The Parthian Period

The Babylonian Collections of the University Museum

By: Leon Legrain

Originally Published in 1944

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Large constructions of that period, like the fortress built on the top of the Ziggurat and a Parthian palace, called “The Court of Columns,” have been found at Nippur. The cruciform, heavy, mud-brick walls of the fortress had to be removed before the upper stage of the tower could be exposed. In the outer wall of the Parthian citadel a brick tomb of two Parthian officers came to light; a gold coin of the Emperor Tiberius (14-37 A.D.) gives the exact date of the burial. Syria at the time of Christ had become a part of the Roman Empire, but it was only under Trajan (115 A.D.) that the Romans, after two unsuccessful campaigns, occupied for a short while Mesopotamia and pondered over the ruins of Babylon.

In the Court of Columns were unearthed not only the business tablets of the Murashû Sons but many incantation bowls with painted inscriptions in Aramaic, Hebrew and Mandean. All the exiled Jews did not return to Palestine. (cf. PBS, Vol. III, Aramaic Incantation Texts from Nippur, 1913.) There also were found many coins: Greek, Parthian, Sassanian, Arabic with Kufic inscriptions. Most characteristic are the Parthian slipper-shaped coffins of which the University Museum has a good collection. They are made of poorly baked clay, stamped outside with designs and figures in relief and covered with an originally blue glaze. The process of glass-making is very ancient. Glass beads and glazed ware appear at Ur in levels anterior to the Jemdet-Nasr period. Glass objects, coloured with cobalt blue in imitation of lapis lazuli, were presented by the Cassite kings to the temple at Nippur and bear their names and inscriptions. The Ishtar Gate at Babylon was adorned with glazed bricks and figures of a bull, a lion and a dragon in relief. The blue glazed bricks of Nabonidus at Ur have been referred to in their place. The Anu temple at Uruk in the Greek period was restored and had its front decorated with glazed terracotta figures. Blown and moulded glass bottles of the Graeco-Roman period are among the common furniture of Parthian graves.

Cite This Article

Legrain, Leon. "The Parthian Period." Museum Bulletin X, no. 3-4 (June, 1944): 65-66. Accessed July 15, 2024.

This digitized article is presented here as a historical reference and may not reflect the current views of the Penn Museum.

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