Nisa is described by some as one of the first capitals of the Parthians. It was traditionally founded by Arsaces I (reigned c. 250 BC–211 BC), and was reputedly the royal necropolis of the Parthian kings, although it has neither been established that the fortress at Nisa was a royal residence nor a mausoleum.
Excavations at Nisa have revealed substantial buildings, mausoleums and shrines, many inscribed documents, and a looted treasury. Many Hellenistic art works have been uncovered, as well as a large number of ivory rhytons, the outer rims decorated with Iranian subjects or classical mythological scenes.
Nisa was later renamed Mithradatkirt ("fortress of Mithradates") by Mithridates I (reigned c. 171 BC–138 BC).
Nisa was totally destroyed by an earthquake, which occurred during the first decade BC.