Aleppo citadel

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Aleppo Citadel lies on a large hill in the center of the city of Aleppo in Syria.

Usage of the Citadel hill dates back at least to the middle of the 3rd millennium BC when a temple to the ancient Storm God Hadad stood there. The first use of the hill as a fortification, in the form of a Macedonian acropolis, was probably during the reign of Seleucus I Nicator in the 4-3th century BC.

In 64 BC the Roman Emperor Julian visited a temple dedicated to Zeus in the acropolis.

During the 7th century the population of Aleppo is said to have taken refuge in the citadel because the city walls were in a deplorable state. In 636 AD Aleppo was conquered by Muslim troops and later repairs were made to the citadel after a major earthquake.

In 944 the Muslims of the Hamdanid dynasty took Aleppo and made it their capital city. They strengthened Aleppo Citadel. In 962 the Byzantines attacked and largely destroyed the city.

During the 12th century Aleppo Citadel was ruled by the Zengid dynasty and several famous crusaders were imprisoned in the citadel, among them Count of Edessa, Joscelin II, who died there, Raynald of Châtillon, and the King of Jerusalem, Baldwin II, who was held for 2 years. In 1157 the dilapidated citadel was extensively damaged by an earthquake. It was then rebuilt en modernized by Sultan Nur ad-Din Zangi.

His successor; Az-Zahir Ghazi, son of Saladin, also reconstructed and further fortified Aleppo Citadel between 1193 and 1215. It are mainly the remains of his works that we see today. It was than almost a palatial city within the city of Aleppo itself.

In 1260 Aleppo Citadel was taken by the Mongols under Hulagu Khan and was badly damaged as a result. Before the end of the 13th century these damages were repaired by the Mamluk Sultan Al-Ashraf Khalil.

Around 1400 the city and the citadel were again taken by the Mongols, this time under Timur. Almost all the buildings inside the citadel were destroyed. In 1415 Aleppo Citadel was again restored.

During the Ottoman period the military role of the citadel as a defense fortress slowly diminished. In 1521 the citadel was restored by Sultan Suleiman I and Aleppo Citadel was used as a barracks for Ottoman soldiers. In 1822 the citadel was again badly damaged by an earthquake. Around 1850 the citadel was restored by Sultan Abdülmecid I. During the French Mandate in the first part of the 20th century archaeological excavations and extensive restoration works were carried out.

At present Aleppo Citadel can be visited for a small fee. Due to the millennia of occupation of the site the interior is riddled with ruins and excavations are still taking place. Really recommendable, as are the views from this great and ancient citadel over the bustling city of Aleppo.