Aleppo Citadel - History and Facts | History Hit

Aleppo Citadel

Aleppo, Syria

Peta Stamper

20 Aug 2021
Image Credit: Shutterstock

About Aleppo Citadel

Considered to be one of the oldest and largest castles in the world, Aleppo Citadel is a huge medieval fortified palace sat in the centre of the old city of Aleppo, northern Syria. People have utilised the citadel hill since the middle of the 3rd millennium BC.

Occupied by many civilisations over time – including the Armenians, Greeks, Byzantines, Ayyubids and Ottomans – most of what stands today is thought to originate from the Ayyubid period.

Aleppo Citadel history

Around the middle of the 3rd millennium BC, a temple to the ancient Storm God Hadad stood on the citadel hill. The first use of the hill as a fortification however, in the form of a Macedonian acropolis, was probably during the reign of Seleucus I Nicator in the 4th and 3rd centuries BC. A temple once again stood on the hill – this time dedicated to Zeus – visited by the Roman Emperor Julian in 64 BC.

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. Unfortunately, invading Muslim troops took advantage of this weakness in 636 AD, when Aleppo was conquered. 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, strengthening Aleppo Citadel only for the city to be largely destroyed in 962 when the Byzantines attacked.

In 1260 Aleppo Citadel was taken by the Mongols under Hulagu Khan and again in 1400 – this time under Timur. Almost all the buildings inside the citadel were destroyed.

Aleppo Citadel today

Still dominating the city, the Citadel is part of the Ancient City of Aleppo which has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1986. During the 2010s, the Citadel received significant damage during the lengthy Battle of Aleppo. Since early 2017, with repairs to damaged parts underway, Aleppo Citadel has been open to the public and boasts spectacular views over the bustling ancient city of Aleppo.

Getting to Aleppo Citadel

You should check with your government’s travel advice before heading to Syria. Nonetheless, Aleppo is only a 15 minute drive from Aleppo’s International Airport.

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