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The heritage of Roman Edessa survives today in these columns at the site of Urfa Castle, dominating the skyline of the modern city of Şanlı Urfa.
Shows the location of Edessa within modern Turkey.

Edessa (Ancient Greek: Ἔδεσσα) is the historical name of a Syriac[1] town in northern Mesopotamia, refounded on an ancient site by Seleucus I Nicator. For the modern history of the city, see Şanlıurfa.



The name under which Edessa figures in cuneiform inscriptions is unknown. In early Greek texts, the city is called Ορρα or Ορροα, transliterated Orrha or Orrhoa respectively, as the capital of the Kingdom of Osroe, named after its legendary founder Osroe, the Armenian form for Chosroes. The later native name was Edessa, which became in Syriac ܐܘܪܗܝ, transliterated Orhāy or Ourhoï, in Armenian it is Ուռհա , transliterated Urha or Ourha, in Arabic it is الرُّهَا, transliterated as Er Roha or Ar-Ruha, commonly Orfa, Turkish Urfa, Ourfa, Sanli Urfa, or Şanlıurfa ("Glorious Urfa"), its present name. Due to similarity of names, folk mythology in Islam connects Edessa with Ur as the abode of Abraham. Seleucus I Nicator, when he refounded the town as a military colony in 303 BC, mixing Greeks with its eastern population, called it Edessa, in memory of Edessa the ancient capital of Macedon. The name is also recorded as Callirrhoe, and under Antiochus IV Epiphanes the town was called Antiochia on the Callirhoe (Greek: Αντιόχεια η επί Καλλιρρόης) by colonists from Syrian Antioch (modern Antakya, Turkey) who had settled there. During Byzantine rule it was named Justinopolis. Its Kurdish name is Riha.


In the second half of the second century BC, as the Seleucid monarchy disintegrated in the wars with Parthia (145 –129), Edessa became the capital of the Abgar dynasty, who founded the Kingdom of Osroene (also known in history as Kingdom of Edessa). This kingdom was established by Nabataean or Arab tribes from North Arabia, and lasted nearly four centuries (c.132 BC to 214), under twenty-eight rulers, who sometimes called themselves "king" on their coinage. Edessa was at first more or less under the protectorate of the Parthians, then of Tigranes of Armenia, then from the time of Pompey under the Romans. Following its capture and sack by Trajan, the Romans even occupied Edessa from 116 to 118, although its sympathies towards the Parthians led to Lucius Verus pillaging the city later in the second century. From 212 to 214 the kingdom was a Roman province. Caracalla was assassinated in Edessa in 217.

The literary language of the tribes which had founded this kingdom, was Aramaic, whence came the Syriac. Traces of Hellenistic culture were soon overwhelmed in Edessa, whose dynasty employs Syriac legends on their coinage, with the exception of the Syriac client king Abgar IX (179-214), and there is a corresponding lack of Greek public inscriptions.[2]

Rebuilt by Emperor Justin, and called after him Justinopolis (Evagrius, Hist. Eccl., IV, viii), Edessa was taken in 609 by the Sassanid Persia, soon retaken by Heraclius, but lost to the Muslim army under Rashidun Caliphate during the Islamic conquest of Levant in 638 A.D. The Byzantines often tried to retake Edessa, especially under Romanus Lacapenus, who obtained from the inhabitants the "Holy Mandylion", or ancient portrait of Christ, and solemnly transferred it to Constantinople, August 16, 944. This was the final great achievement of Romanus' reign. For an account of this venerable and famous image, which was certainly at Edessa in 544, and of which there is an ancient copy in the Vatican Library, brought to the West by the Venetians in 1207, see Weisliebersdorf, Christus und Apostelbilder (Freiburg, 1902), and Ernst von Dobschütz, Christusbilder (Leipzig, 1899).

In 1031 Edessa was given up to the Byzantines under George Maniakes by its Arab governor. It was retaken by the Arabs, and then successively held by the Greeks, the Armenians, the Seljuk Turks (1087), the Crusaders (1099), who established there the County of Edessa and kept the city until 1144, when it was again captured by the Turk Zengi, and most of its inhabitants were slaughtered together with the Latin archbishop (see Siege of Edessa). These events are known to us chiefly through the Armenian historian Matthew, who had been born at Edessa. Since the twelfth century, the city has successively belonged to the Sultans of Aleppo, the Mongols, the Mameluks, and from 1517 to 1918 to the Ottoman Empire.


The precise date of the introduction of Christianity into Edessa is not known. However, there is no doubt that even before 190 A.D. Christianity had spread vigorously within Edessa and its surroundings and that (shortly after 201 or even earlier?) the royal house joined the church.[3] According to a legend first reported by Eusebius in the 4th century, King Abgar V Ukāmā was converted by Addai,[4] who was one of the seventy-two disciples, sent to him by "Judas, who is also called Thomas".. Yet various sources confirm that the Abgar who embraced the Christian faith was Abgar IX.[5][6][7] Under him Christianity became the official religion of the kingdom.[8] As for Addai, he was neither one of the seventy-two disciples as the legend asserts, nor was sent by Apostle Thomas, as Eusebius says[9], but a missionary from Palestine who evangelized Mesopotamia about the middle of the second century, and became the first bishop of Edessa. He was succeeded by Aggai, then by Palout (Palut) who was ordained about 200 by Serapion of Antioch. Thence came to us in the second century the famous Peshitta, or Syriac translation of the Old Testament; also Tatian's Diatessaron, which was compiled about 172 and in common use until St. Rabbula, Bishop of Edessa (412-435), forbade its use. Among the illustrious disciples of the School of Edessa Bardesanes (154 - 222), a schoolfellow of Abgar IX, deserves special mention for his role in creating Christian religious poetry, and whose teaching was continued by his son Harmonius and his disciples.

A Christian council was held at Edessa as early as 197.[10] In 201 the city was devastated by a great flood, and the Christian church was destroyed.[11] In 232 the relics of the Apostle St. Thomas were brought from Mylapore,India, on which occasion his Syriac Acts were written. Under Roman domination many martyrs suffered at Edessa: Sts. Scharbîl and Barsamya, under Decius; Sts. Gûrja, Schâmôna, Habib, and others under Diocletian. In the meanwhile Christian priests from Edessa had evangelized Eastern Mesopotamia and Persia, and established the first Churches in the kingdom of the Sassanids. Atillâtiâ, Bishop of Edessa, assisted at the Council of Nicaea (325). The Peregrinatio Silviae (or Etheriae)[12] gives an account of the many sanctuaries at Edessa about 388.

When Nisibis was ceded to the Persians in 363, Saint Ephrem the Syrian left his native town for Edessa, where he founded the celebrated School of the Persians. This school, largely attended by the Christian youth of Persia, and closely watched by St. Rabbula, the friend of St. Cyril of Alexandria, on account of its Nestorian tendencies, reached its highest development under Bishop Ibas, famous through the controversy of the Three Chapters, was temporarily closed in 457, and finally in 488, by command of Emperor Zeno and Bishop Cyrus, when the teachers and students of the School of Edessa repaired to Nisibis and became the founders and chief writers of the Nestorian Church in Persia.[13] Monophysitism prospered at Edessa, even after the Arab conquest.

Under Byzantine rule, as metropolis of Osroene, it had eleven suffragan sees.[14] Lequien[15] mentions thirty-five Bishops of Edessa; yet his list is incomplete. The Eastern Orthodox episcopate seems to have disappeared after the eleventh century. Of its Jacobite bishops twenty-nine are mentioned by Lequien (II, 1429 sqq.), many others in the Revue de l'Orient chrétien (VI, 195), some in Zeitschrift der deutschen morgenländischen Gesellschaft (1899), 261 sqq. Moreover, Nestorian bishops are said to have resided at Edessa as early as the sixth century.


Famous individuals connected with Edessa include: Jacob Baradaeus, the real chief of the Syrian Monophysites known after him as Jacobites; Stephen Bar Sudaïli, monk and pantheist, to whom was owing, in Palestine, the last crisis of Origenism in the sixth century; Jacob, Bishop of Edessa, a fertile writer (d. 708); Theophilus the Maronite, an astronomer, who translated into Syriac verse Homer's Iliad and Odyssey; the anonymous author of the Chronicon Edessenum (Chronicle of Edessa), compiled in 540; the writer of the story of "The Man of God", in the fifth century, which gave rise to the legend of St. Alexius. The oldest known dated Syriac manuscripts (AD 411 and 462), containing Greek patristic texts, come from Edessa.

See also


  1. ^ Evans, Craig A., The interpretation of scripture in early Judaism and Christianity, (T & T Clark International, 2000), 250.
  2. ^ Bauer, Walter (1991) [1934]. "1 "Edessa"". Orthodoxy and Heresy in Earliest Christianity.  
  3. ^ von Harnack, Adolph (1905). The Expansion of Christianity in the First Three Centuries. Williams & Norgate. pp. 293. "there is no doubt that even before 190 A.D. Christianity had spread vigorously within Edessa and its surroundings and that (shortly after 201 or even earlier?) the royal house joined the church"  
  4. ^ Herbermann, Charles George (1913). The Catholic Encyclopedia. Encyclopedia Press. pp. 282.  
  5. ^ Cheetham, Samuel (1905). A History of the Christian Church During the First Six Centuries. Macmillan and Co. pp. 58.  
  6. ^ von Gutschmid, A. (7 1887). "Untersuchungen über die Geschichte des Könligliches Osroëne". Mémoires de l'Académie impériale des Sciences de St. Petersbourg (St. Petersburg, Russia) 35 (1).  
  7. ^ ((cite book |title=Rome and the Arabs |last=Shahid |first=Irfan |authorlink= |coauthors= |year=1984 |publisher=Dumbarton Oaks |location= |isbn= |pages=109-112 }}
  8. ^ Lockyer, Herbert (1988). All the Apostles of the Bible. Zondervan. pp. 260. ISBN 0310280117.  
  9. ^ Historia Ecclesiastica, I, xiii.
  10. ^ Eusebius of Caesarea, Historia ecclesiastica, V, 23.
  11. ^ Chronicon Edessenum, ad. an. 201.
  12. ^ Ed. Gian-Francesco Gamurrini, Rome, 1887, 62 sqq.
  13. ^ Labourt, Le christianisme dans l'empire perse, Paris, 1904, 130-141.
  14. ^ Echos d'Orient, 1907, 145.
  15. ^ Oriens christianus II, 953 sqq.

Further reading

  • Walter Bauer 1971. Orthodoxy and Heresy in Earliest Christianity, 1934, (in English 1971): Chapter 1 "Edessa" (On-line text)
  • A. von Gutschmid, Untersuchungen über die Geschichte des Könligliches Osroëne, in series Mémoires de l'Académie impériale des Sciences de S. Petersbourg, series 7, vol. 35.1 (St. Petersburg, 1887)
  • J. B. Segal, Edessa: The Blessed City (Oxford and New York: University Press, 1970)
  • Schulz, Mathias, "Wegweiser ins Paradies," Der Spiegel 2372006, Pp. 158–170.
  • This entry uses text from the Catholic Encyclopedia, 1909.

External links

Coordinates: 37°09′N 38°48′E / 37.15°N 38.8°E / 37.15; 38.8


1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

EDESSA, the Greek name of an ancient city of N.W. Mesopotamia (in 37° 21' N. lat. and 39° 6' E. long.), suggested perhaps by a comparison of its site, or its water supply,' with that of its Macedonian namesake. It still bears its earlier name, modified since the 15th century (by the Turks?) to Urfa.

The oldest certain form is the Aramaic Urhai (" Western " pronunciation Urhoi), which appears in Greek as an adjective as Oppor i vi t, 2 -voi 3 (perhaps also as a fortress with spring, as Oppa),4 and in Latin as Orr(h)ei, 5 and (in the inscription on Abgar's grave) Orrhenoru(m). 6 The Syriac Chronicle ascribed to Dionysius of Tell-mahre derives the name from a first king Urhai, son of Hewya, whom Procopius (De bello persico, i. 17) calls Osroes (cf. below), connected by Bayer 7 with Chosroes, 8 from which G. Hoffmann would also derive the Syriac Urhai (Z.D.M.G. xxxii. 742). The Syriac town name has, however, the form of an ethnic, and we may therefore with Duval leave it unexplained (Hist. 22). The fact that the Arabic name is Ruha supports the hint of the Graeco-Latin forms that there was a vowel between the R and the H. There is little plausibility in the suggestion of Assemani and others that Ruha comes from por t of Callirrhoe. A gentilic of the form Ru-u-ai occurs in a letter (of an Assyrian king?) to chiefs in a (Babylonian?) town as the designation of three captives (Harper, Ass. and Bab. Letters, No. 287 [ = K 94], line 6; cf. Bezold, Die Achamenideninschriften, p. xii.), who have Semitic names; and Ru-'-u-a is the name of an Aramaic people mentioned with other Aramaeans by Tiglathpileser IV., Sargon and Sennacherib. It is not impossible that some such people may have settled at Urhai and given it their name, although the Ru-'-u-a are always mentioned in connexions that imply seats near the Persian Gulf.° The district name Osroene for 'Opportvi t, is Greek, perhaps due to analogy of Chosroes. It occurs but rarely in Syriac (Uzroina); e.g. Chronicle of Edessa, § 35;lo elsewhere Beth-Urhaye (e.g. Cureton, Spicileg. Syr. 20). In the time of Tiglath-pileser I. (c. too B.C.) the name seems to have been " District of (not Edessa, but) Harran " (Annals, vi. 71). The Arabs pronounced the name er-Ruha (see above), and that form prevailed till it gave place to Urfa in the 15th century.

The Greek name Edessa appears in the Jerusalem Targum to Gen. x. Io' as Hadas (Inn, myrtle); it has been proposed (cf. Duval, Hist. d'Edesse, 23) to derive Edessa from Aram. rim, as though =Carthage, New Town; but Syriac writers, when they occasionally" use the name (Edessa, xa1s; so Yagut, Adasa), show no suspicion of its being Semitic. According to Pliny, v. 86, Edessa was also called Antioch, and coins of Antiochus IV. Epiphanes with the legend " Antioch on the Callirrhoe " may imply that he rebuilt and renamed the place (so Ed. Meyer in Pauly-Wissowa, Realencyclopadie, col. 1933, 66; otherwise Duval, Hist. 23; cf. art. Osroene). Pliny indeed seems to call the city itself Callirrhoe, and S. Funk finds it so named in the Talmud (Bab. Mez., 18a Hno n iry rrro inn 1 771:' Die Juden in Babylonien ii. 148; 1908); but K. Regling (Klio, i. 459 n. I) may be right in his emendation which applies the title in Pliny to the sacred spring.

Table of contents

History: Pre-Hellenistic

Until excavation gives us more definite data we can only infer from its position on one of the 1 So Appian, Syr. 57; cp. Steph. Byz., s.v. ESevva: Sca Tr'v Twv bSaTcov 0 / ..47 7 P. 2 Steph. Byz., s.v. Baioac. 3 Dio, passim. Isidore Charac. I (Muller, Geog. Gr. Min., i. 246).

Several times in Pliny, Nat. Hist. ' CIL. vi. 1797.

7 Hist. Osrhoena et Edessena, p. 33.

8 Written 'Oapor i s in Dio Cassius, Excerpta, lxviii. 22.

See the reff. collected by M. Streck, M. V.G., 1906. The name occurs in the same company in the fragmentary tablet K. 5904. The mountain Ru-u-[a], mentioned thrice by Tiglath-pileser IV., is placed by Billerbeck near Hamadan (Sandschak Suleimania, 82, 86, and map, 1898).

1° See further Payne Smith, Thesaurus iio b. 11 In translating from the Greek; also in Ephraim (Duval, Hist. 22, n. 4) and the Acts of Sharbil (Cureton, Anc. Syr. Doc. 45). main thoroughfares between the Mediterranean and the East (see Mesopotamia) that Urhai-Edessa, possibly bearing some other name, was already a town of some importance in the early Babylonian-Assyrian age. Whatever may have been the ethnographical type of the early inhabitants, it must by the beginning of the second last millennium B.C. have included Hittites in the large sense of the term, probably Aryans, and certainly Semites of some of the types characteristic of early Assyrian history. Most probably its people belonged to the domain of the then more famous Harran-Carrhae, between which and Samosata (on the Euphrates) Urhai lies midway (some 25-30 m. distant from each) in the district watered by the Balih. Although at Edessa itself no cuneiform documents have yet been found, a little more than four hours journey eastwards, at Anaz (= Gullab?) = Dar of Tiglath-pileser IV. was found in 1901 a slab with a bas-relief and an inscription; and 15-20 min. W. of Eski-Harran, in 1906 a very interesting 6th-century Assyrian inscription (see Mesopotamia).

In the later Assyrian empire the population was largely Aramaic-speaking; but S. Schiffer's theory (Beiheft I. zur Orientalistischen Litteratur-Zeitung) finds contemporary evidence of Israelites settled in the neighbourhood of Edessa in the second half of the 7th century B.C. At the fall of Nineveh many towns in Mesopotamia suffered severely at the hands of the Medes. The period remains dark, notwithstanding the obscure light that has been thrown on it lately (Pognon, Inscriptions). When Aramaic began to take the place of Assyrian in written documents is not known; but just across the Euphrates the change had occurred as early as the 8th century B.C. (Zengirli, Hamath; see also Pognon). Certain it is that the earliest documents that have survived in Syriac, or Edessene Aramaic, do not represent an experimental stage. Moreover, although the Syriac of the Story of Ahigar is of a late type, the sources of the story, traces of which are to be found in the Hebrew Tobit, go back to the pre-Hellenistic period.

Graeco-Roman Times. - According to a credible tradition found in Eusebius (Excerpta, 179), the Syriac Chronicle ascribed to Dionysius of Tell-mahre (Tullberg, 61), and elsewhere, Urhai was renovated, like other Mesopotamian sites, in 304 B.C. by Seleucus I. Nicator, who gave it its Greek name. 12 It would share in the Hellenistic culture of Syria, although the language of the common people would continue to be Aramaic (E. R. Bevan, House of Seleucus, i. 227 f. with reff.). With the decay of the Seleucid power, weakened by Rome and Parthia, the old influx from the desert would recommence, and an Arabic element begin to show. Von Gutschmid (Untersuch., cf. Duval, ch. iii. end) argues plausibly that it was in 132 B.C., in the reign of Antiochus VII. Sidetes, that Edessa became the seat of a dynasty of some thirty local kings, whose succession has been preserved in native sources. The name of the first king, however, appears in different forms (cf. above), and one (Osroes-Orhai) is so like that of the town that Ed. Meyer suspects the historicity of the first reign, of five years. The names of the other kingsAbgar, Ma`nu, Bekr, &c. - are for the most part Arabic, as the people (in whose inscriptions the same mixture of names occurs) are called by classical authors; but the rulers, among whom an occasional Iranian name betrays the influence of the dominant Parthians, 13 would hardly maintain their distinctness from the Aramaic populace. This state which lasted for three centuries and a half, naturally varied in extent. 14 Bounded on the W. and the N. by the Euphrates, it reached at its widest as far as the Tigris. At such times, therefore, it included such towns as Harran (Carrhae), Nisibis, Sarug, Zeugma-Birejik, Resaena, Singara, Tigranocerta, Samosata, Melitene. Its position " on the dangerous verge of two contending empires," Parthia and 12 On a possible restoration under the name of " Antioch on the Callirrhoe " see above.

"3 The Edessans used to call their town " the city," or " the daughter," " of the Parthians " (Cureton, Anc. Syr. Doc., 41 ult., 97 1.7; 1061.12).

14 The portion of the Mesopotamian steppe under Osrhoenic influence was, according to Nuldeke (Zeitsch. Ass. xxi. 153, 1908), called 'Arabh in Syriac.

Rome, determined its changeful fortunes. Parthian predominance yielded for a time to Armenian (Tigranes, 88-86 B.C.). Then, at the time of the expeditions of Lucullus, Pompey and Crassus, Edessa was an ally of Rome, though Abgar II. Ariamnes (68-53) played an ambiguous part. In A.D. 114 Abgar VII. entertained Trajan on his way back to Syria (Dio Cass. xviii. 21); but in 116, in consequence of a general rising, his consul L. Quietus sacked the city, Abgar perhaps dying in the flames, and made the state tributary. Hadrian, however, abandoning Trajan's forward policy in favour of a Euphrates boundary, restored it as a dependency of Rome. When L. Verus (163-165) recovered Mesopotamia from Parthia, it was not Edessa but Ilarran that was chosen as the site of a Roman colony, and made the metropolis by Marcus Aurelius (172).

To one of the native kings doubtless is to be ascribed the Syriac inscription on one of the pair of pillars, 50 ft. high, which stood, no doubt, in front of a temple connected with some local cult. Trustworthy data for determining its nature are lacking. One or both of the pools below the citadel containing sacred fish may have been sacred to Atargatis, an IshtarVenus deity; and according to the Doctrine of Addai, alongside of Venus were worshipped the sun and the moon? Nergal and Sin were known as " twins," and connected with the sign Gemini, under the name ellamme, " the youths " (cf. Zimmern, K.A.T. 363). This makes more plausible than it otherwise would be the suggestion of J. Rendel Harris that the great twin pillars were connected with the cult of the Dioscuri, and that in the Acts of Thomas is to be seen a later attempt to substitute other " twins," viz. Jesus and Judas-Thomas (Addai), whom legend buried " in Britio Edessenorum " (explained by Harnack as the Edessan citadel: Aram. birtha).3 Whether it was at Edessa that a Jewish translation of the Old Testament into Syriac was made, 4 under the encouragement perhaps of the favour of the royal house of Adiabene (Josephus, Bell. Jud. ii. 19.4), or whether that work was done in Adiabene, cannot be discussed here. That the translation did not share the fate of the other non-Christian Syriac writings, which did not survive the 13th century (see Syriac Literature), is due to the fact that it was adopted (after being revised) by the Christians, and thus rescued. Although the beginnings of Christianity at Edessa are enshrouded in the mists of legend, and the first mention of Christian communities in Osrhoene and the towns there is connected with the part they played in the paschal controversy (c. A.D. 192), it has been reasonably urged that the legends imply a fact, namely that Christianity began in the Jewish colony, perhaps by the middle of the 2nd century, although the earliest seat of the Syrian church may have been farther east, in Adiabene.° Parts of the New Testament were certainly translated into Syriac in the 2nd century, although whether the " Old Syriac " (so e.g. Hjelt) or the Diatessaron (so Burkitt) came first is uncertain. About the end of the 2nd century Edessene Christianity seems to have made a fresh beginning: the ordination of Palut by Serapion of Antioch may mean that things ecclesiastical took a westward trend, and it is possible (so Burkitt) that the " Old Syriac " New Testament version was now introduced. A strong man offered himself in Bardaisan (q.v.; Bardesanes), to whom perhaps we owe the finest Syriac poem extant, the " Hymn of the Soul," though orthodoxy rejected him. He was a contemporary of Abgar IX., at whose court Julius Africanus stayed for a while. A Syrian official record from this reign, preserved in the Edessene Chronicle, gives a somewhat detailed account of a violent flood (autumn, 201) of the Daisan river which did much damage, destroying 1 The inscription, which is difficult to read, connects the structure with Shalmat the queen, daughter of Ma`nu, who cannot be identified with certainty, and refers to some image(s), which probably excited the pious vandalism of the Arabs.

2 Nebo and Bel (Doctr. Addai, 31) may come from the Old Testament (Burkitt).

S.B.A.W., 1904, 910 ff.

So, e.g. F. C. Burkitt, Early Eastern Christianity, 72.

5 Marquart, Ostasiat. and osteurop. Streitziige, 292 ff.

Marquart, op. cit. amongst other things " the palace of Abgar the Great," rebuilt as a summer palace by Abgar IX., and " the temple of the church of the Christians." The form of this last statement shows that at the time of writing (206) the rulers had not adopted Christianity themselves. Abgar IX. is now commonly supposed to be the ruler to whom the famous legend was first attached (see Abgar); but though he visited Rome there is no proof that he ever became a Christian (Gomperz, in Archdologisch-epigraphische Mitteilungen aus Osterreich-Ungarn, xix. 154-157). It was at Edessa that Caracalla, who made it a military colony under the style of Colonia Marcia Edessenorum, spent the winter of 216-217, and near there that he was murdered. The religious philosophical treatise preserved under the title of Book of the Laws of the Lands was probably produced at this time by a pupil of Bardesanes, and the Acts of Thomas in its original form may have followed not long after.

Sassanian Period

In 226 the Parthian empire gave place to the new kingdom of the Sassanidae, whose claim to the ancient Achaemenian empire led to constant struggle with Rome in which Edessa naturally suffered. The native state was restored by Gordian in 242; but in 244 it became again directly subject to Rome. The Edessan martyrs Sharbel and Barsamya, whose " Acts " in legendary form have come down to us, may have perished in the Decian persecution. In 260 the city was besieged by the Persians under Shapur I., and Valerian was defeated and made prisoner by its gates. Odaenathus of Palmyra (d. 267), however, wrested Mesopotamia from the Persians; but Aurelian defeated his successor Zenobia at Emesa (273), and Carus, who died in 283 in an expedition against the Persians, and Galerius (297) carried the frontier again to the Tigris. Diocletian's persecution secured the martyr's crown for the Edessenes Shamona, Guria (297), and Ilabbib (309), and shortly thereafter Lucian " the martyr," who though born at Samosata received his training at Edessa; but the bishop Qona, who laid the foundations of " the great church " by the sacred pool, somehow escaped. Edessa can claim no share in " the Persian Sage " Aphrahat or Afrahat (Aphraates); but Ephraem, after bewailing in Nisibis the sufferings of the great Persian war under Constantius and Julian, when Jovian in 363 ceded most of Mesopotamia to Shapur II., the persecutor of the Christians, settled in Edessa, which as the seat of his famous school (called " the Persian ") grew greatly in importance, and attracted scholars from all directions. He taught and wrote vigorously against the Arians and other heretics, and although just after his death (373) the emperor Valens banished the orthodox from Edessa, they returned on the emperor's death in 378. Under Zenobius, disciple of Ephraem, studied the voluminous writer, Isaac of Antioch (d. circ. 460). Rabbu1a perhaps owed his elevation to the see of Edessa (411-435), in the year which produced the oldest dated Syriac MS., to his asceticism, and it was to his time that the sojourn there of the " Man of God " (Alexis) was assigned; but he won from the Nestorians the title of the Tyrant of Edessa. In particular he exerted himself to stamp out the use of the Diatessaron in favour of the four Gospels, the Syriac version of which probably now took the form known as the Peshitta. When the popular Nestorianism of the Syrians was condemned at Ephesus (431) it began to gravitate eastwards, Nisibis becoming its eventual headquarters; but Edessa and the western Syrians refused to bow to the Council of Chalcedon (45r) when it condemned Monophysitism. In and around Edessa the theological strife raged hotly.' When, however, Zeno's edict (489) ordered the closing of the school of the Persians at Edessa, East and West drifted apart more and more; the ecclesiastical writer Narsai, " the Harp of the Holy Spirit," fled to Nisibis about 489. Till about this time Syriac influence was strong in Armenia, and some Syriac works have survived only in Armenian translations. In the opening years of the 6th century the Persian-Roman War (502-506) found a chronicler in the anonymous Edessene history known till recently as the Chronicle of Joshua Stylites. Whether Edessa received 7 Some one found time, however, to produce the oldest dated MS. of a portion of the Bible in any language.

from the emperor Justin I. the additional name of Justinopolis may be uncertain (see Hallier, op. cit. p. 128); but it seems to have been renewed and fortified after the " fourth " flood in 525 (Procop. Pers. ii. 27; De aedific. ii. 7). About this time, according to N6ldeke, an anonymous Edessene wrote the Romance of Julian the Apostate, which so many Arab writers use as a history. Chosroes I. Anushirwan succeeded in 540, according to the last entry in the Edessene Chronicle, in exacting a large tribute from Edessa; but in 544 he besieged it in vain. A few years later Jacob Baradaeus, with Edessa as centre of his bishopric, was carrying on the propaganda of Monophysitism which won for the adherents of that creed the name of Jacobites. The valuable Syriac Chronicle just referred to probably was compiled in the latter half of this century.


In the first decade of the next century Edessa was taken by Chosroes II., and a large part of the population transported to eastern Persia. Within a score of years it was recovered by the emperor Heraclius, who reviewed a large army under its walls. The prophet of Islam was now, however, building up his power in Arabia, and although Heraclius paid no heed to the letter demanding his adhesion which he received from Medina (628), and the deputation of fifteen Rahawiyin who paid homage in 630 were not Edessenes but South Arabians, a few years later (636 ?) Heraclius's attempts, from Edessa as a centre, to effect an organized opposition to the victorious Arabs were defeated by Sa`d, and he fell back on Samosata. The terms on which Edessa definitely passed into the hands of the Moslems (638) under Riyad are not certain (Baladhuri). As it now ceased to be a frontier city it lost in importance. In 668 occurred another destructive flood (Theophanes, p. 537), and in 678 an earthquake which destroyed part of the " old church," which the caliph Mo`awiya I. is said to have repaired. To the latter part of the century belongs the activity of Edessa's bishop Jacob, whose chronicle is unfortunately lost. It may have been the impulse given by the final supremacy of the caliphate to the long process which eventually substituted a new branch of Semitic speech for the Aramaic (which had now prevailed for a millennium and a half), that led Jacob to adopt the Greek vowel signs for use in Syriac. A century later Theophilus of Edessa (d. 785), author of a lost history, translated into Syriac " the two books of the poet Homer on the Conquest of the city of Ilion." When the Bagdad caliphs lost control of their dominions, Edessa shared the fortunes of western Mesopotamia, changing with the rise and fall of Egyptian dynasties and Arab chieftains. In the 10th century al-D'las`udi, writing in the very year in which it happened, tells how the Mahommedan ruler of Edessa, with the permission of the caliph, purchased peace of the emperor Romanus Lecapenus by surrendering to him the napkin of Jesus of Nazareth, wherewith he had dried himself after his baptism. The translation of the Holy Icon of Christ from Edessa is commemorated on the 16th of August (Cal. Byzant). A few years later Ibn IJaulal (978) estimates the number of churches in the city at more than 300, and al-Mokaddasi (985) describes its cathedral, with vaulted ceiling covered with mosaics, as one of the four wonders of the world. In 1031 the emperor recovered Edessa; but in 1040 it fell into the hands of the Seljuks, whose progress had added a large element of Armenian refugees to the population of Osrhoene. There is no reason, therefore, to discredit Magrizi's statement that it was three brother architects from Edessa that the Armenian minister Badr al-Gamali employed to build three of the fine city gates of Cairo (1087-1091). The empire soon recovered Edessa, but the resident made himself independent. Thoros applied for help to Baldwin, brother and successor of Godfrey of Bouillon in the First Crusade, who in 1098 took possession of the town and made it the capital of a Burgundian countship, which included Samosata and Sari-1g, and was for half a century the eastern bulwark of the kingdom of Jerusalem.' The local Armenian historian, however, Matthew of Edessa, tells of oppression, decrease of population, ruin of churches, neglect of agriculture.

' The counts were: Baldwin I. (1098), Baldwin II. (iioo), Joscelin I. (1119), Joscelin II. (1131-1147).

With the campaign of Maudud in IIIo fortune began to favour the Moslems. Edessa had to endure siege after siege. Finally, in 1144 it was stormed, Matthew being among the slain, by `Imad ud-Din Zengi, ruler of Mosul, under Joscelin II., an achievement celebrated as " the conquest of conquests," for laying the responsibility of which not on God but on the absence of the Frankish troops, an Edessan monk, John, bishop of IJarran (d. 1165), brought down upon himself the whole bench of bishops. Edessa suffered still more in 1146 after an attempt to recover it. Churches were now turned into mosques. The consternation produced in Europe by the news of its fate led to " the Second Crusade." In 1182 it fell to Saladin, whose nephew recovered it when it had temporarily passed (1234) to the sultan of Rum; but the " Eye of Mesopotamia " never recovered the brilliance of earlier days. The names it contributed to Arabic literature are unimportant. By timely surrender (1268) it escaped the sufferings inflicted by Hulaku and his Monguls on Sarug (Barhebraeus, Chron. Arab., Beirut ed., 486). Mostaufi describes a great cupola of finely worked stone still standing by a court over a hundred yards square (1340). Ali b. Yazd in his account of the campaigns of Timur, who reduced Mesopotamia in 1393, still calls the city (1425) Ruha. In 1637, when Amurath IV. conquered Bagdad and annexed Mesopotamia, it passed finally into the hands of the Turks, by whom it is called Urfa.

The Modern Town. - Urfa lies north-east of the Nimrud Dagh. It is surrounded by a wall, strengthened by square towers at distances of 18-20 steps, probably dating in its present condition from medieval Mahommedan times. On a height in a corner towards the west, overtopping the town by 100 -200 ft., are the remains of the old citadel, and the two famous Corinthian columns 1 known as " the Throne of Nimrud." In the hollow between this height and the town rise two springs which form ponds, the farther removed of which from the citadel is known as Birket al-Khalil, doubtless the Callirrhoe of the classical writers, and contains the sacred fish, estimated by J. S. Buckingham at 20,000, and the nearer as `Ain Zalkha (i.e. Zuleikha, the wife of Potiphar). On the north edge of the Birket al-Khalil (see plan in Sachau, p. 197) is the great mosque of Abraham, the interior of which is described by J. S. Buckingham (Travels, pp. 108 -Iio). Diagonally opposite the mosque is a house with a square tower, which is locally believed to occupy the place of the famous ancient school. The waters of the two pools make their way in a single stream southwards out of the town. The once dangerous stream Daisan (rrapros) no longer flows southwards through the town, but encircles it on the north and east in the channel of the old moat. This stream, now called Kara Kuyun, and the other are exhausted in the irrigation of the gardens lying south-east of the town, except when fuller than usual, when they reach the Balih. Not far east of the sacred pool is the largest building in the town, the recent Armenian Gregorian cathedral, whose American bells were first heard during Sachau's visit in 1879. About the middle of the town is the largest mosque, Ulu Cam' (parts of it probably pre-Islamic), which probably occupies the site of the Christian church reckoned by the early Mahommedan writers as one of the wonders of the world. In the bazaar, which lies between the chief mosque and the sacred pool, and contains several streets, are displayed not only the native woollen stuffs, pottery and silver work, but also a considerable variety of European goods, especially cloth stuffs. The principal manufactures are fine cotton stuffs and yellow leather. The streets are of course narrow and winding; but the houses are well built of stone. The outskirts are occupied by melon gardens, vineyards and mulberry plantations. The fertile plain south of the town is noted for its wheat and fine pasture. The climate is healthy except in summer; the " Aleppo button " (see Bagdad, vilayet), a painful boil, is common. The rocky heights south and west of the town, whence the building material is largely obtained, are full of natural and artificial caverns, once used as dwellings, cloisters and graves, where are most of the ' Pictures in Burkitt, Early East. Christ., frontispiece; P.S.B.A. xxviii. 151 f.; J. R. Harris, The Heavenly Twins. inscriptions published by Sachau, who also visited and describes (pp. 204-206) the Der Ya`qub, nearly two hours distant.

Urfa is the capital of a sanjak of the same name, in the vilayet of Aleppo. The population was estimated by Olivier in 1796 at 20,000 to 24,000, by Buckingham at 50,000, by Chernik in 1873 at 40,000, by Sachau in 1879 at 50,000, in Baedeker's Handbook in 1906 at 30,000. Vice-Consul Fitzmaurice said that before December 1895 it was close on 65,000, of whom about 20,000 were Armenian, 3000 or 4000 Jacobites, Syrian-Catholic, Greek-Catholic, Maronites and Jews, and the remaining 40,000 Turkish, Kurdian and Arab Mahommedans. Two barbarous massacres occurred on the 28th and 29th of October and the 28th and 29th of December 1895; 126 Armenian families were absolutely wiped out. He believes that 8000 Armenians perished in the second massacre. The Deutsche Orient-Mission has its chief seat in Urfa, and there have for years been American and French missions. The Germans have an orphanage with 300 Armenian children, a carpet factory and a medical station. The American school had some years ago 250 pupils.


Inscriptional: H. Pognon, Inscriptions semitiques de la Syrie, de la Mesopotamie et de la region de Mossoul (1907, 1908); Sachau, "Edessenische Inschriften," in Z.D.M.&. xxxvi. 142-167; F. C. Burkitt, " The Throne of Nimrod," in P.S.B.A. xxviii. 1 49155 (1906); J. Rendel Harris, The Cult of the Heavenly Twins (1906); Neldeke, " Syrische Inschriften," in Z.A. xxi. 151-161, 375 - 388 (1908). Literary: Ludwig Hallier, Untersuchungen iiber die Edessenische Chronik mit dem Syrischen Text (1892); F. Nau, Analyse des parties inedites de la chronique attribuee a Denys de Tellmahre (1898); J.-B. Chabot, Chronique de Denys de Tell-Make, quatrieme partie (1895); W. Wright, The Chronicle of Joshua the Stylite (1882); Bayer, Historia Osrhoena et Edessena (St Petersburg, 1784), collects the references in classical authors; for the coinage see references in von Gutschmid (see below). Discussions: A. von Gutschmid, " Untersuchungen uber die Geschichte des Konigreichs Osroene " (in Memoires de l'acad. imper. des sciences de St-Petersb. vii. ser. tome 35, No. 1, 1887); L.-J. Tixeront, Les Origines de l'eglise d'Edesse et la legende d'Abgar (1888); R. A. Lipsius, Die Edessenische Abgarsage kritisch untersucht (1880); K. C. A. Matthes, Die Edess. Abgarsage auf ihre Fortbildung untersucht (1882); F. Nau, Une Biographic inedite de Bardesane l'astrologue (1897); Bardesane l'astrologue: le livre des Lois des Pays (1899); A. Hilgenfeld, Bardesanes, der letzte Gnostiker (1864); A. A. Bevan, " The Hymn of the Soul " (in Texts and Studies, 1897); F. C. Burkitt, Early Eastern Christianity (1904); J. R. Harris, The Dioscuri in Christian Legend (1903), and The Cult of the Heavenly Twins (1906); the histories of Rome, Persia, Crusades, Mongols, &c.; Rubens Duval, Histoire politique, religieuse et litteraire d'Edesse jusqu'a la premiere croisade (1892), a useful compilation reprinted from the Journ. As.; the excellent article by E. Meyer in Pauly-Wissowa, Realencyclopadie, 1 9331 938. Topography: J. S. Buckingham, Travels in Mesopotamia (1827); E. Sachau, Reise in Syrien u. Mesopotamien (1883), 189-210; cf. Duval, op. cit. chap. i.; C. Ritter, Erdkunde, xi. 315-356. Map of town in Niebuhr, Voyage en Arabie, reproduced with modifications in Wright, Chron. Josh. Styl.; also a map in Reclus, Univ. Geog. ix. 232. Four pictures of the town in Burkitt, Early East. Christ. (H. W. H.)

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