NISHAPUR, PERSIA (Old Pers. Nev-shapur-nev, New Pers. niv, nlk = good ; Arab. Naisabur) , the capital of the province of Nishapur, Persia, situated at an elevation of 3920 ft., in 36 12' N., and 58 40' E., about 49 m. west of Meshed. The second element of the name is that of the traditional founder Shapur, or Sapor of the Western historians. Someaccounts name the first (241-272), others the second Shapur (309-379). It was once one of the four great cities of Khorasan, rivalling Rai (Rhages), " the mother of cities," in importance and population, but is now a small and comparatively unimportant place with a population of barely 1 5 ,000. It has post and telegraph offices and a lively trade in wool, cotton and dry fruits (almonds, pistachios).
Eastward of the present city, amongst the mounds and ruins of the old town, in a dilapidated chamber adjoining a bluedomed building over the grave of an imamzadeh, is the tomb of the astronomer-poet Omar Khayyam, an unsightly heap of plaster without inscription, and probably fictitious. Near it is the grave of the celebrated poet and mystic Farld ud din Attar, who was killed by the Mongols when they captured the city c. 1229.
Nishapur was an important place during the sth century, for Yazdegerd II. (438-457) mostly resided there. During the latter Sassanids it is seldom mentioned, and when the Arabs came to Khorasan (641-642) it was of so little importance that, as Tabari relates, it did not even have a garrison. Under the Tahirids (820-872) it became a flourishing town and rose to great importance during the Samanids (874-999). Toghrul, the first ruler of the Seljuk dynasty, made Nishapur his residence in 1037. In 1153 the Ghuzz Turkomans overran the country and partly destroyed town and suburbs. In 1208 most of the town was destroyed by an earthquake. The town was hardly rebuilt when it was again destroyed, this time by the Mongols (April 1221) and so effectually that, completely levelled to the ground, it was turned into a vast barley field. The city was again rebuilt, suffered again at the hands of the Mongols (1269) and from another great earthquake (1280), and never again rose to its former greatness. (A. H.-S.)
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)