EDESSA, a city in the upper Euphrates Valley (today Urfa in Turkey). Archaeological remains are known in the area of the city going back to the second millennium B.C.E., and Edessa may very well have been a Hurrian city alternatively known as Orrhoe, Orhai, or Osrhoene. Until 11 C.E. Edessa was part of the border area that passed on various occasions from Parthian to Roman hands. The city was conquered in August 116 by Lusius Quietus, and remained a Roman possession until 216, when it was officially incorporated into the Roman Empire. The suppression of the Parthian resistance against the Romans meant also the subjugation of the Jews of the city (see Segal). By the end of the second century C.E. Edessa had become the center of Christianity beyond the Euphrates, and this development suggests a Jewish influence in the area during that period. It is known, for instance, that the local king during the early second century, Abgar VII, was a son of *Izates of Adiabene, a monarchy already converted to Judaism. Eusebius, a primary source regarding the establishment of Christianity in Edessa, relates that Abgar V had corresponded with Jesus himself, and as a result immediately accepted the teachings of the first Christian disciple to arrive at Edessa, the preacher Addai. The story is also given in the "Doctrine of Addai," which claims that the conversion involved, among others, Jewish silk merchants. The story is a Christian invention. The Palestinian Targum identifies the Erech of Genesis 10:10 with Edessa and refers to it, together with Ctesiphon and Nisibis, as one of the three Babylonian cities ruled by *Nimrod. In the Talmud the name of the community is Hadass.
R. Duval, Histoire politique, religieuse et littéraire d'Edesse (1892); J.J. Benjamin, Acht Jahre in Asien und Afrika (1858), 49–53; H. Pognon, Inscriptions semitiques de la Syrie … (1907), 7; Krauss, in: Zion Me'assef, 3 (1929), 17–21; J. Obermeyer, Landschaft Babylonien (1929), 132f., 261, 280 n. 1, 299 n. 4; A. Ben-Ya'acov, Kehillot Yehudei Kurdistan (1961), 129–30; Neusner, Babylonia, 1 (1965), 62 n. 1, 89, 166–9. ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: A. Sharf, Byzantine Jewry from Justinian to the Fourth Crusade (1971), 51, 133, 181; J.B. Segal, Edessa: The Blessed City (1970), 41–43, 100–5, 182; M. Gil, Be-Malkhut Yishma'el, 1 (1997) 42, 152, 209, 296, 367; M. Yona, Enẓyklopedya shel Yehudei Kurdistan, 1 (2003), 70, 82.
Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.