Syrian Jazira: Birthplace of Civilizations

(ST) -References and history books say that this part of the world between the Euphrates and Tigris is called al Jazira, (in Arabic the Island) because it is situated between two great rivers. This Jazira is divided between Syria and Iraq, and the part between the Euphrates and al Khabour, one of the tributaries of the Euphrates, is called Syrian Jazira, a place described by one of the renowned historians as the land between "Mudhar" and "Diyar Bakr", of fresh air, fertile soil, prosperous with great cities and strong forts and citadels".

The history of Syrian Jazira is closely linked to the history of Mesopotamia which was divided into Sumer and Akkad in the south east, Elam in north east, and Amoro, the Amorites, in south west, and Subarto in north west. Al Kabour river was in the kingdom of Subarto which extended from the city of Elam in Mesopotamia to the Taurus Mountain range.

The clay boards discovered in the royal archives of Assure Banipal mentioned the kingdom of Subarto, birth place of successive civilizations since it fell to the Hittites who gradually annexed it to their land, then to the Mitannis who established a state in the Syrian Jazira and built a capital called "Washukanni" at the sources of River Khabour. The Assyrians, later, destroyed Washukanni but couldn't settle it because of the strong and continuous resistance of the Hittites and other peoples. This long conflict paved the way to the Aramites to establish a new strong kingdom in the Syrian Jazira, over the ruins of the Mitanni kingdom. One of the Aramite lords built the city of Guzanna, of Tell Khalaf, to be the state's capital. Again the Assyrians returned to the region, in a new campaign, and their king, Teglat Falasser I, could occupy Guzanna, but for a short time, because the Mitannis resumed their power, and established a new Aramaic kingdom under "Abi Salmo" chief of Guzanna, who gave the name of his capital to the new state.


The Assyrians returned again, occupied the whole region and ruled it until the Median Persians took their place in 606 BC, and established a new state in it. In 332 BC the Greeks, led by Alexander the Great, conquered the region and ruled it until it fell, in 64BC, to the Romans who built two main cities: Nissibin and Ras alAin which prospered during the tenure of Emperor Theodorolius.

When the Arabs conquered the region in 630 AD, and the Abbasids established a great empire whose capital was Baghdad, they transformed the Syrian Jazira into an important trade route between the east and the west, and built al Raqqa as a summer resort to the Abbasid caliphs. Later came the Ottomans and established two new cities: Deir Ezzor and al Hasakeh .

Again, history books say that the first regular human settlement in what is now the governorate al Hasakeh, dates back to the 8th.millennium BC. Geography of the region played an important role in attracting peoples like the Subarts, the Akkadians, the Amorites, the Huries, the Hittites, the Mittanis, the Assyrians, the Aramites, the Greeks, the Romans, the Persians and the Arabs to this region, each of them left behind rich and various treasures which prove that civilizations were born in this place even before the 6th millennium BC. Most of the 80 ancient sites in alJazira are located in hills (tells) scattered along River Khabour, and only few of them are explored until now. Artifacts unearthed from the already excavated sites were kept in several European museums such as Tell Khalaf Museum in Berlin, the Louvre of Paris, the British museum in London, and the Metropolitan in addition to thousands of articles displayed in the museums of Deir Ezzor, Damascus and Aleppo in Syria. Hence we have the right to say that civilizations were born in Syrian Jazira.

Haifaa Mafalani