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Afrin in Lines » The Archeological Sites in Afrin » NABI HOORI

The archeological site of Nabi Hoori is located in the farthest northeast corner of Afrin city; it is at a distance of (2) km from the Syrian-Turkish border, (45) km from Afrin city and (10) km from Bulbul Town.

River Saboon passes (1.5) km east of this site and at the end of its eastern dip, a copious spring called 'Ghurmeki' pouring into River Saboon after tens meters of its running.

Nabi Hoori city is located on the eastern foot of the mountain where the Nabi Hoori citadel was built. It is bordered by small heights which are covered with olive trees in the south, while in the north, we can see the beautiful scenery of the Syrian villages along the border with Turkey.

Nabi Hoori is considered an interesting summering place in Aleppo, where hundreds of people from Afrin and Aleppo visit it weekly as well as the tourist groups from all over the world to know more about the city and its citadel and great antiquities. Unfortunately, only some parts of the citadel wall are still survived.

In the west, the city is bordered by another mountain with ruins and antiquities; it was a fort belonged to the citadel and perhaps there was a tunnel between them.

This archeological site has several names; it is known presently as "Nabi Hoori", "Hoori Citadel" or "Nabi Hoori Citadel", while it was called "Sirous" in Greek and sometimes as   "Ajia Polus" or the Saints' City, i.e. the city of St Kouzma and St Dimyanos who built a church around their tombs. Sirous was Christianized by Sam'an (Symeon) who built a church in it and died and was buried there. On the other hand, Arab and Muslim historians named it as "kourash" or "Qourash". All these names are linked to the history of this site, the city building and the events related to it.

There is an account says that the name "Hoori" goes back to Oria Ibn Hannan, one of Prophet Dawood commanders who was killed in a battle in this site and was buried there. The story of Prophet Dawood and the wife of that commander at the beginning of the first millennium BC is well known; it was said that Prophet Dawood loved the wife of his commander Oria, so he (Dawood) sent him to fight in that area in order to take his wife after his death. However, some historians see that this account is unfair because it contradicts the infallibility of prophets (Al-dour Al-Muntakhab, page 225).

Besides, the name "Hoori" goes back to the ancient mountain people who dwelled Zagharous and Touros Mountains; they spread heavily in Mesopotamia (the lands spread on either side of the River Euphrates and the River Tigris), and their name was mentioned in the Near East history between the mid of the third millennium BC to the end of the second millennium BC. The great Mitahoori Empire was founded in the mid of the second millennium BC and almost controled the whole ancient Near East. Those ancient Hoori people are considered the ancestors of all people who dwelled this area, in which some places are still having the name "Hoori" such as the caves and ruins of the Hoori people near Juwaiq village and Hawar Mountain where its name is similar to the name "Hoori".

The name "Sirous" is the Greek name for "Kourash", one of the Persian kings, to whom the existence of this city is believed to go back. 

As for the history of the city foundation, it goes back, according to the historical sources, to the Hoori period which preceded the Hellenistic (the Greek) one. However, the ruins we see now go back to Sirous city which was founded by the Greek leader Seleucus Nicator, the founder of the Seleucids in East, while Sirous is, according to the historical sources, the name of a Greek city.

Sirous city in the Greek age (312-64) BC:
The history of the city is not known exactly but it is related to the reign of Seleucus Nicator (312-280) BC. Since the importance of this site, large military forces had centered there but it is not known whether they were dependent or independent. In that period, the city prospered quickly: pieces of money were coined there and it changed into an important worship center of gods Athene and Zeus, where it is believed that Zeus temple was on a nearby mountain. However, after the separation of Asia Minor from Seleucids following Apamia treaty in 188 BC, Sirous became a border city and lost its importance as well as it changed into a center of armies' assembly. In 83 BC, the city was in chaos after Tikran, the king of Armenia, controled it but the Romans regained it in 69 BC.

Sirous in the Roman age:
Syria became a Roman province after Bombigh, the Roman leader, entered it in 64 BC. At the beginning of the Roman age, Sirous was a stage for battles between the Romans and the Persians who (the Persian) invaded Syria and occupied it 40 BC for a short period. However, when the Romans recontroled Syria, they used Sirous as a military center for the tenth contingent and it remained in this condition during the first two-thirds of the first century AD. Also, after the expansion of the Roman State towards the East, Sirous was not a border city any more but it became a center for one of the third administrative regions in Syria and it was known as "Sirourstica" according to Sirous city while Pirwa (Aleppo) was part of it at that time. Sirous greatly prospered in the Roman-Byzantine reign especially in the Roman Peace era; it became the key to Mesopotamia and the connection between Intakia and the east of Eintab in Turkey as well as pieces of money were coined there. On the other hand, when the Roman road was paved
between Pirwa and Minbej, the administrative center moved from Sirourstica to Minbej and Sirous City became administratively part of it, but it never lost its commercial importance and continued as an important connection point in that area in the second and third centuries AD, from which six main roads were branched to the nearby provinces.

When the Sasanian dynasty ruled the Persian Kingdom in 227 AD, the Persian invaded Syria and occupied Sirous and Intakia in 227 AD for a short period of time but soon the Romans got it back. Sirous was booming despite the circumstances of war and occupation and stayed as an important religious and political center till the end of the Roman age. It was said that Dionysius church in Sirous City was, during the reign of Anastas, a safe shelter for fugitives (Al-Dour Al-Muntakhab, page 62).

Sirous in the Byzantine age:
After the political separation between Roman and Byzantine in 330AD, the new Christian Byzantine State was established. In that period, Sirous was well known through Tadoura's The Religious History, which provided abundant information about Sirous City. Tadoura, who became the bishop of Sirous in 423AD, mentioned in his book that there was a bishopric in Sirous with 800 churches and was administratively part of Euphrates province. It was a big state with 80 km in length and 50 km in width, and it was surrounded by four bishoprics: Intakia, Eintab, Minbej and Aleppo, and administratively it included Kurds Mount, Sheik Khorous, Midanki, Azaz, Kelles, Jebreen, Wakdah, Niara, Sheik Reeh as well as the capital Sirous (Polus Yateem, page 80).

In that age, Sirous citadel and its wall were built by the Emperor Justinian and Sirous became the center of a big contingent. In the first half of the six century AD, Sirous city was invaded by the Persians. However, the military operations ended after the peace treaty between the Persians and Emperor Justinian in 532 AD, but the Persians, after several years, broke the treaty and reinvaded Syria and occupied Aleppo and Intakia. The war-peace situation between Byzantine and Persia lasted about one century till Emperor Hercules dismissed the Persians completely in 630 AD. Sirous was destroyed twice, in 540 AD and 574 AD, because of the previous wars and consequently lost its commercial importance but kept its religious one.

Sirous in the Islamic age:
In 637 AD, Sirous surrendered to the Islamic leader Ayyad Ibn Ghanam who entered the city peacefully after Sirous accepted to pay the required tax. In the Umayyad and Abbasi times, Sirous had a special military importance because of its location on the Byzantine border. When the Umayyad Caliph Al-Walid Ibn Abdel Malek ordered to transfer the stones of Sirous to Aleppo to be used in the building of Zakarria Mosque, the Byzantine Emperor offered to pay a lot of money in order to regain three columns which were, according to Ibn Shuhna, ones of the Seven Wonders of the World, but Caliph Al-Walid refused his offer. In the reign of Caliph Haroon Al- Rasheed, Sirous was one of the seven capitals and included a big military garrison which was controled administratively by Minbej.

In 905AD,The Byzantine recontroled Sirous which stayed in the hands of the Byzantine until the crusaders controled it and named it "Kourisi" and considered it one of Kontessa Adessa (Raha) provinces. Sirous played an important role in connecting Intakia with Raha in the Crusade period, but in 1150AD, when the Byzantine leader Jusleen was captured by a group of Muslims in that area, Noor Addin Zenki controled Sirous and other citadels such as Azaz, Rawandan, ….etc. However, Noor Addin ordered to destroy Sirous in 1157 AD because he was afraid that it would fall in the hands of foreigners. In addition, Sirous was seriously damaged by a great earthquake in 1140 AD. In 1952 AD, the team of Mr. Henri Sring, the head of the French Institute of Antiquities in Beirut, began excavating this site and continued working for seven times, and thus revealed the main features of the city and drew the attention of archeologists towards this site.

The following are the most prominent surviving antiquities in Sirous: The great Roman Theater which was built in the second and third centuries AD, the main road, wonderful bathrooms and fabulous graveyards where the hexagonal tower-like tomb of a Roman leader is located at the southwest side of the city and in the small room under the tower, there is a shrine dated 703 AH ( After Hegira) as well as a mosque dated 1276 AH where Muslims from the nearby villages come to pray on Fridays, Eid ul-Fitr and Eid ul-Adha.

The references:
1- Al-Dour Al-Muntakhab by Abdullah Hajjar.
2- Al-Feisal Magazine / an Article by Subhi Sawwaf.
3- Articles on Syria Relics by Polus Yateem.
4- A manuscript by Dr. Muhammad Abdo Ali.

Translated by
Rashid Oso

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Afrin in Lines » The Archeological Sites in Afrin » NABI HOORI