Carrhae Battlefield | Attraction Guides | History Hit

Carrhae Battlefield

Southeastern Anatolia Region, Southeastern Anatolia Region, Turkey

Lucy Davidson

02 Jun 2021

About Carrhae Battlefield

Located near the modern town of Harran in Turkey, Carrhae Battlefield was the setting for one of the most crushing Roman defeats inflicted at the hands of the Parthians.

History of Carrhae Battlefield

The battle took place in May 53 BC. was the culmination of a Roman invasion of Parthia, led by the wealthy Roman aristocrat and Triumvir Marcus Licinius Crassus. It was an unprovoked war, with Crassus and his army meeting the Parthian noble Surenas with his army on a plain near the Mesopotamian city of Carrhae.

It was because he led his army directly into Parthian territory combined with Surenas’ expert battle tactics and equipment that Crassus was soundly defeated.

In particular, this was largely due to the Roman inability to deal with the Parthian horse archers and heavy cataphract cavalry, meaning that nearly all of their legions were captured or destroyed. Even Crassus himself was tricked into and killed as a result of parleying with Surenas during the ensuing negotiations.

There is no precise location for Carrhae Battlefield, but it is thought to have been sited to the east of ancient Carrhae, now the modern city of Harran.

Carrhae Battlefield Today

The battlefield has no precise location. However, In visiting the ancient city of Harran, it is easy to garner a sense of the way that the landscape might have appeared, with the arid earth and scorching heat being evocative of the dramatic battle of Carrhae.

The city itself is famous for its distinctive mud beehive houses, which form unusual shapes on the horizon.

There is also a ‘kale’ – a fortress which dates at least from the 11th century during Fatmid times – the city walls, an 8th century ‘Ulu Cami’ – Great Mosque – and, a short drive east of Harran, sights such as the Seljuk Turkish Han el Ba’rur caravanserai, ancient Shuayib City, and the 1800-year-old remains of a sun-worshipper temple at Sogmatar.

Getting to Carrhae Battlefield

Getting to Harran from Şanlıurfa is fairly easy, with hourly minibuses travelling between both points during the day. Minibuses also run from Şanlıurfa to the Syrian border at Akçakale and will drop you at the intersection of the Harran road, but then it’s a 10-km (6-mile) hike eastward under the boiling sun, or, if you’re lucky, a ride hitched with a passing vehicle—if any come along. The nearest airport is at Şanlıurfa.

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