or fortress, sufficiently large, and formed of squared blocks of stone; he assembled in the place a vast, population, and stocked the surrounding country with cattle for their use. He caused the water of the great fortress to flow forth abundantly. And within the var, or fortress, he erected a lofty palace; encompassed with walls, and laid it out in many separate divisions, and there was no place, either in front or rear, to command and overawe the fortress." Herodotus, who ascribes the foundation of the city to his king Deloces, says: "The Medes were obedient to Deloces, and built the city now called Agbatana, the walls of which are of great size and strength, rising in circles one within the other. The plan of the place is that each of the walls should out-top the one beyond it by the battlements. The nature of the ground, which is a gentle hill, favors this arrangement in some degree, but it was mainly effected by art. The number of the circles is seven, the royal palace and the treasuries standing within the last. The circuit of the outer wall is nearly the same with that of Athens. Of this outer wall the battlements are white, of the next black, of the third scarlet, of the fourth blue, of the fifth orange: all these are colored with paint. The last two have their battlements coated respectively with silver and gold. All these fortifications Deloces caused to be raised for himself and his own palace. The people were required to build their dwellings outside the circuit of the walls" (Herod. 1:98, 99). Finally, the book of Judith, probably the work of an Alexandrian Jew, professes to give a number of details, which appear to be drawn chiefly from the imagination of the writer (Jude 1:2-4).
The peculiar feature of the site of Takht i-Suleman, which it is proposed to identify with the northern Ecbatana, is a conical hill rising to the height of about 150 feet above the plain, and covered both on its top and sides with massive ruins of the most antique and primitive character. A perfect enceinte, formed of large blocks of squared stone, may be traced round the entire hill along its brow; within there is an oval enclosure, about 800 yards in its greatest and 400 in its least diameter, strewn with ruins, which cluster round a remarkable lake. This is an irregular baError! Not a valid filename.sin, about 300 paces in circuit, filled with water exquisitely clear and pleasant to the taste, which is supplied in some unknown way from below, and which stands uniformly at the same level, whatever the quantity taken from it for irrigating the lands which lie at the foot of the hill. This hill itself is not perfectly isolated, though it appears so to those who approach it by the ordinary route. On three sides — the south, the west, and the north — the acclivity is steep, and the height above the plain uniform; but on the east it abuts upon a hilly tract of ground, and here it is but slightly elevated above the adjoining country. It cannot, therefore, have ever answered exactly to the description of Herodotus, as the eastern side could not anyhow admit of seven walls of circumvallation. It is doubted whether even the other sides were thus defended. Although the flanks on these sides are covered with ruins, "no traces remain of any wall but the upper one" (As. Jour. 10:52). Still, as the nature of the ground on three sides would allow this style of defense, and as the account in Herodotus is confirmed by the Armenian historian, writing clearly without knowledge of the earlier author, it seems best to suppose that in the peaceful times of the Persian empire it was thought sufficient to preserve the upper enceinte, while the others were allowed to fall into decay, and ultimately were superseded by domestic buildings. With regard to the coloring of the walls, or, rather, of the battlements, which has been considered to mark especially the fabulous character of Herodotus's description, recent discoveries show that such a mode of ornamentation was actually in use at the period an question in a neighboring country. The temple of the Seven Spheres at Borsippa was adorned almost exactly in the manner which Herodotus assigns to the Median capital ( SEE BABEL, TOWER OF ); and it does not seem at all improbable that, with the object of placing the city under the protection of the seven planets, the seven walls may have been colored nearly as described. Herodotus has a little deranged the order of the hues, which should have been either black, orange, scarlet, gold, white, blue, silver — as at the Borsippa temple — or black, white, orange, blue, scarlet, silver, gold — if the order of the days dedicated to the planets were followed. Even the use of silver and gold in external ornamentation — which seems at first sight highly improbable — is found to have prevailed. Silver roofs were met with by the Greeks at the southern Ecbatana (Polybius, 10:27, 10-12); and there is reason to believe that at Borsippa the gold and silver stages of the temple were actually coated with those metals. (See Rawlinson, Herodotus, 1:185.)
The northern Ecbatana continued to be an important place down to the 13th century after Christ. By the Greeks and Romans it appears to have been known as Gaza, Gazaca, or Canzaca, "the treasure city," on account of the wealth laid up in it, while by the Orientals it was termed Shiz. Its decay is referable to the Mogul conquests, cir. A.D. 1200; and its final ruin is supposed to date from about the 15th or 16th century (As. Soc. Journ. 10, part 1:49).
In the 2d book of Maccabees (9:3, etc.), the Ecbatana mentioned is undoubtedly the southern city, now represented both in name and site by Hamadan. This place, situated on the northern flank of the great mountain called formerly Oroiates, and now Elwend, was perhaps as ancient as the other, and is far better known in history. If not the Median capital of Cyrus, it was, at any rate, regarded from the time of Darius Hystaspis as the chief city of the Persian satrapy of Media, and as such it became the summer residence of the Persian kings from Darius downwards. It was occupied by Alexander soon after the battle of Arbela (Arrian, Exp. Alex. 3:19), and at his decease passed under the dominion of the Seleucidae. In the wars between his successors it was more than once taken and retaken, each time suffering largely at the hands of its conquerors (Polyb. 10:27). It was afterwards recognized as the metropolis of their empire by the Parthians (Oros. 6:4). During the Arabian period, from the rise of Bagdad on the one band and of Ispahan on the other, it sank into comparative insignificance; but still it has never descended below the rank of a provincial capital, and even in the present depressed condition of Persia it is a city of from 20,000 to 90,000 inhabitants. The Jews, curiously enough, -regard it as the residence of Ahasuerus (Xerxes?) — which is in Scripture declared to be Susa (Es 1:2; Es 2:3, etc.) — and show within its precincts the tombs of Esther and Mordecai (Ker Porter, 2:105-110). It is not distinguished by any remarkable peculiarities from other Oriental cities of the same size.
The Ecbatana of the book of Tobit is thought by Sir H. Rawlinson to be the northern city (see As. Soc. Journ. 10, 1:137-141). SEE ACHMETHA.