Assyria (Roman province)

Assyria (/əˈsɪəriə/) was reputedly a Roman province that lasted only two years (116–118 AD).

Provincia Assyria
Province of the Roman Empire

Location of Assyria
The Roman province of Assyria, 117 AD.
Historical era Antiquity
 •  Established by Trajan 116
 •  Evacuated by Hadrian 118
Today part of  Iraq


According to Eutropius and Festus, who in the second half of the 4th century historians, at a time when the Roman emperor Trajan was perceived as "a valuable paradigm for contemporary events and figures", wrote under the direction of the Emperor Valens, Assyria was one of three provinces (with Armenia and Mesopotamia) created by Trajan in AD 116 following a successful military campaign against Parthia that in that year saw him cross the River Tigris from Mesopotamia and take possession, in spite of resistance, of the territory of Adiabene and then march south to the Parthian capital of Seleucia-Ctesiphon and to Babylon.[1] There is numismatic evidence for the Trajanic provinces of Armenia and Mesopotamia, but none for that of Assyria, whose existence is questioned by C.S. Lightfoot and F. Miller.[2][3][4]

Despite Rome's military victory, Trajan's 116 conquest was plagued with difficulties. From the start, a Parthian prince named Santruces organized an armed revolt by the native peoples, during which Roman garrisons were driven from their posts and a Roman general was killed as his troops tried to stop the rebellion.[5] Trajan overcame the revolt, capturing and burning Seleucia and Edessa, and even setting up a puppet Parthian king; but then, on his journey homeward in triumph, he fell sick and died on 8 August 117.[1]

Trajan's successor, Hadrian, implemented a new policy with respect to the recently acquired territories in the east. Believing that they overextended the empire, he withdrew to the more easily defensible borders.[6][7] He left unfinished the work of overcoming the Parthians, which he saw would require an excessive increase in military spending. He sent the puppet Parthian king elsewhere and restored to the former ruler the lands east of the Euphrates, together with his daughter who had been captured, preferring to live with him in peace and friendship.[8]


Rome assyria picture 1 edited
Assyria indicated as outside Mesopotamia, east of the Tigris

The fourth-century historians Eutropius and Festus assume that the supposed Roman province of Assyria was situated east of the Tigris and so outside of Mesopotamia.[3]

Theodore Mommsen wrote that it was located north of the Roman Mesopotamia province, in Upper Mesopotamia, stretching into western Persia (in an area called Media Atropatene) in what is now northwestern Iran.

But some modern scholars argue that the Assyria Provincia was located between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers, in present-day central Iraq, a location that is corroborated by the text of the 4th-century Roman historian Festus.[9] However, other sources contend that the province was located near Armenia and east of the Tigris, in a region formerly known as Adiabene,[10] which was a neo-Assyrian kingdom.

Further Roman activity in Mesopotamia

Hadrian's withdrawal in 118 did not mark the end of Roman rule in Mesopotamia. A second Parthian campaign was launched from 161-165 under the command of Lucius Verus, with the Roman army once more conquering territory east of the Euphrates.[11] Rome pursued military action against the Parthians again in 197-8 under the command of emperor Septimius Severus.[12]

Following his successful campaign, Septimius Severus instituted two new Roman provinces: Mesopotamia and Osroene, a Neo-Assyrian kingdom or, according to Matthew Bunson, a kingdom that began only in the 2nd century BC,[13] centered on Edessa. He also stationed two Roman legions in the new provinces to ensure stability and prevent against first Parthian, and later Sassanian attacks.[14] Roman influence in the area came to an end under Jovian in 363, who abandoned the region after concluding a hasty peace agreement with the Sassanians and retreating to Constantinople to consolidate his political power.[15]

Despite continued Roman activity in the region, no further reference is made to a Roman province of Assyria following Hadrian's evacuation in 118 AD. When Septimus Severus created the provinces of Osroene and Mesopotamia at the end of the 2nd century, no mention is made of a Roman province of Assyria.

The Roman historian Ammianus Marcellinus (c. 330 − c. 391) says that the district of Adiabene was formerly called Assyria, with no indication that either ever was a Roman province.[16] He says that Assyria was the nearest to Rome of the chief Persian provinces and that in his time it was known by a single name, though previously divided among several peoples and tribes.[17] He lists among the cities of Assyria Babylon, Seleucia and Ctesiphon.[18] He speaks of the Emperor Julian as, in his campaign against the Sasanian Empire, attacking Assyrians shortly before crossing the Euphrates into Osroene,[19] as living near the Euphrates to the south of Carrhae,[20]

Thus, it seems that the province of Assyria only existed during Trajan's reign, if even then, and was not reinstated during later Roman occupations of the region. The general area coincided with ancient Assyria; however, and the Medes, Achaemenid Persians, Seleucid Greeks, Sassanids and Parthians all had similar names for the area (Ashur, Athura, Assuristan).

The Assyrian people of the region had already begun to adopt Christianity by Trajan's time, and still retained an Akkadian-infused Eastern Aramaic as a spoken and literary tongue, as they do to this day.

See also


  1. ^ a b Theodore Mommsen, Römische Geschichte (Berlin 1885), vol. V (Die Provinzen von Caesar bis Diocletian), pp. 400−401
  2. ^ C. S. Lightfoot, "Trajan's Parthian War and the Fourth-Century Perspective" in The Journal of Roman Studies, Vol. 80 (1990), pp. 115-126
  3. ^ a b Erich Kettenhofen, "Trajan" in Encyclopædia Iranica (2004)
  4. ^ Simon Grote, "Another look at the Breviarium of Festus" in The Classical Quarterly, Volume 61, Issue 2 (December 2011), pp. 704-721
  5. ^ David Magie, Roman Rule in Asia Minor to the End of the Third Century After Christ, Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1950: p. 609.
  6. ^ Charles Freeman, The World of the Romans, New York: Oxford University Press, 1993: p. 62.
  7. ^ The Cambridge Ancient History, Volume XI, London: Cambridge University Press, 1970: p. 640.
  8. ^ Theodore Mommsen, Römische Geschichte (Berlin 1885), vol. V (Die Provinzen von Caesar bis Diocletian), p. 403
  9. ^ C.S. Lightfoot, "Trajan's Parthian War and the Fourth-Century Perspective," The Journal of Roman Studies, Volume 80, (1990), p. 121-122.
  10. ^ Lightfoot p. 121; Magie p. 608.
  11. ^ The Cambridge Ancient History p. 640.
  12. ^ Magie p. 674-5; Fergus Millar, The Roman Empire and its Neighbors, London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1967: p. 211.
  13. ^ Matthew Bunson, A Dictionary of the Roman Empire (Oxford University Press 1995), p. 303
  14. ^ Magie p. 674-5; Fergus Millar, The Roman Empire and its Neighbors, London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1967: p. 211.
  15. ^ Ammianus Marcellinus The Later Roman Empire (354-378) A shameful peace concluded by Jovian 6.7 pg.303, Penguin Classics, Translated by Walter Hamilton 1986
  16. ^ Ammianus Marcellinus, Rerum gestarum libri 23.6.20
  17. ^ Ammianus 23.6.14−15
  18. ^ Ammianus, 23.6.23
  19. ^ Ammianus 23.2.6
  20. ^ Ammianus 23.3.1

Adiabene (from the Ancient Greek Ἀδιαβηνή, Adiabene, itself derived from Classical Syriac: ܚܕܝܐܒ‎, Ḥaḏy’aḇ or Ḥḏay’aḇ, Middle Persian: Nodshēragān, Armenian: Նոր Շիրական, Nor Shirakan) was an ancient kingdom in Assyria, with its capital at Arbela (modern-day Erbil, Iraqi Kurdistan).

Adiabenian rulers converted to Judaism from paganism in the 1st century. Queen Helena of Adiabene (known in Jewish sources as Heleni HaMalka) moved to Jerusalem, where she built palaces for herself and her sons, Izates bar Monobaz and Monobaz II at the northern part of the city of David, south of the Temple Mount, and aided Israel in their war with Rome. According to the Talmud, both Helena and Monobaz donated large funds for the Temple of Jerusalem. After 115 CE, there are no historic traces of Jewish royalty in Adiabene.

Adiabene (East Syriac ecclesiastical province)

Metropolitanate of Adiabene (Syriac: Hadyab ܚܕܝܐܒ‎) was an East Syriac metropolitan province of the Church of the East between the 5th and 14th centuries, with more than fifteen known suffragan dioceses at different periods in its history. Although the name Hadyab normally connoted the region around Erbil and Mosul in present-day Iraq, the boundaries of the East Syriac metropolitan province went well beyond the Erbil and Mosul districts. Its known suffragan dioceses included Beth Bgash (the Hakkari region of eastern Turkey) and Adarbaigan (the Ganzak district, to the southeast of Lake Urmi), well to the east of Adiabene proper.

Assyria (disambiguation)

Assyria may refer to:

Assyria, an ancient empire in Mesopotamia

Either of two provinces of the Persian Empire:

Achaemenid Assyria, also known as Athura

Asuristan (Sassanid)

Assyria (Roman province), province of the Roman Empire

Asuristan, the Sassanid province

Assyrian homeland, the current geographical location of today's modern Assyrians

A modern term referring to the establishment of a state for the Assyrian people, see Assyrian independence movement

Assyria Township, Michigan

Assyrian Neo-Aramaic, the commonly spoken language by the modern Assyrians

Assyrian continuity

Assyrian continuity is the claim by modern Assyrians and supporting academics that they are at root the direct descendants of the Semitic inhabitants who spoke originally Akkadian and later Imperial Aramaic of ancient Assyria, Babylonia and their immediate surrounds. Modern Assyrians are accepted to be an indigenous ethnic minority of modern Iraq, southeast Turkey, northeastern Syria and border areas of northwest Iran, a region that is roughly what was once ancient Assyria.

They are a Semitic-speaking people who still speak, read and write Akkadian-influenced Eastern Aramaic dialects. They are Christians, with most being members of the Assyrian Church of the East, Chaldean Catholic Church, Syriac Orthodox Church, Assyrian Pentecostal Church, Assyrian Evangelical Church and Ancient Church of the East

There has been a contingent of contemporary Western scholars supporting Assyrian continuity, including Simo Parpola, Richard N. Frye, Mordechai Nisan, Tom Holland, H.W.F Saggs and Robert D. Biggs. Supporters of Assyrian continuity point to the continued existence of Assyria as a name for a geopolitical entity long after its empire fell and that Assyrian religion and Akkadian-Mesopotamian names persisted until the Christian period. There is also a complete absence of evidence that the population of Assyria was wiped out, deported, migrated or 'bred-out' of existence after its fall, the continual documented use of the term "Assyrian" and its derivatives, and that the Indo-European words Syria, Syriac and Syrian derive from Assyria and Assyrian and for many centuries referred to only Assyrian.


Assyriology (from Greek Ἀσσυρίᾱ, Assyriā; and -λογία, -logia) is the archaeological, historical, and linguistic study of not just Assyria, but the entirety of ancient Mesopotamia (a region encompassing what is today modern Iraq, north eastern Syria, south eastern Turkey, and north western and south western Iran) and of related cultures that used cuneiform writing. The field covers Sumer, the early Sumero-Akkadian city-states, the Akkadian Empire, Ebla, the Akkadian and Imperial Aramaic speaking states of Assyria, Babylonia and the Sealand Dynasty, the migrant foreign dynasties of southern Mesopotamia, including; the Gutians, Amorites, Kassites, Arameans, Suteans and Chaldeans, and to some degree post-imperial Achaemenid Assyria, Athura, Seleucid Syria, Assyria (Roman province), and Assuristan, together with later Neo-Assyrian states such as Adiabene, Osroene, Hatra, Beth Nuhadra and Beth Garmai, up until the Arab invasion and Islamic conquest of the mid 7th century AD. Some Assyriologists also write on the further Assyrian continuity of the Assyrian people as well as the Mandaeans into the present day.

The large number of cuneiform clay tablets preserved by these Sumero-Akkadian and Assyro-Babylonian cultures provide an extremely large resource for the study of the period. The region's (and indeed the world's) first cities and city-states such as Ur are archaeologically invaluable for studying the growth of urbanization.

Scholars need a good knowledge of several languages: The two main languages of Mesopotamia; Akkadian (including its major dialects) and Sumerian, together with such neighbouring languages as Biblical Hebrew, Hittite, Elamite, Hurrian, Indo-Anatolian, Imperial Aramaic, Eastern Aramaic dialects, Old Persian and Canaanite for comparative purposes, and the knowledge of writing systems that use several hundred core signs. There now exist many important grammatical studies and lexical aids. Although scholars can draw from a large corpus of literature, some tablets are broken, or in the case of literary texts where there may be many copies, the language and grammar are often arcane. Moreover, scholars must be able to read and understand modern English, French, and German, as important references, dictionaries, and journals are published in those languages.


Kirkuk (Arabic: كركوك‎ Karkūk; Kurdish: کەرکووک‎ Kerkûk; Syriac: ܟܪܟܘ݂ܟ‎

Turkish: Kerkük) is a city in Iraq, serving as the capital of the Kirkuk Governorate, located 238 kilometres (148 miles) north of Baghdad.

Kirkuk lies in a wide zone with an enormously diverse population and has been multilingual for centuries. There were dramatic demographic changes during Kirkuk's urbanization in the twentieth century, which saw the development of distinct ethnic groups. Kurds, Iraqi Turkmen, Arabs, and Assyrians lay conflicting claims to this zone, and all have their historical accounts and memories to buttress their claims. The city sits on the ruins of the original Kirkuk Citadel, site of the ancient mid-3rd millennium BC, Assyrian city of Arrapha, and which sits near the Khasa River. The city is mentioned during the Sumero-Akkadian period of Assyria in cuneiform script from about 2400 BC. The region became a part of the Akkadian empire (2335–2154 BC) which united all of the Akkadian and Sumerian speaking Mesopotamians under one rule. After its collapse, the language isolate-speaking Gutians, a pre-Iranic race from Ancient Iran, overran the region for a few decades, making Arrapha their capital, before being ejected from Mesopotamia by the Sumerians during the Neo-Sumerian Empire (2112–2004 BC). The city later came to be dominated by the Hurrians from eastern Anatolia before being incorporated into the Old Assyrian Empire (2025–1750 BC), after which Arrapha and the whole of northern Mesopotamia, together with parts of north east Syria and south east Turkey, became a part of Assyria proper. During the late 15th century BC Assyria and Arrapha was under the domination of the short-lived Mittani-Hurrian empire, but after the Assyrians overthrew and destroyed the Hurri-Mitanni in the early 14th century BC the city was once more under Assyrian rule. Arrapha remained an important Assyrian city until the fall of the Assyrian empire between 615–599 BC. After this it remained a part of the geo-political province of Assyria (Achaemenid Assyria, Athura, Seleucid Syria, Assyria (Roman province) and Assuristan) under various foreign empires, and between the 2nd century BC and 3rd century AD became the capital of the Neo-Assyrian state of Beth Garmai before this was conquered into the Sassanid empire and became a part of Assuristan. The Arab Islamic conquest of the 7th century AD saw the dissolution of Assyria as a geo-political entity.

Kurds and Turkmens have claimed the city as a cultural capital. It was named the "capital of Iraqi culture" by the Iraqi ministry of culture in 2010. The city currently consists mainly of people who self-identify as Kurds, Arabs, Iraqi Turkmens, Chaldeans, and Assyrians, with changes in population after the US-led invasion in 2003, and later the war against the Islamic State from 2014 to 2017.


Mardin (Kurdish: Mêrdîn‎, Syriac: ܡܶܪܕܺܝܢ‎, Arabic/Ottoman Turkish: ماردين‎ Mārdīn) is a city and multiple (former/titular) bishopric in southeastern Turkey. The capital of Mardin Province, it is known for the Artuqid (Artıklı or Artuklu in Turkish) architecture of its old city, and for its strategic location on a rocky hill near the Tigris River that rises steeply over the flat plains.


Osroene, also spelled Osroëne and Osrhoene (Arabic: مملكة الرها‎; Classical Syriac: ܡܠܟܘܬܐ ܕܒܝܬ ܐܘܪܗܝ‎ "Kingdom of Urhay"; Ancient Greek: Ὀσροηνή) and sometimes known by the name of its capital city, Edessa (now Şanlıurfa, Turkey), was a historical kingdom in Upper Mesopotamia, which was ruled by the Abgarid dynasty of Arab origin. It enjoyed semi-autonomy to complete independence from the years of 132 BC to AD 216, and a Roman province from 216 to 608, from 318 a part of the Diocese of the East.

By the 5th century, Edessa had become a center of Syriac literature and learning. In 608, the Sasanian emperor, Khosrow II, took Osroëne. In 638, it fell to the Muslims as part of the Muslim conquests.

Parthian Empire

The Parthian Empire (; 247 BC – 224 AD), also known as the Arsacid Empire (), was a major Iranian political and cultural power in ancient Iran. Its latter name comes from Arsaces I of Parthia who, as leader of the Parni tribe, founded it in the mid-3rd century BC when he conquered the region of Parthia in Iran's northeast, then a satrapy (province) under Andragoras, in rebellion against the Seleucid Empire. Mithridates I of Parthia (r. c. 171–138 BC) greatly expanded the empire by seizing Media and Mesopotamia from the Seleucids. At its height, the Parthian Empire stretched from the northern reaches of the Euphrates, in what is now central-eastern Turkey, to eastern Iran. The empire, located on the Silk Road trade route between the Roman Empire in the Mediterranean Basin and the Han dynasty of China, became a center of trade and commerce.

The Parthians largely adopted the art, architecture, religious beliefs, and royal insignia of their culturally heterogeneous empire, which encompassed Persian, Hellenistic, and regional cultures. For about the first half of its existence, the Arsacid court adopted elements of Greek culture, though it eventually saw a gradual revival of Iranian traditions. The Arsacid rulers were titled the "King of Kings", as a claim to be the heirs to the Achaemenid Empire; indeed, they accepted many local kings as vassals where the Achaemenids would have had centrally appointed, albeit largely autonomous, satraps. The court did appoint a small number of satraps, largely outside Iran, but these satrapies were smaller and less powerful than the Achaemenid potentates. With the expansion of Arsacid power, the seat of central government shifted from Nisa to Ctesiphon along the Tigris (south of modern Baghdad, Iraq), although several other sites also served as capitals.

The earliest enemies of the Parthians were the Seleucids in the west and the Scythians in the east. However, as Parthia expanded westward, they came into conflict with the Kingdom of Armenia, and eventually the late Roman Republic. Rome and Parthia competed with each other to establish the kings of Armenia as their subordinate clients. The Parthians soundly defeated Marcus Licinius Crassus at the Battle of Carrhae in 53 BC, and in 40–39 BC, Parthian forces captured the whole of the Levant except Tyre from the Romans. However, Mark Antony led a counterattack against Parthia, although his successes were generally achieved in his absence, under the leadership of his lieutenant Ventidius. Various Roman emperors or their appointed generals invaded Mesopotamia in the course of the ensuing Roman-Parthian Wars of the next few centuries. The Romans captured the cities of Seleucia and Ctesiphon on multiple occasions during these conflicts, but were never able to hold on to them. Frequent civil wars between Parthian contenders to the throne proved more dangerous to the Empire's stability than foreign invasion, and Parthian power evaporated when Ardashir I, ruler of Istakhr in Persis, revolted against the Arsacids and killed their last ruler, Artabanus V, in 224 AD. Ardashir established the Sassanid Empire, which ruled Iran and much of the Near East until the Muslim conquests of the 7th century AD, although the Arsacid dynasty lived on through the Arsacid Dynasty of Armenia, the Arsacid dynasty of Iberia, and the Arsacid Dynasty of Caucasian Albania; all eponymous branches of the Parthian Arsacids.

Native Parthian sources, written in Parthian, Greek and other languages, are scarce when compared to Sassanid and even earlier Achaemenid sources. Aside from scattered cuneiform tablets, fragmentary ostraca, rock inscriptions, drachma coins, and the chance survival of some parchment documents, much of Parthian history is only known through external sources. These include mainly Greek and Roman histories, but also Chinese histories, prompted by the Han Chinese desire to form alliances against the Xiongnu. Parthian artwork is viewed by historians as a valid source for understanding aspects of society and culture that are otherwise absent in textual sources.

Roman Syria

Syria was an early Roman province, annexed to the Roman Republic in 64 BC by Pompey in the Third Mithridatic War, following the defeat of Armenian King Tigranes the Great. Following the partition of the Herodian Kingdom into tetrarchies in 6 AD, it was gradually absorbed into Roman provinces, with Roman Syria annexing Iturea and Trachonitis.

Territories with limited Roman Empire occupation and contact
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