The heritage of Roman Edessa survives today in these columns at the site of Urfa Castle, dominating the skyline of the modern city of Urfa.

Edessa (ə/; Ancient Greek: Ἔδεσσα, romanizedÉdessa; Classical Syriac: ܐܘܪܗܝ‎, romanized: Ōrhāy; Arabic: الرها‎, romanizedar-Ruhā; Turkish: Şanlıurfa; Kurdish: Riha) was a city in Upper Mesopotamia, founded on an earlier site by Seleucus I Nicator ca. 302 BC. It was also known as Antiochia on the Callirhoe from the 2nd century BC. It was the capital of the semi-independent kingdom of Osroene from c. 132 BC and fell under direct Roman rule in ca. 242. It became an important early centre of Syriac Christianity.

in 260, Edessa was the site of a famous battle between the Sasanian Empire and the Roman Empire in which Roman Emperor Valerian was captured and his army was routed. It fell to the Muslim conquest in 638, was briefly retaken by Byzantium in 1031 and became the center of the Crusader state of the County of Edessa from 1098–1144. It fell to the Turkic Zengid dynasty in 1144 and was eventually absorbed by the Ottoman Empire in 1517. The modern name of the city is Urfa and it is located in Şanlıurfa Province in the Southeast Anatolia Region of Turkey.


The earliest name of the city was Admaʾ (Aramaic: אדמא‎, also written Adme, Admi, Admum) recorded in Assyrian cuneiform in the seventh century BC.[1]

The Syrian town was refounded as a Hellenistic military settlement by Seleucus I Nicator in c. 303 BC, named Edessa after the ancient capital of Macedonia, perhaps due to its abundant water, just like its Macedonian eponym.[2][3][4] It was renamed Callirrhoe or Antiochia on the Callirhoe (Ancient Greek: Ἀντιόχεια ἡ ἐπὶ Καλλιρρόης; Latin: Antiochia ad Callirhoem) in the 2nd century BC (found on Edessan coins struck by Antiochus IV Epiphanes, r. 175–164 BC).[5][2][3]

After Antiochus IV's reign, the name of the city reverted to Edessa and Urhai.[2] The city's name appears as Armenian: Ուռհա, transliterated Urha or Ourha, in Syriac as Ōrhāy (ܐܘܪܗܝ), and in Arabic as الرُّهَا ar-Ruhā, and Riha the Kurdish languages, Latinized as Rohais, and finally adopted in Turkish as Urfa or Şanlıurfa ("Glorious Urfa"), its present name. This originally Aramaic and Syriac name for the city may have been derived from the Persian name Khosrow.[2]

It was named Justinopolis in the early 6th century. According to Jewish and Muslim traditions, it is Ur of the Chaldees, the birthplace of Abraham.