Alexander the Great’s ‘lost city’ was a magical place where people drank wine and naked philosophers imparted wisdom, ancient accounts claim.
Now, nearly 2,000 years after the great warrior’s death, archaeologists believe the city may have finally been discovered in Iraq.
Experts first noticed ancient remains in the Iraqi settlement, known as Qalatga Darband, after looking at declassified American spy footage from the 1960s.
The images were made public in 1996 but, due to political instability, archaeologists were unable to explore the site properly for years.
Now, using more recent drone footage and on-site work, researchers have established there was a city during the first and second centuries BC, which had strong Greek and Roman influences.
They believe Alexander the Great founded it in 331 BC, and later settled in the city with 3,000 veterans of his campaigns.
Undefeated in battle, Alexander had carved out a vast empire stretching from Macedonia and Greece in Europe, to Persia, Egypt and even parts of northern India by the time of his death aged 32.
Researchers believe Qalatga Darband – which roughly translates from Kurdish as ‘castle of the mountain pass’ – is on the route Alexander of Macedon took to attack Darius III of Persia in 331 BC.
The city may have served as an important meeting point between East and West.
It is 6 miles (10km) south-east of Rania in Sulaimaniya province in Iraqi Kurdistan.
Researchers at the British Museum first explored the site using spy footage of the area from the 1960s.
An archaeological dig was not possible when Saddam Hussein controlled Iraq.
But more recently improved security has allowed the British Museum to explore the site as a way of training Iraqis to rescue areas damaged by Islamic State.
As well as on-site work, the Museum has also been able to capture its own drone footage of the area.
‘We got coverage of all the site using the drone in the spring — analysing crop marks hasn’t been done at all in Mesopotamian archaeology’, lead archaeologist John MacGinnis told The Times.
‘It’s early days, but we think it would have been a bustling city on a road from Iraq to Iran.
‘You can imagine people supplying wine to soldiers passing through’, he said.
‘Where there are walls underground the wheat and barley don’t grow so well, so there are colour differences in the crop growth’.
From the excavation work, they discovered an abundance of terracotta roof tiles and Greek and Roman statues, suggesting the city’s early residents were Alexander’s subjects.
Among the statues they found was a female figure believed to be Persephone, the Greek goddess of vegetation, and the other is believed to be Adonis, a symbol of fertility.
They also discovered a coin of Orodes II, who was king of the Parthian from 57 BC to 37 BC.
On its western flank, the city was protected by a large fortification which ran from the river to the mountain.
It is situated on a large open site around 60 hectares (148 acres) large on a natural terrace.
The 1960s Corona spy satellite footage showed a large square building, potentially believed to be a fort, according to aBritish Museum blog.
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