Splendid isolation and an austere environment allegedly saved Hatra on more than one occasion from the wrath of Rome. Even when the city finally fell to the Sasanians in AD 240 and Shapur carried off its portable wealth, its comparative remoteness prevented the wholesale destruction that happened, for instance, at nearby Ashur. So in 1985 UNESCO had no difficulty in recognising the ruins' value as a gem of world heritage.
Hatra's comparative isolation presents problems but also advantages for archaeologists. The problems concern the city's economy and subsistence with respect to its size and density in a hostile environment beyond the limit of dryland farming. Most prominently Hatra will have played an important role as a centre for nomad-sedentary political and economic exchange. The central temple of Shamash, which might have served as a focus of pilgrimage, will have added in some degree to its wealth, as reflected by its architecture and sculpture. According to some authors the city also played at least some role in long-distance caravan trade, which might have created further substantial revenue. But the important question remains: to what extent did Hatra's inhabitants complement their livelihood through cultivation