Ctesiphon was founded in the late 120s BC in the Parthian period and became the capital of the ancient Parthian empire. It is an ancient city that falls under the region of Mesopotamia along with the Tigris River in Iraq. Due to wars, it became a place for political and economic powers. The city became an important part of the silk route. Ctesiphon acted as a capital until the fall of the Parthian Empire before being destroyed by Rome. Romans captured the city of Ctesiphon five times in history. The Parthian dynasty came to an end by Sasanian Empire in 226. The Muslim Arabs invaded during the great Battle of al-Qadisiyyah and defeated the kingdom of the Sasanian Empire in mid-630s. In early 637, the city of Ctesiphon was attacked and captured by the Arabs and fell into decay. They later made Baghdad the capital and Ctesiphon was forgotten for centuries until explorers rediscovered it.

Lost In Time: Ctesiphon, Iraq - Sheet1
1824 drawing by Captain Hart_©Wikipedia
Lost In Time: Ctesiphon, Iraq - Sheet2
Taq Kasra_©AlternativeIraq

Ruins of Ctesiphon

Ctesiphon thrived as a royal capital for over 800 years of the last two old Near Eastern dynasties, the Parthians and the Sasanians, until Muslim militaries vanquished the city in 637 A.D. The site of Ctesiphon was majorly affected by the battle of World War I in November 1915. The Ottoman Empire crushed troops of Britain endeavoring to catch Baghdad and drove them back nearly 40 miles (64 km) prior to catching the British power and convincing it to give up. The recently settled city of Baghdad brought about Ctesiphon’s downfall by 763 A.D. Remains of Ctesiphon were utilized as a quarry by the locals for building materials. An Italian archaeological mission started working at Ctesiphon in 1964. The remaining of the city was affected by the floods in the Tigris River, most of it washed away in 1888.

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Ctesiphon, 1932_©Wikipedia

Taq Kasra

The Archway of Ctesiphon is a massive landmark that has been standing for almost 1800 years surprisingly made of non-reinforced brickwork vault made in single-span. The arch was essential for the majestic royal residence complex. The royal chamber-the throne room was apparently under or behind the curve — was in height of 30 m (110 ft) high and covered an area of 24 m (80 ft) wide by 48 m (160 ft) long. The highest point of the arch is around 1 meter thick while the base walls are 7 meters thick. It is the biggest arch at any point constructed in the world. Without centering the arch was built and in request to make this conceivable various techniques were utilized. The bricks were laid around 18 degrees from the upward which permitted them to be somewhat upheld by the back wall during construction. The speedy drying concrete utilized as mortar permitted the new blocks to be immediately upheld by those that were recently laid.

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The backside of Taq Kasra_©www.unusualtraveler.com

During the capture of Muslims, the throne hall in Taq Kasra was used by them as a mosque for a short period of time until the whole city was abandoned by the 8th century. The origin of the structure belongs to Parthian Empire where the vaulted hall served as the palace for the kings. In the east of Taq Kasra about 200 meters, Saddam Hussein constructed a modern structure with an accessible rooftop terrace to get a beautiful panoramic view of the Taq Kasra. Everything made by Saddam turns into ashes after the 2003 invasion. The whole building has burned down on the inside left with rubble and cracked glass.

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The Panoramic building just east of Ctesiphon_©www.unusualtraveler.com
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The panoramic view_©www.unusualtraveler.com

In 1970, the arch began to collapse, and to stop the effect the eastern part of the structure was rebuilt. The Iraqi government, from 2004 to 2008, helped out the University of Chicago to restore the site at an expense of $100,000. The Ministry of Culture likewise welcomed a Czech organization, Avers, to reestablish the site. This reclamation was finished in 2017. In 2019, a fractional collapse further harmed the Taq Kasra, only two years after its most recent restoration was finished. In January 2021, the Iranian Minister of Cultural Heritage referenced that credit of about $600,000 would be expected for the reclamation of Taq Kasra.

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2016 photograph_©Wikipedia

It’s hard to say about coming back to the city of Ctesiphon but eying the concept of restoration of historic sites it could possibly be done. The only remaining in the city is Taq Kasra and to preserve the structure humorous attempts have been made and probably all of this will need to be taken down and replaced. The government of Iraq contracted for the restoration of Taq Kasra as a tourist attraction in 2013. Iraq’s cultural minister said that the work is now aiming to consolidate the site as it is at the risk of groundwater infiltration. The current phase is being financed by the International Alliance for the Protection of Heritage in Conflict Areas with a budget of $700,000. Total restoration would be the next step to strengthen the structure totally.

Present state_©Wikipedia


Wikipedia. (2022). Ctesiphon. [online] Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ctesiphon.

World History Encyclopedia. (n.d.). Ctesiphon. [online] Available at: https://www.worldhistory.org/ctesiphon/.

Wikipedia. (2022). Taq Kasra. [online] Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taq_Kasra [Accessed 19 Jun. 2022].

The National. (2021). Iraq’s historic Arch of Ctesiphon undergoes restoration work. [online] Available at: https://www.thenationalnews.com/mena/iraq/2021/11/25/iraqs-historic-arch-of-ctesiphon-undergoes-restoration-work/ [Accessed 19 Jun. 2022].

Metmuseum.org. (2021). [online] Available at: https://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/ctes/hd_ctes.htm.

www.unusualtraveler.com. (2019). Visiting The Ruins Of Ctesiphon, The Last Persian Capital In Iraq. – Unusual Traveler. [online] Available at: https://www.unusualtraveler.com/visiting-the-ruins-of-ctesiphon-the-last-persian-capital-in-iraq/ [Accessed 19 Jun. 2022].


Riya is an architectural designer, planner and thinker, currently working in New Delhi. She believes having a delightful livable environment irrespective of the area is what everybody must-have, since part of human psychology effects by what we see and what we feel by our senses.