From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
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] Its inhabitants are predominantly Sunni Muslims of Arab, Kurdish and Circassian ethnicity.[2]


Coins struck at the city before the Macedonian conquest record the Aramean name of the city as Mnbg (meaning spring site).[3] For the Assyrians it was known as Nappigu (Nanpigi).[4] The place appears in Greek as Bambyce and Pliny (v. 23) tells us its Syrian name was Mabog (also Mabbog, Mabbogh). As a center 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'.

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.


Abd-Hadad's coin

The Arameans called the city "Mnbg" (Manbug).[5] Manbij was part of the kingdom of Bit Adini and was annexed by the Assyrians in 856 BC. The Assyrian king Shalmaneser III renamed it Lita-Ashur and built a royal palace. The city was reconquered by the Assyrian king Tiglath-Pileser III in 738 BC.[6]

The sanctuary of Atargatis predate the Macedonian conquest as it seems that the city was the center of a dynasty of Aramean priest-kings ruling at the very end of the Achaemenid Empire;[7] two kings are known, 'Abyati and Abd-Hadad.[8][9] The fate of Abd-Hadad is not known but the city came firmly under the Macedonian empire,[10] and prospered under the rule of 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).

The coinage of the city begins in the 4th century BC with the coins of the priest-kings followed by the Aramaic series of the Macedonian and Seleucid monarchs. They show Atargatis either as a bust with mural crown or as riding on a lion. She continues to supply the chief type even during imperial Roman times, being generally shown seated with the tympanum in her hand. Other coins substitute the legend Θεᾶς Συρίας Ἱεροπολιτῶν within a wreath.

In the 3rd century CE, 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, in ruinous state when Julian gathered his troops there before marching to his defeat and death in Mesopotamia. Sassanid Emperor Khosrau I held it to ransom after Byzantine Emperor Justinian I had failed to defend it. Abbasid Caliph Harun al-Rashid restored it at the end of the 8th century and it became a point of contention between the Byzantines, Arabs and Turks. The crusaders captured it from the Seljuks in the 12th century, but Ayyubid Sultan Saladin retook it in 1175. Manbij later became the headquarters of Hulagu and his Mongols, who destroyed it.

The remains of ancient Manbij are extensive, but almost wholly of late date, as is to be expected in the case of a city which survived into Muslim times. The walls were built by the Arabs, 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.

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.[11] As of 1911, its 1,500 inhabitants were all Circassians.[12]

Modern era[edit]

Prior to and in the early years of the Syrian Civil War, Manbij had an ethnically diverse population of Arab, Kurdish and Circassian Sunni Muslims, many of whom followed the Naqshbandi Sufi order. The city's socio-political life was dominated by its main tribes. Tribal leaders served as the mediators and arbiters of major disputes in Manbij, while the state's security forces largely dealt with petty offenses. The city was relatively liberal compared to other Sunni Muslim-majority cities in the countryside of Aleppo.[2]

During the civil war, Manbij fell to local rebel forces who thereafter administered the city. In January 2013, forces from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) took over the city after ousting other rebels. The city has since become a hub for trading in looted artifacts and archaeological digging equipment.[13]

Ecclesiastical history[edit]

Lequien names ten bishops of Hierapolis.[14] 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.[15] Chabot mentions thirteen Jacobite archbishops from the ninth to the twelfth century.[16] One Latin bishop, Franco, in 1136, is known.[12][17]


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
Average rainy days 10 6 4 4 3 1 0 0 1 3 5 9 46
Average snowy days 2.5 1.5 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 6
Average 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



  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 Khaddour, Kheder; Mazur, Kevin (Winter 2013). "The Struggle for Syria's Regions". Middle East Research and Information Project. Retrieved 27 August 2015. 
  3. ^ Trevor Bryce (2009). The Routledge Handbook of the Peoples and Places of Ancient Western Asia: The Near East from the Early Bronze Age to the Fall of the Persian Empire. p. 498. 
  4. ^ Irene Winter (2009). On Art in the Ancient Near East Volume I: Of the First Millennium BCE. p. 564. 
  5. ^ Jonas Carl Greenfield (2001). 'Al Kanfei Yonah. p. 285. 
  6. ^ Trevor Bryce (2009). The Routledge Handbook of the Peoples and Places of Ancient Western Asia: The Near East from the Early Bronze Age to the Fall of the Persian Empire. p. 479. 
  7. ^ Fergus Millar (1993). The Roman Near East, 31 B.C.-A.D. 337. p. 244. 
  8. ^ Edward Lipiński (2000). The Aramaeans: Their Ancient History, Culture, Religion. p. 633. 
  9. ^ Kevin Butcher (2004). Coinage in Roman Syria: Northern Syria, 64 BC-AD 253. p. 24. 
  10. ^ John D Grainger (2014). Seleukos Nikator (Routledge Revivals): Constructing a Hellenistic Kingdom. p. 147. 
  11. ^ Encyclopædia Britannica 11th Edition
  12. ^ a b Catholic Encyclopedia
  13. ^ "Al Qaeda chief Zawahri tells Islamists in Syria to unite - audio". Reuters. 2015-01-243. Retrieved 27 August 2015.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  14. ^ Or. Christ. II 925-8
  15. ^ Echos d'Orient 14:145
  16. ^ Revue de l'orient chrétien VI:200
  17. ^ Lequien, III, 1193

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