Nisibis (Nusaybin, province Mardin, south-eastern Turkey) is the ancient Mesopotamian city, which Alexander's successors refounded as 'Antiochia Mygdonia' and is mentioned for the first time in Polybius' description of the march of Antiochus against the Molon (Polybius, V, 51).
Like many other cities in the marches where Roman and Parthian powers confronted one another, Nisibia was often taken and retaken: it was captured by Lucullus after a long siege from the brother of Tigranes (Dion Cassius, xxxv, 6, 7); and captured again by Trajan in 115, for which he gained the name of Parthicus (ibid., LXVIII, 23). Lost in 194, it was again conquered by Septimius Severus, who made it his headquarters and re-established a colony there (ibid., LXXV, 23). With the fresh energy of the new Sassanian dynasty, Shapur I of Persia conquered Nisibis, was driven out, and returned in the 260s. In 297, by a treaty with Narses, the province of Nisibis was acquired by the Roman Empire; in 363 it was ceded back to the Persians on the defeat of Julian. The Roman historian of the 4th century Ammianus Marcellinus gained his first practical experience of warfare as a young man under the governor at Nisibis, Ursicinus.
Nisibis had a Christian bishop from 300 CE, founded by Babu (died 309). War was begun again by Shapur II in 337, who besieged the city in 338, 346 and 350, when James, Babu's successor, was its bishop. Nisibis was the home of Ephrem the Syrian remained until its surrender to the Persians by Jovian in 363.
Later, the bishop of Nisibis was the ecclesiastic metropolitan of the Province of Beit-Arbaye. In 410 it had six suffragan sees and as early as the middle of the 5h century was the most important episcopal see of the Persian Church after Seleucia-Ctesiphon, and many of its Nestorian or Jacobite bishops were renowned for their writings: Barsumas, Osee, Narses, Jesusyab, Ebed-Jesus.
The first theological school of Nisibis, founded at the introduction of Christianity into the city, was closed when the province was ceded to the Persians. Ephrem the Syrian, a poet, commentator, preacher and defender of orthodoxy, joined the general exodus of Christians and reestablished the school on more securely Roman soil at Edessa. In the 5th century the school became a center of Nestorian Christianity, and was closed down by Archbishop Cyrus in 489; the expelled masters and pupils withdrew once more to Nisibis, under the care of Barsumas, who had been trained at Edessa, under the patronage of Narses, who established the statutes of the new school. Those which have been discovered and published belong to Osee, the successor of Barsumas in the See of Nisibis, and bear the date 496; they must be substantially the same as those of 489. In 590 they were again modified. The monastery school was under a superior called Rabban ("master"), a title also given to the instructors. The administration was confided to a majordomo, who was steward, prefect of discipline, and librarian, but under the supervision of a council. Unlike the Jacobite schools, devoted chiefly to profane studies, the school of Nisibis was above all a school of theology. The two chief masters were the instructors in reading and in the interpretation of Holy Scripture, explained chiefly with the aid of Theodore of Mopsuestia. The free course of studies lasted three years, the students providing for their own support. During their sojourn at the university, masters and students led a monastic life under somewhat special conditions. The school had a tribunal and enjoyed the right of acquiring all sorts of property. Its rich library possessed a most beautiful collection of Nestorian works; from its remains Ebed-Jesus, Bishop of Nisibis in the 14th century, composed his celebrated catalogue of ecclesiastical writers. The disorders and dissensions, which arose in the sixth century in the school of Nisibis, favoured the development of its rivals, especially that of Seleucia; however, it did not really begin to decline until after the foundation of the School of Baghdad (832). Among its literary celebrities mention should be made of its founder Narses; Abraham, his nephew and successor; Abraham of Kashgar, the restorer of monastic life; John; Babai the Elder.
Near Nisibis on June 25, 1839, Ibrahim Pasha, son of Mehemet Ali, Viceroy of Egypt, won a great victory over the troops of the sultan Mahmud II.
See also Severus of Antioch, Paul of Nisibis ,