1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Hamadān

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HAMADĀN, a province and town of Persia. The province is bounded N. by Gerrūs and Khamseh, W. by Kermanshah, S. by Malāyir and Irāk, E. by Savah and Kazvin. It has many well-watered, fertile plains and more than four hundred flourishing villages producing much grain, and its population, estimated at 350,000—more than half being Turks of the Karaguzlu (black-eyed) and Shāmlu (Syrian) tribes—supplies several battalions of infantry to the army, and pays, besides, a yearly revenue of about £18,000.

Hamadān, the capital of the province, is situated 188 m. W.S.W. of Teheran, at an elevation of 5930 ft., near the foot of Mount Elvend (old Persian Arvand, Gr. Orontes), whose granite peak rises W. of it to an altitude of 11,900 ft. It is a busy trade centre with about 40,000 inhabitants (comprising 4000 Jews and 300 Armenians), has extensive and well-stocked bazaars and fourteen large and many small caravanserais. The principal industries are tanning leather and the manufacture of saddles, harnesses, trunks, and other leather goods, felts and copper utensils. The leather of Hamadān is much esteemed throughout the country and exported to other provinces in great quantities. The streets are narrow, and by a system called Kūcheh-bandi (street-closing) established long ago for impeding the circulation of crowds and increasing general security, every quarter of the town, or block of buildings, is shut off from its neighbours by gates which are closed during local disorders and regularly at night. Hamadān has post and telegraph offices and two churches, one Armenian, the other Protestant (of the American Presbyterian Mission).

Among objects of interest are the alleged tombs of Esther and Mordecai in an insignificant domed building in the centre of the town. There are two wooden sarcophagi carved all over with Hebrew inscriptions. That ascribed to Mordecai has the verses Isaiah lix. 8; Esther ii. 5; Ps. xvi. 9, 10, 11, and the date of its erection A.M. 4318 (A.D. 557). The inscriptions on the other sarcophagus consist of the verses Esther ix. 29, 32, x. 1; and the statement that it was placed there A.M. 4602 (A.D. 841) by “the pious and righteous woman Gemal Setan.” A tablet let into the wall states that the building was repaired A.M. 4474 (A.D. 713). Hamadān also has the grave of the celebrated physician and philosopher Abu Ali ibn Sina, better known as Avicenna (d. 1036). It is now generally admitted that Hamadān is the Hagmatana (of the inscriptions), Agbatana or Ecbatana (q.v., of the Greek writers), the “treasure city” of the Achaemenian kings which was taken and plundered by Alexander the Great, but very few ancient remains have been discovered. A rudely carved stone lion, which lies on the roadside close to the southern extremity of the city, and by some is supposed to have formed part of a building of the ancient city, is locally regarded as a talisman against famine, plague, cold, &c., placed there by Pliny, who is popularly known as the sorcerer Balinās (a corruption of Plinius).

Five miles S.W. from the city in a mountain gorge of Mount Elvend is the so-called Ganjnāma (treasure-deed), which consists of two tablets with trilingual cuneiform inscriptions cut into the rock and relating the names and titles of Darius I. (521–485 B.C.) and his son Xerxes I. (485–465 B.C.).  (A. H. S.)