Nisa, Turkmenistan


Entrance to Nisa
Shown within Turkmenistan
Alternate name Parthaunisa
Location Ashgabat City, Turkmenistan
Coordinates 37°58′0″N 58°11′42″E / 37.96667°N 58.19500°E / 37.96667; 58.19500Coordinates: 37°58′0″N 58°11′42″E / 37.96667°N 58.19500°E / 37.96667; 58.19500
Type Settlement
Periods Parthian Empire
Cultures Parthian
Associated with Arsaces I, Mithridates I
Site notes
Condition Ruined
Official name Parthian Fortresses of Nisa
Type Cultural
Criteria ii, iii
Designated 2007 (31st session)
Reference no. 1242
State Party Turkmenistan
Region Asia and Australasia

Nisa (also Parthaunisa) was an ancient city, located near modern-day Bagir village, 18 km southwest of Ashgabat, Turkmenistan. Nisa is described by some as the first seat of central government of the Parthians. It is traditionally assumed to be founded by Arsaces I (reigned c. 250 BC–211 BC), and was reputedly the royal necropolis of the Parthian kings, although it has not been established that the fortress at Nisa was either a royal residence or a mausoleum.


Nisa seen from its western end

Excavations at Nisa have revealed substantial buildings, mausoleums and shrines, many inscribed documents, and a looted treasury. Many Hellenistic art works have been uncovered, as well as a large number of ivory rhytons, the outer rims (coins) decorated with Iranian subjects or classical mythological scenes.

Nisa was later renamed Mithradatkirt ("fortress of Mithradates") by Mithridates I of Parthia (reigned c. 171 BC–138 BC).

Nisa was totally destroyed by an earthquake, which occurred during the first decade BC.

The fortress at Nisa was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2007.[1](See List of World Heritage Sites in Turkmenistan)

See also

Selected bibliography

Sorted by year then author:[2]

MASSON M.E., PUGACHENKOVA G.A., The Parthians rhytons of Nisa, Monografie di Mesopotamia (Introduction by A. Invernizzi), Firenze, Le Lettere.

INVERNIZZI A., KOSHELENKO G.A., «Soviet-Italian Excavations in Old Nisa (Season 1990) », Mesopotamia, XXV, pp. 47–50.

GABUTTI A., «The Italian Excavation in Old Nisa: the Northern Corner of the Round Hall Complex», Mesopotamia XXXI, pp. 161–177
INVERNIZZI A., «Archaeological research in Old Nisa 1990-1994», in La Persia e l’Asia Centrale da Alessandro al X secolo, Atti dei Convegni Lincei, 127, Roma, pp. 237–249.

INVERNIZZI A., «New Archaeological Research in Old Nisa, 1990-1991», in The Art and Archaeology of Ancient Persia. New Light on the Parthian and Sasanian Empire, ed. V. Sarkhosh Curtis, R. Hillenbrand, J.M. Rogers, London-New York, 8-13.
INVERNIZZI A., «Old Nisa and the Art of the Steppes», Bulletin of the Asia Institute, 10, 33-38.
INVERNIZZI A., «Parthian Nisa. New Lines of Research», in J. Wiesehöfer (ed.), Das Partherreich und seine Zeugnisse, Beiträge des internationalen Colloquiums - Eutin, 1996, (Historia Einzelschriften, 122), Stuttgart, 45-59.

INVERNIZZI A., «The Square House at Old Nisa», Parthica 2, pp. 13–53

INVERNIZZI A., «Arsacid Dynastic Art», Parthica 3, pp. 133–157.
INVERNIZZI A., «Arsacid Palaces», in The Royal Palace Institution in the 1st Millennium BC (Ed. I. Nielsen), Athens, pp. 295–312.
LIPPOLIS C., book review of V.N. PILIPKO, Staraja Nisa. Zdanie s Kvadratnym Zalom, Moskva, 1996, su Parthica, 3, 2001, pp. 221–234.

KOSHELENKO G, LAPCHIN A., «Ricerche nel complesso del Tempio Rotondo a Nisa Vecchia», Parthica 4, pp. 9–45.

LIPPOLIS C., «Novije Issledovanija Staroj Nisji», Kulturnye Ziennosti 2000-2001, Ashkhabad.
LIPPOLIS C., «Nisa-Mithradatkert: the building to the north of the Round Hall. Preliminary Report of the 2000-2001 excavations campaign», Central Asia Cultural Values, vol. I, n. 2, June 2003, p. 1-17.
LIPPOLIS C., book review of PILIPKO V.N., Staraja Nisa – Osnovnye itogi arheologicheskogo izuchenija v sovetskij period, su Parthica 5, 2003, p. 3-13.

INVERNIZZI A., «The culture of Nisa, between steppe and empire», After Alexander-Central Asia before Islam. Themes in the history and archaeology of Western Central Asia, British Academy Conference, 23–25 June 2004.
INVERNIZZI A., «Thoughts on Parthian Nisa», in Parthica 6, pp. 133–143.

INVERNIZZI A., «Representations of Gods in Parthian Nisa», Parthica 7 (2005), pp. 71–80.


  1. "UNESCO names World Heritage sites", BBC News, 28 June 2007.
  2. Italian Archaeological Mission in Old Nisa. Bibliography. Publications of Centro Scavi di Torino and contributions of the members of the Italian Expeditions to Nisa. Retrieved: 30 August 2009.
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