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Near East Kingdoms

Ancient Mesopotamia


MapHarran (Carrhae)

Situated on the border between modern Syria, Turkey, and Iraq (and now part of south-eastern Turkey), far up the Euphrates, Harran was an early Mesopotamian city state founded in the mid-third millennium BC. It served as a religious centre, but the main reason for its early existence was its location on the trade route across northern Mesopotamia and down to Ur in the south. Details of its early rule are very sketchy, but it seems to have begun its life as a part of the kingdom of Ebla. Carrhae itself is a now-unused portion of the site which is famous for being the site of Rome's disastrous battle against Parthia in 53 BC, while Harran is better known for its relatively modern beehive houses.

fl c.2400 BC


Eblaite princess who married the king of Harran.

c.2334 - 1900 BC

Harran's fortunes follow those of its parent city of Ebla.

Sumerian cylinder seal
A rock crystal cylinder seal of the Early Dynastic I period in Mesopotamia (around 2800 BC) showing two ibex, a gazelle, an animal's leg and a fly

c.1800 - 1761 BC

The powerful city state of Mari conquers Harran. Early Assyrian influences make Harran a centre for the moon god Sin, which retains its hold well into the Christian era.

fl c.1775 - 1750 BC

Itur Asdu

Vassal of Mari.

c.1750 BC

The Semitic Israelite tribes following Terah from Ur temporarily settle in Harran before moving southwards into Canaan.

c.1750s - 1600 BC

The city is controlled by various Akkadian groups.

c.1650 BC

Jacob of the Israelites spends some years in Harran, where he meets his wives. As he returns them and his large family to Hebron, Jacob stops off at the Canaanite city of Shechem where his daughter is attacked, so Jacob's sons slay all the males within the city walls. Upon his return home, Jacob succeeds Isaac as the leader of his people, with his twelve sons forming the basis of the later tribes of Israel.

The Israelites are presumed to descend into Egypt to escape famine just as Lower Egypt is invaded and governed by the Hyksos, probably making their entrance and acceptance there easier. They settle in the region of modern Cairo, at first as welcomed guests but later enduring worsening conditions and eventually slavery. According to the available sources, Joseph is the focus of Hebrew leadership when they first arrive there, but their deteriorating conditions mean that the situation four hundred years later is very different, with no apparent ruling house, although a Hebrew nobility survives.

More recent theories have diverted away from the idea that it is Hyksos Egypt that the Israelites enter. Some scholars place the early Israelites even earlier, by as much as four centuries, with them interacting with Twelfth Dynasty Egypt. Another school of thought prefers a much earlier period, Third Dynasty Egypt under Zoser, based on the idea that early Egyptian dating is still incorrect, with Menes being placed up to seven hundred years too early.

c.1600 BC

Aramaean groups secure the city of Harran and create an Aramaean state.

MapAram-Nahara'im (Padan-Aram / Bit Nahreen)

Aramaeans began infiltrating into the northern edges of Syria, although at first they were held back by the power of Mitanni. However, they did secure a foothold in Harran, creating their own minor kingdom there. The new form of the city's name meant 'Aram of the rivers'. Records for the city are extremely poor, although the city is known to have traded with its regional neighbours, including Tyre. The near-legendary Aram ben Nahor is the Israelite leader Abraham's brother in the Bible, and it is he, or alternatively his grandson, Aram-Naharaim who is considered to be ancestral to all Aramaeans.

c.1700 BC

Aram ben Nahor

Israelite ancestor king of all Aramaeans.

c.1630 BC



fl c.1600s? BC

Bethuel ben Nahor

fl c.1600s? BC

Lavan bar Bethuel

c.1320s BC

Harran is reduced by Piyashshili, son of Hittite king, Suppiluliuma I, as part of the conquest of Mitanni.

fl c.1290s BC


c.1270 - 1260 BC


fl c.1140 BC


c.1140 BC

The newly-created Israelite are apparently under Aramaean rule for eight years, until Cushan-Rishataim is defeated by Othniel, the Israelite judge.

Sumerian clay tablet
Sumerian script remained the Latin of ancient Mesopotamia long after the fall of Sumerian civilisation itself. This tablet contains a record of beer

c.900 BC

The city is conquered by Assyria as part of a general campaign to halt Aramaean raids. It serves as a regional capital.

763 BC

Harran is sacked by Assyria and subsequently restored under Sargon II.

fl c.730 BC


Assyrian vassal.

612 - 609 BC

The Assyrian empire is destroyed, but the commander of the Assyrian western army, based in Harran, claims the crown. In 610 BC Harran is conquered, but not completely destroyed, and by 609 BC the remaining Assyrians surrender and the city is firmly in the hands of Babylonia (or the Median empire, the existence of which is questionable).

550s BC


Father of Nabonidus of Babylonia.

556 BC

The son of Nabo-Balatu-Ikbi, Nabonidus, becomes king of Babylonia. His son, Nabo-Naid (which itself seems to be an alternate version of the name Nabonidus), gains the throne in Harran in his stead. Nabonidus' mother is high priestess at Harran while his daughter fills the same role at Ur.

540s BC


Son of Nabonidus, last king of Babylonia.

539 - 332 BC

The region passes to the Persian empire when the Achaemenid king enters Babylon.

333 - 332 BC

In 334 BC Alexander of Macedon launches his campaign into the Persian empire by crossing the Dardanelles. Much of Anatolia falls by 333 BC and Alexander proceeds into Syria during 333-332 BC to receive the submission of Ebir-nāri, which also gains him Harran, Judah, and Phoenicia (principally Byblos and Sidon, with Tyre holding out until it can be taken by force). Athura, Gaza, and Egypt also capitulate (not without a struggle in Gaza's case).

323 - 301 BC

Upon the death of Alexander, Harran becomes part of the Antigonid empire.

301 - c.80 BC

The Seleucid empire controls the region, and the city becomes the capital of the province of Osrhoene.

c.80 - 66 BC

Armenia takes Harran.

66 BC - AD 116

The Parthians take control of the region, but Harran, now part of Osrhoene, gains independence and acts as a buffer zone between Parthians and Seleucids.

53 BC

A Roman army under Triumvir Crassus is destroyed by a Parthian army in what Rome terms the Battle of Carrhae (in other words, Harran). Subsequent legend says that a small band of Roman prisoners wander through the desert and are eventually rounded up by the Han military seventeen years later (36 BC).

AD 116 - 232

The Romans conquer the region from the Parthians.

232 - 242

The Sassanids briefly conquer the region.

242 - 296

Rome re-takes the region.

296 - 651

The Sassanids defeat Emperor Galerius, and this time they hold onto the region until it is conquered by the Islamic empire.

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