The Aleppo Citadel

The Aleppo Citadel 400
The Aleppo Citadel, Syria
Photo by: aiace , Creative Commons

The Aleppo Citadel is Syria’s primary tourist attraction mainly because of its amazing architecture and history. The citadel is situated right in the heart of the ancient city of Aleppo and rises about 164 feet above the neighborhoods that surround it. The walls and towers that comprise the Aleppo Citadel are of various heights and are characterized by an interesting architectural diversity. One of the biggest fortresses in the world, the citadel’s elliptical base measures about 1,476 feet long by approximately 1,066 feet wide. On the southern and northern slopes of the hill upon which the citadel stands are two advance towers. A moat that is deeper than the surrounding area’s ground level surrounds the hill, which is also connected to a number of underground passageways and caves. Although the Aleppo Citadel is an Islamic landmark, archaeologists have uncovered Greek, Roman, and Byzantine ruins.

The citadel hill was used for several millennia since the founding of the city of Aleppo itself, and the hill’s history is supposed to go all the way back to the first or second millennia BC. During that time, the citadel was originally a Neo-Hittite acropolis and later was transformed into a citadel. One of the citadel’s first builders during the Hellenistic period is alleged to be Seleucius Necator, a Greek king and one of Alexander the Great’s generals. The first of the wall sections were possibly built during the Greek or Roman periods followed by the Byzantines doing some improvement and restoration, like the addition of water cisterns. The citadel changed hands from the Byzantines to Muslim Arabs when the latter successfully captured the fortress. Over the next few centuries, various rulers further fortified the citadel and added structures, such as residence areas, the two advance towers, an arsenal, iron gates, two storage rooms for harvested crops, a vaulted passageway, and a mosque, to name a few. Unfortunately, the Aleppo Citadel fell prey to two Mongol invasions, which resulted in the destruction of many of the original structures. However, the Syrian government is actively restoring the once-glorious citadel with the help of local and foreign researchers and archaeologists.

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