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Harran is located in southeastern Turkey, near the modern village of Altinbasak. The site was a major ancient city of Upper Mesopotamia which was first inhabited in the Early Bronze Age (3rd millenium BCE). Written records of the city appear on the Ebla tablets, which discuss the marriage of the mayor of Harran. Royal letters recovered from the city of Mari also confirm occupation of Harran in the 19th century BCE, when the city was established as a merchant outpost. Harran’s location between the Mediterranean and the plains of the Tigris made it an ideal stopping point on the road from Antioch to Ninevah, from where the river could be followed directly to Babylon.

Harran, at its height, was a major Assyrian city which exercised control over the road from Damascus. However, this power made it a target for raids. The city changed hands multiple times as part of the Hittite Empire and the Neo-Assyrian empire. It was sacked by Nabopolassar of Babylon in 612 BCE. After the fall of the Assyrians, the city became part of the Median empire and was passed to the Persians until Alexander the Great’s arrival in 331 BCE.

During the Roman period, the city was known as Carrhae, and is the location of the Battle of Carhae in 53 BCE. The city remained under Roman control until 610 BCE when it was captured by the Persians.
Harran became a center for translation of important scientific and philosophical works during the Islamic period, and was responsible for bringing knowledge of the classical world to the Arabic-speaking world.
T.E. Lawrence surveyed the site in the early 1900s. Archaeologically, the remains of Harran’s grand mosque, or the Paradise Mosque, is the city’s most significant feature. Built between 744-750 by the last Ummayad calpiph, it is still standing today and reaches 33m in height.

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