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OSROENE (Osrhoene), district within the Seleucid Empire, occupying the N.W. portion of Mesopotamia. The capital city of the district, Edessa (modern Urfa), became a Greek polis under Seleucus I Nicator, but during the reign of Antiochus VII Sidetes (c. 136 B.C.E.) the area was conquered by Arab tribesmen, sons of Orhai (Osroes). Thereafter the capital and the state were known as Orhai or Urhai (Orrhoene being the form given by Pliny the Elder). Situated between the Roman and Parthian Empires, the Arab kingdom tended to support the latter, and thus during the temporary Roman conquest of Mesopotamia under Trajan (116 C.E.) the reigning monarch, Abgar VII, was deposed. Although the king was eventually returned under Hadrian, total autonomy was short-lived, and in 216 the area became a Roman colony. Jews probably resided in Osroene from the late Persian and early Hellenistic periods. By the end of the Second Temple period their influence carried over to the neighboring kingdom of *Adiabene, whose royal family converted to Judaism. Christianity was also introduced into Osroene by means of the local Jewish community, and according to one legend the Jew Hananiah supposedly conveyed a letter from Jesus to King Abgar V. By the end of the second century Christianity was officially recognized in Osroene, and thereafter the office of bishop of Edessa was considered of utmost importance for Eastern Christianity.


A. von Gutschmid, in: Mémoires de l'Académie de St. Petersbourg, 35 (1887); J. Neusner, History of the Jews in Babylonia, 1 (1965), 166–9.

Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2007 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.