Cradle of Civilization

A Blog about the Birth of Our Civilisation and Development

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  • The Fertile Crescent

    The Fertile Crescent is a term for an old fertile area north, east and west of the Arabian Desert in Southwest Asia. The Mesopotamian valley and the Nile valley fall under this term even though the mountain zone around Mesopotamia is the natural zone for the transition in a historical sense.

    As a result of a number of unique geographical factors the Fertile Crescent have an impressive history of early human agricultural activity and culture. Besides the numerous archaeological sites with remains of skeletons and cultural relics the area is known primarily for its excavation sites linked to agricultural origins and development of the Neolithic era.

    It was here, in the forested mountain slopes of the periphery of this area, that agriculture originated in an ecologically restricted environment. The western zone and areas around the upper Euphrates gave growth to the first known Neolithic farming communities with small, round houses , also referred to as Pre Pottery Neolithic A (PPNA) cultures, which dates to just after 10,000 BC and include areas such as Jericho, the world’s oldest city.

    During the subsequent PPNB from 9000 BC these communities developed into larger villages with farming and animal husbandry as the main source of livelihood, with settlement in the two-story, rectangular house. Man now entered in symbiosis with grain and livestock species, with no opportunity to return to hunter – gatherer societies.

    The area west and north of the plains of the Euphrates and Tigris also saw the emergence of early complex societies in the much later Bronze Age (about 4000 BC). There is evidence of written culture and early state formation in this northern steppe area, although the written formation of the states relatively quickly shifted its center of gravity into the Mesopotamian valley and developed there. The area is therefore in very many writers been named “The Cradle of Civilization.”

    The area has experienced a series of upheavals and new formation of states. When Turkey was formed in the aftermath of the genocide against the Pontic Greeks, Armenians and Assyrians perpetrated by the Young Turks during the First World War it is estimated that two-thirds to three-quarters of all Armenians and Assyrians in the region died, and the Pontic Greeks was pushed to Greece.

    Israel was created out of the Ottoman Empire and the conquering of the Palestinian terretories. The existence of large Arab nation states from the Maghreb to the Levant has since represented a potential threat to Israel which should be neutralised when opportunities arise.

    This line of thinking was at the heart of David Ben Gurion’s policies in the 1950s which sought to exacerbate tensions between Christians and Muslims in the Lebanon for the fruits of acquiring regional influence by the dismembering the country and the possible acquisition of additional territory.

    The Christians are now being systematically targeted for genocide in Syria according to Vatican and other sources with contacts on the ground among the besieged Christian community.

    According to reports by the Vatican’s Fides News Agency collected by the Centre for the Study of Interventionism, the US-backed Free Syrian Army rebels and ever more radical spin-off factions are sacking Christian churches, shooting Christians dead in the street, broadcasting ultimatums that all Christians must be cleansed from the rebel-held villages, and even shooting priests.

    It is now time that the genocide against the Pontic Greeks, Assyrians and Armenians is being recognized, that the Israeli occupation, settlements and violence against the Palestinians stop, and that the various minorities in the area start to live their lifes in peace – without violence and threats from majority populations, or from the West, and then specificially from the US.

    War in the Fertile Crescent
    https://aratta.wordpress.com/2013/11/13/war-in-the-fertile-crescent

    Everyone is free to use the text on this blog as they want. There is no copyright etc. This because knowledge is more important than rules and regulations.

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The City of Harran

Posted by Sjur Cappelen Papazian on August 14, 2019

Bildet kan inneholde: 6 personer, personer smiler, folk som står og innendørs

Bildet kan inneholde: utendørs og natur

“House of One”

Harran, ancient Carrhae, situated 44 km southeast of Şanlıurfa near the Syrian border, was a major ancient city in Upper Mesopotamia whose site is near the modern village of Altınbaşak. The location is in the Harran district of Şanlıurfa Province.

A few kilometers from the village of Altınbaşak are the archaeological remains of ancient Harran, a major commercial, cultural, and religious center first inhabited in the Early Bronze Age III (3rd millennium BCE) period.

Harran is famous for its traditional “beehive” adobe houses, constructed entirely without wood. The design of these makes them cool inside, suiting the climatic needs of the region, and is thought to have been unchanged for at least 3,000 years.

Some were still in use as dwellings until the 1980s. However, those remaining today are strictly tourist exhibits, while most of Harran’s population lives in a newly built small village about 2 kilometres away from the main site.

At the historical site, the ruins of the city walls and fortifications are still in place, with one city gate standing, along with some other structures. Excavations of a nearby 4th century BCE burial mound continue under archaeologist Nurettin Yardımcı.

The grand Mosque of Harran is the oldest mosque built in Anatolia as a part of the Islamic architecture. Also known as the Paradise Mosque, this monument was built by the last Ummayad caliph Mervan II between the years 744–750.

The grand Mosque, which has remained standing up until today, with its 33.30 m tall minaret, fountain, mihrab, and eastern wall, has gone through several restoration processes”.

The demographics of the village today are made up mostly of ethnic Arabs. It is believed that the ancestors of the villagers were settled here during the 18th century by the Ottoman Empire. The women of the village often have tattoos and are dressed in traditional Bedouin clothes. There are some Assyrian villages in the general area.

By the late 1980s, the large plain of Harran had fallen into disuse as the streams of Cüllab and Deysan, its original water supply, had dried up. However, the plain is now irrigated by the recent Southeastern Anatolia Project, allowing cotton and rice to be grown in the area once again.

In religion

The moon god

The city was the chief home of the Mesopotamian moon god Sin, under the Assyrians and Neo-Babylonians/Chaldeans and even into Roman times.

Sīn or Suen (Akkadian: 𒂗𒍪 EN.ZU, pronounced Su’en, Sîn) or Nanna (Sumerian: 𒀭𒋀𒆠 DŠEŠ.KI, DNANNA) was the god of the moon in the Mesopotamian religions of Sumer, Akkad, Assyria and Babylonia.

Nanna is a Sumerian deity, the son of Enlil and Ninlil, and became identified with the Semitic Sīn. An important Sumerian text (“Enlil and Ninlil”) tells of the descent of Enlil and Ninlil, pregnant with Nanna/Sin, into the underworld.

There, three “substitutions” are given to allow the ascent of Nanna/Sin. The story shows some similarities to the text known as “The Descent of Inanna”.

The Semitic moon god Su’en/Sin is in origin a separate deity from Sumerian Nanna, but from the Akkadian Empire period the two undergo syncretization and are identified.

Sin had a beard made of lapis lazuli and rode on a winged bull. On cylinder seals, he is represented as an old man with a flowing beard and the crescent symbol.

The bull was one of his symbols, through his father, Enlil, “Bull of Heaven”, along with the crescent and the tripod (which may be a lamp-stand).

In the astral-theological system he is represented by the number 30 and the moon. This number probably refers to the average number of days (correctly around 29.53) in a lunar month, as measured between successive new moons.

During the period in which Ur exercised supremacy over the Euphrates valley (between 2600 and 2400 BC), Sīn was considered the supreme god. It was then that he was designated as “father of the gods”, “head of the gods” or “creator of all things”.

Sīn was also called “He whose heart can not be read” and was told that “he could see farther than all the gods”. It is said that every new moon, the gods gather together from him to make predictions about the future.

He is commonly designated as En-zu, which means “lord of wisdom”. The “wisdom” personified by the moon-god is likewise an expression of the science of astronomy or the practice of astrology, in which the observation of the moon’s phases is an important factor.

The original meaning of the name Nanna is unknown. The earliest spelling found in Ur and Uruk is DLAK-32.NA (where NA is to be understood as a phonetic complement).

The name of Ur, spelled (cuneiform: 𒋀𒀕𒆠) LAK-32.UNUGKI=URIM2KI, is itself derived from the theonym, and means “the abode (UNUG) of Nanna (LAK-32)”. He was also the father of Ishkur.

The pre-classical sign LAK-32 later collapses with ŠEŠ (the ideogram for “brother”), and the classical Sumerian spelling is DŠEŠ.KI, with the phonetic reading na-an-na.

The technical term for the crescent moon could also refer to the deity, (cuneiform: 𒀭𒌓𒊬 DU4.SAKAR). Later, the name is spelled logographically as DNANNA.

The occasional Assyrian spelling of DNANNA-ar DSu’en-e is due to association with Akkadian na-an-na-ru “illuminator, lamp”, an epitheton of the moon god.

The name of the Assyrian moon god Su’en/Sîn is usually spelled as DEN.ZU, or {h⁴8im)5 simply with the numeral 30, (cuneiform: 𒀭𒌍 DXXX).

His wife was Ningal (𒀭𒊩𒌆𒃲 DNIN.GAL; «Great Lady / Queen»), a goddess of reeds in the Sumerian mythology, who bore him Utu/Shamash (“Sun”) and Inanna/Ishtar (the goddess of the planet Venus), and in some texts, Ishkur.

Ningal was daughter of Enki and Ningikurga. She is chiefly recognised at Ur, and was probably first worshipped by cow-herders in the marsh lands of southern Mesopotamia.

The tendency to centralize the powers of the universe leads to the establishment of the doctrine of a triad consisting of Sin/Nanna and his children.

The two chief seats of Nanna’s/Sīn’s worship were Ur in the south of Mesopotamia and Harran in the north.

Nanna’s chief sanctuary at Ur was named E-gish-shir-gal, “house of the great light” (cuneiform: 𒂍𒄑𒋓𒃲 e2-giš-šir-gal).

It was at Ur that the role of the En-Priestess developed. This was an extremely powerful role held by a princess, most notably Enheduanna, daughter of King Sargon of Akkad, and was the primary cult role associated with the cult of Nanna/Sin.

Sin also had a sanctuary at the city of Harran, named E-hul-hul, “house of joys” (cuneiform: 𒂍𒄾𒄾 e2-ḫul2-ḫul2).

The cult of the moon-god spread to other centers, so that temples to him are found in all the large cities of Babylonia and Assyria.

A sanctuary for Sin with Syriac inscriptions invoking his name dating to the 2nd and 3rd centuries CE was found at Sumatar Harabesi in the Tektek Mountains, not far from Harran and Edessa.

Sin’s temple in Harran was rebuilt by several kings, among them the Assyrian Assur-bani-pal (7th century BCE) and the Neo-Babylonian Nabonidus (6th century BCE). Herodian (iv. 13, 7) mentions the town as possessing in his day a temple of the moon.

Hadhramaut

Sin was also the name of the pre-Islamic god of the moon and riches worshipped in Hadhramaut in South Arabia. The name is of ancient origin, and is retained in the name of the Hadhramaut Governorate of Yemen.

The people of Hadhramaut are called Hadhrami. They formerly spoke Hadramautic, but now predominantly speak Hadhrami Arabic.

The Hadhrami are referred to as Chatramotitai in ancient Greek texts. Hadhramautic texts come later than Sabaean ones, and some Sabaean texts from Hadhramaut are known

Greek, Latin, Sabaean and Hadhramautic texts preserve the names of a large number of kings of Hadhramaut, but there is as yet no definitive chronology of their reigns.

Their capital was Shabwa in the northwest corner of the kingdom, along the Incense Route. Eratosthenes called it a metropolis. It was an important cult centre as well.

At first the religion was South Arabian polytheism, distinguished the worship of the Babylonian moon god Sin. By the sixth century the monotheistic cult of Raḥmān was followed in the local temple.

The political history of Hadhramaut is not easy to piece together. Numerous wars involving Hadhramaut are referenced in Sabaean texts.

From their own inscriptions, the Hadhrami are known to have fortified Libna against Himyar and to have fortified Mwyt (Ḥiṣn al-Ghurāb) against the Aksumites in the period following the death of Dhū Nuwās (525/7).

The kingdom ceased to exist by the end of the third century AD, having been annexed by the Himyarite Kingdom. Hadhramaut continued to be used in the full titulature of the kings of Sabaʾ and Dhu Raydān (Himyar)

Early Islamic authors believed the nomadic Kinda tribe that founded a kingdom in central Arabia were originally from Hadhramaut, although distinct from the settled Hadhrami population.

Khirbet Kerak

“Khirbet Kerak ware” is a type of Early Bronze Age Syro-Palestinian pottery first discovered at this site. It is also found in other parts of the Levant (including Jericho, Beth Shan, Tell Judeideh, and Ugarit).

Khirbet Kerak (Arabic: Khirbet al-Karak, «the ruin of the fortress») or Beth Yerah (Hebrew: «House of the Moon (god)») is a tell (archaeological mound) located on the southern shore of the Sea of Galilee in modern-day Israel.

The tell spans an area of over 50 acres—one of the largest in the Levant—and contains remains dating from the Early Bronze Age (c. 3000 BC – 2000 BC) and from the Persian period (c. 450 BC) through to the early Islamic period (c. 1000 AD).

Khirbet Kerak culture appears to have been a Levantine version of the Early Transcaucasian Culture, the Kura–Araxes culture, a civilization that existed from about 4000 BC until about 2000 BC, which has traditionally been regarded as the date of its end; in some locations it may have disappeared as early as 2600 or 2700 BC.

The earliest evidence for this culture is found on the Ararat plain; it spread northward in Caucasus by 3000 BC. It gave rise to the later Khirbet Kerak-ware culture found in Syria and Canaan after the fall of the Akkadian Empire.

The name of the culture is derived from the Kura and Araxes river valleys. Kura–Araxes culture is sometimes known as Shengavitian, Karaz (Erzurum), Pulur, and Yanik Tepe (Iranian Azerbaijan, near Lake Urmia) cultures.

Beth Yerah means “House of the Moon (god)”.[10] Though it is not mentioned in the Hebrew Bible or other Bronze or Iron Age sources, the name may preserve, at least in part, the Canaanite toponym of Ablm-bt-Yrh, “the city/fort (qrt) of his-majesty Yarih”.

As Ablm (Heb. Abel), this location is mentioned in the 14th century BCE Epic of Aqhat, and is thought to be a reference to the Early Bronze Age structure extant at Khirbet Kerak.

The name Bet Yerah has generally been accepted and applied to the site of Khirbet Kerak, though the evidence for its being located there is circumstantial.

Yarikh (also written as Jerah, Jarah, or Jorah) is a moon god in Canaanite religion whose epithets are “illuminator of the heavens”‘, “illuminator of the myriads of stars” and “lord of the sickle”.

The latter epithet may come from the appearance of the crescent moon. Yarikh was recognized as the provider of nightly dew, and married to the goddess Nikkal, his moisture causing her orchards to bloom in the desert.

The city of Jericho was a center of his worship, and its name may derive from the name Yarikh, or from the Cannanite word for moon, Yareaẖ. It seems to have Hurrian roots and may be connected with Kušuḫ, the Hurrian moon god.

Nikkal, Ugaritic 𐎐𐎋𐎍 nkl, full name Nikkal-wa-Ib, is a goddess of Ugarit/Canaan and later of Phoenicia. She is a goddess of orchards, whose name means “Great Lady and Fruitful” and derives from Akkadian / West Semitic “´Ilat ´Inbi” meaning “Goddess of Fruit”.

De Moor translates Ugaritic 𐎛𐎁 “ib” as “blossom” which survives in biblical Hebrew as אֵב (Strongs Concordance 3) and cites Canticles 6:11 as a survival of this usage.

She is daughter of Khirkhibi, the Summer’s King, and is married to the moon god Yarikh, who gave her necklaces of lapis-lazuli. Their marriage is lyrically described in the Ugaritic text “Nikkal and the Kathirat”.

She may have been feted in late summer when tree fruits had been finally harvested. Her Sumerian equivalent is the goddess Ningal, the mother of Inanna and Ereshkigal.

The oldest incomplete annotated piece of ancient music is a Hurrian song, a hymn in Ugaritic cuneiform syllabic writing which was dedicated to Nikkal.

This was published upon its discovery in Ugarit by Emmanuel Laroche, first in 1955 and then more fully in 1968, and has been the focus of many subsequent studies in palaeomusicology by, amongst others, Anne Draffkorn Kilmer, who gave it the title of “The Hymn to Nikkal” .

Ishkur

Hadad (Ugaritic: 𐎅𐎄 Haddu), Adad, Haddad (Akkadian: 𒀭𒅎) or Iškur (Sumerian) was the storm and rain god in the Canaanite and ancient Mesopotamian religions. Adad and Iškur are usually written with the logogram 𒀭𒅎 dIM – the same symbol used for the Hurrian god Teshub. Hadad was also called Pidar, Rapiu, Baal-Zephon, or often simply Baʿal (Lord), but this title was also used for other gods.

The bull was the symbolic animal of Hadad. He appeared bearded, often holding a club and thunderbolt while wearing a bull-horned headdress. Hadad was equated with the Greek god Zeus; the Roman god Jupiter, as Jupiter Dolichenus; the Indo-European Nasite Hittite storm-god Teshub; the Egyptian god Amun.

Haddad was attested in Ebla as “Hadda” in c. 2500 BCE. From the Levant, Hadad was introduced to Mesopotamia by the Amorites, where he became known as the Akkadian (Assyrian-Babylonian) god Adad.

Dyēus or Dyēus Phter (Proto-Indo-European: *dyḗws ph₂tḗr, also *Dyḗus Ph2tḗr, *Dyḗus Pḥatḗr, or Dyēus Pətḗr, alternatively spelled dyēws) is believed to have been the chief deity in Proto-Indo-European mythology.

Part of a larger pantheon, he was the god of the daylit sky, and his position may have mirrored the position of the patriarch or monarch in Proto-Indo-European society. Rooted in the related but distinct Indo-European word *deiwos is the Latin word for deity, deus. The Latin word is also continued in English “divine” and “deity”.

Although some of the more iconic reflexes of Dyeus are storm deities, such as Zeus and Jupiter, this is thought to be a late development exclusive to Mediterranean traditions, probably derived from syncretism with Canaanite deities and Perkwunos.

The deity’s original domain was over the daylight sky, and indeed reflexes emphasise this connection to light: Istanu (Tiyaz) is a solar deity (though this name may actually refer to a female sun goddess).

Helios is often referred to as the “eye of Zeus”, in Romanian paganism the Sun is similarly called “God’s eye” (exact equivalent of Armenian akn tiwakan – “eye of God”) and in Indo-Iranian tradition Surya/Hvare-khshaeta is similarly associated with Ahura Mazda. Even in Roman tradition, Jupiter often is only associated with diurnal lightning at most, while Summanus is a deity responsible for nocturnal lightning or storms as a whole.

In Akkadian, Adad is also known as Rammanu (“Thunderer”) cognate with Aramaic:‎ Raˁmā and Hebrew: Raˁam, which was a byname of Hadad. Rammanu was formerly incorrectly taken by many scholars to be an independent Akkadian god later identified with Hadad.

Though originating in northern Mesopotamia, Adad was identified by the same Sumerogram dIM that designated Iškur in the south. His worship became widespread in Mesopotamia after the First Babylonian dynasty. A text dating from the reign of Ur-Ninurta characterizes Adad/Iškur as both threatening in his stormy rage and generally life-giving and benevolent.

The form Iškur appears in the list of gods found at Shuruppak but was of far less importance, probably partly because storms and rain were scarce in Sumer and agriculture there depended on irrigation instead. The gods Enlil and Ninurta also had storm god features that decreased Iškur’s distinctiveness. He sometimes appears as the assistant or companion of one or the other of the two.

When Enki distributed the destinies, he made Iškur inspector of the cosmos. In one litany, Iškur is proclaimed again and again as “great radiant bull, your name is heaven” and also called son of Anu, lord of Karkara; twin-brother of Enki, lord of abundance, lord who rides the storm, lion of heaven. In other texts Adad/Iškur is sometimes son of the moon god Nanna/Sin by Ningal and brother of Utu/Shamash and Inanna/Ishtar. Iškur is also sometimes described as the son of Enlil.

The bull was portrayed as Adad/Iškur’s sacred animal starting in the Old Babylonian period (the first half of the 2nd millennium BCE). He is identified with the Anatolian storm-god Teshub, whom the Mitannians designated with the same Sumerogram dIM. Occasionally Adad/Iškur is identified with the god Amurru, the god of the Amorites.

Adad/Iškur’s consort (both in early Sumerian and the much later Assyrian texts) was Shala, a goddess of grain, who is also sometimes associated with the god Dagānu. She was also called Gubarra in the earliest texts. The fire god Gibil (named Gerra in Akkadian) is sometimes the son of Iškur and Shala.

Christianity

Harran was a centre of Assyrian Christianity from early on, and was the first place where purpose-built churches were constructed openly. However, many people of Harran retained their ancient pagan faith during the Christian period, and ancient Mesopotamian/Assyrian gods such as Sin and Ashur were still worshipped for a time.

Carrhae was the seat of a Christian diocese before the First Council of Nicaea of 325, which was attended by its bishop Gerontius. In 361, its bishop Barses was transferred to Edessa, the capital of the Roman province of Osrhoene and therefore the metropolitan see of which the bishopric of Carrhae was a suffragan.

The names of another eleven bishops of Carrhae, including that of Abraham of Carrhae, are known from then down to Theodore Abu Qurrah, bishop of Carrhae from before 787 to after 813, and the writer of many treatises in Syriac and Arabic.

After him, the see passed into the hands of Non-Chalcedonian Jacobite bishops, of whom Michael the Syrian names seventeen who lived between the 8th and the 12th century.

No longer a residential bishopric, Carrhae is today listed by the Catholic Church as a titular see. A titular see in various churches is an episcopal see of a former diocese that no longer functions, sometimes called a “dead diocese”.

The ordinary or hierarch of such a see may be styled a “titular metropolitan” (highest rank), “titular archbishop” (intermediary rank) or “titular bishop” (lowest rank), which normally goes by the status conferred on the titular see.

The term is used to signify a diocese that no longer functionally exists, often because the diocese once flourished but the territory was conquered by Muslims or no longer functions because of a schism.

Abraham

Harran is, by virtually all scholars, associated with the biblical place Haran (Hebrew: חָרָן, transliterated: Charan). However, very little is known about the pre-mediaeval levels of Harran, especially for the patriarchal times.

Biblical Haran was where Terah, his son Abram (Abraham), his nephew Lot, and Abram’s wife Sarai settled en route to Canaan, coming from Ur of the Chaldees (Genesis 11:26–32).

The region of this Haran is referred to variously as Paddan Aram and Aram Naharaim. Paddan Aram or Padan-aram was an early Aramean kingdom in Mesopotamia.

Aram Naharaim is in Genesis used somewhat interchangeably with the names Paddan Aram and Haran to denote the place where Abraham stayed briefly with his father Terah’s family after leaving Ur of the Chaldees, while en route to Canaan (Gen. 11:31), and the place from which later patriarchs obtained wives, rather than marry daughters of Canaan.

Paddan Aram in Aramaic means the field of Aram. The name may correspond to the Hebrew “sedeh Aram,” or “field of Aram.” (Rashi to Gen. 25:20; e.g., Hos. 12:13.)

Paddan Aram designates the area of Harran in upper Mesopotamia. “Paddan Aram” and “Haran” may be dialectical variations regarding the same locality as paddanū and harranū are synonyms for “road” or “caravan route” in Akkadian.

Padan-aram or Padan appears in 11 verses in the Hebrew Bible, all in Genesis. Adherents of the documentary hypothesis often attribute most of these verses to the priestly source and the remainder to a later redactor.

The city of Harran, where Abraham and his father Terah settled after leaving Ur of the Chaldees, while en route to Canaan, according to the Genesis 11:31, was located in Paddan Aram, that part of Aram Naharaim that lay along the Euphrates.

Abraham’s brother Nahor settled in the area. Abraham’s nephew Bethuel, son of Nahor and Milcah, and father of Laban and Rebecca, lived in Padan-aram.

Abraham sent his steward back there to find a wife among his kinfolk for his son, Isaac. The steward found Rebecca.

Isaac and Rebecca’s son Jacob was sent there to avoid the wrath of his brother Esau. There Jacob worked for Laban, fathered eleven sons and daughter, Dinah, (Gen. 35:22-26; 46:15), and amassed livestock and wealth. (Gen. 31:18.)

From there, Jacob went to Shechem and the Land of Israel, where his twelfth son was born to him. (Gen. 33:18.)

Genesis 27:43 makes Haran the home of Laban and connects it with Isaac and Jacob: it was the home of Isaac’s wife Rebekah, and their son Jacob spent twenty years in Haran working for his uncle Laban (cf. Genesis 31:38&41).

Nimrod

According to an early Arabic work known as Kitab al-Magall or the Book of Rolls (part of Clementine literature), Harran was one of the cities built by Nimrod, when Peleg was 50 years old.

The Syriac Cave of Treasures (c. 350) contains a similar account of Nimrod’s building Harran and the other cities, but places the event when Reu was 50 years old.

The Cave of Treasures adds an ancient legend that not long thereafter, Tammuz was pursued to Harran by his wife’s lover, B’elshemin, and that he (Tammuz) met his fate there when the city was then burnt.

The pagan residents of Harran also maintained the tradition well into the 10th century AD of being the site of Tammuz’ death, and would conduct elaborate mourning rituals for him each year, in the month bearing his name.

The Christian historian Bar Hebraeus (13th century), mentions in his Chronography that Harran had been built by Cainan (the father of Abraham’s ancestor Shelah in some accounts), and had been named for another son of Cainan called Harran.

Early History

The earliest records of Harran come from Ebla tablets (late 3rd millennium BCE). From these, it is known that an early king or mayor of Harran had married an Eblaite princess, Zugalum, who then became “queen of Harran”, and whose name appears in a number of documents.

It appears that Harran remained a part of the regional Eblaite kingdom for some time thereafter. Royal letters from the city of Mari on the middle of the Euphrates, have confirmed that the area around the Balikh river remained occupied in c. the 19th century BCE.

A confederation of semi-nomadic tribes was especially active around the region near Harran at that time. It was an important Mesopotamian trade center as early as 2300 BCE on a road running south to Nineveh in modern Iraq.

In its prime Harran was a major Assyrian city which controlled the point where the road from Damascus joins the highway between Nineveh and Carchemish.

This location gave Harran strategic value from an early date. Because Harran had an abundance of goods that passed through its region, it became a target for raids.

In the 18th century, Assyrian king Shamshi-Adad I (1813–1781 BCE) launched an expedition to secure the Harranian trade route. By the 20th century BCE, Harran was established as a merchant outpost of the Assyrian Empire due to its ideal location.

The community, well established before then, was situated along a trade route between the Mediterranean and the plains of the middle Tigris. It lay directly on the road from Antioch eastward to Nisibis and Nineveh. The Tigris could be followed down to the delta to Babylon.

The 4th-century Roman historian Ammianus Marcellinus (325/330–after 391) said, “From there (Harran) two different royal highways lead to Persia: the one on the left through Neo-Assyrian Adiabene and over the Tigris; the one on the right, through Assyria and across the Euphrates.”

Not only did Harran have easy access to both the Assyrian and Babylonian roads, but also to north road to the Euphrates that provided easy access to Malatiyah and Asia Minor.

After the Suppiluliuma I–Shattiwaza treaty (14th century BCE) between the Hittite Empire and Mitanni, Harran was burned by a Hittite army under Piyashshili in the course of the conquest of Mitanni.

In the 13th century BCE, Assyrian king Adad-Nirari I reported that he conquered the “fortress of Kharani” and annexed it as a province.

It is frequently mentioned in Assyrian inscriptions as early as the time of Tiglath-Pileser I, about 1100 BCE, under the name Harranu (Akkadian harrānu, “road, path; campaign, journey”).

Tiglath-Pileser had a fortress there, and mentioned that he was pleased with the abundance of elephants in the region.

According to Roman authors such as Pliny the Elder, even through the classical period, Harran maintained an important position in the economic life of Assyria. During the first half of the 6th century, BCE Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar ruled Harran.

During the fall of the Neo-Assyrian Empire, Harran became the stronghold of its last king, Ashur-uballit II, who had retreated from Nineveh when it was sacked by Nabopolassar of Babylon and his Median allies in 612 BCE.

Harran was besieged and conquered by Nabopolassar and Cyaxares in 610 BCE. It was briefly retaken by Ashur-uballit II and his Egyptian allies in 609 BCE, before it finally fell to the Medes and Babylonians in 605 BCE.

The last king of the Neo-Babylonian period, Nabonidus, also originated from Harran as substantiated by evidence from the temple of stele of his mother Adad-Guppi, who is of Assyrian origin.

The city became a bastion for the worship of the moon god Sin during the rule of Nabonidus in 556–539 BCE, much to the consternation of the city of Babylon in the south, where Marduk remained the primary deity.

Harran became part of the Median Empire after the fall of Assyria, and subsequently passed to the Persian Achaemenid dynasty in the 6th century BCE.

It became part of the Persian province of Athura, the Persian word for Assyria. The city remained in Persian hands until 331 BCE, when the soldiers of the Macedonian conqueror Alexander the Great entered the city.

After the death of Alexander on June 11, 323 BCE, the city was contested by his successors: Perdiccas, Antigonus Monophthalmus, and Eumenes visited the city.

Harran eventually became part of the realm of Seleucus I Nicator, of the Seleucid Empire, and capital of a province called Osrhoene (the Greek rendering of the old name Urhai).

For one and a half centuries the town flourished, and became independent when the Parthian dynasty of Persia occupied Babylonia.

The Parthian and Seleucid kings were both happy with a buffer state, and the dynasty of the Arabian Abgarides, technically a vassal of the Parthian “king of kings”, was to rule Osrhoene for centuries. The main language spoken in Oshroene was Aramaic.

In Roman times, Harran was known as Carrhae, and was the location of the Battle of Carrhae in 53 BCE, in which the Parthians, commanded by general Surena, defeated a large Roman army under the command of Crassus, who was killed.

Centuries later, the emperor Caracalla was murdered here, probably at the instigation of Macrinus (217).

In the 3rd century the region was a frontier province of the Roman empire, being the location for major wars between Rome and Persia. The emperor Galerius was defeated nearby by the Parthians’ successors, the Sassanid dynasty of Persia, in 296 CE.

The city remained in Roman hands until 609/610 CE, when the Persian general Shahrbaraz completed conquering of Oshroene or Kingdom of Urhay, and sometimes known by the name of its capital city, Edessa (now Şanlıurfa, Turkey).

he city of Harran returned to Roman control after the successful offensive of emperor Heraclius in 620s. A few years later, in AH 19 (640), it was conquered by the Muslim Arab general ‘Iyāḍ b. Ghanm.

The Country of Osroene, Urfa

Osroene was a historical kingdom in Upper Mesopotamia, which was ruled by the Abgarid dynasty of Arab origin. It enjoyed semi-autonomy to complete independence from the years of 132 BC to AD 216, and a Roman province from 216 to 608, from 318 a part of the Diocese of the East.

Osroene, or Edessa, was one of several states that acquired independence from the collapsing Seleucid Empire through a dynasty of the nomadic Nabataean Arab tribe from Southern Canaan and North Arabia, the Orrhoei, from 136 BC.

Its name derives from Osroes of Urhay, a Nabataean king, who, in 120 BC, wrested control of the region from the Seleucids in Syria.

Osroene endured for four centuries, with twenty-eight rulers occasionally named “king” on their coins. Most of the kings of Osroene were called Abgar or Manu and settled in urban centers.

Under the Nabataean dynasties, Osroëne became increasingly influenced by Syriac Christianity and was a centre of national reaction against Hellenism.

Osroene was absorbed into the Roman Empire in 114 as a semiautonomous vassal state, after a period under the rule of the Parthian Empire, incorporated as a simple Roman province in 214.

The independence of the state ended in 216, when it was incorporated into the Roman Empire. By the 5th century, Edessa had become a center of Syriac literature and learning. In 608, the Sasanian emperor, Khosrow II, took Osroëne. In 638, it fell to the Muslims as part of the Muslim conquests.

The Country of Adiabene

Harran was called Hellenopolis (meaning “Greek city”) in the Early Christian period.

It is mentioned, in Movses Khorenatsi’s and Mikayel Chamchian’s History of Armenia, as being under the authority of prince Sanadroug, the sovereignty of which he assigned to Queen Helena of Adiabene.

Adiabene was an ancient kingdom in Assyria, with its capital at Arbela (modern-day Erbil, Iraq). It had a mixed population. It may have had a series of native rulers nominally vassal to the Macedonian, Seleucid and later Armenian (under Tigranes the Great) empires.

Helena of Adiabene (d. ca. 50-56 CE) was a Median queen of Adiabene (modern-day Erbil, Iraqi Kurdistan) and Edessa (modern-day Urfa, Turkey) and the wife of Monobaz I, her brother, and Abgarus V.

Helena became a convert to Judaism about the year 30 CE. The names of some of her family members and the fact that she was married to her brother indicate an Iranian, Zoroastrian or Magian origin.

Queen Helena of Adiabene (known in Jewish sources as Heleni HaMalka) moved to Jerusalem, where she built palaces for herself and her sons, Izates bar Monobaz and Monobaz II at the northern part of the city of David, south of the Temple Mount, and aided the Jews in their war with Rome.

According to the Talmud, both Helena and Monobaz donated large funds for the Temple of Jerusalem. After 115 CE, there are no historic traces of Jewish royalty in Adiabene.

King Abgar V

There is an apocryphal legend that Osroene was the first state to have accepted Christianity as state religion, but there is not enough evidence to support that claim.

It was in the region in which the legend of Abgar V originated. Abgar V (died c. AD 40), called Ukkāmā meaning “the Black” (in Syriac and other dialects of Aramaic), was the King of Osroene with his capital at Edessa.

Abgar V is claimed to be one of the first Christian kings in history, having been converted to the faith by Thaddeus of Edessa, one of the seventy disciples.

The church historian Eusebius records that the Edessan archives contained a copy of a correspondence exchanged between Abgar of Edessa and Jesus.

The correspondence consisted of Abgar’s letter and the answer dictated by Jesus. On August 15, 944, the Church of St. Mary of Blachernae in Constantinople received the letter and the Mandylion. Both relics were then moved to the Church of the Virgin of the Pharos.

Abgar was described as “king of the Arabs” by Tacitus, a near-contemporary source. According to Movses Khorenatsi, Abgar was an Armenian.

Yet both Robert W. Thomson and Richard G. Hovannisian state Abgar’s Armenian ethnicity was invented by Khorenatsi. Most modern academics present the Abgarid dynasty as an Arab dynasty.

Consequently, Lucas Van Rompay, Professor Emeritus of Religious Studies, states that, “as far as the ethnic descent of the Abgarid kings is concerned, we cannot ascertain whether they were Arabs(as some of the names may indicate), Aramean, Parthian, or Armenian”.

Abgar’s nephew, King Sanatruk of Armenia, is also chronicled extensively in Armenian writings. He was a member of the Arsacid dynasty of Armenia who succeeded Tiridates I of Armenia as King of Armenia at the end of the 1st century. He was also King of Osroene (reigned 91–109), a historic kingdom located in Mesopotamia.

Little or no information is available from either literary or numismatic sources regarding the successor of Tiridates. Through the collation of various Classical and Armenian sources, Sanatruk is assumed to have reigned around the start of the 2nd century.

Certain scholars proposed that Sanatruk succeeded Tiridates between 75 and 110 but this hypothesis for which there is no explicit evidence has been rejected by others.

His merits are praised by Arrian in his Parthica where he is equated with the most illustrious Greeks and Romans. However, Hagiographic tradition blames him for the martyrdom of the Apostle St. Thaddeus in Armenia, as well as his own daughter, St. Sandukht the Virgin.

In 110 the throne of Armenia was held by Axidares, the son of the Parthian monarch of Atropatene, Pacorus II of Parthia who was deposed in 113 by Trajan (Latin: Imperator Caesar Nerva Traianus Divi Nervae filius Augustus; 18 September 53 – 8 August 117).

Trajan was Roman emperor from 98 to 117. Officially declared by the Senate optimus princeps (“the best ruler”), Trajan is remembered as a successful soldier-emperor who presided over the greatest military expansion in Roman history, leading the empire to attain its maximum territorial extent by the time of his death.

A number of sources have named Sanatruk as one of the leaders of the revolt against Trajan’s occupation by 117. It has been suggested that the royal house of Adiabene, after fleeing Trajan’s invasion, established the later Amatuni dynasty which ruled the area between the lakes Urmia and Van.

Amatuni is an ancient Armenian noble family, known from the 4th century in the canton of Artaz, between lakes Van and Urmia, with its center at Shavarshan (latter-day Maku), and subsequently also at Aragatsotn, west of Lake Sevan, with the residence at Oshakan.

Islam

At the beginning of the Islamic period Harran was located in the land of the Mudar tribe (Diyar Mudar), the western part of northern Mesopotamia (Jazira).

Along with ar-Ruha’ (Şanlıurfa) and Raqqa it was one of the main cities in the region. During the reign of the Umayyad caliph Marwan II Harran became the seat of the caliphal government of the Islamic empire stretching from Spain to Central Asia.

It was allegedly the Abbasid caliph al-Ma’mun who, while passing through Harran on his way to a campaign against the Byzantine Empire, forced the Harranians to convert to one of the “religions of the book”, meaning Judaism, Christianity, or Islam.

The Sabians

The pagan people of Harran identified themselves with the Sabians in order to fall under the protection of Islam. Aramaean and Assyrian Christians remained Christian.

The Sabians of Middle Eastern tradition were a religious group mentioned three times in the Quran as a People of the Book, along with the Jews and the Christians. In the hadith, they were described simply as converts to Islam.

Interest in the identity and history of the group increased over time. Discussions and investigations of the Sabians began to appear in later Islamic literature.

The Sabians were identified by early writers with the ancient Jewish Christian group the Elcesaites, and with gnostic groups such as the Hermeticists and the Mandaeans. Today, the Mandaeans are still widely identified as Sabians.

Mandaeism or Mandaeanism (Arabic: Mandāʼīyah) is a gnostic religion with a strongly dualistic cosmology. Its adherents, the Mandaeans, revere Adam, Abel, Seth, Enos, Noah, Shem, Aram, and especially John the Baptist.

The Mandaeans are Semites and speak a dialect of Eastern Aramaic known as Mandaic. The name ‘Mandaean’ is said to come from the Aramaic manda meaning “knowledge”, as does Greek gnosis.

Within the Middle East, but outside of their community, the Mandaeans are more commonly known as the Ṣubba (singular: Ṣubbī) or Sabians. The term Ṣubba is derived from the Aramaic root related to baptism, the neo-Mandaic is Ṣabi.

In Islam, the “Sabians” (Arabic: al-Ṣābiʾūn) are described several times in the Quran as People of the Book, alongside Jews and Christians. Occasionally, Mandaeans are called “Christians of Saint John”.

According to most scholars, Mandaeaism originated sometime in the first three centuries AD, in either southwestern Mesopotamia or the Syro-Palestinian area.

However, some scholars take the view that Mandaeanism is older and dates from pre-Christian times.

Sabians were mentioned in the Qur’an, but those were the group of Mandaeans. The Harranians may have identified themselves as Sabians in order to retain their religious beliefs.

During the late 8th and 9th centuries Harran was a centre for translating works of astronomy, philosophy, natural sciences, and medicine from Greek to Syriac by Assyrians, and thence to Arabic, bringing the knowledge of the classical world to the emerging Arabic-speaking civilization in the south.

Baghdad came to this work later than Harran. Many important scholars of natural science, astronomy, and medicine originate from Harran.

In 1032 or 1033 the temple of the Sabians was destroyed and the urban community extinguished by an uprising of the rural ‘Alid-Shiite population and impoverished Muslim militias.

In 1059–60 the temple was rebuilt into a fortified residence by the Numayrid prince Mani ibn Shabib. The Numayrids were an Arab tribe that dominated the Diyar Mudar (western Jazira) during the 11th century and had ruled Harran more or less continuously since 990.

The Zangid ruler Nur al-Din Mahmud transformed the residence into a strong fortress. The Zengid or Zangid dynasty was a Muslim dynasty of Oghuz Turk origin, which ruled parts of the Levant and Upper Mesopotamia on behalf of the Seljuk Empire.

The Crusades

During the Crusades, on May 7, 1104, a decisive battle was fought in the Balikh River valley, commonly known as the Battle of Harran.

However, according to Matthew of Edessa the actual location of the battle lies two days away from Harran. Albert of Aachen and Fulcher of Chartres locate the battleground in the plain opposite to the city of Raqqa.

During the battle, Baldwin of Bourcq, Count of Edessa, was captured by troops of the Great Seljuq Empire. After his release Baldwin became King of Jerusalem.

Later history

At the end of 12th century Harran served together with Raqqa as a residence of Kurdish Ayyubid princes. The Ayyubid ruler of the Jazira, Al-Adil I, again strengthened the fortifications of the castle.

In the 1260s the city was completely destroyed and abandoned during the Mongol invasions of Syria. The father of the famous Hanbalite scholar Ibn Taymiyyah was a refugee from Harran, settling in Damascus.

The 13th-century Kurdish historian Abu al-Fida describes the city as being in ruins. The early 14th-century traveler [Jordanus] devotes Chapter 10 of his Mirabilis to “Aran”, which most likely is Harran.

The entire chapter reads: “Here Followeth Concerning the Land of Aran. Concerning Aran I say nothing at all, seeing that there is nothing worth noting.”

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