First mentions about Harran have been found in ancient tablets from the 9th century BC. It is also the most probable date for founding the first settlement in this location. One of the earliest inhabitants were Carthaginian merchants who settled down at a source of fresh water, today known as Emerald Pond. The oldest building that survived to modern times is the stronghold at the lake, now housing the City Museum. The stronghold is estimated to have been built in the 4th century BC by the Romans. Not much younger are the City Walls, which together with the stronghold formed the city’s main defenses.
The Walls survived intact for many centuries, but were partially destroyed in the 11th c. AD. The region had been struck by a series of severe droughts that lasted for at least twenty years. The droughts had led to famine. Eventually, rebellions had broken out destroying large parts of Harran in their wake. The City Walls were then rebuilt in 1530, many years after the rebellions had ended.
For the next 200 years Harran experienced a relatively calm period of steady development under the Turkish rule, as any uprisings were swiftly nipped in the bud. The symbol of this prosperous period is the Academy of Harran, founded in 1720, which turned the city into an unofficial intellectual capital of the region. The prosperity came to an abrupt end at the beginning of the 19th century when a massive fire consumed the southern districts. In a matter of weeks, the area of the city was halved, leaving the remaining districts surrounded by ashes and wastelands. The burnt down half was not reconstructed until dozens of years later as the Ottoman Empire gradually had lost interest in the city.
The turning point for the city were the world wars. Firstly, no battles were fought in the immediate vicinity of Harran, which saved its population and precious architecture from destruction. Secondly, after World War I the city became partially independent due to the collapse of the Ottoman Empire and birth of the Republic of Turkey. The independence was then reinforced at the end of World War II, turning Harran into a self-governed city-state it is today.