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Harran, City of Sin, Crusaders And Caliphs

Harran, City of Sin, Crusaders And Caliphs


Dusty winds blow around the desolate ruins on the arid plain of Harran, and the mirage of the heat conjures up images of what was once the site of a medieval hub of science. Har means ‘fire’ in Arabic, perhaps referring to the parched land, but it was not always so. Around 6200 BC on the banks of the Balikh River in north-western Mesopotamia (now south-east Turkey) a major tributary of the Euphrates River, an agricultural settlement developed, which later evolved into Harran. Early Arabic texts, known as Kitab al-Magall or the Book of Rolls, as well as the Syriac Cave of Treasures both state that Nimrod, descendant of Noah’s son Ham, had built the towns of Harran and Raha (Edessa/Urfa), a few miles to the north.

Ehulhul The House of Sin

Harran lies about 600 miles (1,000 kilometers) north-west of Ur, which was the capital of the first dynasty Sumer and seat of the moon god Sin or Nanna. The temple at Ur was called E-gish-shir-gal, meaning the ‘House of the Great Light’. Sin was represented by the crescent moon, also symbolic of bull horns. Sin was thus considered the patron god of shepherds and cowherds, the source of livelihood of the people of the lower Euphrates. During the wars of the Isin-Larsa period, (circa 2000 BC) a faction of the priesthood of Sin fled Ur, and following the Euphrates up north, they finally settled in Harran, which had by then developed into a walled city. The priesthood established the temple called Ehulhul, meaning the ‘House of Rejoicing’ for the moon god Sin. Sin of Harran was a guarantor of the word of kings between 1900-900 BC, as his name was witness to the forging of international treaties, much as one would swear “ as God is my witness” an oath of truth today. Sin was worshipped well into the third century AD.

Abraham departs out of Harran by Francesco Bassano (1560) (Public Domain)

Abraham departs out of Harran by Francesco Bassano (1560) (Public Domain)

Terah, the father of Haran, Nahor and Abraham and their sister Sarah, migrated from Ur of the Chaldees to settle at Harran. Perhaps Terah was one of the priesthood who had fled Ur.  Terah died at Harran (according to Genesis 11:24 at the age of 205) and Harran was also known as the City of Nahor ( Genesis 24:10), but this could refer to Terah’s father, who was also called Nahor, descendant of Shem, son of Noah


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Dr Micki Pistorius has an Honours Degree in Biblical Archaeology

Top Image: Ruins of Paradise mosque and madras university Harran. ( bekir/Adobe Stock)

By: Micki Pistorius

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Dr Micki

Micki Pistorius is a South African psychologist, author and journalist. As a child, Micki’s natural curiosity was cultivated by both her parents and developed into an insatiable interest in history, art and literature. Her passion for history, archaeology and human... Read More

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