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For the World Heritage Site near the Pamukkale hot springs in Denizli, Turkey, see Hierapolis.
Manbij is located in Syria
Location in Syria
Coordinates: 36°32′N 37°57′E / 36.533°N 37.950°E / 36.533; 37.950
Country  Syria
Governorate Aleppo Governorate
District Manbij District
Occupation Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant
Elevation 460 m (1,510 ft)
Population (2004)[1]
 • Total 99,497

Manbij (Arabic: منبج‎ / ALA-LC: Manbij; Classical Syriac: ܡܒܘܓ mabbug) is a town in the Aleppo Governorate, Syria, 30 kilometers west of the Euphrates. In the 2004 census by the Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS), Manbij had a population of nearly 100,000.[1]

The ruins of the ancient city "Hierapolis Bambyce," also known as "Hierapolis Euphratensis" or "Hierapolis in Euphratesia", are 20 km north, where remains of aqueducts and the Byzantine walls of Justinian are still to be seen.[2]


The place first appears in Greek as Bambyce, but Pliny (v. 23) tells us its Syrian name was Mabog (also Mabbog, Mabbogh). As a centre of the worship of the Syrian goddess Atargatis, it became known to the Greeks as the Ἱερόπολις (Hieropolis) 'city of the sanctuary', and finally as Ἱεράπολις (Hierapolis) 'holy city'.


Manbij has a hot-summer Mediterranean climate with influences of a continental climate during winter with hot dry summers and cool wet and occasionally snowy winters. The average high temperature in January is 7.8 °C and the average high temperature in August is 38.1 °C . The snow falls usually in January, February or December.

Climate data for Manbij
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Average high °C (°F) 7.9
Average low °C (°F) −1.2
Average precipitation mm (inches) 69
Avg. rainy days 10 6 4 4 3 1 0 0 1 3 5 9 46
Avg. snowy days 2.5 1.5 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 6
Avg. relative humidity (%) 71 63 56 52 38 36 31 31 39 43 51 70 48.4
Source: Weather Online, Weather Base, BBC Weather and My Weather 2

The cult of Atargatis[edit]

Main article: De Dea Syria

This worship of Atargatis was immortalized in De Dea Syria which has traditionally been attributed to Lucian of Samosata, a native of Commagene, who gave a full description of the religious cult of the shrine and the tank of sacred fish of Atargatis, of which Aelian also relates marvels. According to the De Dea Syria, the worship was of a phallic character, votaries offering little male figures of wood and bronze. There were also huge phalli set up like obelisks before the temple, which were ceremoniously climbed once a year and decorated.

The temple contained a holy chamber into which only priests were allowed to enter. A great bronze altar stood in front, set about with statues, and in the forecourt lived numerous sacred animals and birds (but not swine) used for sacrifice.

Some three hundred priests served the shrine and there were numerous minor ministrants. The lake was the centre of sacred festivities and it was customary for votaries to swim out and decorate an altar standing in the middle of the water. Self-mutilation and other orgies went on in the temple precinct, and there was an elaborate ritual on entering the city and first visiting the shrine. The Shawaya now dominates the area.


Mabog was an ancient Commagene sanctuary; but history records it first under the Seleucids, who made it the chief station on their main road between Antioch and Seleucia on the Tigris.

The temple was sacked by Crassus on his way to meet the Parthians (53 BC).

In the third century of the Common Era, the city was the capital of Euphratensis province and one of the great cities of Syria. Procopius called it the greatest in that part of the world. It was, however, ruinous when Julian collected his troops there before marching to his defeat and death in Mesopotamia, and Khosrau I held it to ransom after the Byzantine Emperor Justinian I had failed to put it in a state of defence. Harun restored it at the end of the 8th century and it became a bone of contention between Byzantines, Arabs and Turks. The crusaders captured it from the Seljuks in the 12th century, but Saladin retook it (1175), and later it became the headquarters of Hulagu and his Mongols, who completed its ruin.

The remains are extensive, but almost wholly of late date, as is to be expected in the case of a city which survived into Moslem times. The walls are Arab, and no ruins of the great temple survive. The most noteworthy relic of antiquity is the sacred lake, on two sides of which can still be seen stepped quays and water-stairs. The first modern western account of the site is in Henry Maundrell's Journey from Aleppo to Jerusalem, 1699.

The coinage of the city begins in the 4th century BC with an Aramaic series, showing the idol, either as a bust with mural crown or as riding on a lion. She continues to supply the chief type even during imperial times, being generally shown seated with the tympanum in her hand. Other coins substitute the legend Θεᾶς Συρίας Ἱεροπολιτῶν within a wreath.

During the Syrian Civil War,Manbij was a base for FSA, but it was later captured by ISIS.

Ottoman era[edit]

Under the Ottoman Empire, Manbij was a kaza of the sanjak and vilayet of Aleppo.

In 1879, after the Russo-Turkish War, a colony of Circassians from Vidin (Widdin) was planted in the ruins, from which many antiquities were excavated and sold in bazaars of Aleppo and Aintab.[3] As of 1911, its 1500 inhabitants were all Circassians.[2]

Ecclesiastical history[edit]

Lequien names ten bishops of Hierapolis.[4] Among the best-known are Alexander of Hierapolis, an ardent advocate of Nestorianism, who died in exile in Egypt; Philoxenus of Mabbug, a famous Miaphysite scholar; and Stephen of Hierapolis (c. 600), author of a life of St. Golindouch. In the sixth century, the metropolitan see had nine suffragan bishoprics.[5] Chabot mentions thirteen Jacobite archbishops from the ninth to the twelfth century.[6] One Latin bishop, Franco, in 1136, is known.[2][7]



  1. ^ a b General Census of Population and Housing 2004. Syria Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS). Aleppo Governorate. Archived at [1]. (Arabic)
  2. ^ a b c Catholic Encyclopedia
  3. ^ Encyclopædia Britannica 11th Edition
  4. ^ Or. Christ. II 925-8
  5. ^ Echos d'Orient 14:145
  6. ^ Revue de l'orient chrétien VI:200
  7. ^ Lequien, III, 1193

Coordinates: 36°32′N 37°57′E / 36.533°N 37.950°E / 36.533; 37.950