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Gerrha and its neighbors in 1 AD.

Gerrha (Arabic هجر) was an ancient city of Eastern Arabia, on the west side of the Persian Gulf.


Prior to Gerrha, the area belonged to the Dilmun civilization, which was conquered by the Assyrian Empire in 709 BC. Gerrha was the center of an Arab kingdom from approximately 650 BC to circa 300 AD. The kingdom was attacked by Antiochus III the Great in 205-204 BC, though it seems to have survived. It is currently unknown exactly when Gerrha fell, but the area was under Sassanid Persian control after 300 AD.

Describing the city[edit]

Strabo described the city as having "fancy tools made out of gold and silver, such as the family gold, right [Qawa'im] triangles, and their drinking glass, let alone their large homes which have their doors, walls, roofs filled with colors, gold, silver, and holy stones" [1]

Location and etymology[edit]

To the Ancient Greeks, eastern Arabia (the present-day al-Hasa province) was known as Gerrha after its capital city. Gerrha was a Greek alteration of the Arabic Hagar (present-day Hofuf), the name of the largest city of ancient Bahrayn (Bahrayn was also known as Hagar or Gerrha in Hellenistic times).[2] Other English spellings are hajar hofuf, hagar hasa' hagara. Hagar (Gerrha) is not to be confused with the west Arabian Al-Hijr (al-Hegra, Hegra), the present-day Madaen Saleh or al-Ula near the Red Sea.

Al-Hamdani says the etymology of Hagar means ‘large village’ in the Himyar language (derived from Hakar).[3][4]

The city of Gerrha was destroyed by the Qarmatians at the end of the ninth century when all 300,000 of its inhabitants were massacred.[5] It was 2 miles (3.2 km) from the Persian Gulf near present-day Hofuf. The researcher Abdulkhaliq Al Janbi argued in his book that Gerrha was most likely the ancient city of Hajar, located in modern-day Al Ahsa, Saudi Arabia.[6] Al Janbi's theory is the most widely accepted one by modern scholars, although there are some difficulties with this argument, given that Al Ahsa is 60 km inland and thus less likely to be the starting point for a trader's route, making a location within the archipelago of islands comprising the modern Kingdom of Bahrain, particularly the main island of Bahrain itself, another possibility.[7]

Origins of the inhabitants of Gerrha[edit]

As Gerrha is located in the Arabian Peninsula, there's no doubt that the city's inhabitants were Arab.[citation needed] Strabo described the inhabitants as "Chaldean exiles from Babylon", though in another passage he describes them as Arabs, saying, "Because of their trade, the Gerrhans became the richest of the Arabs".[citation needed] Other sources agree that the inhabitants were indeed Arab.[citation needed] Also, petroglyphs were found in Greece and were found to have been sent by a man from Gerrha called Taym Al Lat, which is undoubtedly an Arab name.[8]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Strabo, Geography, i6. 4. 19-20
  2. ^ Marx, edited by Angelika Neuwirth, Nicolai Sinai, Michael (2010). The Qur'an in context: Historical and literary investigations into the Qur'anic milieu (PDF). Leiden: Brill. p. 227. ISBN 9789047430322. Archived from the original on 2010. 
  3. ^ Hamdani, al-Hasan. Geography of the Arabian Peninsula. p. 236. 
  4. ^ Smart (1997). New Arabian Studies Vol 4. Exeter. p. 213. ISBN 0859895521. Hagar is name of Bahrain division and its capital 
  5. ^ Yaqut. Mujam Buldan. ISBN 9004082689. Hagar is the name of Bahrain and its capital Hagar destroyed by Qarmatians 
  6. ^ Abdulkhaliq Al Janbi. Gerrha, The Ancient City of International Trade جره مدينة التجارة العالمية القديمة. 
  7. ^ Larsen, Curtis (1983). Life and Land Use on the Bahrain Islands: The Geoarcheology of an Ancient Society. University of Chicago Press. ISBN 0-226-46906-9.
  8. ^ Arabia and the Arabs: From the Bronze Age to the coming of Islam, Robert G. Hoyland p25


  • Bibby, Geoffrey (1970). Looking for Dilmun. Collins, London. ISBN 0-00-211475-5.
  • Potts, D. T. (1990). The Arabian Gulf in Antiquity Volume II: From Alexander the Great to the Coming of

Islam. Oxford, Clarendon Press. Public Domain This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.