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006. Arbil (ancient: Erbil or Arbela)

Arbil Governorate. Eighty kilometers (50 miles) east of Mosul, between the Greater and Lesser Zab rivers, Tigris tributaries, in the heartland of Assyria.

Dates: flourished during Neo-Assyrian period, circa 900-600 BC;
          flourished under the Seljuks, 12th century AD

Arbil (Erbil) is believed by many to be one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world and is today one of the larger cities in Iraq. For a short history of Arbil, see below.

Minaret of the Great Mosque at Arbil

Variant names: Minaret of the Madrasa of al Muzaffar, Minaret of the mosque of al-Muzaffar

Date: Seljuk period, 1190 AD
Patron/Client: Muzaffar al-Din Abu Sa'eed al-Kawkaboori

The Archnet Digital Library describes the Arbil minaret in the following manner: "The minaret was built in 1190 by Muzaffar al-Din Abu Sa'eed al-Kawkaboori, the king of Arbil. Excavations conducted by the Iraqi Directorate of Antiquities in 1960, and in 1980, have uncovered the foundations of a large mosque to the southeast of the minaret, disproving the previously held belief that the minaret was part of the madrasa built by the same donor. The minaret is composed of a high octagonal base and a tall cylindrical shaft, with a balcony located between the base and the shaft. It is built of baked bricks. The base is decorated with two tiers of niches with pointed arches, two on each of the eight faces that are inscribed in rectangular frames. The balcony parapet is carved with
twenty-four small niches. The access door to the minaret steps is on the eastern side of the octagonal base and leads top the balcony. From there a small door gives access to steps inside the cylindrical shaft that led to the second balcony now collapsed. The shaft tapers inward and is decorated with several bands of interlocking diagonal Hazar-Baf motifs that are separated with thin bands."

During the 1990s, the upper half of the Minaret fell due to natural causes.

Source: ArchNet

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Short History of Arbil. Urban life at Arbil can be dated back to at least the 23rd century BC. The city's archaeological museum contains only pre-Islamic objects. The name Arbil was mentioned in the Sumerian holy writings (about 2000 BC) as Orbelum or Urbilum. The city was a centre for the worship of the Assyrian goddess Ishtar. In classical times, the city was known by its Aramaic name, Arbela.

After revolts of Medes led by Phraortes king of Media (522-521 BC) were put down by Darius I of Persia, the Sagartians of Arbela rebelled against Darius continuing the Median revolts. Darius sent an army led by a Median general named Takhmaspada, and in the summer of 521 BC defeated Sagartians, led by Tritantaechmes, who claimed to be a descendant of the Great Median King Cyaxares. According to Darius, the rebel of Arbela was the last revolt of Media which he put down. These incidents are carved on the Behistun Inscription around Kermanshah.

The Battle of Gaugamela, in which Alexander the Great defeated Darius III of Persia in 331 BC., took place about one hundred kilometres (sixty miles) west of Arbil. After the battle, Darius managed to flee to Arbela; for this reason, the confrontation is sometimes known, inaccurately, as the Battle of Arbela.

Centuries later, Arbil became part of the region disputed between Rome and Persia under the Sassanians. Under Emperor Trajan it was named the Roman province of Assyria, and after a century of independence was reoccupied by Rome.

During the Middle Ages, Arbil became a major trading center on the route between Baghdad and Mosul, a role which it still plays today with important road and rail links to the outside world. The modern town of Arbil stands on a mound topped by an Ottoman fort.


  36° 11' 59.9964"
  36.19999985290771 N
  44° 0' 59.9994"
  44.01666657791144 E

 GoogleEarth satellite view of  
 Arbil (external resource)

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