Mardin, a poetic city in Southeastern Turkey, gives her visitors the feeling that time has ceased. Excavations in the area show that Mardin saw classic settlement since 4500 B.C. Mardin is an open air museum which skillfully mixes structures from Subari, Hurri, Sumerian, Akkadian, Mitanian, Hittite, Assyrian, Scythian, Babylonian, Persian, Macedonian, Abgarian, Roman, Byzantine, Arab, Seljuk, Artuqid and Ottoman periods. There are many important locations in the city where archeological excavations may take place. After these excavations, the history of the city will be made more clear.
Eventhough it is not exactly known when or by whom Mardin was founded, according to the old Near East history, its past goes back to Subaris. During the 1911-1929 excavations, German Archaeologist Baron Marva Oppenheim found out that Subaris lived in Mesopotamia between 4500-3500 B.C., the clays found in between Sumerian and Babylonian layers being the proof. Also, the excavations of Gırnavaz ruins between 1932-1991 shows that Gırnavaz had continious settlement from 4000 B.C. to 700 B.C.
Late Uruk period dating 4000 B.C. sets the bottom culture level of the Gırnavaz ruins. Above this level, there is the architectural layer of Er Hanedanlar Period and it is mostly studied and evaluated for its burial traditions. Excavated tombs show that during this period, dead were buried in tombs according to Mesopotamian traditions, with their knees held to their stomachs. The pits would be closed after a light fire which provided spiritual purification and ended the deceased’s relationship with the earth. In tombs, many personal belongings such as metal weapons and ornaments, seals, cult and ceramic cup samples were found.
In 2850 B.C., Sumerian King Lugarzergiz captured Mardin during his expedition reaching as far as the Mediterranean. When Sumerians, who excelled in city-dwelling, irrigation and agriculture, started losing their power due to their great expansion, they left Mardin to Akkads in 2820 B.C. , after their 30 year rule. Later in 2500 B.C., Akkads agreed with Sumerians, and formed the Akkad-Sumer union. When Hamurabi, sixth generation Amuri, captured the Sumerian land, he formed Babylonia (M.Ö. 2200-1925), and after his quest in Mesopotamia, added Mardin to his state.
Hittites who captured Mardin in 1925 B.C. left Mardin after their one year rule. Later, Midillis, who belonged to the Ari family from Iran, invaded Mardin and its surroundings. Midillis, who governed Mardin for 500 years, were taxed by the Egyptians for an unknown reason, and married their princess to an Egyptian pharoah. When civil war broke among Midillis in 1367 B.C., the Assyrian King Asuri Balit used this as an opportunity, and invaded Mardin.
In 1190 B.C. Assyrians lost Mardin to an Anatolian tribe of Ari ethnic group. However, 60 years later Tıplalpalasır the 1st of Assyrians attacked Kemecin which was protected by 20,000 Maşiki forces, and regained Mardin after his victory. In 1060 B.C. , during the reign of the Assyrian King Asurnasırbal the 1st, Hittites united and defetad Assyrians near Gılganuş, but Mardin was retrieved by the Assyrians after their recovery from their previous defeat. Mardin remained under Assyrian power until 800 B.C., and was later dominated by Urartian Kingdom for 50 years under the reign of King Mimes.
In 335 B.C. after conquering Egypt, the Great Alexander passed Mesopotamia and Mardin, capturing these lands on his way to Iran. After his death in Babil on May 28, 323 B.C. , his state would be shared among his generals. Since Mardin was on the East side, she went under the power of General Slevkos who was also called Nikanır.
In 131 B.C. Urfa Kingdom (Abgarions) gained its independence (131 BC.), thus, Mardin and its surroundings joined the lands of Abgarions. In 249 A.D. The Roman King Filibos expelled Abgar from the country by preparing a rebellion at Abgar’s fifth anniversary of sultanate. Hapsioğlu Uralyonos was appointed the governorship of the city and Mardin joined the Roman sovereignty, because it was pertained to Urfa.
In 250 A.D. Dakiyos conquered the Persian Nation. Meanwhile, he restored Nusaybin which was previously damaged. In 330 A.D. the King, who worshipped fire and sun, called Şad Buhari arrived in Mardin Castle and stayed there. The ill King had a summer-place built and lived in Mardin for twelve years. Since he got better during his stays in the castle, he brought lots of soldiers and civilians from his country, Persia, to locate them in Mardin. Many improvements were seen after their arrival until 442 A.D. In 442 A.D. a cruel plague epidemic makes the city an untolerable place to live.
Hundred years later, a Roman General named Ursiyanos succeeds rebuilding the city in forty-seven years and makes it possible for people to come to the city again. During this progress, Dara, a famous Persian center, was rebuilt. The Byzanthians were able to rule the city up until Hz. Omar’s conquest in 640 A.D.
Mardin and its vicinity went under Umayyad power in 692, and Abbasid power in 824 A.D. During this period, Islam greatly spread. Hamolanions who controlled the area in between 885-978 A.D. conquered the castle in 895. They made city walls and restored some parts of the natural castle, making it possible for castle to live longer.
In 990 A.D. conquesting all lands of Hamanions, who could now live only in Musul, Mervanions conquered Mardin. Meanwhile building bazaars and mosques in Mardin and its surroundings, they activated the city from the standpoint of trade. The Mervanian Nation, which lost power after the attacks of the Turkish people in Anatolia after Alparslan’s Malazgirt victory, was beated by Seljuk’s in Nusaybin and then submitted to Seljuk’s in 1089 A.D.
Conquering Mardin in 1105 A.D., İl Gazi Bey from Artikions makes the city, capital of the nation. Ilgazi bey gained great fame not only because he conquered Halep, but also for he struggled against the Crusaders. Beating Antakya crusaders’ Prince Roger, he took control of Silvan. After Ilgazi’s passing away, his sons and nieces took control of the state and they won a great victory against crusaders by taking Diyarbakır, Harput Castle and surroundings and by beating crusaders , frankians, king of Urfa, Bilecik crusaders’ chief and Bodvan, the king of Jerusalem. By means of these events Artukians established a powerful nation without much resistance. During this nation’s 304 year sovereignty, many progress was made: Mosques, madrasas, public baths, caravanserais were built, and many others were restored.
In 1393 Artukian period Timur tried to conquer Mardin Castle, but could not succeed it. In 1395 Timur made new siege preparations in order to take control of Mardin by setting his tent in Kızıltepe. Folks of Mardin beated the most powerful ruler of the time by taking shelter in the castle and by resisting Timur’s harsh attacks. Because of this bravery of Mardin folks, Artuklus attempted to restore Mardin. However, the two-year siege of Karakoyunlus, who were getting powerful in the 15th century, greatly disturbed the attempts of town’s restoration. In 1409 A.D., the Mardin inhabitants, who could not resist anymore, gave the castle to Karakoyuns.
Mardin stays under Karakoyuns sovereignty for 61 years. In this period, tribes defied against Karakoyun’s regime and sometimes they took control of the state. Later, Akkoyuns, who beated Karakoyun in 1462 A.D., took the control of castle. Kasım Bey who came to Mardin as an admiral started restoring the city and the castle Timur looted. He had the “Kasım Paşa Madrasa” built, which challenges the history to this day.
Having beaten Akkoyuns in the early 16th century, Şah İsmail succeeded establishing a powerful Shiite State. During this period he came to Anatolia and killed those who did not accept Shiism. Seeing all these events, the ruler of Mardin gave the key of the castle to Şah İsmail without resistance, in order to protect the city and the people from looters.
Mardin’s joining to Ottoman lands dates back to times when Yavuz Sultan Selim organized a military expedition to Egypt. With command of Yavuz Sultan Selim, Bıyıklı Mehmet Paşa, the governer of Diyarbakır, and the Kurdish scholar İdris-i Bitlis sieged the castle in 1516 for more than 9 months, and the Ottoman troops, coming from various cities, and Kurdish leaders attacked the castle again and again.
Finally on April 7, 1517, the city was captured and news about this success made Selim pleased, who was the first Ottoman Caliph in Egypt. As a part of Ottoman territory, Mardin was attached to Diyarbakır. In 1518, the “Sanjak” of Mardin consisted of the central town, Savur and Nusaybin. In this Sanjak, there were both settled and nomadic people. The settled people of the area included Jews, Christians (Armenians, Suryani and Keldani), Moslems and some Şemsi (worshippers of sun).