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


Location of Harran in Turkey
Coordinates: 36°52′39″N 39°02′02″E
Country Turkey
RegionSoutheastern Anatolia
  MayorMahmut Özyavuz (MHP)
  District1,053.78 km2 (406.87 sq mi)
  District density69/km2 (180/sq mi)
Time zoneUTC+2 (EET)
  Summer (DST)UTC+3 (EEST)
Postal code
Area code(s)+(90)414
WebsiteŞanlıurfa Province Administrative District of Akçakale

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. The city was called Hellenopolis (Ancient Greek: Ἑλληνόπολις 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.[3][4]



The earliest records of Harran come from Ebla tablets (late 3rd millennium BCE).[12] 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.[13]

Merchant outpost

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.[14] 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."[15] 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.

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.[16]

Assyrian period

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.[14]

Hittite period

After the Suppiluliuma IShattiwaza 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.

Middle and Neo-Assyrian periods

In the 13th century BCE, Assyrian king Adad-Nirari I reported that he conquered the "fortress of Kharani" and annexed it as a province.[17] 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.

10th-century BCE inscriptions reveal that Harran had some privileges of fiscal exemption and freedom from certain forms of military obligations. It had even been termed as the "free city of Harran". However, in 763 BCE, it was sacked by a Harranian rebellion against Assyrian control that resulted in the loss of those privileges. Not until Sargon II restored order, in the late 8th century BCE, were those privileges restored.[18]

Neo-Babylonian period

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.[19] 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[20].

Persian period

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.

Seleucid period

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, but eventually it 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.

Roman–Sasanian period

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 swapped ownership between the Sassanids and the Romans on multiple occasions from 4th century to 6th century. Persian general Shahrbaraz completed conquering of Oshroene one last time for the Sassanids around 610.[21] The city came to Roman control after the successful offensive of emperor Heraclius in 620s for a very short time, before being taken over by the new powerhouse, the Rashiduns. In AH 19 (640), Carrhae was conquered by the Muslim Arab general 'Iyāḍ b. Ghanm.[22]

Early Islamic Harran

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 pagan people of Harran identified themselves with the Sabians in order to fall under the protection of Islam. Aramaean and Assyrian Christians remained Christian. Sabians were mentioned in the Qur'an, but those were the group of Mandaeans (a Gnostic sect).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.

End of the Sabians

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.[23] The Zangid ruler Nur al-Din Mahmud transformed the residence into a strong fortress.


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.

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."[24]

Modern Harran

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 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 the local elections of March 2019 Mahmut Özyavuz was elected Mayor.[25] Ömer Faruk Çelik was appointed District Governor as representative of the state.[26]


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

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.

Sin's temple was rebuilt by several kings, among them the Assyrian Assur-bani-pal (7th century BCE) and the Neo-Babylonian Nabonidus (6th century BCE).[27][28] Herodian (iv. 13, 7) mentions the town as possessing in his day a temple of the moon.

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.[29][30] 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.[31] No longer a residential bishopric, Carrhae is today listed by the Catholic Church as a titular see.[32]

Harran in scriptures

Harran is, by virtually all scholars, associated with the biblical place Haran (Hebrew: חָרָן, transliterated: Charan). Prior to Sennacherib's reign (704–681 BCE), Harran rebelled from the Assyrians, who reconquered the city (see 2 Kings 19:12 and Isaiah 37:12) and deprived it of many privileges – which King Sargon II later restored.

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. 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).

Very little is known about the pre-mediaeval levels of Harran,[33] especially for the patriarchal times. See Lloyd and Brice.[34]


T. E. Lawrence ("Lawrence of Arabia") surveyed the ancient Harran site. Decades later, in 1950, Seton Lloyd conducted a three-week archaeological survey there.[35] An AngloTurkish excavation was begun in 1951, ending in 1956 with the death of D. S. Rice.[36] Another dig occurred in 1959.[37]

"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 entire plan of the mosque which has dimensions of 104×107 m, along with its entrances, was unearthed during the excavations led by Dr Nurettin Yardimer since 1983. The excavations are currently being carried out also outside the northern and western gates. 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".[38]

Notable people

See also


  1. "Area of regions (including lakes), km²". Regional Statistics Database. Turkish Statistical Institute. 2002. Retrieved 2013-03-05.
  2. "Population of province/district centers and towns/villages by districts - 2012". Address Based Population Registration System (ABPRS) Database. Turkish Statistical Institute. Retrieved 2013-02-27.
  3. Isavertenc̣, Yakobos. Armenia and the Armenians, Volume 2. Armenian Monastery of St. Lazaro. p. 17.
  4. Chamchian, Mikayel (1827). History of Armenia. Bishop's College Press. p. 110.
  5. Maspero, Gaston. History of the Ancient Peoples of the Classic East, Volume 2.
  6. David Noel Freedman et al., Eerdmans dictionary of the Bible s.v. Haran
  7. Encyclopedia of Islam, s.v. Ḥarrān
  8. Abramovitch, Henry Hanoch (December 22, 1993). The First Father: Abraham : the Psychology and Culture of a Spiritual Revolutionary. UPA. p. 50. ISBN 978-0819190277.
  9. Edward Hayes Plumptre, Charles John Ellicott (ed.). The First Book of Moses, Called Genesis. Cassell & Company. p. 169.
  10. L. Visotzky, Rabbi Burton. The Genesis of Ethics: How the Tormented Family of Genesis Leads Us to Moral Development.
  11. Tahir Sezen, Osmanlı Yer Adları (Alfabetik Sırayla), T.C. Başbakanlık Devlet Arşivleri Genel Müdürlüğü, Yayın Nu 21, Ankara, p. 223.
  12. Holloway, Steven W. Aššur is King! Aššur is King! - Religion in the Exercise of Power in the Neo-Assyrian Empire, BRILL, 2002, ISBN 90-04-12328-8, p.391
  13. G. Dossin, "Benjamites dans les Textes de Mari, " Melanges Syriens Offerts a M. Rene Dussaud (Paris, 1939), 986
  14. Green, Tamara M. (1992). The City of the Moon God: Religious Traditions of Harran. Brill. p. 19-20. ISBN 9789004095137.
  15. Ammianus Marcellinus, R.G., XXIII.3.1
  16. Pliny, Naturalis Historia, XII. 40
  17. S. Smith, Babylonian Historical Texts (London, 1924), p.39
  18. Smith, Babylonian Historical Texts, p.39
  19. A. K. Grayson, Assyrian and Babylonian Chronicles, New York, 1975, 96 (Fall of Nineveh chronicle).
  20. "Unpublished works – Alberto Fratini". Alberto Fratini (in Italian). Retrieved 2017-12-25.
  21. G. Geatrex, S.N.C.Lieu (ed.). The Roman Eastern Frontiers and the Persian Wars – Part II AD 363–630, Rootledge, 2002, pp. 185–186
  22. Kaegi, Walter (1992). Byzantium and the Early Islamic Conquests, Cambridge University Press, 2005 (digital edition), p. 172
  23. S. Heidemann (2005). "Numayrid ar-Raqqa". In Urbain Vermeulen, J. van Steenbergen (ed.). Egypt and Syria in the Fatimid, Ayyubid and Mamluk Eras IV. Peeters. p. 89-100. ISBN 9789042915244.
  24. Yule 1863, p. 50.
  25. Şafak, Yeni (2019-07-11). "Şanlıurfa Harran Seçim Sonuçları – Harran Yerel Seçim Sonuçları". Yeni Şafak (in Turkish). Retrieved 2019-11-07.
  26. "Harran Kaymakamlığı". www.harran.gov.tr. Retrieved 2019-11-07.
  27. H. W. F. Saggs, Neo-Babylonian Fragments from Harran, Iraq, vol. 31, no. 2, pp. 166–169, 1969
  28. C. J. Gadd, The Harran Inscriptions of Nabonidus, Anatolian Studies, vol. 8, pp. 35–92, 1958
  29. /Michel Lequien, Oriens christianus in quatuor Patriarchatus digestus, Paris 1740, Vol. II, coll. 973–978
  30. Pius Bonifacius Gams, Series episcoporum Ecclesiae Catholicae, Leipzig 1931, p. 437
  31. Revue de l'Orient chrétien, VI (1901), p. 197.
  32. Annuario Pontificio 2013 (Libreria Editrice Vaticana 2013 ISBN 978-88-209-9070-1), p. 838
  33. Bienkowski & Millard. Dictionary of the ancient Near East (ISBN 0-8122-3557-6, ISBN 978-0-8122-3557-9), 2000, p.140
  34. Alexander & Baker. Dictionary of the Old Testament: Pentateuch, (ISBN 0-8308-1781-6, ISBN 978-0-8308-1781-8) 2003, p. 379
  35. Seton Lloyd and William Brice, Harran, Anatolian Studies, vol. 1, pp. 77–111, 1951
  36. David Storm Rice, "Medieval Harran. Studies on Its Topography and Monuments I", Anatolian Studies 2:36–84, 1952
  37. British Institute of Archaeology at Ankara – Harran Excavations
  38. Official noticeboard displayed on site


  • Chwolsohn, Daniil Abramovic, Die Ssabier und der Ssabismus, 2 vols. St. Petersburg, 1856. (vol. 1; vol. 2 – still a valuable reference and collection of sources).
  • Green, Tamara, The City of the Moon God: Religious Traditions of Harran. Leiden, 1992.
  • Heidemann, Stefan, Die Renaissance der Städte in Nordsyrien und Nordmesopotamien: Städtische Entwicklung und wirtschaftliche Bedingungen in ar-Raqqa und Harran von der beduinischen Vorherrschaft bis zu den Seldschuken (Islamic History and Civilization. Studies and Texts 40). Leiden, 2002.
  • Yule, Henry, ed. and trans. (1863). Mirabilia descripta: the wonders of the East. London: Hakluyt Society.
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