Mardin (Syriac: meaning fortresses) is a city in southeastern Turkey. The capital of Mardin Province, it is known for its Arab-style architecture, and for its strategic location on a rocky mountain overlooking the plains of northern Syria.
Although no definitive information is available about the time when the city of Mardin was first established, it can be said that the foundation of city dates back to the time of the Subarid according to the antique history of the Near East.
According to the results of the excavations conducted by German Archaeologist Baron Marvan Oppenheim in 1911-12, the Subarid lived in Mesopotomaia around 4500-3500 BC. This result is based upon tiles found in-among layers that belong to the Sumerians and Babylonians.
In one recent archaeological excavation carried out from1982 to 1991 at Gırnavaz it was found that Gırnavaz was a continuous settlement from 4000 BC to the 7th century AD. The late Uruk era which constitutes the bottom culture layer in Gırnavaz dates back to 4000 BC. The architectural layers of Er Dynasty era just above the bottom layer was investigated in relation to burial traditions and practices. According to findings obtained in this second layer from the bottom, dead people are placed in graves with their knees close to abdomen, a light fire is set to clean their souls and cut off their remaining earthly relations, and finally graves are closed. Many personal items such as metal weapons, ornaments, ceramics and bullae were found in these graves.
In 2850 BC King Lugarzergis of Sumer occupied Mardin during his military campaign that extended to the Mediterranean coast.
Sumerians who were at a rather high level in city planning, irrigation and agriculture lost their power mainly for the vastness of the area they had to control and so they had to leave Mardin to Akads after 30 years (2820 BC). Around 2500 BC Akads had a treaty with Sumerians, which led to the establishment of an Akad-Sumer State.
In his book "Turkey in Antique Times" historian Prof. Ekrem Memiş writes, "according to the documents of Semitic Akads, a people called "Hurris" were living in Southeastern Anatolia, Mardin being the center, and area between Musul and Kerkük towards the end of 3000 BC."
Mardin became an Elam city around 2230 BC. Hammurabi from Amuri Dynasty annexed Sumerian land and established the Babylonian State , then annexed Mardin too (2200-1925 BC).
The Hittites invaded Mardin in 1925 BC and left it a year later. Then Midils of Arian origin coming from Persia occupied Mardin and its territory. After dominating the area for 500 years these people became the subject of the rulers of Egypt. Upon the outbreak of a Midil civil war in 1367 BC, Assyrian King Asurobalit occupied Mardin.
Around 1190 BC Mardin was in the hands of some Arian people coming down from Anatolia. 60 years after King Tıplatpalasır I defeated these people and recaptured Mardin together with Sincar and Nusaybin.
In 1060 BC, during the reign of Asurnasırbal I, the Hittites joined their forces and defeated Assyrians around Gılgames. But Mardin again came under the influence of the Assyrians after they recovered their power. Ruled by the Assyrians until 800 BC, Mardin was then occupied by Urartu Kingdom and ruled by this Kingdom for 50 years corresponding mostly to the region of King Mimes.
Following the rules of Sityanis and Midils around 600 BC, Alexander the Great turns his route to Mardin in 335 BC to move ahead to Persia after his conquest of Egypt. After his death in Babil in May 28, 323 BC his empire was divided up among his military commanders and Mardin fell to the share of General Selevkos who was also known as "Nikanır" (311 BC).
In 131 BC Mardin and its surrounding area was annexed by the Kingdom of Urfa (Abgars). In 249 AD, Roman ruler Filibos led a rebellion and drove King Abgar IX out of Mardin. Uralyonos became the governor of the city. Mardin, as a settlement administratively attached to Urfa came under Roman Rule. Meanwhile Dakiyos conquers the Persian land in 250 AD and restores the city of Nusaybin. In 330, a king named Şad Buhari, who worships fire and sun, starts to stay in Mardin castle for his illness. Recovering during his staying there, Şad Buhari builds a palace for himself and lives in Mardin for 12 more years. Then he brings many soldiers and civilians from his native land Persia to settle in. These people introduce many improvements to the city until 442 AD but a plague breaks out and devastates the city shortly afterwards. After about 100 years a Roman Commander named Ursianos rebuilds the city in 47 years and makes it inhabitable again.In this period Dara was reconstructed. The Byzantine could rule the city until 640 when İlyas bin Ganem, one of the military commanders of Caliph Ömer occupied the city. Then the area was ruled first by the Emevi dynasty starting from 692 and then by the Abbasid starting in 824 with the reign of Caliph Memnun.
The Hamdani rule in the area from 885 to 978 led to the capture of the city in 895. These were the people who reconstructed and fortified the castle, which still stands in our day. However, the Hamdani rule was to give its place to Mervani in 990. Their contribution was important in the sense that they built many bazaars and mosques and made Mardin a trade center on the Silk Route.
The Mervani gradually lost power under the pressure of Turkish raids starting after Malazgirt Battle of 1071.They were finally defeated in Nusaybin by Seljuk Turks in 1089.
İl Gazi Bey of Artuklu Dynasty captured the city and made it the capital of its domain in 1105. İl Gazi Bey made a great fame for his capture of Aleppo and fierce resistance against the Crusades. He captured Silvan following his victory over Prince Roger of Antioch. After his death his sons and close relatives expanded the domain to Diyarbakır and Harput and added to their success by defeating Crusades, Franks, Count of Urfa, Count of Bilecik and Bodven, the King of Jerusalem. The Kingdom of Artuklu lasted for 304 years during which many new mosques, madrassa, bathes and caravansaries were built.
In 1393 Tamerlane surrounded the city but was unsuccessful in capturing it. Tamerlane gathers a large army and again attempts to capture the city in 1395. The city defended itself severely enough to prove these attempts futile and route Tamerlane who then had the most powerful army in the world.
Relief from the threat of Tamerlane encourages the Artuklu to further develop the city, but this intention faces a new threat coming from the Kingdom of Karakoyunlu. After two years under siege the defenders of Mardin make a treaty with Karakoyunlu and surrender. The city remains under Karakoyunlu rule for 61 years. But this period was rather turbulent. Tribes in the area frequently rose up against the rule. The Akkoyunlu Kingdom defeats Karakoyunlu in 1462 and captures the city. During the Akkoyunlu rule, Kasım Bey, a military commander posted to the city starts to restore the city once devastated by the attacks of Tamerlane. Kasım Paşa Medresse is one of the buildings of his rule which survived to our times.
In the early 16th century Şah İsmail of Iran brings Akkoyunlu under his yoke and comes to the fore with his powerful Shiite Empire. Şah İsmail was so ruthless against those who resisted him that the defenders of Mardin gave the keys of the city to İsmail in order to protect people and prevent bloodshed.
The city of Mardin came definitely under Ottoman Rule during the Egyptian campaign of Yavuz Sultan Selim. Bıyıklı Mehmet Paşa, Governor of Diyarbakır (Amid) and İdris-I Bitlisi, a local Kurdish leader tried to capture the city for 9 months starting in 1516 and took it, though after fierce fighting, with the support of other Kurdish tribes in the area. Finally on 7 April 1517 the city was captured and news about this success made Selim pleased,who was the first Ottoman Caliph in Egypt. As a part of Ottoman territory, Mardin was attached to Diyarbakır. In 1518, the "Sanjak" of Mardin consisted of the central town, Savur and Nusaybin. In this Sanjak, there were both settled and nomadic people. The settled people of the area included Jews, Christians (Armenians, Suryani and Keldani), Moslems and some Şemsi (worshippers of sun).
Little is known of the town's history before the spread of Islam. In 640 the town came under the control of the Omayyad caliphs from Damascus and a century later fell to the Abbasid dynasty of Baghdad. Before the Seljuk era a Kurdish dynasty held sway (1100) but then eight years later the Artukids from Turkmenistan became masters over Mardin and remained in control until 1260. In 1516 Mardin fell to the Ottomans until the renegade Egyptian governor Mehmet Ali supported two Kurdish uprisings (1832 and 1840) against the Sublime Porte but they were brutally put down by Resid Pasa.
Most Syriac Orthodox churches and monasteries in the city were built on ancient Assyrian-Babylonian temples and are still active today. Monasteries such as the Deyrülzafarân Monastery date back 4,000 years. Mardin is likely the Maride and Marida of the Greeks and Romans. Another important church, Kırklar Kilisesi (Church of the 40 Martyrs), originally built in the name of Benham and Saro, the two sons of the Assyrian ruler who executed them because they chose to become Christian, dates from 569 AD, and even during its use as a capital by the Artukid Turkish dynasty which ruled Eastern Anatolia and Northern Mesopotamia between the twelfth and fourteenth centuries. The 12th century Sitti Radviyye Madrasa, the oldest of its kind in Anatolia, dates from this period.
The lands of the Artukid dynasty fell to the Mongols who took control of the region in 1394, but the Mongols never directly governed the area. Mardin was later controlled by the Turkish Akkoyunlu kingdom. The Kasımiye Madrasa was built by Sultan Kasım, son of the Akkoyunlu Sultan Cihangir, between 1457 and 1502. In 1517 was conquered by Ottoman Turks. 1915-1916 Arab, Aramaic and Armenian Christians of all denominations were massacred or driven away. On 15 August 1915, a public auction of Armenian women took place for the first time.
Situation and Town
The provincial town of Mardin which lies on a picturesque site at the foot of a steeply sloping rocky plateau, offers a tremendous view to the south over the extensive cultivated plains of northern Syria. This is the seat of the Patriarch of the United Syrian Christians (Jacobites) of Tur Abdin. Many of the grand stone houses reflect the town's strong agricultural traditions and the style is clearly influenced by Arabic architecture. Cereal growing is important in the region and there are also a number of olive groves. Extensive fruit orchards flourish in the hinterland (Tur Abdin).
Melikşah Grand Mosque (Ulucami Neighborhood in Central Mardin)
Melik Mahmud Mosque (in Savurkapı Neighborhood)
Abdüllatif Mosque 'in Cumhuriyet Bazaar
Zeynelabidin Mosque (in Nusaybin)
Koçhisar Mosque (in Kızıltepe)
Şehidiye Medresse and Mosque (Mardin)
Selsel Mosque (In Teker Neighborhood)
Necmettin Gazi Mosque (Necmettin Neighborhood)
Kasım Tuğmaner Mosque (on the 1st Avenue)
Reyhaniye Mosque (in Hasan Ayyar Bazaar)
Hamidiye Mosque (on the 1st Avenue)
Süleymanpaşa Mosque (in Şehidiye Neighborhood)
Secaattin and Mehmet Mosque (on Yeniyol at the center)
Hamza-i Kebir Mosque (in Savurkapı Neighborhood)
Şeyh Abdülaziz Mosque (to the west of Cumhuriyet Bazaar)
Melik Eminettin el Emin Mosque (in Eminettin Neighborhood)
Sıtra Zaviye Mosque (Gül Neighborhood)
Şeyh Salih Mosque (on Yeniyol at the center)
Mahmut Türki Mosque (in Diyarbakır Neighborhood)
Sarı Mosque (Necmettin or Maristan)
Şeyh Çabuk Mosque (in Çabuk Neighborhood)
Nizamettin Begaz Mosque (in Diyarbakır Kapı Neighborhood)
Kale Mosque (in Mardin Fortress)
Dinari Mosque (in Jeweler's Bazaar)
Grand Mosque (Ulu Camii in Midyat)
Meryemana (Virgin Mary) Church (Mardin)
Mor Yusuf (Surp Hovsep) Church (Mardin)
Mor Behnam Church (Mardin)
Deyrü'zzafaran Monastery (Mardin)
Hah Virgin Mary Church (Midyat)
Mor Gabriyel Monastery (Midyat)
Mor Yakup Monastery (Nusaybin)
Mor Dimet Monastery
Mor Mihail Church (Center-Big Church)
Mor Semune Church (Mardin)
Mor Dimet Monastery
Mor Petrus and Pavlus Church (Mardin)
Surp Kevork Church (Derik)
Virgin Mary Protestant Church (Midyat)
Red (Surp Kevork) Church (Mardin)
Mor Cercis Church (Eskikale- Mardin)
Mor Efraim Monastery (Mardin)
Mor Abraham Church (Midyat)
THE NAMES GIVEN TO MARDİN DURING ITS HISTORY
Historically many different names were used for Mardin. These include Erdobe, Tidu, Merdin, Merdo, Merdi, Merda, Merde, “Eagle’s Nest”, “Birds’ Nest”, Maridin and finally Mardin…
There are so many sayings about the origins of the present name “Mardin.” J.A.Dupre and J. Von Hammer maintain that the word Mardin derives from the warlike people of Mardes who were settled here by the Persian King Ardeşir (226-241). The similarity between the name of the tribe and the city and the existence of the Yezidi (people who worship the Devil) near Mazıdağı (Mardin) may be seen, though still debatable, as a proof that the Mardes were actually in the area since they worshipped evil in line with an ancient Persian tradition. Though quoting it, C. Ritter has some reservations to this claim.
In many sources the city is actually referred to as “Merdin”. In fact many of its native inhabitants adopt this as well. “Merdin” means “fortresses”, probably deriving from the existence of many fortresses in the area. These fortresses are located in a direction to watch each other for purposes of defense. The standing fortresses in the area include that of Mardin itself (Eagle’s Nest or Fortress), Kalat’ül Mara in Eskikale Village, Arur to the northeast of Deyrü’zaffaran Monastery and Erdemeşt.
Arab historian Vakidi states that the name Mardin derives from the religious sect of Mate. A well known priest living in the Castle of Mardin becomes a close friend of the military commander of the castle. But he is killed by another commander sent by Heraklius. Then the castle is given the name “Mate Din” which means “religion has died.” According to another story by Vakidi, the area was given the name Mardin upon the recovery of the sick son (Mardin) of one Persian king in this area. Since the manuscripts of Assyriacs have statements close to testifying this story, it can be regarded as the genuine origin of the name of the city.
Furthermore, the historians of the time of Emperor Maoricius (582-602 AD) including Theophilaktas, Simotkattes and Procipius, and Georgius Cyprius, geographer, wrote similar things about the name of the city. In Armenian sources the city appears under the name “Merdin” while “Merdo”, “Merdi”, “Marda” and “Mardin” are varieties found in Assyriac. Finally, Arabic sources refer to the city as “Maridin.”
MARDİN DURING THE WAR OF INDEPENDENCE
Thanks to its political wisdom, Mardin won its liberation without suffering and bloodshed. But, both the British and French first wanted to seize that well known “Eagle’s Nest.” The British Governor in Iraq (Noel) had contacts with the elite sections of the city to secure an easy pass over but had to leave upon the resistance of the people of Mardin.
Then people heard that the French army was also interested in their city. They formed their militia forces and sent to representatives to Erzurum Congress which convened upon the interventions of Mustafa Kemal. This was quite a moral support for the natives of Mardin who then further consolidated their forces against any aggression.
When French officer Norman was in Mardin, the militia was trying to protect him from angry crowds. French officer was rather perplexed but recovered himself to tell the leaders of the city that they would solve many problems of the city including poverty and unemployment had they handed it over to the French army that would then establish a local government run by the people of Mardin. The leaders of Mardin was quite sober and told him that there were thousands of armed militia to defend the city and there would be much bloodshed in case they attempted any military operation. Grasping the seriousness of the situation, the Frenchman left the city without forgetting to ask for escort down to the train station. The moral support and suggestions of Mustafa Kemal and solidarity in the city saved Mardin yet from another foreign occupation.
MARDİN AT THE PERIOD OF REPUBLIC
Accepting the managerial system changed in the period of republic Mardin became a border city of The Republic of Turkey.
Mardin has entered to an alteration of process with the social rights, developed economical models, rights of selecting and being elected and agricultural techniques the Republic submits to the community. In the tolerance city Mardin which keeps many religions alive, people’s civilized attitudes gives an important support to Atatürk who instructs reaching to contemporary civilization.
Atatürk frequently referred to Mardin as the place where he first became “Paşa” (army general).
It was really while he was in Mardin that Atatürk first received the official message entitling him the rank of “Paşa”. So the people of Mardin hailed M. Kemal as a general just after few days when they did the same for a young colonel. A young and lively general only at the age of 35…
The second visit of Atatürk to Mardin was in February 1917. While he was the Deputy Commander of the Second Army, M. Kemal was assigned to the Hijaz Front and he stopped in Mardin on his way to the front together with lieutenant colonel Dr. Hüseyin, major Rifat Bulca, his aide Cevat Abbas, captain Neşet Bora, captain Rauf and Şükrü Tezer.
The people of Mardin courted M. Kemal kindly and hosted him in the house of the city mayor where he had discussions with local leaders. Meanwhile Abdurrahman Kavvas, one of the leading businessmen in town gave M. Kemal a precious fur as a present. This fur is presently exhibited in Atatürk Museum in Konya.