The Info List - Charax Spasinu

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Spasinu Charax /spæsɪnuː tʃæræks/, or Charax Spasinu, Charax Pasinu, Charax Spasinou (Ancient Greek: Σπασίνου Χάραξ), Alexandria (Greek: Ἀλεξάνδρεια), and Antiochia in Susiana (Greek: Ἀντιόχεια τῆς Σουσιανῆς) was an ancient port at the head of the Persian Gulf, and the capital of the ancient kingdom of Characene.


1 Etymology 2 Location of Charax 3 Archaeology 4 History 5 Economy 6 Coins 7 Notable persons 8 Footnotes 9 References

Etymology[edit] The name Charax, probably from Greek Χάραξ,[1] literally means "palisaded fort", and was applied to several fortified Seleucid
towns. Charax was originally named Alexandria, after Alexander the Great, and was perhaps even personally founded by him. After destruction by floods, it was rebuilt by Antiochus IV
Antiochus IV
(175-164 BC) and renamed Antiochia. It was at this time provided with a massive antiflood embankment almost 4½ km long by Antiochus's governor, Hyspaosines, and renamed "Charax of Hyspaosines." There is a theory that Charax derives from the Aramaic
word Karkâ meaning 'castle', but Charax often attested at several other Seleucid towns with the meaning palisade. Location of Charax[edit] Charax was located on a large mound known as Jabal Khuyabir
Jabal Khuyabir
at Naysan near the confluence of the Eulaios/ Karkheh and the Tigris
Rivers as recorded by Pliny.[2] According to Pliny the Elder:

"The town of Charax is situated in the innermost recess of the Persian Gulf, from which projects the country called Arabia
Felix. It stands on an artificial elevation between the Tigris
on the right and the Karún on the left, at the point where these two rivers unite, and the site measures two [Roman] miles [3 km] in breadth... It was originally at a distance of 1¼ miles [1.9 km] from the coast, and had a harbour of its own, but when Juba [Juba II, c. 50 BC—c. AD 24] published his work it was 50 miles [74 km] inland; its present distance from the coast is stated by Arab envoys and our own traders who have come from the place to be 120 miles [178 km]. There is no part of the world where earth carried down by rivers has encroached on the sea further or more rapidly..."[3]

The Description of Pliny matches the depiction on the Peuintigener Table. The Jabal Khuyabir
Jabal Khuyabir
tell is now 1km south of the confluence of the Eulaios/ Karkheh and the Tigris
Rivers as the river shifted course during a well documented storm event in 1837.[4] Naysān could be a colloquial Arabic corruption of Maysān, the name of the Characene
region during the early Islamic era.[5] First excavations and research started in 2016.[6] Archaeology[edit] The site was finally excavated in 2016, which revealed that the city was laid out on a grid pattern with housing block 185 by 85 m square. These belong to the largest blocks in the ancient world. Two large public buildings were detected, but are not yet excavated.[7] History[edit] A history of the Charax can be distilled primarily from ancient texts and numismatic sources, as the city has never been excavated. The city was established by Alexander the Great
Alexander the Great
in 324, replacing a small Persian settlement, Durine.[8] This was one of Alexander's last cities before his death in 323 BC. Here he established a quarter (dēmē) of the port called Pella, named after Alexander’s own town of birth, where he settled Macedonian veterans.[9] The city passed to the Seleucid
Empire after Alexander's death, until it was destroyed at some point by flooding.[9] The city was rebuilt c. 166 BC by order of Antiochus VI Dionysus, who appointed Hyspaosines
as satrap to oversee the work.[10] The political instability that followed the Parthian conquest of most of the Seleucid
Empire allowed Hyspaosines
to establish an independent state, Characene, in 127 BC. He renamed the city after himself. Charax remained the capital of the small state for 282 years, with the numismatic evidence suggesting it was a multi-ethnic Hellenised
city with extensive trading links. The Romans under Trajan
annexed the city in AD 116.[11] Characene
independence was re-established 15 years later under the rule of Mithridates, a son of the Parthian King Pacoros, during the civil war for the Parthian throne. From this time the coinage from Charax indicates a more Parthian culture. In AD 221–222, an ethnic Persian, Ardašēr, who was satrap of Fars, led a revolt against the Parthians, establishing the Sasanian Empire. According to later Arab histories he defeated Characene
forces, killed its last ruler, rebuilt the town and renamed it Astarābād-Ardašīr[12] The area around Charax that had been the Characene
state was thereon known by the Aramaic/Syriac name, Maysān, which was later adapted by the Arab conquerors.[13] Charax continued, under the name Maysan, with Persian texts making various mention of governors through the fifth century and there is mention of a Nestorian Church
Nestorian Church
here in the sixth century. The Charax mint appears to have continued through the Sassanid empire
Sassanid empire
and into the Umayyad empire, minting coin as late as AD 715.[5] Charax was finally abandoned during the 9th century because of persistent flooding and a dramatic decrease in trade with the west. Economy[edit] The original Greek town was enlarged by an Arabian chieftain, Spasines, and afterward named Spasines and Charax Spasinou after him.[14] It was a major trading center of late antiquity as evidenced by the hoards of Greek coins recovered during excavations there.[15] Although it was nominally a vassal of the Seleucids
and, later, the Arsacids, it seemed to have retained a considerable degree of autonomy at times. It became a centre for Arab trade, largely controlled by the Nabataeans, at least until they became assimilated by the Romans in AD 106. Charax was a rich port with ships arriving regularly from Gerrha, Egypt, India, and beyond. Trajan
observed the ships bound for India during his visit while Strabo
calls the city an emporium[16] and Pliny notes that the city was a centre of trade for rare perfumes[17] and was also a centre for pearl diving. It was also the beginning of the overland trade route from the Persian Gulf
Persian Gulf
to Petra
and Palmyra
and also into the Parthian Empire[18] Coins[edit] Prior to the invasion of Trajan[19] Charax minted coins of a Hellenistic type while after the invasion the coinage was of a more Parthian character. Charax minted coin through the Sassanid empire
Sassanid empire
and into the Umayyad Caliphate, minting coin as late as AD 715. Notable persons[edit] It was visited in AD 97 by the Chinese envoy, Gan Ying 甘英, who referred to it as 于羅 (Pinyin: Yuluo; reconstructed ancient pronunciation *ka-ra), who was trying to reach the Roman Empire
Roman Empire
via Egypt
but, after reaching the Persian Gulf
Persian Gulf
was convinced to turn back by the Parthians.[20] In AD 116, the Roman Emperor
Roman Emperor
visited Charax Spasinu
Charax Spasinu
– his most recent, easternmost and shortest-lived possession. He saw the many ships setting sail for India, and wished he were younger, like Alexander had been, so that he could go there himself. Isidore of Charax, a 1st-century geographer, came from Charax Spasinu. Robert Eisenman
Robert Eisenman
contends that it was this city, and not the better-known Antioch
in which Paul established his first church. Footnotes[edit]

^ "JSONpedia - Charax Spasinu". jsonpedia.org.  ^ Pliny VI 39 ^ Pliny the Elder
Pliny the Elder
(AD 77). Natural History. Book VI. xxxi. 138-140. Translation by W. H. S. Jones, Loeb Classical Library, London/Cambridge, Mass. (1961). ^ Vanessa M.A. Heyvaert, Jan Walstra, Peter Verkinderen, Henk J.T. Weerts, Bart Ooghe, The role of human interference on the channel shifting of the Karkheh Riverin the Lower Khuzestan plain (Mesopotamia, SW Iran), Quaternary International 251 (2012) 52. ^ a b Characene
and Charax, Characene
and Charax Encyclopaedia Iranica ^ Moon, Jane; Campbell, Stuart; Killick, Robert. "CHARAX SPASINOU 2016 ENGLISH REPORT".  ^ Moon, Jane; Campbell, Stuart; Killick, Robert. "CHARAX SPASINOU 2016 ENGLISH REPORT".  ^ Jona Lendering, Charax at Livius.org ^ a b Pliny, 6.31.138 ^ Pliny, 6.31.139 ^ Dio Cassius, 78.28 ^ Muhammad ibn Jarir al-Tabari, Ṭabarī I ^ Yāqūt, Kitab mu'jam al-buldan IV and III ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2009-11-14. Retrieved 2006-10-28.  ^ "Bibliography Page 37". www.parthia.com.  ^ Strabo
- Geography Book XV, Chapter 3 ^ Pliny Nat. Hist.12:80 ^ Isidore of Charax, The Parthian Stations. ^ Dio Cassius, 78.28 ^ Hill (2009), pp. 5, 23, 240-242.


Casson, Lionel. 1989. The Periplus Maris Erythraei. (Translation by H. Frisk, 1927, with updates and improvements and detailed notes). Princeton, Princeton University Press. Hill, John E. (2009) Through the Jade Gate to Rome: A Study of the Silk Routes during the Later Han Dynasty, 1st to 2nd Centuries CE. John E. Hill. BookSurge, Charleston, South Carolina. ISBN 978-1-4392-2134-1. Nodelman, S. A. 1960. "A preliminary history of Characene." S. A. Nodelman. Berytus 13 (1960), pp. 83–123. Potts, D. J. 1988. " Arabia
and the Kingdom of Characene." In: Araby the Blest: Studies in Arabian Archaeology. Edited by D. T. Potts. The Carsten Niebuhr Institute of Ancient Near Eastern Studies, University of Copenhagen. 1988. Museum Tusculanum Press, pp. 137–167. O. Mørkholm, "A Greek coin hoard from Susiana", in Acta Archæologica, 1965, vol. 36, p. 127-156.

Coordinates: 30°53′41″N 47°34′41″E / 30.894692°N 47.578031°E / 30