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Ma'arrat al-Numan

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Title: Ma'arrat al-Numan  
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Subject: First Crusade, Raymond IV, Count of Toulouse, Battle of Ager Sanguinis, Siege of Jerusalem (1099), Hugh II, Count of Saint-Pol, Ilghazi, Siege of Tripoli, Maarrat Misrin, Hikmat al-Hiraki, Siege of Ma'arra
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Ma'arrat al-Numan

Ma'arrat al-Nu'man
معرة النعمان
Maarat al-Numaan

A collage of Maarat al-Numan showing city's important landmarks.
Ma'arrat al-Nu'man
Ma'arrat al-Nu'man
Location in Syria

Coordinates: 35°38′N 36°40′E / 35.633°N 36.667°E / 35.633; 36.667

Country  Syria
Governorate Idlib
District Maarrat al-Nu'man
Subdistrict Maarrat al-Nu'man
Elevation 530 m (1,740 ft)
Population (2010)[1]
 • Total 58,008

Maarat al-Numaan (Arabic: مَعَرَّة النُّعْمَان ‎) is a city in northwestern Syria with a population of about 58,008 (2004 census).[1] It is located at the highway between Aleppo and Hama and near the Dead Cities of Bara and Serjilla. The city, known as Arra to the Greeks and Marre to the Crusaders, has its present-day name combined of the traditional name and of its first Muslim governor an-Nu'man ibn Bashir, a companion of Muhammad.

Today the city has a museum with mosaics from the Dead Cities, the Great Mosque of Maarrat al-Numan, a madrassa built by Abu al-Farawis from 1199 and remains of the medieval citadel. The city is also a birthplace of the poet Abu al-Ala al-Maari (973–1057).

The town was the focus of intense protests against the government of President Bashir Al-Assad with a number of people killed on 2 June 2011.

As the Syrian civil war followed, the town's strategic position on the road between Damascus and Aleppo made it a significant prize. Starting October 8, 2012, the Battle of Maarrat al-Nu'man was fought between the Free Syrian Army and the Syrian Army, causing numerous civilian casualties and severe material damage.


In 891 Ya'qubi described Maarrat al-Nu'man as "an ancient city, now a ruin. It lies in the Hims province."[2] By the time of Estakhri (951) the place had recovered, as he described the city "very full of good things, and very opulent". Figs, pistachios and vines were cultivated.[2] In 1047 Nasir Khusraw visited the city, and described it as a populous town with a stone wall. There was a Friday Mosque, on a height, in the middle of the town. The bazaars were full of traffic. Considerable areas of cultivated land surrounded the town, with plenty of fig-trees, olives, pistachios, almonds and grapes.[2][3]

Massacre of Ma'arra

Main article: Siege of Ma'arra

The most infamous event from the city's history dates from late 1098, during the First Crusade. After the Crusaders, led by Raymond de Saint Gilles and Bohemond of Taranto, successfully besieged Antioch they found themselves with insufficient supplies of food. Their raids on the surrounding countryside during the winter months did not help the situation. By December 12 when they reached Ma`arra, many of them were suffering from starvation and malnutrition. They managed to breach the city's walls and massacred about 8000 inhabitants. However, this time, as they could not find enough food, they resorted to cannibalism.[4]

One of the crusader commanders wrote to Pope Urban II: "A terrible famine racked the army in Ma`arra, and placed it in the cruel necessity of feeding itself upon the bodies of the Saracens.[4]

Radulph of Caen, another chronicler, wrote: "In Ma`arra our troops boiled pagan adults in cooking-pots; they impaled children on spits and devoured them grilled."[4]

These events were also chronicled by Fulcher of Chartres, who wrote: "I shudder to tell that many of our people, harassed by the madness of excessive hunger, cut pieces from the buttocks of the Saracens already dead there, which they cooked, but when it was not yet roasted enough by the fire, they devoured it with savage mouth."[5]

Among the European records of the incident was the French poem 'The Leaguer of Antioch', which contains such lines as,

Then came to him the King Tafur, and with him fifty score
Of men-at-arms, not one of them but hunger gnawed him sore.
Thou holy Hermit, counsel us, and help us at our need;
Help, for God's grace, these starving men with wherewithal to feed.'
But Peter answered, 'Out, ye drones, a helpless pack that cry,
While all unburied round about the slaughtered Paynim lie.
A dainty dish is Paynim flesh, with salt and roasting due.
From "The Leaguer of Antioch"[6]

Those events had a strong impact on the local inhabitants of Southwest Asia. The crusaders already had a reputation for cruelty and barbarism towards Muslims, Jews and even local Christians, Catholic and Orthodox alike (the Crusades began shortly after the Great Schism of 1054).


Ibn Jubayr passed by the town in 1185, and wrote that "Everywhere around the town are gardens... It is one of the most fertile and richest lands in the world".[3] Ibn Battuta visited in 1355, and described the town as small. The figs and pistachios of the town were exported to Damascus.[7]

See also



External links

  • The Cannibals of Ma`arra at Utah Indymedia
  • Encyclopedia of the Orient
  • [1]

Coordinates: 35°38′19″N 36°40′18″E / 35.63861°N 36.67167°E / 35.63861; 36.67167

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