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Mesopotamia / Cities /
Arabic: harrān
Other spelling: Carrhae


Ruins of the university in Harran, destroyed in the 1260's CE.
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Ruins of the university in Harran, destroyed in the 1260's CE.

Ancient town in northern Mesopotamia, corresponding to modern Sanliurfa district, Turkey.
Harran ranks among the oldest settlements of the world, having been continuously inhabited for at least 6,000 years.
Modern Harran is merely a village, with about 3,000 inhabitants (2006 estimate). It is situated on Balikh River, 40 km southeast of Sanliurfa. The reason for this decline, is partly because of damming and irrigation projects in Turkey, which has weakened conditions for agriculture in the Balikh Valley.
Harran is a place of legends and myths, and stories go that Adam and Eve came here after being expelled from the Garden og Eden. It is mentioned in the Bible, said to the be place Abraham's family settled after leaving Ur (Genesis 11:31-32). Abraham's father, Terah, is told to have died in Harran.
In Mesopotamian religion, Harran was the main cult centre of the moon-god, Sin.
Harran early on became an important Christian town, but a large percentage of the population retained their ancient religion upon the arrival of Islam. As Islam does not tolerate religions outside the Ahl al-Kitab, the Harran locals would in the 9th century claim to be Sabaeans, an unidentified religion mentioned among the Ahl al-Kitab.
Harran is the centre of a region of a special type of architecture, the so-called beehive adobe houses, built to create a cool interior. The construction technique may go 3,000 years back in time. Of old Harran, much less still stands. There are some ruins of the city, parts of the fortifications with one of the city gates. There are also remains of an 8th century mosque and a 11th century Crusader fortress.

2nd millennium BCE: Harran emerges as an important trading post between Damascus and the Mesopotamian cities Nineveh and Carchemish. Harran is the capital of a kingdom called Padam-Aram in the Bible.
Around 1100: Padam-Aram is conquered by the Amorites.
?: Passes to the Arameans.
?: Burnt by a Hittite army.
732: Passes to the Assyrians, improving its position as a trading post.
? Harran rebels against the Assyrians, but is reconquered and loses many privileges.
612: Becomes capital of the remaining Assyrian empire.
610: Becomes part of Media.
2nd century: Harran becomes capital of the independent state of Osrhoene.
1st century: Comes under Persian control.
651 CE: Comes under the Muslim Arabs. They would at some time establish a university here.
9th century: The Harrians adhering to an ancient religion, declares that they are the Sabaeans, after facing the threat from Caliph al-Ma'mun of being killed unless they converted to Islam.
11th century: The temple of the so-called Sabaeans is destroyed by Muslims, and their community is brought to an end.
1104 May 7: Battle of Harran, part of the Crusades.
1260's: Harran is razed by Mongol troops.

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By Tore Kjeilen