Mesopotamian Cities and Sites

If you’re looking to explore ancient Mesopotamian cities and Mesopotamian sites and want to find the best places to view the history of Ancient Mesopotamia then you can explore our interactive Mesopotamian cities map above or navigate further by using the links below.

From Babylon to Persepolis and beyond, there’s a great selection of ancient Mesopotamian sites which you can still visit today, and you can find some fantastic Mesopotamian cities to see on your trips.

Once you’ve explored the list of ancient Mesopotamian places and selected those you wish to visit you can use our itinerary planner tool to plan your trip and then print off a free pocket guidebook. This indispensible holiday guide will help you make the most of your time exploring Ancient Mesopotamian cities and sites.

Our database of Mesopotamian historic places is growing all the time, but we may not cover them all. Remember, if you know of other Ancient Mesopotamian cities or sites, remains or ruins, you can always add them to Trip Historic now by visiting our upload page.

Click the links below for information on Mesopotamian cities and ancient Mesopotamian sites or view these pages on a map through our explore page:

Ancient Mesopotamia: Site Index

Photo by gustaf wallen (cc)

Babylon

Babylon is one of the most famous cities of the ancient mesopotamian world and today can be found near the town of Al-Hillah in modern-day Iraq.

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The ancient metropolis of Babylon is one of the most famous cities of the ancient world and today can be found near the town of Al-Hillah in modern-day Iraq.

Founded almost five thousand years ago, the city on the Euphrates has seen empires rise and fall and has been the centre of the highest forms of culture and the most brutal wars and devastation.

It is likely that Babylon was founded in the third millennium BC and rose to prominence over the next thousand years. By the 18th century BC the city was the centre of the empire of Hammurabi. However, the changing political and military nature of the region saw Babylon fought over countless times over the following centuries, with one empire or dynasty after another securing Babylon as their home.

A resurgence of an independent Babylonian empire briefly flourished towards the end of the 7th century BC under king Nebuchadnezzar II – famous for building great wonders within the city, including the renowned Hanging Gardens of Babylon – yet even this dynasty failed to last, with Babylon falling to Cyrus the Great, king of the Persian Empire.

In 331 BC Alexander the Great captured Babylon, and it was here he died in 323 BC. After the fall of Alexander’s fledgling empire, Babylon was fought over by his surviving generals and was slowly abandoned over the following centuries.

The ruins of Babylon have suffered greatly due to looting and destructive policies, leaving little behind that captures the glory of the once-great city. Saddam Hussein also built a ‘new’ version of ancient Babylon over the site.

Of Babylon’s ancient ruins, it is still possible to see parts of Nebuchadnezzar's palace and some of the old city walls. It is also possible to see a reconstruction of the Ishtar Gate in the Pergamon Museum in Berlin.

Although the site of Babylon is open to visitors, it is advisable to check with you government’s official travel advice policy before undertaking any trips to Babylon.

Photo by Maarten Dirkse (cc)

Hattusha

Hattusha is one of Turkey’s great ruins of the capitals of the Hittite Empire and is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site. It is one of the most interesting ancient mesopotamian cities.

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Hattusha (also known as Hattusa or Hattuşa) is one of Turkey’s great ruins of capitals of the Hittite Empire and is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site.

The Hittite Empire reached its peak in the second millennium BC, most prominently in the thirteenth century BC, at which time much of Asia Minor was under their control. Existing at the same time as the Ancient Egyptian civillisation, evidence from Hattusha has shown a peace treaty having been signed between Hittite leader Hattushili III and Egyptian pharaoh Ramesses II (the Great).

Hattusha was founded in around 1600 BC and, despite the fact that it was conquered and mostly destroyed after 1200 BC, the remains of this great imperial capital are well preserved. From ornate gateways such as the Lion’s Gate, and temples to royal homes and ancient fortifications complete with underground passageways, there is much to see at Hattusha.

Much of the site was excavated by German archaeologists in 1906, a subject of some controversy in more recent times due to the non-return of a sphinx from the site (this can now be seen at the Pergamon Museum, Berlin).

The city is split into an upper and lower level, the latter containing the site of the Great Temple, one of the highlights of Hattusha and believed to have been dedicated to the deities of storms and the sun. Another highlight is the Yerkapi ramparts, a vast stone structure.

Not far from Hattusha, around 2km away, one can see the incredible Yazillkaya Sanctuary, a rock temple which still contains evidence of the artistry for which the city was renowned, including depictions of various deities and reliefs of humans and animals.

Pasargadae

Amongst the most historically significant ancient mesopotamian cities, Pasargadae was the first capital of the Persian Empire, the UNESCO-listed ruins of which are located in Iran.

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Pasargadae was the capital of the Persian Empire from the sixth century BC until it was conquered by the Macedonians led by Alexander the Great in 330 BC. Now a town in Iran, Pasargadae was established by the first ruler of the Achaemenid Dynasty, Cyrus the Great.

Amongst the sites still visible at Pasargadae, which is a UNESCO World Heritage historical site, are several palaces – including the Presidential Palace - making up a royal complex and a fortress known as the Tall-e Takht.

Most of these structures were built in the sixth century BC under Cyrus the Great and expanded and renovated over the years. King Cyrus’ successor, Cambyses, carried out some of these works, as did Darius the Great.

The Tomb of Cyrus the Great can also still be seen nearby.

Persepolis

Ranking among the most famous ancient mesopotamian cities, Persepolis was the latter capital of the ancient Persian Empire and today contains the ruins of many ancient buildings and monuments.

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Persepolis was the ancient capital of the Persian Empire during the Achaemenid era. Founded by Darius I around 515BC, the city stood as a magnificent monument to the vast power of Persian kings.

Persepolis remained the centre of Persian power until the fall of the Persian Empire to Alexander the Great. The Macedonian conqueror captured Persepolis in 330BC and some months later his troops destroyed much of the city. Famously, the great palace of Xerxes was set alight with the subsequent fire burning vast swathes of the city.

Persepolis does not seem to have recovered from this devastation and the city gradually declined in prestige, never again becoming a major seat of power.

Today the imposing remains of Persepolis stand in modern-day Iran and the site is also known as Takht-e Jamshid. Located roughly 50 miles northeast of Shiraz, the ruins of Persepolis contain the remains of many ancient buildings and monuments. These include The Gate of All Nations, Apadana Palace, The Throne Hall, Tachara palace, Hadish palace, The Council Hall, and The Tryplion Hall.

Persepolis was declared a UNESCO world heritage site in 1979.

Qatna Archaeological Park

Qatna Archaeological Park houses the ruins of what was the thriving ancient Mesopotamian city of Qatna. One of the lesser-known Ancient Mesopotamian sites.

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Qatna Archaeological Park in Tell Mishrifeh in Syria houses the ruins of what was the thriving ancient Mesopotamian city of Qatna.

Known to have first been occupied in the third millennium BC, Qatna’s location on an important commercial and political crossroad connecting it to both the Mitanni empire and the ancient Egyptians allowed it to flourish. In fact, in the period between 1600BC and 1200BC, in the Late Bronze Age, it grew to become a local kingdom.

This period heralded a great deal of construction, including the building of Qatna’s acropolis. However, much of this is still being excavated so is inaccessible to tourists. One significant part of Qatna Archaeological Park which is now open is an area of the Royal Palace. Constructed from 1650BC to 1550BC and with over eighty rooms on one level alone, Qatna Royal Palace would have been an impressive sight, but was devastated during the Hittite conquest of Syria in 1340BC.

Photo by Historvius

Tchogha Zanbil

Tchogha Zanbil is home to the impressive remains of the ancient city of Dur Untash, the holy capital of the Elamite Kingdom.

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Tchogha Zanbil is home to the impressive remains of the ancient city of Dur Untash, the holy capital of the Elamite Kingdom.

Located between Anshan and Suse, the city of Tchogha Zanbil would have been founded in 1250BC by King Untash-Napirisha. It would finally be abandoned in 640BC, following a devastating attack by King Ashurbanipal of the Assyrians. It was never completed.

The undeniable focal point of the ruins of Tchogha Zanbil, also spelt Chogha Zanbil, is one of the greatest - if not in fact the greatest - ziggurats to have been built in Mesopotamia. Originally a temple dedicated to the deity Inshushinak, it developed to become the ornate pyramid-like structure - ziggurat - that stands today, although at 25 metres high it is now just a shadow of its former self having once risen to 60 metres.

Beyond its great ziggurat, visitors to Tchogha Zanbil can also view ancient temples and palaces, including its 13th century BC Untash-Gal Palace. Tchogha Zanbil is a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Tomb of Cyrus the Great

The Tomb of Cyrus the Great is located in the former Persian capital of Pasargadae, now a UNESCO-listed town in Iran. One of the most unique Ancient Mesopotamian sites.

DID YOU KNOW?

The Tomb of Cyrus the Great is located in the former Persian capital of Pasargadae, now a UNESCO-listed town in Iran.

Cyrus the Great, also known as Cyrus II, founded the Achaemenid Dynasty in the sixth century BC and with it the capital, Pasargadae. The Achaemenid Dynasty was vitally important, being the first ruling dynasty of the Persian Empire.

The Tomb of Cyrus the Great is one of the main historic sites of modern Pasargadae. A stepped limestone structure crowned with a rectangular chamber, the Tomb of Cyrus the Great dates back to approximately 540-530 BC.

Legend has it that when Alexander the Great conquered Pasargadae in 330 BC, he had the tomb renovated in honour of Cyrus the Great. However, it has never been conclusively proved that this is indeed the tomb of the great Persian king. In fact, it was thought at one point to have been the tomb of the mother of the prophet Sulayman, accounting for various additions such as its carved mihrab, added in the 1970’s.