The city was named by the Roman Emperor Vespasian in 72 CE as Flavia Neapolis. Since then, Nablus has been ruled by many empires over the course of its almost 2,000-year-long history. In the 5th and 6th centuries, conflict between the city’s Christian and Samaritan inhabitants climaxed in a series of Samaritan revolts against Byzantine rule, before their violent quelling in 529 CE drastically dwindled that community’s numbers in the city.
In 636, Neapolis, along with most of Palestine, came under the rule of the Islamic Arab Caliphate of Umar ibn al-Khattab; its name Arabicized to Nablus. In 1099, the Crusaders took control of the city for less than a century, leaving its mixed Muslim, Christian and Samaritan population relatively undisturbed. After Saladin’s Ayyubid forces took control of the interior of Palestine in 1187, Islamic rule was reestablished, and continued under the Mamluk and Ottoman empires to follow.
Following its incorporation into the Ottoman Empire in 1517, Nablus was designated capital of the Jabal Nablus (‘Mount Nablus’) district. In 1657, after a series of upheavals, a number of Arab clans from the northern and eastern Levant were dispatched to the city to reassert Ottoman authority, and loyalty from among these clans staved off challenges to the empire’s authority by rival regional leaders, like Zahir al-Umar in the 18th century, and Muhammad Ali—who briefly ruled Nablus—in the 19th century. When Ottoman rule was firmly reestablished in 1841, Nablus prospered as a center of trade.
After the city was captured by British forces during World War I, Nablus was incorporated into the British Mandate of Palestine in 1922. During the 1948 Arab–Israeli War, the city was captured and occupied by Transjordan, which subsequently annexed it unilaterally, until its occupation by Israel during the 1967 Six-Day War. Today, the population is predominantly Muslim, with small Christian and Samaritan minorities. Since 1995, the city has been governed by the Palestinian National Authority. In the Old City, there are a number of sites of archaeological significance, spanning the 1st to 15th centuries. Culturally, the city is known for its kanafeh, a popular sweet throughout the MIDDLE EASTERN, and its soap industry.