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Karamles (or Karemlash, Keramlais; Syriac: ܟܪܡܠܫ) is a town in Iraq located less than 18 miles (29 km) south east of Mosul, located right in Iraq's Assyrian region.

It's surrounded with many hills, that along with it made the historical Assyrian city of Kar-Mullissi which meant in Akkadian the City of Mullisi. Karamles also had many other names, for it was called "Er-Elo-Bano" i.e. the City of the God Bano which is believed it was used during the reign of the Assyrian King Belu-bani (1700-1691 BC). During the reign of the Sumerian dynasty of Ur around 3000 BC, Karamles was called Kar-Denkir-Neen-Leel i.e. the City of the Goddess Neen-Leel (the wife of God En-Leel and the mother of Sumerian Goddess Neen-Norta.)


There are between 600 and 650 families in Karamles. The vast majority of the population is ethnically Assyrian (also known as Chaldean and Syriacs. They were mainly members of the Church of the East, however, they converted to Catholicism from the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Today, the inhabitants of Karamles are mainly members of the Chaldean Catholic Church, but there are also members of the Syriac Orthodox and Syriac Catholic Churches. There is a very small minority of Arab Muslims in Karamles, whose presence is relatively recent.



Karamles is a very old town and is believed to be among the first human colonies, hence, it was visited by almost all Mesopotamian archeologists who were searching for the ruins of old Assyria and Babylonia. The first who started those archeological works in the hills of Karamles was the famous Englishman Austin Henry Layard in 1846. Many relief sculptures which contained cuneiform scripts were found in Tel Ghanim and Tel Barbara (two of the hill surrounding Karamles). In them were found the names of Assyrian Kings of Sargon and Shalmensar. Also, was found in Tel Barbara the remains of an Assyrian temple while at Tel Ghanim was found the remains of an Assyrian palace.

Karamles lost its important stature during the era of Shalmaneser III (859 - 824 BC) whose son Ashur-Daneen-Ablo led a rebellion against his father along with another 27 cities. His father empowered his other brother Shamshi-Adad V, the Governor of Kalah (Nimrud). The civil war lasted for four years, between 827 to 824 BC, with the destruction of the rebellion, however, Karamles being close to Nimrud did not survive the ravages of the war. Karamles was so impacted by that rebellion that its people left it and was given the name of "Oro-Karmash" meaning "The Ruined City". Actually, and till today Karamles is referred to by its Assyrian neighbors as "Karmash". However, Karamles was reinvograted during the reigns of Kings Shalmaneser V (726 - 722 BC) and Sargon II (722 - 705 BC) who used it as his temporary capital.

The Battle of Karamles 331 BC

This great historical battle between the Greek Alexander of Macedonia and the Persian Emperor Darius III which ended with the defeat of the latter and the ushering of the Greek reign over the Near East. Karamles at the time was called Ko-Komle (which meant in Aramaic "The Camels' Square") after the death of most of the Camels of the Persian Emperor Daryos Dara I around the city due to their exhaustion. Hence, historically the Battle of Karamles is known as the Battle of Ko-Komle.

Karamles as center for the patriarchy of The Church of the East in 1332

Mar Denkha II decided to move the Seat of the Church of the East to Karamles away from Baghdad, Erbil, and Maraga due to the peacful and stable rule of its governors. The Seat of the Patriarchy in Karamles lasted 94 years. It was occupied by Patriarch Denkha II (1332-1380), Patriarch Eleya IV ; (1380-1408), and Shamoun II (1418-1427) who moved the Seat to Alqosh in 1426.

Karamles as center of principality

During the 13th and 14th centuries, Karamles became the center of a principality and gained fame due to that and was mentioned in several books as a trade center of immense importance. Among some of her governors are: 1. Prince Masoud (1317) 2. Prince Nasser El-Deen 3. Prince Hassan (1358) 4. Prince Matti (brother of Prince Hassan) 5. Prince Beyazeed (1364) 6. Prince Sahab Masoud (end of 14th century)

The destruction of Nader Shah

During the never ending wars between the Persian and Ottoman Empires, Nader Shah of Persia decided in 1732 to attack and occupy Mesopotamia which was under the Ottoman rule. After occupying Baghdad the same year, he sent a small part of his army (8,000 soldiers strong) to occupy Nineveh and its surroundings. However, his army was defeated which angered Nader Shah who decided in 1743 to go himself with 300,000 soldiers and 390 cannons. After occupying Kirkuk and Erbil, he moved to Nineveh and its villages. To show his savage nature he decided to bomb Karamles before entering it. Most of the houses of the village were ruined, in addition to Mar Yohanan Church and Beth Sahda "Church of the Forty Martyrs". Nader Shah stayed four days in Karamles destroying and putting on fire everything he laid his hands on. The same was the fate of Bartella and Bakhdida. It was estimated that over 4,000 people were killed during those four days.

Churches and monasteries


History narrators kept the memories of many churches and monasteries of the Church of the East (Nestorian) in Karamles alive. These ancient churches include the monasteries of Mar Giwargis (St. George), Mar Yonan (St. Jonah), Mar Youkhanna (St. John), and Dair Banat Maryam (the Monastery of St. Mary's Daughters). The last two have long been forgotten; meanwhile, Mar Yonan became the grounds of a school in the early twentieth century. Here is a list of the monasteries and churches in Karamles that we are aware of:

  • Mar Giwargis Monastery- This Monastery was built in the northern parts of town by a monk named Giwargis in late sixth century. It continues to stand to this very day; however, it is believed that it was turned to a cemetery after the Mongols invasion.
  • Mar Yonan Monastery- A monk named Yonan built this monastery in the seventh century. The monastery is mentioned in an unidentified Nestorian writer in his manuscript in the fourteenth century. It is believed that it was abandoned after the invasion of Nadir Shah in 1743.
  • Mar Youkhanna Monastery- There is nothing left of this monastery but a small hill known as the hill of monk Youkhanna (tell rabban Youkhanna) situated in the southern parts of town. It was mentioned in A.D. 660 in the manuscript of Bar'aeeta and it was populous in 1736 according to the manuscript of kitab dafanat al-Mowta (the book of the hidden treasures of the dead). It was destroyed completely during the invasion of Persian Nadir Shah in August 15, 1743.
  • Dair Banat Maryam- It was attached to Mar Giwargis Monastery and served as a monastery for the nuns. The monastery suffered tremendously at the hands of Mongol in the thirteenth century and in the eighteenth century at the hands of Kurdish Ismail Pasha of Rawandos. It was referred to by Charles Watson Bradt during his visit to Karamles on June 2, 1758.
  • The Church of the Forty Martyrs- The remains of this church are situated on a hill known as Beth Sahde (the Martyrs Home) southeast of the town. We know that it was standing in 1236, when Karamles was attacked by the Mongols. It was destroyed by Nadir Shah in 1743.
  • St. Barbara Church- The church is situated on the ruins of a hill by the same name west of town. It was built on the ruins of an ancient Assyrian temple for the god Banu. Excavations at the hill in 1852 uncovered two halls used by ancient Assyrians in their religious ceremonies in addition to the findings of specific tools that were used during worship. The earth soil covers a Ziggurat that was built by ancient Assyrians to serve as a temple. Barbara was the daughter of the pagan governor of the region. She converted to Christianity, with her servant Yulina, against the will of her father who imprisoned her. When they refused to change their mind and denounce Christianity, the pagan governor ordered their death. They were killed in a room attached to the temple, where the church stand today. The church was attacked by Nadir Shah, however, the town folks renovated and rebuilt it in 1798.
  • The Church of the Virgin- The church is situated in the center of town. It is a small church but beautiful. It used to be the home of a lady who donated it to the public. It was established as a church in 1887 and enlarged in 1902.
  • Mar Addai Church- The church is situated on the northern parts of town. It is the biggest and most modern churches in Karamles at this moment. Construction began in 1937 and after some delays it was consecrated in 1963.

Post Iraq War


Karamles has been relatively calm since the US led War on Iraq. In late 2003, soldiers from the 101st Airborne Division (377th Parachute Field Artillery Battalion) "adopted" the town and began giving aid to the community. [1] The schools of the town at the time were in horrible conditions. Many classrooms had no doors. Using more than 50,000 dollars acquired from the 101st Division Artillery Commander' s Emergency Relief Fund, the soldiers of Crusader Battery improved the conditions of the schools. Workers built bathrooms and repaired existing ones. A few of the schools had no running water at all, in others a complete renovation of the building plumbing system was needed. School supplies from the US were also send to the schools.

See also



Originally based on an article by Habib Hannona and Fred Aprim on, licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License, used with permission.

  1. "U.S. Soldiers Adopt Assyrian Village with Educational Results" -, 28 December 2003; Spc. Joshua Hutcheson

External links

Karemlash Profiles

ar:كرمليس sv:Karamles

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