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ܡܠܟܘܬܐ ܕܒܝܬ ܥܣܪܐ ܥܝܢܐ
Kingdom of Osroene

132 BC–244
Map showing Osroene as a tributary kingdom of the Armenian Empire under Tigranes the Great
Capital Not specified
Language(s) Syriac,
Government Monarchy
Historical era Hellenistic Age
 - Established 132 BC
 - Disestablished 244
Roman province of Osroene, 120, higlighted within the Roman Empire
Funerary mosaic of an Edessa family, 3rd century.

Osroene (also spelled Osrohene, Osrhoene; Syriac:ܡܠܟܘܬܐ ܕܒܝܬ ܥܣܪܐ ܥܝܢܐ Malkuṯā d-Bēt ʿŌsrā ʿĪnē), also known by the name of its capital city, Edessa (modern Şanlıurfa, Turkey), was a historic Syriac kingdom located in Mesopotamia[1], which enjoyed semi-autonomy to complete independence from the years of 132 BC to AD 244.[2][3] It was a Syriac speaking kingdom[4].

Osroene, or Edessa, acquired independence from the collapsing Seleucid Empire through a dynasty of the nomadic Arab tribe called Orrhoei from 136 BC. The name Osroene is derived from Osroes of Orhai, an Arab sheik who in 120 BC wrested control of this region from the Seleucids in Syria[5]. Most of the kings of Osroene are called Abgar or Manu and they were Arab sheiks who settled in urban centers[6][7]. Under its Arab dynasties, Osroëne became increasingly influenced by Aramaic culture and was a centre of national reaction against Hellenism. By the 5th century Edessa had become the headquarters of Syriac literature and learning. In 608 Osroëne was taken by the Sāsānid Khosrow II, and in 638 it fell to the Muslims.

The kingdom's area, the upper course of the Euphrates, became a traditional battleground for the powers that ruled Asia Minor, Persia, Syria, and Armenia. On the dissolution of Seleucid Empire, it was divided between Rome and Parthia. At this time Osrhoene was within Parthian suzerainty. However, the Romans later made several attempts to recover the region.



Osroene was one of several kingdoms arising from the dissolution of the Seleucid Empire. The kingdom occupied an area on what is now the border between Syria and Turkey.

It was in this region that the "legend of Abgar" originated, for which see Abgarus of Edessa.

Osroene was absorbed into the Roman Empire in 114 as a semi-autonomous vassal state, after a period under Arsacid (Persian) rule, incorporated as a simple Roman province in 214. Osroene was the first state to have a Christian king.[8] The independence of the state ended in 244 when it was incorporated in the Roman Empire.[9]

Map showing the Eastern Roman provinces, including Osroene, in the 5th century.

Since Emperor Diocletian's Tetrarchy reform circa 300, it was part of the diocese of Oriens, in the praetorian prefecture of the same name. It was governed by a Dux, who ranked as vir spectabilis and commanded (circa 400) the following troops:

  • Equites Dalmatae Illyriciani, garrisoned at Ganaba.
  • Equites promoti Illyriciani, Callinico.
  • Equites Mauri Illyriciani, Dabana.
  • Equites promoti indigenae, Banasam
  • Equites promoti indigenae, Sina Iudaeorum.
  • Equites sagittarii indigenae, Oraba.
  • Equites sagittarii indigenae, Thillazamana.
  • Equites sagittarii indigenae Medianenses, Mediana.
  • Equites primi Osrhoeni, Rasin.
  • Praefectus legionis quartae Parthicae, Circesio.
  • (an illegible command, possibly Legio III Parthica), Apatna.

as well as, 'on the minor roll', apparently auxiliaries:

  • Ala septima Valeria praelectorum, Thillacama.
  • Ala prima Victoriae, Tovia -contra Bintha.
  • Ala secunda Paflagonum, Thillafica.
  • Ala prima Parthorum, Resaia.
  • Ala prima nova Diocletiana, inter Thannurin et Horobam.
  • Cohors prima Gaetulorum, Thillaamana.
  • Cohors prima Eufratensis, Maratha.
  • Ala prima salutaria, Duodecimo constituta.

His Officium (administrative staff) included the Princeps de scola agentum in rebus, some Numerarii and their adiutores, a Commentariensis, an Adiutor, an A libellis = subscribendarius and various Exceptores 'and other' officiales.

According to Sozomen's Ecclesiastical history, "there were some very learned men who formerly flourished in Osroene, as for instance Bardasanes, who devised a heresy designated by his name, and his son Harmonius. It is related that this latter was deeply versed in Grecian erudition, and was the first to subdue his native tongue to meters and musical laws; these verses he delivered to the choirs" and that Arianism —a more successful heresy— met with opposition there.

Osroene in Roman Sources

This article is part of the series on the

History of the
Assyrian people

medieval icon depicting Ephrem the Syrian.
Ephrem the Syrian

Early history

Old Assyrian period (20th - 15th c. BC)
Aramaeans (14th - 9th c. BC)
Neo-Assyrian Empire (911 - 612 BC)
Achaemenid Assyria (539 - 330 BC)

Classical Antiquity

Seleucid Empire (312 - 63 BC)
Osroene (132 BC - 244 AD)
Syrian wars (66 BC - 217 AD)
Roman Syria (64 BC - 637 AD)
Adiabene (15 - 116 AD)
Roman Assyria (116 - 118)
Christianization (1st to 3rd c.)
Nestorian Schism (5th c.)
Asuristan (226 - 651)
Byzantine–Sassanid Wars (502 - 628)

Middle Ages

Muslim conquest of Syria (630s)
Abassid rule (750-1256)
Emirs of Mosul (905-1383)
Principality of Antioch (1098-1268)
Turco-Mongol rule (1256-1370)

Modern History

Ottoman Empire (1534-1917)
Rise of nationalism (19th c.)
Assyrian Genocide (1914-1920)
Independence movement (since 1919)
Simele massacre (1933)
Post-Saddam Iraq (since 2003)

See also

History of Syria
History of Iraq
Assyrian diaspora

Tigranes, the Armenian king, was pursuing an effective policy of conquest against the Parthians and managed to push them back into the interior of Asia. Media Atropatene, Corduene, Adiabene and the region around Nisbis all fell to Armenia and became its dependencies. Tigranes also handed over the kingdom of Edessa or Osrhoene to a tribe of nomad Arabs, which he had resettled in the region[10]. The Arabs in Osrhoene were later brought into submission by Lucius Afranius. He started out his campaign from Corduene and proceeded to upper Mesopotamia and, after a perilous march through the desert, he managed to defeat the Arabs of Osroene with the help of the Hellenes settled in Carrhae[11].

Abgarus of Osrhoene had signed a peace treaty with the Romans during time of Pompey and was initially an ally of the Roman general Crassus in his campaign against the Parthians in 53 BC. Later on, however, he secretly switched sides and became a spy for the Parthian king Orodes II in the war effort by providing faulty intelligence to Crassus. This was one of the main factors in Crassus' defeat. He influenced Crassus' plans, convincing him to give up the idea of advancing to the Greek city of Seleucia near Euphrates, whose inhabitants were sympathetic to the Romans. Instead Abgarus persuaded him to attack Surena, however in the midst of the battle he himself joined the other side[12]. Abgarus has been identified as an Arab shaikh in another source. In this campaign, an Armenian force of 16,000 cavalry and 30,000 infantry accompanied Crassus. Orodes also managed to keep the Armenian force out by making peace with Artavazd[13].

During Trajan's time, around 116 A.D., the Roman general Lucius Quietus sacked Edessa and put an end to Osrhoene's independence. After the war with Parthians under Marcus Aurelius, forts were built and a Roman garrison was stationed in Nisibis. Osrhoene attempted to throw off the Roman yoke, however in 216, its king Abgar IX was imprisoned and exiled to Rome and the region became a Roman province. In the period from Trajan's conquest to 216, Christianity began to spread in Edessa. Abgar IX (179-186 AD) was the first Christian King of Edessa. It is believed that the Gospel of Thomas emanated from Edessa around 140 AD. Prominent early Christian figures have lived in and emerged from this region such as Tatian the Assyrian who came to Edessa from Hadiab (Adiabene). He made a trip to Rome and returned to Edessa around 172-173. He had controversial opinions, seceded from the Church, denounced marriage as defilement and maintained that the flesh of Christ was imaginary. He composed Diatessaron or harmony of the Gospels in Syriac which contained eclectic ideas from Jewish-Christian and dualistic traditions. This became the Gospel par-excellence of Syriac-speaking Christianity until in the fifth century Rabbula bishop of Edessa suppressed it and substituted a revision of the Old Syriac Canonical Gospels.[14].

After this, Edessa was again brought under Roman control by Decius and it was made a center of Roman operations against the Persian Sassanids. Amru, possibly a descendant of Abgar, is mentioned as king in the Paikuli inscription, recording the victory of Narseh in the Sassanid civil war of 293. Historians identify this Amru as Amru ibn Adi, the fourth king of the Lakhmid dynasty which was at that time still based in Harran, not yet moved to Hirah in Babylonia[15].

Many centuries later, Dagalaiphus and Secundinus duke of Osrhoene, accompanied Julian in his war against the Sassanid king Shapur II in 4th century[16].

In his writings Pliny refers to the natives of Osroene and Commagene as Arabs and the region as Arabia[17]. According to Pliny, a nomadic Arab tribe called Orrhoei occupied Edessa about 130 B.C.[18]. Orrhoei founded a small state ruled by their chieftains with the title of kings and the district was called after them Orrhoene. This name eventually changed into Osroene, in assimilation to the Parthian name Osroes or Chosroes (Khosrau)[19].

Rulers of Osroene

See also

Sources and references

  1. ^ The encyclopedia of military history: from 3500 B.C. to the present, Part 25. Richard Ernest Dupuy, Trevor Nevitt Dupuy. Harper & Row, 1970. Page 115.
  2. ^ Alexander Roberts & James Donaldson Eds. The Writings of the Fathers Down to AD 325: Ante-Nicene Fathers vol. 8 (Peabody, Massachusetts: Hendrickson Publishers, 1994), 657-672. [1]
  3. ^ Adrian Fortescue. The Lesser Eastern Churches, pp. 22. Published by Catholic Truth Society, 1913. Original from the University of Michigan.[2]
  4. ^ The Ancient Name of Edessa, Amir Harrak, Journal of Near Eastern Studies, Vol. 51, No. 3 (Jul., 1992), pp. 209-214 [3]
  5. ^ C. Anthon, A System of Ancient and Medieval Geography for the Use of Schools and Colleges, Harper Publishers, 1850, Digitized 2007, p.681
  6. ^ J. F. Healey, H. J. W. Drijvers, The Old Syriac Inscriptions of Edessa and Osrhoene: Texts, Translations, and Commentary, BRILL Publishers, 1999, ISBN 90-04-11284-7, pp.35-36
  7. ^ M. A. R. College, The Parthians, 1967 (see p.58)
  8. ^ Osroene's king Abgar IX converted to Christianity in the 200's. It was, however, Armenia that was the first state to adopt Christianity as its official religion in 301.
  9. ^ New International Encyclopedia
  10. ^ Theodor Mommsen, The History of Rome, Book V, p.3
  11. ^ Theodor Mommsen, The History of Rome, Book V, p.9
  12. ^ Cassius Dio, Roman History,Book 40, Chapter 20, p.126, Project Gutenberg [4].
  13. ^ S. Beck, Ethics of Assyrian, Babylonian, and Persian Empires
  14. ^ L.W. Barnard, The Origins and Emergence of the Church in Edessa during the First Two Centuries A.D., Vigiliae Christianae, pp.161-175, 1968 (see pp.162,165,167,169).
  15. ^ A. T. Olmstead, The Mid-Third Century of the Christian Era. II, Classical Philology, pp.398-420, 1942. (see p.399)
  16. ^ E. Gibbon, The Decline And Fall Of The Roman Empire, Vol. I, Chapter XXIV [5].
  17. ^ H. I. MacAdam, N. J. Munday, Cicero's Reference to Bostra (AD Q. FRAT. 2. 11. 3), Classical Philology, pp.131-136, 1983.
  18. ^ Pliny vol. 85; vi. 25, 117, 129
  19. ^ Osroene, 1911 Edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

OSROENE, or OsRH0ENE, a district of north-western Mesopotamia, in the hill country on the upper Bilechas (Belichus; mod. Nahr Belik, Bilikh), the tributary of the Euphrates, with its capital at Edessa (q.v.), founded by Seleucus I. About 130 B.C. Edessa was occupied by a nomadic Arabic tribe, the Orrhoei (Plin. v. 85; vi. 25, 117, 129), who founded a small state ruled by their chieftains with the title of kings. After them the district was called Orrhoene (thus in the inscriptions, in Pliny and Dio Cassius), which occasionally has been changed into Osroene, in assimilation to the Parthian name Osroes or Chosroes (Khosrau). The founder of the dynasty is therefore called Osroes by Procop. Bell Pers. i. 17; but Orhai or Urhai, son of Hewya (i.e. "the ' Another supposed old form of the name is" Orfraie "; but that is said by M. Rolland (Faune popul. France, ii. p. 9, note), quoting M.Suchier (Zeitschr. rom. Philol. i. p. 432), to arise from a mingling of two wholly different sources: (I) Oripelargus, Oriperagus, Orprais and (2) Ossifraga." Orfraie "again is occasionally interchanged with Effraie (which, through such dialectical forms as Fresaie, Fressaia, is said to come from the Latin praesaga), the ordinary French name for the barn-owl, Aluco fiammeus (see OWL). According to Skeat's Dictionary (i. p. 408)," Asprey "is the oldest English form; but" Osprey "is given by Cotgrave, and is found as early as the 15th century.

2 Two good examples of the different localities chosen by this bird for its nest are illustrated in Ootheca Wolleyana, pls. B. & H.

snake"), in the chronicle of Dionysius of Tellmahre; he is no historical personality, but the eponym of the tribe. In the Syrian Doctrine of Addai (ed. Philipps 1876, p. 46) he is called Arjaw, i.e. " the lion." The kings soon became dependants of the Parthians; their names are mostly Arabic (Bekr, Abgar, Ma`nu), but among them occur some Iranian (Parthian) names, as Pacorus and Phratamaspates. Under Tigranes of Armenia they became his vassals, and after the victories of Lucullus and Pompey, vassals of the Romans. Their names occur in all wars between Romans and Parthians, when they generally inclined to the Parthian side, e.g. in the wars of Crassus and Trajan. Trajan deposed the dynasty, but Hadrian restored it. The kings generally used Greek inscriptions on their coins, but when they sided with the Parthians, as in the war of Marcus Aurelius and Verus (A.D. 161-165), an Aramaic legend appears instead. Hellenism soon disappeared and the Arabs adopted the language and civilization of the Aramaeans. This development was hastened by the introduction of Christianity, which is said to have been brought here by the apostle Judas, the brother of James, whose tomb was shown in Edessa. In 190 and 201 we hear of Christian churches in Edessa. King Abgar IX. (or VIII.) (179-214) himself became a Christian and abolished the pagan cults, especially the rite of castration in the service of Atargatis, which was now punished by the loss of the hands (see Bardesanes, "Book of the Laws of Countries," in Cureton, Spicilegium Syriacum, p. 31). His conversion has by the legend been transferred to his ancestor Abgar V. in the time of Christ himself, with whom he is said to have exchanged letters and who sent him his miraculous image, which afterwards was fixed over the principal gate of the city (see Abgar; Lipsius, Die edessenische Abgarsage (1880); Dobschiitz, Christusbilder (1896)). Edessa now became the principal seat of Aramaic-Christian (Syriac) language and literature; the literary dialect of Syriac is the dialect of Edessa.

Caracalla in 216 abolished the kingdom of Osroene (Dio Cass. 77, 12.14) and Edessa became a Roman colony. The list of the kings of Osroene is preserved in the Syrian chronicle of Dionysius of Tellmahre, which is checked by the coins and the data of the Greek and Roman authors; it has been reconstructed by A. v. Gutschmid, "Untersuchungen fiber die Geschichte des Kiinigreichs Osroene," in Memoires de l'Acad. de St Pétersbourg, t. xxxv. (1887). Edessa remained Roman till it was taken by Chosroes II. in 608; but in 625 Heraclius conquered it again. In 638 it was taken by the Arabs. (ED. M.)

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Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary

Wikipedia has an article on:




Osroene southeast of Armenia.


From Ancient Greek Όσροηνῆ (Osroēnē).

Alternative spellings

Proper noun




  1. (historical) Ancient Syriac kingdom and region in northwestern Mesopotamia, which enjoyed semi-autonomy to complete independence from the years of 132 BC to AD 244. Language: Syriac. Capital: Edessa.



Simple English

Osroene (also spelled Osrohene, Osrhoene, from the Greek Όσροηνῆ; Syriac:ܡܠܟܘܬܐ ܕܒܝܬ ܥܣܪܐ ܥܝܢܐ Malkuṯā d-Bēt ʿŌsrā ʿĪnē), also known by the name of its capital city, Edessa (modern Şanlıurfa, Turkey), was a historic kingdom located on the present-day border of Syria and Turkey. The kingdom was Assyrian[1][2] and enjoyed semi-autonomy to complete independence from the years of 132 BCE to 244 AD[2][3]. It was a Syriac speaking kingdom[4], and according to an ancient legend King Abgar V of Edessa was converted[5] to Christianity by Thaddeus of Edessa, or Saint Addai, one of the Seventy-two Disciples[5]. By 201 AD or earlier[6], under King Abgar the Great[7], Osroene became the first Christian state[8][9].


  1. Parpola, Simo. "Assyrian Identity in Ancient Times and Today" (in English) (PDF). Assyriologist. Journal of Assyrian Academic Studies. p. 15. "When the Seleucid Empire disintegrated at the end of the second century BC, its western remnants were annexed to Rome, while several semi-independent kingdoms of decidedly Assyrian identity (Osroene, Adiabene, Hatra, Assur) popped up in the east under Parthian overlordship." 
  2. 2.0 2.1 The Revival of Spiritual Healing, by Barsom J. Kashish, 2002, p. 217 [1]
  3. Alexander Roberts & James Donaldson Eds. The Writings of the Fathers Down to AD 325: Ante-Nicene Fathers vol. 8 (Peabody, Massachusetts: Hendrickson Publishers, 1994), 657-672. [2]
  4. The Ancient Name of Edessa, Amir Harrak, Journal of Near Eastern Studies, Vol. 51, No. 3 (Jul., 1992), pp. 209-214 [3]
  5. 5.0 5.1 Herbermann, Charles George (1913). The Catholic Encyclopedia. Encyclopedia Press. pp. 282. 
  6. 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" 
  7. Adshead, Samuel Adrian Miles (2000). China in World History. Macmillan. pp. 27. ISBN 0312225652. 
  8. Cheetham, Samuel (1905). A History of the Christian Church During the First Six Centuries. Macmillan and Co. pp. 58. 
  9. Lockyer, Herbert (1988). All the Apostles of the Bible. Zondervan. pp. 260. ISBN 0310280117. 


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