Shu'shan (Heb. Shushan', ]שׁוּשִׁ; Sept. Σουσάν and Σοῦσα; Vulg. Susa), or SUSA, one of the most important towns in the East, in which the kings of Persia had their winter residence (Da 8:2; Ne 1:1; Es 1:2,5). It is said to have received its name from the abundance of the lily (Shushan, or Shushanah) in its neighborhood (Athen. 12, 513). In the following account we collect the archaeological information on this subject.
I. History. — Susa was originally the capital of the country called in Scripture Elam, and by the classical writers sometimes Cissia (Κισσία), sometimes Susis, or Susiana. SEE ELAM. Its foundation is thought to date from a time anterior to Chedorlaomer, as the remains found on the site have often a character of very high antiquity. The first distinct mention of the town that has been as yet found is in the inscriptions of Asshur-bani- pal, the son and successor of Esar-haddon, who states that he took the place, and exhibits a ground plan of it upon his sculptures (Lavard. Nin. and Bab. p. 452, 453). The date of this monummesnt is about B.C. 660. We next find Susa in the possession of the Babylonians, to whom Elam had probably passed at the division of the Assyrian empire made by Cyaxares and Nabopolassar. In the last year of Belshazzar (B.C. 536), Daniel, while still a Babylonian subject, is there on the king's business, and "at Shushan in the palace" sees his famous vision of the ram and he goat (Da 8:2). The conquest of Babylon by Cyrus transferred Susa to the Persian dominioin; and it was not long before the Achaemenian princes determined to make it the capital of their whole empire and the chief place of their own residence. According to some writers (Xenoph. Cyrop. 8, 6, 22; Strabo, 15, 3, 2), the change was made by Cyrus; according to others (Ctesias, Pers. Exc. 9; Herod. 3, 30, 65, 70), it had at any rate taken place before the death of Cambyses; but, according to the evidence of the place itself and of the other Achaemenian monuments, it would seem most probable that the transfer was really the work of Darius Hystaspis, who is found to have been (as Pliny says, H.N. 6, 27) the founder of the great palace there — the building so graphically described in the book of Esther (Es 1:5-6). The reasons which induced the change are tolerably apparent. After the conquest of Babylonia and Egypt, the western provinces of the empire had become by far the most important, and the court could no longer be conveniently fixed east of Zagros, either at Ecbatana (Hamadan) or at Pasargadae (Murgaub), which were cut off from the Mesopotamian plain by the difficulty of the passes for fully one half of the year. Not only were the passes difficult, but they were in the possession of semi-independent tribes, who levied a toll on all passengers, even the Persian kings themselves (Strabo, 15, 3, 4). It was necessary to find a capital west of the mountains, and here Babylon and Susa presented themselves, each with its peculiar advantages. Darius probably preferred Susa, first, on account of its vicinity to Persia (ibid. 15, 3, 2); secondly, because it was cooler than Babylon, being nearer the mountain chain; and, thirdly, because of the excellence of the water there (Geograph. Journ. 9, 70). Susa accordingly became the metropolis of Persia, and is recognized as such by Aeschylus (Pers. 16, 124, etc.), Herodotus (5, 25, 49, etc.), Ctesias (Pers. Exc. passim), Strabo (15, 3, 2), and almost all the best writers. The court must. have resided there during the greater part of the year, only quitting it regularly for Ecbatana or Persepolis in the height of summer, and perhaps sometimes leaving it for Babylon in the depth of winter (see Rawlinson, Herod. 3, 256). Susa retained its pre-eminence to the period of the Macedonian conquest, when Alexander found there above twelve millions sterling and all the regalia of the Great King (Arrian, Exp. Alex. 3, 16). After this it declined. The preference of Alexander for Babylon caused the neglect of Susa by his successors, none of whom ever made it their capital city. We hear of it once only in their wars, when it falls into the power of Antigonus (B.C. 315), who obtains treasure there to the amount of three millions and a half sterling (Diod. Sic. 19, 48, 7). Nearly a century later (B.C. 221) Susa was attacked by Molo in his rebellion against Antiochus the Great. He took the town, but failed in his attempt upon the citadel (Polyb. 5, 48, 14). We hear of it again at the time of the Arabian conquest of Persia, when it was bravely defended by Hormuzan (Loftus, Chaldoea and Susiana, p. 344).
II. Position, etc. — A good deal of uncertainty has existed concerning the position of Susa. While most historians and comparative geographers (Rennel, Geog. of Herodotus; Kinneir, Mem. Pers. Empire; Porter [K.], Travels, 2, 4, 11; Ritter, Erdkunde Asiens, 9, 294; Pictorial Bible, on Da 8:2) have inclined to identify it with the modern Sus, or Shush, which is in lat. 320 10', long. 48° 26' east from Greenwich, between the Shapur and the river of Dizful, there have not been wanting some (Vincent, Commerce and Navig. of the Ancients; Von Hammer, in Mem. of the Geog. Soc. of Paris, 2, 320 sq., 333 sq.) to maintain the rival claims of Shuster, which is situated on the left bank of the Kuran, more than half a degree farther to the eastward. A third candidate for the honor has even been started, and it has been maintained with much learning and ingenuity that Susan, on the right bank of the same stream, fifty or sixty miles above Shuster, is, if not the Susa of the Greeks and Romans, at any rate the Shushan of Scripture (Geogr. Journ. 9, 85). But a careful examination of these several spots has finally caused a general acquiescence in the belief that Sus alone is entitled to the honor of representing at once the scriptural Shushan and the Susa of the classical writers (see Loftus, Chaldoea and Susiana, p. 338; Smith, Dict. of Geog. s.v.; Rawlinson, Herod. 3, 254).
The difficulties caused by the seemingly confused accounts of the ancient writers, of whom some place Susa on the Choaspes (Herod. 5, 49, 52; Strabo, 15, 3, 4; Q. Curt. 5, 2), some on the Eulaeus (Arrian, Exp. Al. 7, 7; Ptolem. 6, 3; Pliny, H.N. 6, 27), have been removed by a careful survey of the ground; and it thus appears that the Choaspes (Kerkhah) originally bifurcated at Pai Pul, twenty miles above Susa, the right arm keeping its present course, while the left flowed a little to the east of Sus, and. absorbing the Shapur about twelve miles below the ruins, flowed on somewhat east of south and joined the Karun (Pasitigris) at Ahwaz. The left branch of the Choaspes was sometimes called by that name, but more properly bore the appellation of Eulaeus (Ulai of Daniel). Susa thus lay between the two streams of the Eulaeus and the Shapur, the latter of which, being probably joined to the Eulaeus by canals, was reckoned a part of it; and hence Pliny says that the Eulaeus surrounded the citadel of Susa (loc. cit.). At the distance of a few miles east and west of the city were two other streams — the Coprates, or river of Dizful, and the right arm of the Choaspes (the modern Kerkhah). Thus the country about Susa was most abundantly watered; and hence the luxuriance and fertility remarked alike by ancient and modern authors (Athen. 12, 513; Geograph. Journ. 9, 71). The Kerkhah water was, moreover, regarded as of peculiar excellence; it was the only water drunk by the Great King, and was always carried with him on his journeys and foreign expeditions (Herod. 1, 188; Plutarch, De Exil. 2, 601, D; Athen. Deipn. 2, 171, etc.). Even at the present day it is celebrated for its lightness and purity, and the natives prize it above that of almost all other streams (Geogr. Journ. 9, 70, 89).
On this site there are extensive ruins, stretching, perhaps, twelve miles from one extremity to the other, and consisting, like the other ruins of this region, of hillocks of earth and rubbish covered with broken pieces of brick and colored tile. At the foot of these mounds is the so called Tomb of Daniel, a small building erected on the spot where the remains of that prophet are locally believed to rest. It is apparently modern; yet nothing but the belief that this was the site of the prophet's sepulchre could have led to its being built in the place where it stands (Malcolm, Hist. of Persia, 1, 255, 256); and it may be added that such identifications are of far more value in these parts, where occasion for them is rare, than among the crowded "holy places" of Palestine. The city of Shus is now a gloomy wilderness infested by lions, hyenas, and other beasts of prey.
III. General Description of the Ruins. — The ruins of Susa cover a space about 6000 feet long from east to west, by 4500 feet broad from north to south. The circumference of the whole, exclusive of outlying and comparatively insignificant mounds, is about three miles. According to Mr. Loftus, "the principal existing remains consist of four spacious artificial platforms distinctly separate from each other. Of these the western mound is the smallest in superficial extent, but considerably the most lofty and important. Its highest point is 119 feet above the level of the Shaour (Shapur). In form it is an irregular obtuse-angled triangle, with its corners rounded off and its base facing nearly due east. It is apparently constructed of earth, gravel, and sun-dried brick, sections being exposed in numerous ravines produced by the rains of winter. The sides are so perpendicular as to be inaccessible to a horseman except at three places. The measurement round the summit is about 2850 feet. In the center is a deep, circular depression, probably a large court, surrounded by elevated piles of buildings, the fall of which has given the present configuration to the surface. Here and there are exposed in the ravines traces of brick walls which show that the present elevation. of the mound has been attained by much subsequent superposition" (Chaldoe and Susiana, p. 343). Mr. Loftus regards this mound as indubitably the remains of the famous citadel (ἄκρα or ἀκρόπολις) of Susa so frequently mentioned by the ancient writers. (Herod. 3, 68 Polyb. 5, 48, 14; Strabo, 15, 3, 2; Arrian, Exp. Al. 3, 16, etc.). "Separated from the citadel on the west by a channel or ravine, the bottom of which is on a level with the external desert, is the great central platform, covering upwards of sixty acres (No. 3 on the plan). The highest point is on the south side, where it presents generally a perpendicular escarpment to the plain and rises to an elevation of about 70 feet; on the east and north it does not exceed 40 or 50 feet. The east face measures 3000 feet in length. Enormous ravines penetrate to the very heart of the mound" (Loftus, p. 345). The third platform (No. 2 on the plan) lies towards the north and is "a considerable square mass," about 1000 feet each way. It abuts on the central platform at its northwestern extremity, but is separated from it by "a slight hollow," which was, perhaps, an ancient roadway (ibid.). These three mounds form together a lozenge- shaped mass, 4500 feet long and nearly 3000 feet broad, pointing in its longer direction a little west of north. East of them is the fourth platform, which is very extensive, but of much lower elevation than the rest (No. 4
on the plan). Its plan is very irregular: in its dimensions it about equals all the rest of the ruins put together. Beyond this eastern platform a number of low mounds are traceable, extending nearly to the Dizful river; but there are no remains of walls in any direction, and no marks of any buildings west of the Shapur. All the ruins are contained within a circumference of about seven miles (Geograph. Journ. 9, 71). See Plumptre, Bible Educator, 3, 105.
IV. Architectural Character. — The explorations undertaken by general, now Sir Fenwick, Williams of Kars in the mounds at Susa, in the year 1851, resulted in the discovery of the bases of three columns, marked 5, 6, 7 on the following plan. These were found to be twenty-seven feet six inches apart from center to center; and as they were very, similar to the bases of the great hall known popularly as the Chel Minar at Persepolis, it was assumed that another row would be found at a like distance inwards. Holes were accordingly dug, and afterwards trenches driven, without any successful result, as it happened to be on the spot where the walls originally stood, and where no columns, consequently, could have existed. Had any trustworthy restoration of the Persepolitan hall been published at that time, the mistake would have been avoided; but as none then existed, the opportunity was nearly lost for our becoming acquainted with one of the most interesting ruins connected with Bible history which now exist out of Syria. Fortunately, in the following year Mr. Loftus resumed the excavations with more success, and ascertained the position of all the seventy-two columns of which the original building was composed. Only one base had been entirely removed, and as that was in the midst of the central phalanx its absence threw no doubt on any part of the arrangement. On the bases of four of the columns thus uncovered (shaded darker on the plan, and numbered 1, 2, 3, 4) were found trilingual inscriptions in the languages adopted by the Achaemenian kings at Behistun and elsewhere, but all were so much injured by the fall of the superincumbent mass that not one was complete, and, unfortunately, the Persian text, which could have been read with most certainty, was the least perfect of any. Notwithstanding this, Mr. Edwin Norris, with his usual ingenuity, by a careful comparison of the whole, made oft the meaning of the first part certainly, of the latter half with very tolerable precision. As this inscription contains nearly all we know of the history of this building, we quote it entire from Journ. As. Soc. 15, 162: "Says Artaxerxes (Mnemon), the great king, the king of kings, the king of the country, the king of the earth, the son of king Darius was the son of king Artaxerxes — Artaxerxes was the son of Xerxes — Xerxes was the son of king Darius — Darius was the son of Hystaspes the Achaemenian — Darius my ancestor anciently built this temple, and afterwards it was repaired by Artaxerxes my grandfather. By the aid of Ormazd I placed the effigies of Tanaites and Mithra in this temple. May Ormazd, Tanaites, and Mithra protect me, with the other gods, and all that I have done."
The bases uncovered by Mr. Loftus were arranged as on the second plan above, and, most fortunately, it is found on examination that the building was an exact counterpart of the celebrated Chel Minar at Persepolis. They are, in fact, more like each other than almost any other two buildings of antiquity, and consequently what is wanting in the one may safely be supplied from the other, if it exists there. Their age is nearly the same, that at Susa having been commenced by Darius Hystaspis, that at Persepolis — if one may trust the inscription on its staircase (Journ. As. Soc. 10, 326) — was built entirely by Xerxes. Their dimensions are practically identical, the width of that at Susa, according to Mr. Loftus being 345 feet, the depth north and south 244. The corresponding dimensions at Persepolis, according to Flandin and Coste's survey, are 357.6 by 254.6, or from 10 to 12 feet in excess; but the difference may arise as much from imperfect surveying as from any real discrepancy. The number of columns and their arrangement are identical in the two buildings, and the details of the architecture are practically the same so far as they can be made out. Butas no pillar is standing at.Susa, and no capital was found entire or nearly so, it is not easy to feel quite sure that the annexed restoration is in all respects correct. It is reduced from one made by Mr. Churchill, who accompanied Mr. Loftus in his explorations. If it be correct, it appears that the great difference between the two buildings was that double bull capitals were used in the interior of the central square hall at Susa, while their use was appropriately confined to the porticos at Persepolis. In other respects the height of the capital, which measures 28 feet, is very nearly the same, but it is fuller, and looks somewhat too heavy for the shaft that supports it. This defect was to a great extent corrected at Persepolis, and may have arisen from those at Susa being the first translation of the Ninevite wooden original. into stone architecture. The pillars at Persepolis vary from 60 to 67 feet in height, and we may therefore assume that those at Susa were nearly the same. No trace of the walls which enclosed these pillars was detected at Susa, from which Mr. Loftus assumes, somewhat too hastily, that none existed. As, however, he could not make out the traces of the walls of any other of the numerous buildings which he admits once existed in these mounds, we ought not to be surprised at his not finding them in this instance.
Fortunately, at Persepolis sufficient remains still exist to enable us to supply this hiatus, though there also sun-burned brick was too much used for the walls, and if it were not that the jambs of the doors and windows were generally of stone, we should be as much at a loss there as at Susa. The annexed wood cut representing the plan of the hall at Persepolis, is restored from data so complete as scarcely to admit of doubt with regard to any part, and will suffice to explain the arrangement of both (see Fergusson, The Palaces of Nineveh and Persepolis Restored [Lond. 1851]). Both buildings consisted of a central hall, as nearly as may be 200 feet square, and consequently, so far as we know, the largest interior of the ancient world, with the single exception of the great hall at Karnak, which covers 58,300 square feet, while this only extends to 40,000. Both the Persian halls are supported by 36 columns, upwards of 60 feet in height, and spaced equidistant from one another at about 27 feet 6 inches from center to center. On the exterior of this, separated from it by walls 18 feet in thickness, were three great porches, each measuring 200 feet in width by 65 in depth, and supported by 12 columns whose axes were coincident with those of the interior. These were, beyond doubt, the great audience halls of the palace, and served the same purposes as the House of the Forest of Lebanon in Solomon's palace, though its dimensions were somewhat different — 150 feet by 75. These porches were also identical, so far as use and arrangement go, with the throne rooms in the palaces of Delhi or Agra, or those which are used at this day in the palace at Ispahan. The western porch would be appropriate to morning ceremonials, the eastern toa those of the afternoon. There was no porch, as we might expect in that climate, to the south, but the principal one, both at Susa and Persepolis, was that which faced the north with a slight inclination towards the east. It was the throne room par excellence of the palace, and an inspection of the. plan will show how easily, by the arrangement of the stairs, a whole army of courtiers or of tribute bearers could file before the king without confusion or inconvenience. The bassirilievi in the stairs at Persepolis in fact represent permanently the procession which on great festivals took place upon their steps; and a similar arrangement of stairs was no doubt to be found at Susa when the palace was entire. It is by no means so clear to what use the central hall was appropriated. The inscription quoted above would lead us to suppose that it was a temple, properly so called, but the sacred and the secular functions of the Persian kings were so intimately blended together that it is impossible for us to draw a line anywhere, or to say how far "temple cella" or "palace hall" would be a correct designation for this part of the building. It probably was used for all great semi-religious ceremonies, such as the coronation or enthronization of the king, at such ceremonies as returning thanks or making offerings to the gods for victories — for any purpose, in fact, requiring more than usual state or solemnity; but there seems no reason to suppose it ever was used for purely festal or convivial purposes, for which it is singularly ill suited.
From what we know of the buildings at Persepolis, we may assert, almost with certainty, that the "King's Gate," where Mordecai sat (Es 2:21), and where so many of the transactions of the book of Esther took place, was a square hall (see cut below), measuring probably a little more than 100 feet each way, and with its roof supported by four pillars in the center, and that this stood at a distance of about 150 or 200 feet from the front of the northern portico, where its remains will probably now be found when looked for. We may also be tolerably certain that the inner court, where Esther appeared to implore the king's favor (Es 5:1), was the space between the northern portico and this square building, the outer court being the space between the "King's Gate" and the northern terrace wall. We may also predicate with tolerable, certainty that the. "Royal House" (Es 1:9.) and the "House of the Women" (Es 2:9,11) were situated behind this great hall to the southward, or between it and the citadel, and had a direct communication with it either by means of a bridge over the ravine, or a covered way underground, most probably the former. There seems also no reasonable doubt that it was in front of one of the lateral porticos of this building that king Ahasuerus (Xerxes) "made a feast unto all the people that were present in Shushan the palace, both unto great and small, seven days, in the court of the garden of the king's palace; where were white. green, and blue hangings, fastened with cords of fine linen and purple to silver rings and pillars of marble: the beds were of gold and silver upon a pavement of red, and blue, and white, and black marble" (Es 1:5-6). From this it is evident that the feast took place, not in the interior of any hall, but out of doors, in tents erected in one of the courts of the palace, such as we may easily fancy existed in front of either the eastern or the western porch of the great central building.
The whole of this great group of buildings was raised on an artificial mound, nearly square in plan, measuring about 1000 feet each way, and rising to a height apparently of 50 or 60 feet above the plain. As the principal building must, like those at Persepolis, have had a talar, or raised platform, SEE TEMPLE, above its root; its height could riot have been less than 100 or 120 feet, and its elevation above the plain must consequently have been 170 or 200 feet. It would be difficult to conceive anything much grander in an architectural point of view than such a building, rising to such a height out of a group of subordinate palace buildings, interspersed with trees and shrubs, and the whole based on such a terrace, rising from the flat but fertile plains that are watered by the Eulaeus at its base. SEE PERSIA.