Post-classical history


Bira (mod. Birecik, Turkey) was an ancient fortress occupying an isolated rock rising on the east bank of the Euphrates where it flows out of the Taurus Mountains into the Syrian-Mesopotamian plain. From the eleventh century it was the most important crossing place on the route from northern Syria to Edessa (mod. Şanlıurfa, Turkey), some 80 kilometers (50 mi.) to the east.

Around the time of the First Crusade (1096-1099), the fortress and its town were under Armenian control. In 1116, after a long siege, its lord, Ablgharib, agreed with Baldwin II, count of Edessa, to give his daughter in marriage to Waleran of Le Puiset, a cousin of Joscelin I of Courtenay, giving the town as her dowry. Waleran was captured by the Turks along with Joscelin in 1122 and executed in 1124. Bira was briefly held by the Artuqid ruler īlghāzī; regained after his death in 1122 by the Franks, it was besieged by Zangī in 1145 and taken by Timurtash of Mardin in 1150. The present remains are largely Mamlûk work: in the later thirteenth century Bira assumed great importance as a “fortress of Islam against the Tatars,” withstanding several Mongol sieges.

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