St Gurias (Gūrja).

The martyr Gurias was an ascetic at Edessa, and nothing is known of his life before his arrest during the persecutions of Diocletian. He and his friend, Samonas, were, according to St. Jacob of Serugh, old men at the time of their martyrdom. The pair are said to have endured three days of torture, including having been hung upside down, before Musonius, the procurator of Antioch, ordered them beheaded in 305AD. The fellow ascetics were buried together. Deacon Habib, a martyr under Licinius, is said to have been buried in their tomb and is honored with them.

St. Gurias’ day is celebrated on November 28th (the 15th, old style) the Church commemorates the holy martyrs and confessors Gurias, Samonas and Abibus (the differemce in the name is merely the translation between the Greek used in the orthodox church and latin in the Catholic church)

Diocletian: Roman Emperor, noted for his fierce persecution of the Christians. The reign of Diocletian (284-305) marked an era both in the military and political history of the empire. Diocletian's name is associated with the last and most terrible of all the ten persecutions of the early Church

Edessa: The native name was Osroe, it became Ourhoļ in Syriac, Ourhaļ in Armenian, Er Roha in Arabic, commonly Orfa or Sanli Urfa, its present name. (Due to similarity of names, folk mythology in Islam connects Edessa with an ancient city of Sumer, located on a former channel of the Euphrates River; Ur as the abode of  Abraham (The first of the Old Testament patriarchs and the father of Isaac).  

Seleucus I Nicator (358-281 BC), (Macedonian general who accompanied Alexander the Great into Asia; founded a line of kings who reigned in Asia Minor until 65 BC occupied the town as a military colony, 303 BC and called it Edessa, in memory of the ancient capital of Macedon (The ancient kingdom of Philip II and Alexander the Great in the southeastern Balkans that is now divided among modern Macedonia and Greece and Bulgaria). Under Antiochus IV Epiphanes, the town was called Antiochia on Callirhoe by colonists from  Antioch who had settled there (A town in southern Turkey; ancient commercial center and capital of Syria; an early center of Christianity) .

On the foundation of the Kingdom of Osroene, Edessa became the capital under the Abgar dynasty. This kingdom was established by Nabataean (a member of a Semitic people originally from the Arabian peninsula and surrounding territories who speaks Arabic and who inhabits much of the Middle East and northern Africa) and lasted nearly four centuries (c.132 BC to 214), under twenty-eight kings. Under the protectorate of the Parthians (An ancient country in Asia on the Caspian Sea; dominated southwestern Asia from about 100 BC to 200 AD), then from the time of Pompey (Roman general and statesman who quarrelled with Caesar and fled to Egypt where he was murdered (106-48 BC) to Trajan (Roman emperor and adoptive son of Nerva) extended the empire to the east and conducted an extensive program of building (53-117), the Romans even occupied Edessa from 116 to 118, although its sympathies towards the Parthians led to Lucius Verus pillaging the city later in the second century. From 212 to  214  the kingdom was a Roman province. The literary language of the tribes which had founded this kingdom, was (A Semitic language originally of the ancient Arameans but still spoken by other people in southwestern Asia) Aramaic, whence came the Syriac.

Christianity in Edessa:

The exact date of the introduction of Christianity into Edessa is not known. It is certain, however, that the Christian community was at first made up from the Jewish population of the city. According to an ancient legend, King Abgar V, Ushana, was converted by Addai, who was one of the seventy-two disciples. In fact, however, the first King of Edessa to embrace the Christian Faith was Abgar IX (c. 206). Under him Christianity became the official religion of the kingdom. As for Addai, he was neither one of the seventy-two disciples as the legend asserts, nor was he the Apostle Thaddeus, as Eusebius says, but a missionary from Palestine who evangelized Mesopotamia about the middle of the second century, and became the first bishop of Edessa. He was succeeded by Aggai, then by Palout (Palut) who was ordained about 200 by Seraphion of Antioch.

Thenceforth the Church of Edessa, until then under that of Jerusalem, was subject to the metropolitan of Syria. The aforesaid relations with Jerusalem and Antioch caused in important Syriac literary movement at Edessa of which the city long remained the centre. Thence came to us in the second century the famous Peshitto, or Syriac translation of the Old Testament; also Tatian's Diatessaron, which was compiled about 172 and in common use until St. Rabbula (Rabulas), Bishop of Edessa (412-435), forbade its use. Among the illustrious disciples of the School of Edessa special mention is due to Bardesanes (154-222), a schoolfellow of Abgar IX, the originator of Christian religious poetry, whose teaching was continued by his son Harmonius and his disciples.

A Christian council was held at Edessa as early as 197 (Euseb., Hist. Eccl., V, xxiii). In 201 the city was devastated by a great flood, and the Christian church was destroyed ("Chronicon Edessenum", ad. an. 201). In 232 the relics of the Apostle St. Thomas were brought from India, on which occasion his Syriac Acts were written. Under Roman domination many martyrs suffered at Edessa: Sts. Scharbīl and Barsamya, under Decius; Sts. Gūrja, Schāmōna, Habib, and others. In the meanwhile Christian priests from Edessa had evangelized Eastern Mesopotamia and Persia, and established the first Churches in the kingdom of the Sassanides. Atillātiā, Bishop of Edessa, assisted at the Council of Nicęa (325). The "Peregrinatio Silvię" (or Etherię) (ed. Gamurrini, Rome, 1887, 62 sqq.) gives an account of the many sanctuaries at Edessa about 388.

When Nisibis was ceded to the Persians in 363, St. Ephrem left his native town for Edessa, where he founded the celebrated School of the Persians. This school, largely attended by the Christian youth of Persia, and closely watched by St. Rabbula, the friend of St. Cyril of Alexandria, on account of its Nestorian tendencies, reached its highest development under Bishop Ibas, famous through the controversy of the Three Chapters, was temporarily closed in 457, and finally in 489, by command of Emperor Zeno and Bishop Cyrus, when the teachers and students of the School of Edessa repaired to Nisibis and became the founders and chief writers of the Nestorian Church in Persia (Labourt, Le christianisme dans l'empire perse, Paris, 1904, 130-141). Monophysitism prospered at Edessa, even after the Arab conquest.

Suffice it to mention here among the later celebrities of Edessa Jacob Baradeus, the real chief of the Syrian Monophysites known after him as Jacobites; Stephen Bar Sudaļli, monk and pantheist, to whom was owing, in Palestine, the last crisis of Origenism in the sixth century; Jacob, Bishop of Edessa, a fertile writer (d. 708); Theophilus the Maronite, an astronomer, who translated into Syriac verse Homer's Iliad and Odyssey; the anonymous author of the "Chronicon Edessenum" (Chronicle of Edessa), compiled in 540; the writer of the story of "The Man of God", in the fifth century, which gave rise to the legend of St. Alexius. The oldest known dated Syriac manuscripts (A. D. 411 and 462), containing Greek patristic texts, come from Edessa.

Rebuilt by Emperor Justin, and called after him Justinopolis (Evagrius, Hist. Eccl., IV, viii, Edessa was taken in 609 by the Persians, soon retaken by Heraclius, but captured again by the Arabs in 640. Under Byzantine rule, as metropolis of Osrhoene, it had eleven suffragan sees (Echos d'Orient, 1907, 145). Lequien mentions thirty-five Bishops of Edessa; yet his list is incomplete. The Greek hierarchy seems to have disappeared after the eleventh century. Of its Jacobite bishops twenty-nine are mentioned by Lequien, many others in the "Revue de l'Orient chrétien" (VI, 195), some in "Zeitschrift der deutschen morgenländischen Gesellschaft" (1899). Moreover, Nestorian bishops are said to have resided at Edessa as early as the sixth century. The Byzantines often tried to retake Edessa, especially under Romanus Lacapenus, who obtained from the inhabitants the "Holy Mandylion", or ancient portrait of Christ, and solemnly transferred it to Constantinople, 16 August, 944 (Rambaud, Constantin Porphyrogénčte, Paris, 1870, 105 sqq.). For an account of this venerable and famous image, which was certainly at Edessa in 544, and of which there is an ancient copy in the Vatican Library, brought to the West by the Venetians in 1207, see Weisliebersdorf, "Christus und Apostelbilder" (Freiburg, 1902), and Dobschütz, "Christusbilder" (Leipzig, 1899).

In 1031 Edessa was given up to the Greeks by its Arab governor. It was retaken by the Arabs, and then successively held by the Greeks, the Seljuk Turks (1087), the Crusaders (1099), who established there the "county" of Edessa and kept the city till 1144, when it was again captured by the Turk Zengui, and most of its inhabitants were slaughtered together with the Latin archbishop. These events are known to us chiefly through the Armenian historian Matthew, who had been born at Edessa. Since the twelfth century, the city has successively belonged to the Sultans of Aleppo, the Mongols, the Mamelukes, and from 1517 to 1918 to the  (A Turkish sultanate of southwestern Asia and northeastern Africa and southeastern Europe; created by the Ottoman Turks in the 13th century and lasted until the end of World War I

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