Settlements > Arbela



Arbela, also known as Erbil or Irbil, is an ancient city located in modern-day Kurdistan Region of Iraq. It is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world, with a history spanning several millennia. During the Achaemenid Empire, Arbela was a significant administrative and military center.

Historical Significance of Arbela

  1. Strategic Location:

    • Crossroads of Trade and Military Routes: Arbela's strategic location made it a crucial node in the network of trade and military routes connecting various parts of the Achaemenid Empire. It was situated along the Royal Road, which facilitated communication and trade across the vast empire.
  2. Achaemenid Period:

    • Administrative Center: Under the Achaemenid Empire, Arbela served as an important administrative center in the satrapy (province) of Assyria. It played a key role in the governance and control of the region.
    • Military Significance: Arbela was also a significant military base. Its location made it a strategic point for launching military campaigns and for the defense of the eastern territories of the empire.
  3. Battle of Gaugamela:

    • Proximity to the Battle Site: Arbela is famously associated with the Battle of Gaugamela (also known as the Battle of Arbela), which took place in 331 BCE. Although the actual battle site was near the village of Gaugamela, Arbela served as the logistical base for Darius III's army.
    • Aftermath: Following the defeat of Darius III by Alexander the Great at Gaugamela, Alexander captured Arbela, securing a critical point in his campaign to conquer the Achaemenid Empire.

Archaeological and Cultural Highlights

  1. Citadel of Erbil:

    • Ancient Urban Core: The citadel of Erbil is one of the most prominent features of the city, rising above the modern cityscape. It has been continuously inhabited for thousands of years and contains layers of historical occupation, including Achaemenid, Hellenistic, Parthian, and Islamic periods.
    • UNESCO World Heritage Site: The citadel is recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, highlighting its historical and cultural significance. Archaeological excavations have revealed artifacts and structures from various periods, providing insights into the city's long history.
  2. Archaeological Discoveries:

    • Achaemenid Remains: Excavations in and around Arbela have uncovered artifacts and architectural remains from the Achaemenid period. These findings help to reconstruct the city's role and significance during the Achaemenid Empire.
    • Inscriptions and Reliefs: Various inscriptions and reliefs found in the region provide valuable information about the administrative practices, religious beliefs, and daily life during the Achaemenid period.

Cultural Continuity and Influence

  1. Historical Continuity:

    • Continuous Inhabitation: Arbela's continuous habitation over millennia makes it a unique site for studying the cultural and historical continuity in the region. The city has seen various empires and cultures, each leaving its mark on the urban landscape.
    • Cultural Syncretism: The blend of different cultural influences, including Achaemenid, Hellenistic, Parthian, and Islamic, is evident in the architectural and cultural heritage of Arbela.
  2. Modern Significance:

    • Cultural Hub: Today, Erbil is a major cultural and economic hub in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq. The city's historical sites, including the citadel, attract tourists and scholars interested in its rich heritage.
    • Preservation Efforts: Ongoing preservation and restoration efforts aim to protect the historical and archaeological integrity of Arbela, ensuring that its ancient heritage is preserved for future generations.


Arbela (Erbil) is a city of great historical significance, particularly during the Achaemenid period, when it served as an important administrative and military center. Its strategic location made it a crucial node in the empire's network, and its association with the Battle of Gaugamela highlights its military importance. The continuous habitation of Arbela over thousands of years, along with its rich archaeological and cultural heritage, makes it a unique site for understanding the history and cultural evolution of the region. Ongoing research and preservation efforts continue to uncover and protect the legacy of this ancient city.

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