Introduction of Samarra
Ancient city of N central Iraq, on the Tigris River, 65 mi NNW of Baghdad. The city was founded in a.d. 836 by one of the Abbasid caliphs to replace Baghdad as capital, where the court had been at the mercy of Turkish mercenary guards. The caliphs lived in Samarra until 876, when the court was moved back to Baghdad and the city aband oned. The impressive ruins extend for 20 miles along the Tigris River with a great minaret still dominating the center. There is also a 17th-century mosque here with a golden dome, sacred to Shiite Muslims. Samarra was also a prehistoric site, and its name is used to describe a type of Neolithic pottery from the fifth millennium b.c. In 2006, the As Askari mosque was damaged by terrorist bombs, setting off a wave of reprisal killings between Shiites and Sunnis.