Amid Amida, Diyarbakır, Omid

City in upper Mesopotamia. Situated on high ground on the right bank of the Tigris and surrounded by massive black basalt walls, which later gave it the nickname ‘Black (kara) Amid’, Amid was by the 4th cent. a key point in Rome’s defence of her eastern frontiers and became the most important city in the Roman province of Mesopotamia after the cession of Nisibis to the Persians in 363. It was taken by the Persians in 359, 503, and 606/7. After the Arab conquest in 639, it was ruled by a series of dynasties including the Kurdish Marwānids (984–1085), and the Turkmen Īnālids (1097–1183), Ḥisn Kayfā Artuqids (1183–1230) and Aq Qoyunlu (1401–1507), dynasties which at one point or another made Amid their chief seat. After being taken by the Ottomans in 1515, Amid became the administrative center of a province that covered most of northern Mesopotamia from Manzikert in the north to Sinjar in the south. It is today a provincial capital and the largest city in the Turkish part of Mesopotamia with a population of over half a million. The name Diyarbakır (Arabic Diyār Bakr), which originally referred to the region around Amid, came to be used for the city in Ottoman times and was officially adopted in 1937, replacing the older name which goes back to Assyrian ‘Amedi’.

Amid was evangelised at an early date, no doubt from Edessa. The first known bp. of Amid, Simeon, is said in a late source to have attended the Council of Nicaea. His successors include Acacius, celebrated for his ransoming of Roman soldiers taken captive by the Persians in 423/4, as well as Asterios and Shemʿon, the only bishops from the province of Mesopotamia to attend the councils, respectively, of Ephesus and Chalcedon. The area around Amid was an important center of monasticism with five monasteries within the city by 525 (Pseudo-Zacharias, Ecclesiastical History, VIII.5). Well-known monasteries in the immediate vicinity include those of 1. the Edessenes (4th cent., probably on a site just south of the city wall); 2. Yoḥannan Urṭaya (4th cent., north of the city wall), where Yuḥanon of Ephesus spent his youth; and 3. Zuqnin, the home of the Zuqnin Chronicle. Of importance at a later date was the Monastery of Prophet Elijah near the village of Qanqart, ca. 8 km. southwest of Amid (attested 11th–19th cent.).

In the period after the Council of Chalcedon, Amid was a Miaphysite stronghold, and Bp. Mara of Amid was one of those bps. expelled from their sees under Emperor Justin I. After a period of persecution for the Miaphysites under the Chalcedonian Bp. Abraham bar Kaili, a line of Miaphysite bishops was reestablished with the consecration of Eunomius in ca. 546. Among the later occupants of the see was Dionysios bar Ṣalibi. Amid has been the seat of the Syr. Orth. patriarchs on several occasions, including a period in the 11th cent. after Dionysios IV (1032–42) took refuge in the then Marwānid city to escape persecution in Byzantine Melitene, during the tenure of Ignatius ʿAbdullāh I bar Sṭephanos (1521– 1557), and in 1862–71 when Ignatius Yaʿqub II (1847–1871) took up residence in the Yoldat Aloho Church in the wake of disturbances in Mardin. The Syr. Orth. see of Amid lapsed with the demise of Metr. Dionysios ʿAbd al-Nūr Aslan in 1933.

The presence of E.-Syr. Christians in Amid is suggested by the inclusion of ‘Amid’ in the titles of bishops of Maypherqaṭ from the 12th cent. onwards. The first Chald. patriarch, Yoḥannan Sullaqa, resided in Amid after his return from Rome in 1553. Later, Amid became the residence of a new line of Chald. patriarchs from Yawsep I (1681–96) to Yawsep V (Augustin Hindi, 1781–1828). The Chald. see of Diyarbakır, vacant after 1923, was revived in name in 1966, with residence, however, in Istanbul and jurisdiction over the whole of Turkey (vacant since 2005 as of going to press).

Syriac Christians originally constituted the majority of the Christian population, but came to be outnumbered by the Armenians under Ottoman rule. The Melkite community, which had been Syriac-speaking in pre-Islamic times, dwindled after the Arab conquest, but was reinforced by migrants from Aleppo in the 17th cent. According to a census conducted in 1870, the city had a population of 21,372, with 9,814 Muslims, 6,853 Armenian Orth., 831 Armenian Catholics, 1,434 Syr. Orth., 174 Syr. Catholics, 976 Chald., 305 Melk. Orth., 55 Melk. Catholics, 650 Protestants and 280 Jews. In 1908, Naʿʿūm Fāʾiq published there the first number of his journal Kawkbo d-madnḥo. In 1914, the Syriac population of the city is reported to have stood at 8,000, and that of the thirty or so nearby villages (including Kaʿbiya, Sharukhiya, Qarabash, Quṭurbul, ʿAyn Tannūr/Ali Pınar) at 6,450. Though greatly diminished by the massacres during the First World War, a sizeable Christian community remained until relatively recently, with the Syr. Orth. community still numbering nearly 1,000 individuals in the early 1960s. In 2005, the city had one resident Syr. Orth. priest and 7 Syr. Orth., 2 Chald., and 2 Armenian families.

Of the older churches in the city, two, both of them former patriarchal residences, remain in regular use: 1. Yoldat Aloho (Syr. Orth., in Lāle Bey Quarter, in the southwest section of the old city, 3rd/6th cent.?), with the main church of Yoldat Aloho and that of Mor Yaʿqub adjoining it to the north and housing the relics of Yaʿqub of Serugh; 2. Mar Petion (Chald., in Özdemir Quarter, east of main crossroads). (An Evangelical church opened opposite Yoldat Aloho in 2003). Still in situ are: St. George’s (in the citadel, 4th cent.?), Latin (Capuchin, in northeast section of old city, 17th cent.), Protestant (southeast) and Armenian Catholic (southeast) churches, as well as the Armenian Orth. churches of Surp Giragos (adjoining Mar Petion to the east, 16th cent.) and Surp Sarkis (southwest, 16th cent.) and chapel of Surp Hagop. Two churches were demolished in the 20th cent.: 1. Cosmas and Damian (east of Yoldat Aloho, 4th cent.?, Melk. in modern period); 2. the Syr. Cath. Church (northeast, 7th cent.?). Among the churches mentioned in historical records, the one built by Emperor Heraclius in 628/9 was probably a Syr. Orth. Church, which is to be distinguished from the Melk. church (called St. Thomas?) occupying the site of the present Great Mosque (see Palmer). Other known churches (some of them possibly identical with those already mentioned) include: St. John the Baptist (place of burial, in 649/50, of Bp. Yuḥanon of the Arabs), St. Stephen (converted to fire temple in 503), Mor Zʿuro (near Urfa Gate, before 503; burial place, in 649/50, of Patr. Yuḥanon of the Sedre and Shemʿun of Edessa), Mor Shilo (built by Bp. Mara ca. 520), St. Theodore (northeast, Armenian in 16th cent.) and Mor Ḥananyo (southeast?). Kırklar Dağı ‘Hill of the Forty’, to the south of the city, is probably the site of the Church of the Forty Martyrs built by Yuḥanon Soʿuro of Qarṭmin (bp. of Amid 483/4–502), who was responsible also for the construction of the nearby Tigris bridge.

See Fig. 5.


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  • Fiey, Pour un Oriens christianus novus, 49–50, 162–4.
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  • O. C.  Tuncer, Diyarbakır kiliseleri (Diyarbakır, 2002).
  • Wilmshurst, Ecclesiastical organisation, 49–60.

How to Cite This Entry

Hidemi Takahashi , “Amid,” in Gorgias Encyclopedic Dictionary of the Syriac Heritage: Electronic Edition, edited by Sebastian P. Brock, Aaron M. Butts, George A. Kiraz and Lucas Van Rompay,

Footnote Style Citation with Date:

Hidemi Takahashi , “Amid,” in Gorgias Encyclopedic Dictionary of the Syriac Heritage: Electronic Edition, edited by Sebastian P. Brock, Aaron M. Butts, George A. Kiraz and Lucas Van Rompay (Gorgias Press, 2011; online ed. Beth Mardutho, 2018),

Bibliography Entry Citation:

Takahashi, Hidemi. “Amid.” In Gorgias Encyclopedic Dictionary of the Syriac Heritage: Electronic Edition. Edited by Sebastian P. Brock, Aaron M. Butts, George A. Kiraz and Lucas Van Rompay. Digital edition prepared by David Michelson, Ute Possekel, and Daniel L. Schwartz. Gorgias Press, 2011; online ed. Beth Mardutho, 2018.

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