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CHAP. 13. (12.)—SYRIA.

Next to these countries Syria occupies the coast, once the greatest of lands, and distinguished by many names; for the part which joins up to Arabia was formerly called Palæstina, Judæa, Cœle1, and Phœnice. The country in the interior was called Damascena, and that further on and more to the south, Babylonia. The part that lies between the Euphrates and the Tigris was called Mesopotamia, that beyond Taurus Sophene, and that on this side of the same chain Comagene. Beyond Armenia was the country of Adiabene, anciently called Assyria, and at the part where it joins up to Cilicia, it was called Antiochia. Its length, between Cilicia and Arabia2, is 470 miles, and its breadth, from Seleucia Pieria3 to Zeugma4, a town on the Euphrates, 175. Those who make a still more minute division of this country will have it that Phœnice is surrounded by Syria, and that first comes the maritime coast of Syria, part of which is Idumæa and Judæa, after that Phœnice, and then Syria. The whole of the tract of sea that lies in front of these shores is called the Phœnician Sea. The Phœnician people enjoy the glory of having been the inventors of letters5, and the first discoverers of the sciences of astronomy, navigation, and the art of war.

1 Or the "Hollow" Syria. This was properly the name given, after the Macedonian conquest, to the great valley between the two great ranges of Mount Lebanon, in the south of Syria, bordering upon Phœnicia on the west, and Palestine on the south. In the wars between the Ptolemies and the Seleucidæ, the name was applied to the whole of the southern portion of Syria, which became subject for some time to the kings of Egypt; but under the Romans, it was confined to Cœlesyria proper with the district east of Anti-Libanus, about Damascus, and a portion of Palestine east of Jordan.

2 Or Ostracine, the northern point of Arabia.

3 This was a great fortress of Syria founded by Seleucus B.C. 300, at the foot of Mount Pieria and overhanging the Mediterranean, four miles north of the Orontes and twelve miles west of Antioch. It had fallen entirely to decay in the sixth century of our era. There are considerable ruins of its harbour and mole, its walls and necropolis. They bear the name of Seleukeh or Kepse.

4 From the Greek ζεῦγμα, "a junction ;" built by Seleucus Nicator on the borders of Commagene and Cyrrhestice, on the west bank of the Euphrates, where the river had been crossed by a bridge of boats constructed by Alexander the Great. The modern Rumkaleh is supposed to occupy its site.

5 On this subject see B. vii. c. 57. The invention of letters and the first cultivation of the science of astronomy have been claimed for the Egyptians and other nations. The Tyrians were probably the first who applied the science of astronomy to the purposes of navigation. There is little doubt that warfare must have been studied as an art long before the existence of the Phœnician nation.

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  • Cross-references to this page (3):
    • Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography (1854), CU´RIUM
    • Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography (1854), PHOENI´CIA
    • Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography (1854), SAMA´RIA
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