One of the most famous archaeological centers of Turkmenistan is Old Nisa. To get there – to the capital of ancient Parthia, which waged an irreconcilable struggle with the powerful Roman Empire for the right to be the owner of the world, you need to travel from the center of Ashgabat to the very edge of the Turkmen capital, covering a distance of two tens of kilometers and a period … of two thousand years.
This ancient city was buried for a long time under the thickness of compressed Time and land, which absorbed the sweat of hardworking farmers and the blood of courageous warriors.
Parthia received special prosperity under King Mithridates I, who lived in 174-136 BC. It was during this period that an impregnable fortress with 43 towers was erected in Nis.
As a result of successful military operations under the leadership of this ruler, vast territories were annexed to the Parthian Empire, and it turned into the largest power in the Near and Middle East, the lands of which stretched from Mesopotamia to India. And in 141 BC, Mithridates I – the ruler of Parthia – was also proclaimed king of Babylon!
The relationship between the new state – the growing Parthian force – and the old “master of the world” – the Roman Empire, over the course of several centuries determined the historical fate of the peoples inhabiting the Middle East and Eastern Mediterranean.
But the powers that be felt that these possessions should have one master. And in 53 BC, during the reign of the Parthian king Orod I, the Roman commander Marc Crassus, “famous” for having suppressed the rebellion of slaves under the leadership of Spartacus, invaded the Parthian lands.
This was a natural consequence of the long struggle of two great empires for world domination.
The troops of the irreconcilable powers entered the largest battle for that time near the city of Carra – where the Turkish city of Haran is located today.
The Roman army numbered 42 thousand soldiers, and the Parthian army – only 10 thousand. But her main force was the cavalry of a thousand armored riders on strong and fast horses.
Parthians, despite the numerical superiority of the Romans, using ingenious tactics, completely defeated the army of Mark Crassus, while using methods of psychological influence on the enemy.
How did this happen?
This is written by one of the fathers of the history of Plutarch:
“At first the Parthian knights hid their appearance with cloaks. Then the soldiers, having thrown off their cloaks, appeared to the Romans in dazzling armor, sparkling in the sun, like a flame. At the signal of the commander, they hammered into hollow leather-covered instruments hung with copper rattles. The whole plain was voiced by a dull roar, awe-inspiring with its noise. It was some kind of low frightening sound – only a roar of animals, or thunder.”
The battle lasted a long time and was bloody, the remains of the Roman army of 12-14 thousand people were left behind the Euphrates, 10 thousand were taken prisoner and sent to a settlement in Merv. The remaining 20 thousand Roman soldiers found their last refuge there. Including Mark Licinius Crassus.
After that great battle of the two great powers, Pompey Trog in his notes notes that “the Parthians, in the division of the world with the Romans, now have power over the whole East” …
In the past, Nisa was divided into two ancient settlements – Old and New. If common people, artisans and merchants lived in New Nisa, then Old Nisa, as many scholars believe, was a cult complex where the sacred temples of the deified kings of Parthia were located.
For everyone who has visited the ruins of Old Nisa, the silence and mysterious magnetism reigning here give rise to silent reverence for the greatness of bygone eras.
Maybe because here, on a tiny space, the Present, seemingly motionlessly frozen, and well-tangible Past merges tangibly into a single substance.
It feels like it is here that the opportunity is given, having overcome without the “time machine” the eternal antagonism between History and Modernity, to plunge into the atmosphere of past centuries …
The capital of ancient Parthia, Old Nisa, is included in the list of one hundred priority monuments of the world and is one of the most ambitious monuments of the Parthian era. The finds discovered here have entered the brightest pages in the Book of World History.
In 2007, Old and New Nisa, as unique historical and cultural monuments of the Parthian Empire, were included in the UNESCO World Heritage List.
The Greek geographer and traveler, Isidore Harakski, in his travel notes, which he called the “Roadman,” mentioned Nyssa (Parfavnis) as the city-tomb of the great kings. But the burials of the Parthian rulers have not yet been found. Although these monuments were studied by such world famous scientists as V.M. Masson, G.A. Pugachenkova, V.N. Pilipko and others.
Since the beginning of the 90s of the last century, Italian scientists have been working on the Old Nisa. In 1993, a 22-year-old student named Carlo was part of a group of Italian archaeologists. Since then, he has constantly come to Turkmenistan to continue his research, begun 26 years ago.
Currently, a professor at the University of Turin, Dr. Carlo Lippolis, who heads the Turkmen-Italian archaeological expedition, is completing another season of research on the Old Nisa.
And here is what he told us: