Kingdom of Osroene
ܡܠܟܘܬܐ ܕܒܝܬ ܥܣܪܐ ܥܝܢܐ

132 BC–244
Map includes Osroene as a tributary kingdom of the Armenian Empire under Tigranes the Great
Capital Not specified
Language(s) Syriac, Greek
Government Monarchy
Historical era Hellenistic Age
 - Established 132 BC
 - Disestablished 244
Roman province of Osroene, 120, highlighted within the Roman Empire
Funerary mosaic of an Edessa family, 3rd century.
This article is part of the series on the

History of the
Assyrian people

medieval icon depicting Ephrem the Syrian.

Early history

Old Assyrian period (20th - 15th c. BC)
Aramaeans (14th - 9th c. BC)
Neo-Assyrian Empire (911 - 612 BC)
Achaemenid Assyria (539 - 330 BC)

Classical Antiquity

Seleucid Empire (312 - 63 BC)
Osroene (132 BC - 244 AD)
Syrian Wars (66 BC - 217 AD)
Roman Syria (64 BC - 637 AD)
Adiabene (15 - 116 AD)
Roman Assyria (116 - 118)
Christianization (1st to 3rd c.)
Nestorian Schism (5th c.)
Asuristan (226 - 651)
Byzantine–Sassanid Wars (502 - 628)

Middle Ages

Muslim conquest of Syria (630s)
Abassid rule (750-1256)
Emirs of Mosul (905-1383)
Principality of Antioch (1098-1268)
Turco-Mongol rule (1256-1370)

Modern History

Ottoman Empire (1534-1917)
Schism of 1552 (16th c.)
Rise of nationalism (19th c.)
Assyrian Genocide (1914-1920)
Independence movement (since 1919)
Simele massacre (1933)
Post-Saddam Iraq (since 2003)

See also

History of Syria
History of Iraq
Assyrian diaspora

Osroene, also spelled Osrohene and Osrhoene (Ancient Greek: Ὁσροηνή; Syriac: ܡܠܟܘܬܐ ܕܒܝܬ ܥܸܣܪܐ ܥܝܢܐ Malkuṯā d-Bayt ʿŌsrā ʿĪnē) and sometimes known by the name of its capital city, Edessa (modern Şanlıurfa, Turkey), was a historic Syriac kingdom located in Mesopotamia,[1] which enjoyed semi-autonomy to complete independence from the years of 132 BC to AD 244.[2][3] It was a Syriac-speaking kingdom.[4]

Osroene, or Edessa, acquired independence from the collapsing Seleucid Empire through a dynasty of the nomadic Nabatean tribe called Orrhoei from 136 BC. The name Osroene is derived from Osroes of Orhai, an Nabatean sheik who in 120 BC wrested control of this region from the Seleucids in Syria.[5] Most of the kings of Osroene are called Abgar or Manu and they were Syriac kings who settled in urban centers.[6] Under its Nabatean dynasties, Osroëne became increasingly influenced by Aramaic culture and was a centre of national reaction against Hellenism. By the 5th century Edessa had become the headquarters of Syriac literature and learning. In 608 Osroëne was taken by the Sāsānid Khosrow II, and in 638 it fell to the Muslims.

The kingdom's area, the upper course of the Euphrates, became a traditional battleground for the powers that ruled Asia Minor, Persia, Syria, and Armenia. On the dissolution of Seleucid Empire, it was divided between Rome and Parthia. At this time Osrhoene was within Parthian suzerainty. However, the Romans later made several attempts to recover the region.



Osroene was one of several kingdoms arising from the dissolution of the Seleucid Empire. The kingdom occupied an area on what is now the border between Syria and Turkey.This kingdom was established by The Nabataeans or arab tribes from North Arabia, and lasted nearly four centuries (c.132 BC to 214), under twenty-eight rulers, who sometimes called themselves "king" on their coinage

It was in this region that the "legend of Abgar" originated, for which see Abgarus of Edessa.

Osroene was absorbed into the Roman Empire in 114 as a semi-autonomous vassal state, after a period under Arsacid (Parthian) rule, incorporated as a simple Roman province in 214. Osroene was arguably the first state to have a Christian king when Abgar IX is thought to have accepted Christianity under the guidance of Bardaisan.[7] The independence of the state ended in 244 when it was incorporated in the Roman Empire.[8]

Map showing the Eastern Roman provinces, including Osroene, in the 5th century.

Since Emperor Diocletian's Tetrarchy reform circa 300, it was part of the diocese of Oriens, in the praetorian prefecture of the same name. According to the late 4th-century Notitia Dignitatum, it was headed by a governor of the rank of praeses, and was also the seat of the dux Mesopotamiae, who ranked as vir spectabilis and commanded (circa 400) the following troops:

  • Equites Dalmatae Illyriciani, garrisoned at Ganaba.
  • Equites promoti Illyriciani, Callinico.
  • Equites Mauri Illyriciani, Dabana.
  • Equites promoti indigenae, Banasam
  • Equites promoti indigenae, Sina Iudaeorum.
  • Equites sagittarii indigenae, Oraba.
  • Equites sagittarii indigenae, Thillazamana.
  • Equites sagittarii indigenae Medianenses, Mediana.
  • Equites primi Osrhoeni, Rasin.
  • Praefectus legionis quartae Parthicae, Circesio.
  • (an illegible command, possibly Legio III Parthica), Apatna.

as well as, 'on the minor roll', apparently auxiliaries:

  • Ala septima Valeria praelectorum, Thillacama.
  • Ala prima Victoriae, Tovia -contra Bintha.
  • Ala secunda Paflagonum, Thillafica.
  • Ala prima Parthorum, Resaia.
  • Ala prima nova Diocletiana, inter Thannurin et Horobam.
  • Cohors prima Gaetulorum, Thillaamana.
  • Cohors prima Eufratensis, Maratha.
  • Ala prima salutaria, Duodecimo constituta.

According to Sozomen's Ecclesiastical History, "there were some very learned men who formerly flourished in Osroene, as for instance Bardasanes, who devised a heresy designated by his name, and his son Harmonius. It is related that this latter was deeply versed in Grecian erudition, and was the first to subdue his native tongue to meters and musical laws; these verses he delivered to the choirs" and that Arianism —a more successful heresy— met with opposition there.

Osroene in Roman Sources

Tigranes, the Armenian king, was pursuing an effective policy of conquest against the Parthians and managed to push them back into the interior of Asia. Media Atropatene, Corduene, Adiabene and the region around Nisbis all fell to Armenia and became its dependencies. Tigranes also handed over the kingdom of Edessa or Osrhoene to a tribe of nomad Arabs, which he had settled in the region.[9] The Arabs in Osrhoene were later brought into submission by Lucius Afranius. He started out his campaign from Corduene and proceeded to upper Mesopotamia and, after a perilous march through the desert, he managed to defeat the Arabs of Osroene with the help of the Hellenes settled in Carrhae.[10]

Abgarus of Osrhoene had signed a peace treaty with the Romans during time of Pompey and was initially an ally of the Roman general Crassus in his campaign against the Parthians in 53 BC. Later on, however, he secretly switched sides and became a spy for the Parthian king Orodes II in the war effort by providing faulty intelligence to Crassus. This was one of the main factors in Crassus' defeat. He influenced Crassus' plans, convincing him to give up the idea of advancing to the Greek city of Seleucia near the Euphrates, whose inhabitants were sympathetic to the Romans. Instead Abgarus persuaded him to attack Surena; however, in the midst of the battle he himself joined the other side.[11] Abgarus has been identified as an Arab shaikh in another source. In this campaign, an Armenian force of 16,000 cavalry and 30,000 infantry accompanied Crassus. Orodes also managed to keep the Armenian force out by making peace with Artavazd.[12]

During Trajan's time, around 116 A.D., the Roman general Lucius Quietus sacked Edessa and put an end to Osrhoene's independence. After the war with Parthians under Marcus Aurelius, forts were built and a Roman garrison was stationed in Nisibis. Osrhoene attempted to throw off the Roman yoke, however in 216, its king Abgar IX was imprisoned and exiled to Rome and the region became a Roman province. In the period from Trajan's conquest to 216, Christianity began to spread in Edessa. Abgar IX (179-186 AD) was the first Christian King of Edessa. It is believed that the Gospel of Thomas emanated from Edessa around 140 AD. Prominent early Christian figures have lived in and emerged from this region such as Tatian the Assyrian who came to Edessa from Hadiab (Adiabene). He made a trip to Rome and returned to Edessa around 172-173. He had controversial opinions, seceded from the Church, denounced marriage as defilement and maintained that the flesh of Christ was imaginary. He composed Diatessaron or "harmony of the Gospels"(Ewangelion da-mhalte) in Syriac, which contained eclectic ideas from Jewish-Christian and dualistic traditions. This became the Gospel par excellence of Syriac-speaking Christianity until in the fifth century Rabbula, bishop of Edessa, suppressed it and substituted a revision of the Old Syriac Canonical Gospels (Ewangelion da-mfarshe).[13]

After this, Edessa was again brought under Roman control by Decius and it was made a center of Roman operations against the Persian Sassanids. Amru, possibly a descendant of Abgar, is mentioned as king in the Paikuli inscription, recording the victory of Narseh in the Sassanid civil war of 293. Historians identify this Amru as Amru ibn Adi, the fourth king of the Lakhmid dynasty which was at that time still based in Harran, not yet moved to Hirah in Babylonia.[14]

Many centuries later, Dagalaiphus and Secundinus duke of Osrhoene, accompanied Julian in his war against the Sassanid king Shapur II in the fourth century.[15]

In his writings Pliny refers to the natives of Osroene and Commagene as Arabs and the region as Arabia.[16] According to Pliny, a nomadic Arab tribe called Orrhoei occupied Edessa about 130 B.C.[17] Orrhoei founded a small state ruled by their chieftains with the title of kings and the district was called after them Orrhoene. This name eventually changed into Osroene, in assimilation to the Parthian name Osroes or Chosroes (Khosrau).[18]

Rulers of Osroene

See also

FlagofAssyria.svg Assyrians portal

Sources and references

  1. ^ The Encyclopedia of Military History: From 3500 B.C. to the Present, Part 25. Richard Ernest Dupuy, Trevor Nevitt Dupuy. Harper & Row, 1970. Page 115.
  2. ^ Alexander Roberts & James Donaldson (eds.), The Writings of the Fathers Down to AD 325: Ante-Nicene Fathers vol. 8 (Peabody, Massachusetts: Hendrickson Publishers, 1994), 657-672. [1]
  3. ^ Adrian Fortescue, The Lesser Eastern Churches, pp. 22. Published by Catholic Truth Society, 1913. Original from the University of Michigan.[2]
  4. ^ "The Ancient Name of Edessa," Amir Harrak, Journal of Near Eastern Studies, Vol. 51, No. 3 (July 1992): 209-214 [3]
  5. ^ C. Anthon, A System of Ancient and Medieval Geography for the Use of Schools and Colleges, Harper Publishers, 1850, Digitized 2007, p.681
  6. ^ http://books.google.com/books?id=2_eAKmK7KkYC&pg=PA22&dq#v=onepage&q&f=false
  7. ^ Ball, W (2001). Rome in the East: the transformation of an empire. Routledge. p. 91. ISBN 9780415243575. http://books.google.com/books?id=QRAOvgcamzIC. 
  8. ^ New International Encyclopedia
  9. ^ Theodor Mommsen, The History of Rome, Book V, p.3
  10. ^ Theodor Mommsen, The History of Rome, Book V, p.9
  11. ^ Cassius Dio, Roman History,Book 40, Chapter 20, p.126, Project Gutenberg [4].
  12. ^ S. Beck, Ethics of Assyrian, Babylonian, and Persian Empires
  13. ^ L.W. Barnard, The Origins and Emergence of the Church in Edessa during the First Two Centuries A.D., Vigiliae Christianae, pp.161-175, 1968 (see pp. 162,165,167,169).
  14. ^ A. T. Olmstead, "The Mid-Third Century of the Christian Era. II", Classical Philology (1942): 398-420 (see p. 399)
  15. ^ E. Gibbon, The Decline And Fall Of The Roman Empire, Vol. I, Chapter XXIV [5].
  16. ^ H. I. MacAdam, N. J. Munday, "Cicero's Reference to Bostra (AD Q. FRAT. 2. 11. 3)", Classical Philology, pp.131-136, 1983.
  17. ^ Pliny vol. 85; vi. 25, 117, 129.
  18. ^ Osroene, 1911 Edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica
  • Notitia dignitatum
  • Westermann, Großer Atlass zur Weltgeschichte (German)
  • Catholic encyclopaedia (passim)

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  • Osroëne — ▪ ancient kingdom, Mesopotamia, Asia also spelled  Osrhoene,         ancient kingdom in northwestern Mesopotamia, located between the Euphrates and Tigris rivers and lying across the modern frontier of Turkey and Syria. Its capital was Edessa… …   Universalium

  • Osroene — Osrhoene als Römische Provinz Osrhoene (Osroene, Osrohene, Malkuṯā d Bēt Ōsrā Īnē) war eines der vielen Königreiche, die nach dem Zerfall des Reiches der Seleukiden entstanden. Es umfasste das Gebiet um Edessa (heute Şanlıurfa, Türkei). Heute… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Osroene — noun Ancient Syriac kingdom and region in northwestern Mesopotamia, which enjoyed semi autonomy to complete independence from the years of 132 to 244 . Language: Syriac. Capital: Edessa. Syn: Edessa …   Wiktionary

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