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Encyclopedia > Edessa, Mesopotamia
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.
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.
Shows the location of Edessa within modern Turkey.

Edessa (Greek: Ἔδεσσα) is the historical name of a town in northern Mesopotamia, refounded on an ancient site by Seleucus I Nicator. For the modern history of the city, see Şanlıurfa. Image File history File links Download high-resolution version (879x527, 189 KB) Urfa Castle in South Eastern Turkey, whose towering columns were built by the Romans. ... Image File history File links Download high-resolution version (879x527, 189 KB) Urfa Castle in South Eastern Turkey, whose towering columns were built by the Romans. ... Image File history File links Sanliurfa_Turkey_Provinces_locator. ... Image File history File links Sanliurfa_Turkey_Provinces_locator. ... Mesopotamia refers to the region now occupied by modern Iraq, eastern Syria, southeastern Turkey, and Southwest Iran. ... Silver coin of Seleucus. ... Shows the location of the province and city of Åžanlıurfa. ...


The name

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. The later native name was Edessa, which the capital of the Kingdom of Osroe, named after its purported founder (who was probably only legend), this being the Armenian form for Chosroes; it 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 ("Famous 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. Syriac ( Suryāyā) is an Eastern Aramaic language that was once spoken across much of the Fertile Crescent. ... Transliteration in a narrow sense is a mapping from one script into another script. ... Arabic ( or just ) is the largest living member of the Semitic language family in terms of speakers. ... Shows the location of the province and city of Åžanlıurfa. ... For other uses, see UR. Ur seen across the Royal tombs, with the Great Ziggurat in the background, January 17, 2004 Ur was an ancient city in southern Mesopotamia, located near the mouth (at the time) of the Euphrates and Tigris rivers on the Persian Gulf and close to Eridu. ... The angel prevents the sacrifice of Isaac (Rembrandt, 1634) Abraham (Hebrew: , Standard Avraham Ashkenazi Avrohom or Avruhom Tiberian  ; Arabic: ,  ; Geez: , ) is a figure in the Bible and Quran who is by believers regarded as the founding patriarch of the Israelites and of the Nabataean people in Jewish, Christian and... Silver coin of Seleucus. ... Coordinates 40°48′ N 22°3′ E Country Greece Periphery Central Macedonia Prefecture Pella Population 25,619 source (2001) Area 321. ... Macedons regions and towns Macedon or Macedonia (from Greek ; see also List of traditional Greek place names) was the name of an ancient kingdom in the northern-most part of ancient Greece, bordering the kingdom of Epirus on the west and the region of Thrace to the east[1... Coin of Antiochus IV. Reverse shows Apollo seated on an omphalos. ... Antioch on the Orontes (Greek: Αντιόχεια η επί Δάφνη, Αντιόχεια η επί Ορόντου or Αντιόχεια η Μεγάλη; Latin: Antiochia ad Orontem, also Antiochia dei Siri), the Great Antioch or Syrian Antioch was an ancient city located on the eastern side (left bank) of the Orontes River about 30 km from the sea and its port, Seleucia Pieria. ... Antakya (Antiokheia, Antakiya, ), located on the eastern side (left bank) of the Orontes River (in Turkish: Asi Nehri) about 20 miles from the sea, is the seat of Hatay Province, Turkey. ... Byzantine Empire at its greatest extent c. ... The Kurdish language is a language spoken in the region called Kurdistan, including Kurdish populations in parts of Iran, Iraq, Syria and Turkey. ...


In the second half of the second century BCE, 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. This kingdom was established by Nabataean or Arabic 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. Parthia[1] (Middle Persian: اشکانیان Ashkâniân) was a civilization situated in the northeast of modern Iran, but at its height covering all of Iran proper, as well as regions of the modern countries of Armenia, Iraq, Georgia, eastern Turkey, eastern Syria, Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Pakistan, Kuwait, the Persian Gulf... Osroene (also: Osrohene, Osrhoene; Syriac: ܡܠܟܘܬܐ Ü•Ü’ܝܬ Ü¥Ü£ÜªÜ Ü¥ÜÜ¢Ü¶Ü), also known by the name of its capital city, Edessa (modern Sanli Urfa, in Syriac: ܐܘܪܗܝ), was one of several kingdoms arising from the dissolution of the Seleucid Empire. ... Petra, the Nabataean capital The Nabataeans, a people of ancient Arabia, whose settlements in the time of Josephus gave the name of Nabatene to the border-land between Syria and Arabia from the Euphrates to the Red Sea. ... Languages Arabic other languages (Arab minorities) Religions Predominantly Islam Some adherents of Druze, Judaism, Samaritan, Christianity Related ethnic groups Mizrachi Jews, Sephardi Jews, Ashkenazi Jews, Canaanites, other Semitic-speaking groups An Arab (Arabic: ‎; transliteration: ) is a member of a Semitic group of people whose cultural, linguistic, and in certain cases... The Arabian Peninsula The Arabian Peninsula is a mainly desert peninsula in Southwest Asia at the junction of Africa and Asia and an important part of the greater Middle East. ... Parthia[1] (Middle Persian: اشکانیان Ashkâniân) was a civilization situated in the northeast of modern Iran, but at its height covering all of Iran proper, as well as regions of the modern countries of Armenia, Iraq, Georgia, eastern Turkey, eastern Syria, Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Pakistan, Kuwait, the Persian Gulf... Pompey, Pompey the Great or Pompey the Triumvir [1] (Classical Latin abbreviation: CN·POMPEIVS·CN·F·SEX·N·MAGNVS[2], Gnaeus or Cnaeus Pompeius Magnus) (September 29, 106 BC–September 29, 48 BC), was a distinguished military and political leader of the late Roman republic. ... Motto: Senatus Populusque Romanus (SPQR) The Roman Empire at its greatest extent, c. ... This article is about the Roman Emperor. ... Lucius Ceionius Commodus Verus Armeniacus (December 15, 130 – 168), known simply as Lucius Verus, was Roman co-emperor with Marcus Aurelius (161–180), from 161 until his death. ... The 2nd century is the period from 101 - 200 in accordance with the Julian calendar in the Christian Era. ... Caracalla (April 4, 186 – April 8, 217) was Roman Emperor from 211 – 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 Roman client king Abgar IX (179-214), and there is a corresponding lack of Greek public inscriptions (Bauer 1971, ch. i). Aramaic is a group of Semitic languages with a 3,000-year history. ... It has been suggested that this article or section be merged with Satellite state. ...

Rebuilt by Emperor Justin, and called after him Justinopolis (Evagrius, Hist. Eccl., IV, viii), Edessa was taken in 609 by the Persians, soon retaken by Heraclius, but lost to the Arabs in 638. 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). Flavius Iustinus Augustus. ... Evagrius Scholasticus, an ecclesiastical historian, who wrote six books, embracing a period of 163 years, from the second Council of Ephesus AD 431 to the 12th year of the emperor Maurice I, AD 594. ... Heraclius and his sons Heraclius Constantine and Heraclonas. ... Contemporary coin of Romanus I. Romanus I Lecapenus (Romanos I Lakapenos, 870 - 948), who shared the throne of the Byzantine Empire with Constantine VII and exercised all the real power from 919 to 944, was admiral of the Byzantine fleet on the Danube River when, hearing of the defeat of... According to the legend, King Abgarus received the Image of Edessa from the apostle Thaddeus. ... Map of Constantinople. ... August 16 is the 228th day of the year (229th in leap years) in the Gregorian Calendar. ... Events City of Algiers (re)founded by the Zirid king Buluggin ibn Ziri Abu Yazid launches a rebellion against the Fatimids in the Aures mountains. ... Venice (Italian: Venezia, Venetian: Venezsia) is the capital of region Veneto, and has a population of 271,663 (census estimate January 1, 2004). ... Ernst von Dobschütz, December 1922 Ernst Adolf Alfred Oskar Adalbert von Dobschütz (* October 9, 1870 in Halle (Saale), Germany; † May 20, 1934 Halle (Saale)), famous german theologist, author and professor at the university of Halle. ...

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 Zengui, 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. Door of the Abbey of S. Maria di Maniace. ... The Seljuk coat of arms was a double headed eagle The Seljuk Turks (also Seldjuk, Seldjuq, Seljuq; in modern Turkish Selçuklular; in Persian سلجوقيان SaljÅ«qiyān; in Arabic سلجوق SaljÅ«q, or السلاجقة al-Salājiqa) were a major branch of the Oghuz Turks and a dynasty that ruled parts of... This article is about the medieval crusades. ... The County of Edessa was one of the Crusader states in the 12th century, based around a city with an ancient history and an early tradition of Christianity (see Edessa). ... Imad ad-Din Zengi (also Zangi or Zengui) (1087-1146) was the son of Aq Sunqur al-Hajib, governor of Aleppo under Malik Shah I. He became atabeg of Mosul in 1127, and of Aleppo in 1128, uniting the two cities under his personal rule, and was the founder of... The Siege of Edessa took place from November 28 to December 24, 1144, resulting in the fall of the majority of the crusader County of Edessa to Zengi, the atabeg of Mosul. ... Matthew of Edessa was an Armenian historian of the 12th century born in the city of Edessa. ... Old Town viewed from Aleppo Citadel Aleppo (or Halab Arabic: ‎, ) is a city in northern Syria, capital of the Aleppo Governorate. ... The name Mongols (Mongolian: Mongol) specifies one or several ethnic groups. ... An Ottoman Mamluk, from 1810 Mamluks (or Mameluks) (the Arabic word usually translates as owned, singular: مملوك plural: مماليك) comprised slave soldiers used by the Muslim Caliphs and the Ottoman Empire, and who on more than one occasion seized power for... Motto: دولت ابد مدت Devlet-i Ebed-müddet (The Eternal State) Anthem: Ottoman imperial anthem Borders in 1680, see: list of territories Capital Söğüt (1299-1326) Bursa (1326-1365) Edirne (1365-1453) Constantinople (Istanbul) (1453-1922) Language(s) Ottoman Turkish Government Monarchy Sultans  - 1281–1326 Osman I  - 1918–1922 Mehmed VI...


The exact date of the introduction of Christianity into Edessa is not known. It is certain, however, that the Christian community was at first made up from the Jewish population of the city. According to a legend first reported by Eusebius in the 4th century, King Abgar V Ukāmā was converted by Addai, who was one of the seventy-two disciples, sent to him by "Judas, who is also called Thomas". According to Gutschmid (1887), the Abgar who embraced the Christian faith was Abgar IX, and Christian writers have not challenged the substitution. Under him Christianity became the official religion of the kingdom. 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 (Historia Ecclesiastica, I, xiii), 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. Christianity is a monotheistic[1] religion centered on the life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth as presented in the New Testament. ... For other uses, see Jew (disambiguation). ... Eusebius of Caesarea Eusebius of Caesarea (c. ... Tenth-century icon of Abgar with the mandylion, the image of Christ Abgar V or Abgarus V of Edessa (4 BC - AD 7 and AD 13 - 50) is a historical ruler of the kingdom of Osroene, holding his capital at Edessa. ... Thaddeus was one of the Seventy Apostles of Christ, not to be confused with Thaddeus of the Twelve Apostles. ... Thomas was one of the 12 apostles of Jesus. ... Eusebius of Caesarea Eusebius of Caesarea (c. ... Map of the British Mandate of Palestine. ... Serapion was Patriarch of Antioch (191 - 211). ... The Peshitta is the standard version of the Bible in the Syriac language. ... Tatian was an early Assyrian[1] Christian writer and theologian of the second century. ... Rabbulas (or Rabbula) was a bishop of Edessa (411 - August, 435), noteworthy for his opposition to the views of Theodore of Mopsuestia, as well as those of Nestorius. ... Bar Daisan (154-222), also latinized as Bardesanes, was a Syrian gnostic and an outstanding scientist, scholar, and poet. ...

A Christian council was held at Edessa as early as 197 (Eusebius of Caesarea, Historia ecclesiastica, V, 23). In 201 the city was devastated by a great flood, and the Christian church was destroyed (Chronicon Edessenum, ad. an. 201). In 232 the relics of the Apostle St. Thomas were brought from 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) (ed. Gian-Francesco Gamurrini, Rome, 1887, 62 sqq.) gives an account of the many sanctuaries at Edessa about 388. Eusebius of Caesarea Eusebius of Caesarea (c. ... It has been suggested that this article or section be merged with Jude Thomas. ... Bust of Traianus Decius. ... Gaius Aurelius Valerius Diocletianus ( 245– 312), born Diocles (Greek Διοκλής) and known in English as Diocletian,[1] was Roman Emperor from November 20, 284 to May 1, 305. ... It has been suggested that this article be split into multiple articles. ... The Sassanid Empire in the time of Shapur I; the conquest of Cappadocia was temporary Official language Pahlavi (Middle Persian) Dominant Religion Zoroastrianism Capital Ctesiphon Sovereigns Shahanshah of the Iran (Eranshahr) First Ruler Ardashir I Last Ruler Yazdegerd III Establishment 224 AD Dissolution 651 AD Part of the History of... The First Council of Nicaea, held in Nicea in Bithynia (in present-day Turkey), convoked by the Roman Emperor Constantine I in 325, was the first ecumenical[1] conference of bishops of the Catholic Church, and most significantly resulted in the first uniform Christian doctrine, called the Nicene Creed. ...

When Nisibis was ceded to the Persians in 363, 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 (Labourt, Le christianisme dans l'empire perse, Paris, 1904, 130-141). Monophysitism prospered at Edessa, even after the Arab conquest. The newly excavated Church of Saint Jacob in Nisibis. ... Ephrem the Syrian (Syriac: , ;Greek: ; Latin: Ephraem Syrus; 306–373) was a deacon, prolific Syriac language hymn writer and theologian of the 4th century. ... St. ... Nestorianism is the doctrine that Jesus exists as two persons, the man Jesus and the divine Son of God, or Logos, rather than as a unified person. ... Ibas was bishop of Edessa (c. ... The Three Chapters (trîa kephálaia), a phase in the Monophysite controversy, was an attempt to reconcile the Christians of Syria and Egypt with Western Christiandom, following the failure of the Henotikon. ... Imperator Caesar Flavius Zeno Augustus or Tarasicodissa or Trascalissaeus (c. ... Monophysitism (from the Greek monos meaning one, alone and physis meaning nature) is the christological position that Christ has only one nature, as opposed to the Chalcedonian position which holds that Christ has two natures, one divine and one human. ...

Under Byzantine rule, as metropolis of Osroene, it had eleven suffragan sees (Echos d'Orient, 1907, 145). Lequien (Oriens christ., II, 953 sqq.) 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. Byzantine Empire at its greatest extent c. ... Eastern Orthodoxy (also called Greek Orthodoxy and Russian Orthodoxy) is a Christian tradition which represents the majority of Eastern Christianity. ... The Syriac Orthodox Church is an autocephalous Oriental Orthodox church based in the Middle East with members spread throughout the world. ...


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. Jacobus Baradaeus or James Baradaeus (other spellings of his surname include Al Baradai, Burdoho, Burdeono, Burdeana, or Burdeaya, also Phaselita, or Zanzalus), was ordained by the Monophysite bishop of Edessa (c. ... The Syriac Orthodox Church is an autocephalous Oriental Orthodox church based in the Middle East with members spread throughout the world. ... Origen (Greek: ÅŒrigénÄ“s, 185–ca. ... Maronites (Marunoye ܡܪܘܢܝܐܶ; in Syriac, Mâruniyya مارونية in Arabic) are members of an Eastern Catholic Church in full communion with the Pope of Rome. ... Homer (Greek: , HómÄ“ros) was a legendary early Greek poet and aoidos (rhapsode) traditionally credited with the composition of the Iliad and the Odyssey. ... It has been suggested that Deception of Zeus be merged into this article or section. ... Odysseus and Nausicaä - by Charles Gleyre The Odyssey (Greek Οδύσσεια (Odússeia) ) is one of the two major ancient Greek epic poems attributed to the poet Homer. ...

See also

According to the legend, King Abgarus received the Image of Edessa from the apostle Thaddeus. ... Unless otherwise stated, the following list is based on the records of the Chronicle of Edessa (to c. ...

External links

  • Old and new Images from Edessa
  • Richard Stillwell, ed. Princeton Encyclopedia of Classical Sites, 1976: "Antioch by the Callirhoe, later Justinopolis (Edessa; Urfa) Turkey"
  • Andre Palmer, in e-journal Golden horn: Journal of Byzantium An essay on Egeria's escorted visit (April 384), and the bishop's tall tales
  • Chronicle of Edessa


  • 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)

Further reading

  • 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.

Coordinates: 37°09′N 38°48′E Map of Earth showing lines of latitude (horizontally) and longitude (vertically), Eckert VI projection; large version (pdf, 1. ...

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