Sites & cities that bear the name of Samarra


Today in : Iraq
First trace of activity : ca. 5,500 B.C.E
Last trace of activity : today
Recorded names : Sur-marrati?, Surimarrat, Souma, Sumere, Sumra, سَامَرَّاء‎, Surra Man Ra'ā , سر من رأى, Suma, Σουμᾶ, Šumara

Description : Samarra (Arabic: سَامَرَّاء‎, Sāmarrāʾ) is a city in Iraq. It stands on the east bank of the Tigris in the Saladin Governorate, 125 kilometers (78 mi) north of Baghdad. In 2003 the city had an estimated population of 348,700. During the Iraqi Civil War, Samarra was in the "Sunni Triangle" of violence. In the medieval times, Samarra was the capital of the Abbasid Caliphate and is the only remaining Islamic capital that retains its original plan, architecture and artistic relics. In 2007, UNESCO named Samarra one of its World Heritage Sites. The remains of prehistoric Samarra were first excavated between 1911 and 1914 by the German archaeologist Ernst Herzfeld. Samarra became the type site for the Samarra culture. Since 1946, the notebooks, letters, unpublished excavation reports and photographs have been in the Freer Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. The civilization flourished alongside the Ubaid period, as one of the first town states in the Near East. It lasted from 5,500 BCE and eventually collapsed in 3,900 BCE. A city of Sur-marrati (refounded by Sennacherib in 690 BC according to a stele in the Walters Art Museum) is insecurely identified with a fortified Assyrian site of Assyrian at al-Huwaysh on the Tigris opposite modern Samarra. The State Archives of Assyria Online identifies Surimarrat as the modern site of Samarra. Ancient place names for Samarra noted by the Samarra Archaeological Survey are Greek Souma (Ptolemy V.19, Zosimus III, 30), Latin Sumere, a fort mentioned during the retreat of the army of Julian in 363 AD (Ammianus Marcellinus XXV, 6, 4), and Syriac Sumra (Hoffmann, Auszüge, 188; Michael the Syrian, III, 88), described as a village. The possibility of a larger population was offered by the opening of the Qatul al-Kisrawi, the northern extension of the Nahrawan Canal which drew water from the Tigris in the region of Samarra, attributed by Yaqut al-Hamawi (Muʿjam, see under "Qatul") to Khosrau I (531–578). To celebrate the completion of this project, a commemorative tower (modern Burj al-Qa'im) was built at the southern inlet south of Samarra, and a palace with a "paradise" or walled hunting park was constructed at the northern inlet (modern Nahr ar-Rasasi) near ad-Dawr. A supplementary canal, the Qatul Abi al-Jund, excavated by the Abbasid Caliph Harun al-Rashid, was commemorated by a planned city laid out in the form of a regular octagon (modern Husn al-Qadisiyya), called al-Mubarak and abandoned unfinished in 796. In 836 CE, the Abbasid Caliph Al-Mu'tasim founded a new capital at the banks of the Tigris. Here he built extensive palace complexes surrounded by garrison settlements for his guards, mostly drawn from Central Asia and Iran (most famously the Turks, as well as the Khurasani Ishtakhaniyya, Faraghina and Ushrusaniyya regiments) or North Africa (like the Maghariba). Although quite often called Mamluk slave soldiers, their status was quite elevated; some of their commanders bore Sogdian titles of nobility. The city was further developed under Caliph al-Mutawakkil, who sponsored the construction of lavish palace complexes, such as al-Mutawakkiliyya, and the Great Mosque of Samarra with its famous spiral minaret or Malwiya, built in 847. For his son al-Mu'tazz he built the large palace Bulkuwara. Samarra remained the residence of the caliph until 892, when al-Mu'tadid eventually returned to Baghdad. The city declined but maintained a mint until the early 10th century. The Nestorian patriarch Sargis (860–72) moved the patriarchal seat of the Church of the East from Baghdad to Samarra, and one or two of his immediate successors may also have sat in Samarra so as to be close to the seat of power. During the long decline of the Abbasid empire, Samarra was largely abandoned starting in AD 940. Its population returned to Baghdad and the city rapidly declined. Its field of ruins is the only world metropolis of late antiquity which is available for serious archaeology.

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