A Brief History Of Sanliurfa

It is not easy to write a brief history of Şanlıurfa as the upper Mesopotamia is one of the oldest settlement areas of the world. The prehistoric discoveries, especially over the last 25 years, indicates that the recorded history of Şanlıurfa dates as back as about 12,000 years.

Thanks to Göbeklitepe, Karahan Tepe, Nevali Çori settlements and the “Urfa Man” Statue unhearted at the city centre, we can tell that Şanlıurfa is one of the earliest and most important places of the world in terms of the prehistoric settlements and civilisation history.

For the very first time, our prehistoric hunter-gatherer ancestors of about 12,000 years ago started, in these lands, to build worship places such as Göbeklitepe, to engage in agriculture by cultivating wild wheat on the steppes of Karacadağ, and to form their first political, social and religious organisation.

Since the early ages, Şanlıurfa was ruled by many different civilizations: Elbas, Akkadians, Babylons, Hitites, Hurrians, Mittanis, Aramaeans, Assyrians, Persians, Macedonians, and Romans, and was invaded by Sassanians, Goths, and Mongols.

During the Byzantine period, the city was rebuilt and continuously changing rulers, between the Crusaders and the Muslims.

Şanlıurfa region was occupied by Macedonians between the years of 332-312 BC during the expeditions of Alexander the Great. When Alexander died, the city remained under the rule of the dynasty of his commander Selefkos, and was named as Edessa which means “abundant in water” in Greek language by Seleukos Nikator I in 302 BC.

Between 132 BC and 244 AD, the city was ruled by an Assyrian kingdom and named Oshroene; the Assyrian kingdom was very important in the history of Christianity because it was the first kingdom to accept Christianity religion at state level. It is in fact believed that the Assyrian King Abgar Ukkama V, once he received a message from Prophet Jesus, declared to accept Christian religion for him and for all the people of his Kingdom. It is also believed that Prophet Jesus, in return, wrote King Abgar Ukkama V an epistle extending his blessing to Oshroene city, and delivered, by the means of his apostle Thomas, a gift to the King,; the gift was a towel, and it is believed that a portrait of Jesus face, after wiping, miraculously appeared on the towel,.

After the last Assyrian king of Edessa was sent to Rome with his family in 243 AD, the area entirely came under the domination of Rome. The Abgar Kingdom was overthrown by the Romans in 244 AD and Urfa became an area of conflicts and changed rulers many times between the Romans and the Parthians (Persians). From 639 AD, when the Islamic armies took the control of the city, until 1031, when the Byzantines took over the control, Şanlıurfa was ruled by many Islamic States: Ummayads, Abbasids, Hamdanis, Numeyris and Mervanis. During the Great Seljuk Empire (a Turkish state) period, Melik Shah the Sultan sent his armies to Urfa and conquered the city in 1087. The sovereignty of the Great Seljuk Empire, did not last long, and during the First Crusade, the commander of the Crusaders Count Baudouin occupied Urfa and founded the County of Edessa in 1098. The Crusader sovereignty, which lasted almost 50 years, was ended by İmadüddin Zengi, a Turkish Atabeg (title of nobility) and by the Commander of Mosul on a Christmas day in 1144. The victory against the Crusaders was welcomed with much enthusiasm by the Islamic world.

Until the Mongolian occupation in 1244, Şanlıurfa changed again rulers, among many Turkish nations such as: Ayyubids, Anatolian Seljuks and Harezmis. Since then, Sanliurfa Region has been a place of constant conflicts among many Mongolian, Turkmen, Arab and Persian states and tribe chiefs, until it was conquered by the Ottoman Empire in 1517. With the arrival of the Ottomans, political stability was achieved and Urfa remained under the Ottoman control for about 400 years.

After the defeat of the Ottoman Empire at the end of First World War, Urfa was occupied first by The British and afterwards by the French armys in 1919. As already mentioned, Urfa people organised their own resistance and defeated the French army on 11th April 1920 and, in 1923, became part of the new founded Republic of Turkey.

Today, Şanlıurfa is one of the most important agricultural and tourism cities of Turkey. With the construction of the Atatürk Dam in the 1980’s and the introduction of South-eastern Anatolian Project (GAP), a land of thousands of hectares was irrigated, and a large number of agricultural products, in particular wheat, barley, lentil, cotton, and pistachio, are cultivated on the fertile lands of upper Mesopotamia.

In addition of being an important centre of agriculture, Şanlıurfa today is a significant tourism destination, offering to its guests a wide range of experiences with its noticeable tourist attractions such as: the Şanlıurfa Archaeology Museum Complex (the Archaeological Museum and the Haleplibahçe Mosaic Museum), Balıklı Lake, Göbeklitepe, Harran and the Tek Tek Mountains National Park, Birecik and Halfeti, the traditional music and costumes, the rich faith background (from polytheistic to monotheistic religions) and its delightful cuisine.