Yezidi men in Mardin, late 19th century
The name of the city is derived from the Syriac-Aramaic word "ܡܪܕܐ" meaning fortress. 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 Saffron 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 southern 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 worshipers as long ago as 2000 BC. Mardin is likely the Maride and Marida of the Greeks and Romans. Another important church, Kırklar Kilisesi (Church of the 40 Martyrs), originally built in the name of Behnam 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 sometime between 1235 and 1243, but the Mongols never directly governed the area. The Artukid family ruling Mardin became vassal state of the Mongol Empire. During the battle of Ain Jalut in 1260, the Artuqid ruler revolted against the Mongol rule. Hulegu's general and Chupan's ancestor, Koke-Ilge of the Jalayir, stormed the city and Hulegu appointed the rebel's son, al-Nasir, governor of Mardin. Altough, Hulegu suspected the latter's loyalty for a while, thereafter the Artukids remained loyal unlike nomadic Bedoun and Kurd tribes in the south western frontier. The Mongol Ilkhanids considered them important allies. For this loyalty they shown, Artukids were given more lands in 1298 and 1304. Mardin was later controlled by the Turkic tribes who came from Central Asia Akkoyunlu kingdom. The Kasımiye Madrasa was built by Sultan Kasım, 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. After the genocide in 1916, the Christian survivors fled mostly south to Syria and Iraq. The most common destination was either Al-Kamishli or Al-Hasaka, Syria; there is even a Mardin Club in Detroit, MI today.