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The Ancient City Complex: Madain

Updated: Jul 19, 2023


Madain, also known as Ctesiphon, is an ancient city in modern-day Iraq. The city is known for its rich history and role in shaping the civilization of the ancient world. From being the capital of the Persian Empire to serving as a center of Islamic learning, Madain has a fascinating past.

Ctesiphon was called "Madain" in Arabic, which means "cities." This is because the area was once home to three cities - Seleucia, Ctesiphon, and Opis - which merged over time to form one large metropolis.

The history of Madain dates back to the 2nd century BCE when the Parthians founded it. The city gained prominence during the Sassanid period and was made the capital of the Persian Empire by the Sassanid king, Ardashir I. The city was strategically located near the Tigris River, making it an ideal location for trade and commerce.

Madain was a hub of art, culture, and learning during the Sassanid period. The city was home to some of the most magnificent buildings and structures of its time, including the Taq Kasra, the largest brick arch in the world. The city also housed the Royal Library of Ctesiphon, one of the ancient world's largest and most important libraries.

Madain played a significant role in Islamic history as well. After the Muslim conquest of Persia, the city became a centre of Islamic learning and scholarship. The renowned scholar, Imam al-Bukhari, spent significant time in Madain and wrote many of his famous hadith collections there.

One of the most significant incidents in the history of Madain was the Battle of Ctesiphon in 636 CE. The battle was fought between the Arab Muslim forces led by Saad ibn Abi Waqas and the Sassanid forces led by Rostam Farrokhzad. The battle resulted in a decisive victory for the Muslim forces and marked the end of the Sassanid Empire.

Madain's various mentions in literature, including medieval historians, geographers and travellers, further attest to its importance and legacy.

From Baghdad we went to the city of Madain, which is situated on the Tigris River. Madain was once the capital of the Persian Empire and is now a small town with a few inhabitants. The city is famous for its palace and the great arch of Madain, which is the largest brick arch in the world. Ibn Battuta
Madain was a magnificent city, with beautiful buildings and gardens. It was said that its walls were so thick that a chariot could ride on top of them. The city was also home to a great library and many schools of learning. Al-Masudi
Madain was the greatest city of its time, with magnificent palaces and temples. It was also a centre of trade and commerce, with merchants from all over the world coming to buy and sell their goods. Al-Tabari
Madain was a beautiful city, with wide streets and many gardens. Its palaces and temples were among the most magnificent in the world. The city was also home to a great library, which contained many rare and valuable books. Al-Maqdisi
Madain was a great city in its time, with magnificent buildings and a rich cultural heritage. The city was famous for its libraries and schools of learning, which attracted scholars from all over the world. Ibn Khaldun

Madain is also mentioned in many works of fiction, with the most iconic mention being in the Humzanama, also known as the Daastan-e-Ameer Humza. Madain serves as the setting for many of the epic's adventures and battles, including where it all starts from.

Other works of literature mentioning Madain include One Thousand and One Nights, the famous collection of Arabic tales, and the Shahnameh, the Persian epic poem by Ferdowsi.

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