Diyarbakır (Ottoman Turkish: Diyâr-ı Bekr; Kurdish: Amed; Ancient Greek: Amida; Syriac: Amid; Armenian: Tigranakert) is one of the largest cities in southeastern Turkey. Situated on the banks of the River Tigris, it is the administrative capital of the Diyarbakır Province and with a population of about 843,460 it is the second largest city in Turkey’s South-eastern Anatolia region, after Gaziantep.
The area around Diyarbakır has been inhabited by humans from the stone age with tools from that period having been discovered in the nearby Hilar cave complex. The pre-pottery neolothic B settlement of Çayönü dates to over 10,000 years ago and its excavated remains are on display at the Diyarbakır Museum. Another important site is Girikihaciyan Tumulus in Egil.
The first major civilization to establish themselves in what is now Diyarbakır were the Hurrian kingdom of the Mitanni who made it their military and trade capital. The city was then ruled by a succession of nearly every polity that controlled Upper Mesopotamia such as the Assyrians, Urartu, Medes, Seleucids and Parthians.
The name of the city is inscribed as Amid on the sheath of a sword from the Assyrian period, and the same name was used in other contemporary Syriac and Arabic works. The Romans and Byzantines called the city Amida.
Amida was an ancient city located where modern Diyarbakır, Turkey now stands. The Roman writers Ammianus Marcellinus and Procopius consider it a city of Mesopotamia, but it may be more properly viewed as belonging to Armenia Major.
The city was located on the right bank of the Tigris. The walls are lofty and substantial, and constructed of the ruins of ancient edifices. As the place is well adapted for a commercial city, it is probable that Amida was a town of considerable antiquity.
Amid(a) was the capital of the Aramean kingdom Bet-Zamani from the 13th century BC onwards. The city was called Amida when the region was under the rule of the Roman Empire (from 66 BC).
It was enlarged and strengthened by Constantius II, in whose reign it was besieged and taken after seventy-three days by the Sassanid king Shapur II (359). The Roman soldiers and a large part of the population of the town were massacred by the Persians. The historian Ammianus Marcellinus, who took part in the defence of the town, has given a minute account of the siege. In 363 Amida was re-taken by Roman Emperor Julian.
Amida was besieged by the Sassanid king Kavadh I during the Anastasian War through the autumn and winter (502-503). The siege of the city proved to be a far more difficult enterprise than Kavadh expected; the defenders, although unsupported by troops, repelled the Sassanid assaults for three months before they were finally beaten. During that same war, the Romans attempted an ultimately unsuccessful siege of the Persian-held Amida, led by generals Patricius and Hypatius. In 504, however, the Romans reconquered the city, and Justinian I repaired its walls and fortifications.
Tigranocerta (Tigranakert) was the capital of the Armenian Kingdom. It bore the name of Tigranes the Great, who founded the city in the first century BC. The city possibly located near present-day Silvan or nearby Arzan (Arzn, in the Armenian province of Arzanene or Aghdznik), east of Diyarbakır, Turkey. It was one of four cities in historic Armenia named Tigranakert. The others were located in Nakhichevan, Artsakh and Utik.
To create this city, Tigranes forced many people out of their homes to make up the population. Armenia at this time had expanded east to the Caspian Sea, west to central Cappadocia, and south towards Judea, advancing as far as the regions surrounding what is now the Krak des Chevaliers. A Roman force under Lucius Lucullus defeated Tigranes at the Battle of Tigranocerta nearby in 69 BC, and afterwards sacked the city, sending many of the people back to their original homes.
During Pompey the Great’s ‘conquests of the east’, Tigranocerta was retaken briefly by Rome, but was lost when Tigranes the Great was given parts of his kingdom back after his initial surrender to Pompey for the cost of 6,000 talents (an indemnity paid to Rome over an uncertain period). It was again taken by the Romans when Corbulo, a Roman legate (head of a legion), defeated Tiridates during the Armenian rebellion of 64 AD.
The city’s markets were filled with traders and merchants doing business from all over the ancient world. Tigranocerta quickly became a very important commercial, as well as cultural center of the Near East.
The magnificent theater that was established by the Emperor, of which he was an avid devotee, conducted dramas and comedies mostly played by Greek as well as Armenian actors. Plutarch wrote that Tigranocerta was «a rich and beautiful city where every common man and every man of rank studied to adorn it.»
The Hellenistic culture during the Artaxiad Dynasty had a strong influence and the Greek language was in fact the official language of the court. Tigranes had divided Greater Armenia – the nucleus of the Empire – into four major strategic regions or viceroyalties.
The Battle of Tigranocerta was fought on October 6, 69 BC between the forces of the Roman Republic and the army of the Kingdom of Armenia led by King Tigranes the Great. The Roman force was led by Consul Lucius Licinius Lucullus, and Tigranes was defeated. His capital city of Tigranocerta was lost to Rome as a result. The Roman Republic gained control of the city in 66 BC by when it was renamed «Amida».
After the plunder, which included the destruction of statues and temples, the city was set ablaze. An abundant quantity of gold and silver was carried off to Rome as war booty. Lucullus took most of the gold and silver from the melted-down statues, pots, cups and other valuable metals and precious stones. During the pillage most of the city’s inhabitants simply fled to the countryside. The newly established theater building was also destroyed in the fire. The great city would never recover from this devastating destruction.
During the Ottoman period, Armenians referred to the city of Diyarbekir as Dikranagerd (Western Armenian pronunciation of Tigranakert).
In 359, Shapur II of Sassanid Persia captured Amida after a siege of 73 days, which is vividly described by the Roman army officer Ammianus Marcellinus, an historian of Greek origin from Antioch, in his work (Res Gestae).
The Sassanids captured the city for a third time in 602 and held it for more than twenty years. In 628 the Roman emperor Heraclius recovered Amida.
Finally, in 639 the city was captured by the Arabic Ummayad armies, which introduced the religion of Islam. The Arab Bakr tribe occupied this region, which became known as the Diyar Bakr («landholdings of the Bakr tribe», in Persian: Diyar-ı Bekir).
The city remained in Arab hands until the Kurdish dynasty of Marwanid ruled the area during the 10th and 11th centuries.
After the Battle of Manzikert in 1071, the city came under the rule of the Mardin branch of Oghuz Turks and then the Anatolian beylik of Artuqids . The whole area was then disputed between the Ilkhanate and Ayyubid dynasties for a century, after which it was taken over by the competing Turkic federations of the Kara Koyunlu (the Black Sheep) first and then the Ak Koyunlu (the White Sheep). It was also ruled by Sultanate of Rûm between 1241 and 1259.
In 1085, Seljuq Turks captured the region from Marwanids, and they settled many Turcomans in the region. However, Ayyubids received the city from Seljuqs in 1201, and the city ruled by them until Mogolian dynasty of Ilkhanate captured the city in 1259. Later the Turkmen dynasty of Artukids received the city from Ayyubids and ruled the region till 1409.
Among the Artukid, a Turkmen dynasty that ruled in Eastern Anatolia, Northern Syria and Northern Iraq in the eleventh and twelfth centuries, and Akkoyunlu, a Sunni Oghuz Turkic tribal federation that ruled parts of present-day Eastern Turkey, Armenia, Azerbaijan, northern Iraq, and Iran from 1378 to 1501, it was known as «Black Amid» (Kara Amid) for the dark color of its walls, while in the Zafername, or eulogies in praise of military victories, it is called «Black Fortress» (Kara Kale). In the Book of Dede Korkut and some other Turkish works it appears as Kara Hamid.
The city was conquered from the Safavids and brought under the Ottoman Empire by the campaigns of Bıyıklı Mehmet Paşa under the rule of the Ottoman Emperor, Sultan Selim I, in 1515.
The Ottoman eyalet of Diyarbakır corresponded to Turkey’s southeastern provinces today, a rectangular area between the Lake Urmia to Palu and from the southern shores of Lake Van to Cizre and the beginnings of the Syrian desert, although its borders saw some changes over time.
The city was an important military base for controlling this region and at the same time a thriving city noted for its craftsmen, producing glass and metalwork. For example the doors of Mevlana’s tomb in Konya were made in Diyarbakır, as were the gold and silver decorated doors of the tomb of Imam-i Azam in Baghdad.
In 1895, Armenians and Assyrians were subject to massacres in Diyarbakır. The city had been also a site for ethnic cleansing of Armenians, nearly 150,000 were deported from the city.
In 1937, Atatürk visited Diyarbekir and, after expressing uncertainty on the true etymology of the city, ordered that it be renamed «Diyarbakır,» which means land of copper in Turkish.
In the reorganization of the provinces, Diyarbakır was made administrative capital of Diyarbakır Province. During the 1980s and 1990s at the peak of the PKK insurgency, the population of the city grew dramatically as villagers from remote areas where fighting was serious left or were forced to leave for the relative security of the city.
After the cessation of hostilities between the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and the Turkish army, a large degree of normality returned to the city, with the Turkish government declaring an end to the 15-year period of emergency rule on 30 November 2002. Diyarbakır grew from 30,000 in the 1930s to 65,000 by 1956, to 140,000 by 1970, to 400,000 by 1990, and eventually swelled to about 1.5 million by 1997.
The 41-year-old American-Turkish Pirinçlik Air Force Base near Diyarbakır, known as NATO’s frontier post for monitoring the former Soviet Union and the Middle East, closed on 30 September 1997. This closure was the result of the general drawdown of US bases in Europe and the improvement in space surveillance technology. The base housed sensitive electronic intelligence-gathering systems that monitored the Middle East, the Caucasus and Russia.
According to a November 2006 survey by the Sur Municipality, one of Diyarbakır’s metropolitan municipalities, 72% of the inhabitants of the municipality use Kurdish most often in their daily speech, followed by Turkish, and 69% are illiterate in their most widely used vernacular.
In March 2013, over a million Kurds gathered in the city to hear the words of Abdullah Öcalan being read that signaled a new, peaceful direction in PKK-Turkish relations.