An ancient city, the ruins of which lie on the Karkheh River, about 225 miles (362 kilometers) E of Babylon. Shushan or a fortified part of the city, “Shushan the castle,” was the setting for one of the visions of the prophet Daniel (8:2), the scene for the events narrated in the book of Esther (1:2, 5, 6; 2:3, 5, 8, 21; 3:2, 15; 8:14; 9:12-15) and the place where Nehemiah served as cupbearer during the reign of Artaxerxes (Longimanus, the son of Xerxes I).—Neh. 1:1; 2:1; see CASTLE; ELAM No. 1; PERSIA, PERSIANS.
There is evidence that Shushan (also called Susa [Ezra 4:9]) was the capital of ancient Elam. In the seventh century B.C.E., King Asenappar (Ashurbanipal) of Assyria conquered Shushan and transported inhabitants of the city to Samaria. (Ezra 4:9, 10) Under Persian domination, Shushan was a royal city. In the fourth century C.E., Shushan fell to Alexander the Great and eventually witnessed decline. Today only a mound of ruins occupies the site.
Archaeologists have uncovered the ruins of a palace, thought to be the one begun by Persian King Darius I and completed by his son Xerxes I (believed to be Ahasuerus, the husband of Esther). The panels of colored glazed bricks and the stone capitals give some indication of its former glory. An inscription of Darius I about the erection of the palace reads: “This is the hadish palace which at Susa I built. From afar its ornamentation was brought. Deep down the earth was dug, until rock bottom I reached. When the excavation was made, gravel was packed down, one part sixty feet, the other thirty feet in depth. On that gravel a palace I built. And that the earth was dug down and the gravel packed and the mud brick formed in molds, that the Babylonians did. The cedar timber was brought from a mountain named Lebanon; the Assyrians brought it to Babylon, and from Babylon the Carians and Ionians brought it to Susa. Teakwood was brought from Gandara and from Carmania. The gold which was used here was brought from Sardis and from Bactria. The stone—lapis lazuli and carnelian—was brought from Sogdiana. The turquoise was brought from Chorasmia. The silver and copper were brought from Egypt. The ornamentation with which the wall was adorned was brought from Ionia. The ivory was brought from Ethiopia, from India, and from Arachosia. The stone pillars were brought from a place named Abiradush in Elam. The artisans who dressed the stone were Ionians and Sardians. The goldsmiths who wrought the gold were Medes and Egyptians. Those who worked the inlays were Sardians and Egyptians. Those who worked the baked brick (with figures) were Babylonians. The men who adorned the wall were Medes and Egyptians. At Susa here a splendid work was ordered; very splendid did it turn out.”—History of the Persian Empire, by A. T. Olmstead, p. 168.