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This article is about the historic site in Syria. For places in Iraq, see Rusafa.
Al Resafa
Arches in Resafa
Arches in Resafa
Al Resafa is located in Syria
Al Resafa
Al Resafa
Location in Syria
Coordinates: 35°37′N 38°45′E / 35.617°N 38.750°E / 35.617; 38.750
Country  Syria
Governorate Ar-Raqqah Governorate
District Ar-Raqqah District
Elevation 300 m (1,000 ft)

Resafa (Arabic: الرصافة‎ [reṣafa]), known in Roman times as Sergiopolis and briefly as Anastasiopolis, was a city located in the Roman province of Euphratensis, in modern-day Syria. It is an archaeological site situated south-west of the city of Ar Raqqah and the Euphrates.

Procopius describes at length the ramparts and buildings erected there by Justinian.[1] The walls of Resafa which are still well preserved are over 1600 feet in length and about 1000 feet in width; round or square towers were erected about every hundred feet; there are also ruins of a church with three apses.


Resafa corresponds to the Akkadian Raṣappa and the Biblical Rezeph (Septuagint; in Ancient greek Ràphes, Ράφες), where it is mentioned in Isaiah 37:12;[2][3] cuneiform sources give Rasaappa, Rasappa, and Rasapi Wikisource-logo.svg "Sergiopolis". Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. 1913. .[3]

Ptolemy calls it Rhesapha (Ρεσαφα in greek).[4] In the late Roman Tabula Peutingeriana, it is called Risapa.[3] In the Notitia dignitatum, it is Rosafa.[3]


The site dates to the 9th century BC, when a military camp was built by the Assyrians. During Roman times it was a desert outpost fortified to defend against the Sassanid Persians, and a station on the Strata Diocletiana.[5] It flourished as its location on the caravan routes linking Aleppo, Dura Europos, and Palmyra was ideal. Resafa had no spring or running water, so it depended on large cisterns to capture the winter and spring rains.

North gate of the city of Resafa, site of Hisham's palace and court.

Resafa was planted right in the path of the Roman–Persian wars, and was therefore a well-defended city that had massive walls that surrounded it without a break. It also had a fortress.

In the 4th century, it became a pilgrimage town for Christians coming to venerate Saint Sergius, a Christian Roman soldier said to have been martyred in Resafa during the Diocletianic Persecution. A church was built to mark his grave, and the city was renamed Sergiopolis. Indeed, it became the "most important pilgrimage center in Byzantine Oriens in [the] proto-Byzantine period", with a special appeal to the local Arabs, especially the Ghassanids.[5]

In the 8th century, the Umayyad Caliph Hischam ibn Abd al-Malik (r. 724–743) made the city his favoured residence, and built several palaces around it.

Ecclesiastical history[edit]

Resafa's first bishop was appointed shortly after 431 by John of Antioch, in spite of the opposition of the Metropolitan of Hierapolis Bambyce, on whom that church had till then depended. Later, Marianus attended a Council of Antioch. The metropolis of Sergiopolis with five suffragan sees figures in the Notitia episcopatuum of Antioch in the sixth century. It had obtained this title from Emperor Anastasius I; at the fifth general council (553) Abraham signed as metropolitan. The favors of Ariastasius obtained for the town the name of Anastasiopolis, which it still retained at the beginning of the seventh century. We may mention also Bishop Candidus, who, at the time of the siege of the town by Khosrau I (in 543), ransomed 1,200 captives for two hundred pounds of gold,[6] and the metropolitan Simeon in 1093 ("Echos d'Orient", III, 238); this proves that Christianity continued to exist even under Islam.[7]

Sergiopolis remains a Roman Catholic titular see, suffragan of Hierapolis Bambyce.


  1. ^ "De edificiis", II, ix
  2. ^ Hans Wildberger, Isaiah 28-39 (Continental Commentary), ISBN 0-8006-9510-0, p. 410, p. 418 text
  3. ^ a b c d Catholic Encyclopedia (1907), loc.cit.
  4. ^ V, xiv, 19, cited in Wikisource-logo.svg "Sergiopolis". Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. 1913. 
  5. ^ a b David Frankfurter, Pilgrimage and holy space in late antique Egypt, 1998 in series Religions in the Graeco-Roman World 134 p. 379
  6. ^ Procopius, "De bello pers." II, 5, 20
  7. ^ This section is abridged from Wikisource-logo.svg "Sergiopolis". Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. 1913. 

Coordinates: 35°37′N 38°45′E / 35.617°N 38.750°E / 35.617; 38.750

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