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View of the southern side of the town.
View of the southern side of the town.
Karamlish is located in Iraq

Coordinates: 36°18′13″N 43°24′46″E / 36.30361°N 43.41278°E / 36.30361; 43.41278Coordinates: 36°18′13″N 43°24′46″E / 36.30361°N 43.41278°E / 36.30361; 43.41278{{#coordinates:36|18|13|N|43|24|46|E|type:city(10000)_region:IQ-NI |primary |name=

Country Iraq
Governorate Ninawa
Municipality Al-Hamdaniya
Population (2009)
 • Total 10,000
  The town received thousands of Chaldean refugees from Baghdad and Mosul
Time zone GMT +3

Karamlish (Syriac: ܟܪܡܠܫ, Arabic: كرمليس‎; also spelled Karemles, Karemlesh) is an ancient Chaldean town in Mesopotamia, northern Mesopotamia located less than 18 miles (29 km) south east of Mosul.

It is surrounded by many hills that along with it made up the historical Chaldean city of Kar-Mullissi, which means "the city of Mullisi" in Akkadian. Karamlish also had many other names It is believed to have been called Er-Elo-Bano ("city of the god Bano") during the reign of the Chaldean King Nabuchanesser II (612 BC). During the reign of the Chaldean dynasty of Ur around 3000 BC, Karamlish was called Kar-Denkir-Neen-Leel, meaning "the city of the goddess Ninlil" (the wife of the god Enlil and the mother of Chaldean Babylonian god Ninurta.)[citation needed]


There are between 600 and 650 families in Karamlish. The vast majority of the population is ethnically Chaldean (also known as Syriacs). Historically, the population was mostly part of the Church of the East; however, many returned to Catholicism from the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Today, the inhabitants of Karamlish are mainly members of the Chaldean Catholic Church, but there are also members of the Syriac Orthodox Church.


Karamlish is a very old town and is believed to be among the first human colonies, hence, it was visited by almost all Mesopotamian archaeologists searching for the ruins of old Babylonia. The first person to excavate in the hills of Karamlish was the Englishman Austen Henry Layard in 1846. Many relief sculptures with cuneiform scripts were found in Tel Ghanim and Tel Barbara (two of the hill surrounding Karamlish). On them were found the names of Chaldean King of Sargon and Assyrian king Shalmensar. The remains of a Chaldean temple were found at Tel Barbara, and the remains of an Chaldean palace was found at Tel Ghanim.

Karamlish lost its important stature during the era of Shalmaneser III (859 – 824 BC) whose son Ashur-Daneen-Ablo led a rebellion against his father along with another 27 cities. His father empowered his other brother Shamshi-Adad V, the Governor of Kalah (Nimrud). The civil war lasted for four years, from 827 to 824 BC. With the end of the rebellion, however, Karamlish's neighbor Nimrud did not survive the ravages of the war. Karamlish was so impacted by that rebellion that its people left it and was given the name of "Oro-Karmash" meaning "The Ruined City". Karamlish is still referred to by its Chaldean neighbors as "Karmash". However, Karamlish was reinvigorated during the reigns of Kings Shalmaneser V (726 – 722 BC) and Sargon II (722 – 705 BC), who used it as his temporary capital.

The Battle of Karamlish 331 BC

This great historical battle between the Greek Alexander of Macedonia and the Persian Emperor Darius III ended with the defeat of the latter and the ushering of the Greek reign over the Near East. Karamlish at the time was called Ko-Komle (which meant in Aramaic "The Camels' Square") after the death of most of the Camels of the Persian Emperor Daryos Dara I around the city due to their exhaustion. Hence, historically the Battle of Karamlish is known as the Battle of Ko-Komle.

Patriarchal seat of the Church of the East

Karamlish was the seat of the Chaldean Nestorian Patriarch Denha II (1336/7–1381/2) for at least part of his reign. The continuator of the Ecclesiastical History of Bar Hebraeus mentions several contacts between Denha II and the Jacobite church in Karamlish between 1358 and 1364. At this period Karamlish had Jacobite and Armenian communities alongside its Chaldean Nestorian majority, and its village chiefs styled themselves 'emirs'. The prosperity enjoyed by the village during the reign of Denha II presumably came to an end when the patriarchate was relocated to Mosul at an unknown date in the fourteenth or fifteenth century.[1]

Karamlish as center of principality

During the fourteenth century, Karamles became the center of a principality, earning it fame. It was mentioned in several books as a trade center of immense importance. Among some of the governors during this period were:

  1. Prince Masoud (1317)
  2. Prince Nasser El-Deen
  3. Prince Hassan (1358)
  4. Prince Matti (brother of Prince Hassan)
  5. Prince Beyazeed (1364)
  6. Prince Sahab Masoud (end of 14th century)

The destruction of Nader Shah

During the wars between the Persian and Ottoman Empires, Nader Shah of Persia decided in 1732 to attack and occupy Mesopotamia. After occupying Baghdad the same year, he sent a small part of his army (8,000 soldiers strong) to occupy Nineveh and its surroundings. However, his army was defeated. This angered Nader Shah who decided in 1743 to go himself with 300,000 soldiers and 390 cannons. After occupying Kirkuk and Erbil, he moved to Nineveh and its villages. He decided to bomb Karamlish before entering it.[citation needed] Most of the houses of the village were ruined, in addition to Mar Yohanan Church and Beth Sahda "Church of the Forty Martyrs". Nader Shah stayed in Karamlish for four days. It was estimated that over 4,000 Chaldean Christians were massacred during those four days.[citation needed]

Churches and monasteries

Christianity is the main identity of the town today.

Historians kept the memories of many churches and monasteries of the Church of the East (Nestorian) in Karamlish intact. These ancient churches include the monasteries of Mar Giwargis (St. George), Mar Yonan (St. Jonah), Mar Youkhanna (St. John), and Dair Banat Maryam (the Monastery of St. Mary's Daughters). The last two have long been forgotten; meanwhile, Mar Yonan became the grounds of a school in the early twentieth century. Below is a list of the known monasteries and churches in Karamles:

Mar Giwargis Monastery
  • Mar Giwargis Monastery – This Monastery was built in the northern parts of town by a monk named Giwargis in late sixth century. It continues to stand today. However, it is believed that it was turned to a cemetery after the Mongols invasion.
  • Mar Yonan Monastery – A monk named Yonan built this monastery in the seventh century. The monastery is mentioned in an unidentified Nestorian writer's manuscript in the fourteenth century. It is believed that it was abandoned after the invasion of Nadir Shah in 1743.
  • Mar Youkhanna Monastery – There is nothing left of this monastery but a small hill known as the hill of monk Youkhanna (Tell rabban Youkhanna) situated in the southern parts of town. It was mentioned in A.D. 660 in the manuscript of Bar'aeeta, and it was populous in 1736 according to the manuscript of kitab dafanat al-Mowta (the book of the hidden treasures of the dead). It was destroyed completely during the invasion of Persian Nadir Shah on August 15, 1743.
  • Dair Banat Maryam – It was attached to Mar Giwargis Monastery and served as a monastery for the nuns. The monastery suffered tremendously at the hands of the Mongols in the thirteenth century and in the eighteenth century at the hands of Kurdish Ismail Pasha of Rawandos. It was referred to by Charles Watson Bradt during his visit to Karamlish on June 2, 1758.
  • The Church of the Forty Martyrs – The remains of this church are situated on a hill known as Beth Sahde (the Martyrs Home) southeast of the town. It was standing in 1236, when Karamles was attacked by the Mongols. It was destroyed by Nadir Shah in 1743.
  • St. Barbara Church – The church is situated on the ruins of a hill by the same name west of town. It was built on the ruins of an ancient Chaldeann temple for the god Banu. Excavations at the hill in 1852 uncovered two halls used by ancient Chaldeans in their religious ceremonies as well as tools that were used during worship. The earth soil covers a Ziggurat that was built by ancient Chaldeans to serve as a temple. Barbara was the daughter of the pagan governor of the region. She converted to Christianity, with her servant Yulina, against the will of her father who imprisoned her. When they refused to change their mind and denounce Christianity, the pagan governor ordered their death. They were killed in a room attached to the temple, where the church stands today. The church was attacked by Nadir Shah; however, the residents renovated and rebuilt it in 1798.
  • The Church of the Virgin – The church is situated in the center of town. It is a small church but beautiful. It used to be the home of a lady who donated it to the public. It was established as a church in 1887 and enlarged in 1902.
  • Mar Addai Church – The church is situated on the northern parts of town. It is currently the biggest and most modern churches in Karamles. Construction began in 1937 and after some delays it was consecrated in 1963.

Post Iraq War

Karamles has been relatively calm the first months following the US led War on Iraq. In late 2003, the town came briefly under the control of the 101st Airborne Division (377th Parachute Field Artillery Battalion).[2]

See also



Originally based on an article by Habib Hannona and Fred Aprim on karemlash.com, licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License, used with permission.

  1. Wilmshurst, EOCE, 218–19
  2. "U.S. Soldiers Adopt Chaldean Village with Educational Results" - www.Gulf1.com, 28 December 2003; Spc. Joshua Hutcheson