Edessa (Ancient Greek: Έδεσσα, Armenian: Ուռհա, Urha) is an ancient city, a predecessor city to the modern Turkish city of Şanlıurfa. It has been the capital city of the Osroene kingdom, as well as an important center of Christendom.
Originally, the city had been called Adma (also Admi, Adme, and Admum). The first accounts of the city under the name Adma are the Assyrian cuneiform inscriptions dating back to the 7th century BC. Adma supposedly derived from the name of Hayk Nahapet’s legendary grandson, Kadma. The city became a center of knowledge and wisdom, and Kadma managed the city’s temple of knowledge established by his grandfather after latter had left Babylon.
In 304 BC, Seleucus I Nicator established a new city at the site of Adma and called it Edessa in honor of the ancient Macedonian capital city of the same name.
The local Syrian name of the city has been Orhay (ܐܘܪܗܝ). At the time, being one of the most significant centers of civilization, the city has been dedicated to the goddess Atergatis, which is evidenced by two preserved sacred pools containing fish devoted to the goddess.
Some experts argue that the name of the city derived from Syrian Haditha. It is also known that the Diadochi have named the city Kallirrhoe or Orrhoe, which derived from the names of springs dedicated to Atergatis. Perhaps the name of the city is merely a result of the Hellenization of Syrian Orhay.
Osroene kingdom was established by Aryu in 132 BC. His descendants, mostly named Abgar (“powerful”), have been in constant conflicts with the Romans due to Persian wars. According to a legend, Abgar V Ukkama, an Osroene king of Armenian origin, has corresponded with Jesus Christ.
At some point, Osroene has been a part of Greater Armenia. In 260, the city has been repeatedly assaulted by the troops of Shapur I. During the battle, Shapur captured Roman Emperor Valerian, who became the first Roman Emperor to be captured a prisoner of war. After the fall of the Roman Empire, Edessa passed to the Byzantine Empire.
During the following centuries, the city has been occupying a significant position in Christendom. More than 300 monasteries have been established in Edessa. Here, Syriac Christian deacon Ephrem the Syrian founded a school devoted to his teachings. Edessa has played a crucial role during the settlement of the disorders caused by the activists of Arianism, Monophysitism, and Nestorianism. During the reign of Byzantine Emperor Justinian I, the city has been ruined, but it was shortly renovated and renamed Justinopolis.
Sassanian king Khosrow I Anushiruwān has repeatedly attempted to besiege Edessa. In 1042, the Byzantine Empire reclaimed control over Edessa. In 1077, the city joined the Armenian state of Filaret Varazhnuni. In 1083, Varaznhuni’s viceroy Smbat Vkhkatsi declared himself a sovereign ruler of Edessa. He was killed in half a year, and Varazhnuni recovered his control over Edessa.
Three years later, Edessa was again conquered by Seljuqs, but after the death of Seljuq Emir Tutush I, his Armenian viceroy Toros became its independent prince. In the 11th-12th centuries, Armenian historian Matthew of Edessa (Armenian: Մատթեոս Ուռհայեցի, Matteos Uṛhayetsi) resided and worked in Edessa.