Mardin (meaning fortresses) is a city in southeastern Turkey. The capital of Mardin Province, it is known for its Arabic architecture, and for its strategic location on a rocky mountain overlooking the plains of northern Syria.
Most Syriac Orthodox churches and monasteries in the city were built on ancient Assyrian-Babylonian temple sites and some are still active today. The Syriac Orthodox Deyrülzafarân Monastery was founded in 439 AD and is one of the oldest monasteries in the world and the only one that is still functioning in Turkey. From 1160 until 1932, it was the seat of the Syriac Orthodox Patriarch, until the Patriarchate relocated to the Syrian capital Damascus. The site of the monastery itself is said to have been used as a temple by sun worshippers as long ago as 2000 BC. Mardin is likely the Maride and Marida of the Greeks and Romans. Another important church, Kirklar Kilisesi (Church of the 40 Martyrs), originally built in the name of Benham and Saro, the two sons of the Assyrian ruler who executed them because they chose to become Christian, dates from 569 AD, and even during its use as a capital by the Artukid Turkish dynasty which ruled Eastern Anatolia and Northern Mesopotamia between the twelfth and fourteenth centuries. The 12th century Sitti Radviyye Madrasa, the oldest of its kind in Anatolia, dates from this period.
The lands of the Artukid dynasty fell to the Mongols who took control of the region in 1394, but the Mongols never directly governed the area. Mardin was later controlled by the Turkish Akkoyunlu kingdom. The Kasimiye Madrasa was built by Sultan Kasim, son of the Akkoyunlu Sultan Cihangir, between 1457 and 1502. In 1517, Mardin was conquered by Ottoman Turks. During 1915-1916, Arab, Assyrian/Syriac and Armenian Christians of all denominations were massacred or driven away.