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SY´RIA (Συρία: Eth. Σύρος, Adj. Σύριος), the classical name for the country whose ancient native appellation was Aram, its modern Esh-Sham.

I. Name.

The name Aram (HEBREW), more comprehensive than the limits of Syria Proper, extends, with several qualifying adjuncts, over Mesopotamia and Chaldaea. Thus we read (HEBREW) of Aram of the two rivers, or Aram Naharaim (HEBREW, LXX. τὴν Μεσοποταμίαν, Gen. 24.10), equivalent to Padan-Aram, or the Plain of Aram (HEBREW, LXX. τῆς Μεσοποταμίας Συρίας, Gen. 25.20, 28.2, 5, 6, 7, 31.18), but comprehended also a mountain district called “the mountains of the east” (Num. 22.5, 23.7; Deut. 23.4). (2.) Aram Sobah (HEBREW, LXX. Σουβά, 1 Sam. 14.47; 2 Sam. 8.3, 10.6, 8). (3.) Aram of Damascus (HEBREW, LXX. Συρία Δαμασκοῦ, 2 Sam. 8.5). (4.) Aram Beth-Rehob (HEBREW, LXX. Ῥοὼβ, 2 Sam. 10.6, 8). (5.) Aram Maacâh (HEBREW LXX. Μααχὰ, 1 Chron. 19.6). Of these five districts thus distinguished, the first has no connection with this article. With regard to the second, fourth, and fifth, it is doubtful whether Sobah and Rehob were in Mesopotamia or in Syria Proper. Gesenius supposes the empire of Sobah to have been situated north-east of Damascus; but places the town, which he identifies with Nesebin, Nisibis, and Antiochia Mygdoniae, in Mesopotamia (Lex. s. vv. HEBREW and HEBREW); but a comparison of 2 Sam. 10.6 with 1 Chron. 19.6 seems rather to imply that Rehob was in Mesopotamia, Soba and Maacha in Syria Proper; for, in [p. 2.1070]the former passage, we have the Aramites of Beth Rehob, and the Aramites of Soba, and the king of Maacah,--in the latter, Aram Naharaim == Mesopotamia, and Aram Maacah and Zobah; from which we may infer the identity of Beth-Rehob and Mesopotamia, and the distinction between this latter and Maacah or Zobah: and again, the alliance between Hadadezer, king of Zobah, and the Aramites of Damascus (2 Sam. 8.3--6; 1 Chron. 19.3--6) would imply the contiguity of the two states; while the expedition of the former “to recover his border,” or “establish his dominion at the river Euphrates” (ver. 3), during which David attacked him, would suppose a march from west to east, through Syria, rather than in the opposite direction through Mesopotamia.

With regard to the origin of the name Aram, there are two Patriarchs in the early genealogies from whom it has been derived; one the son of Shem, the progenitor of the Hebrew race, whose other children Uz, Asshur, Arphaxad, and Lud, represent ancient kingdoms or races contiguous to Syria; while Uz, the firstborn son of Aram, apparently gave his name to the native land of Job, at a very early period of the world's history. (Gen. 10.22, 23.) The other Aram was the grandson of Nahor, the brother of Abraham, by Kemuel, whose brother Huz is by some supposed. to have given his name to the country of Job, as it can scarcely admit of a doubt that the third brother, Buz, was the patriarch from whom the neighbouring district took its name. (Gen. 22.20, 21; Job, 1.1, 32.2.) But as we find the name Aram already applied to describe the country of Bethuel and Laban, the uncle and cousin of the later Aram, it is obvious that the country must have derived its name from the earlier, not from the later patriarch. (Gen. xxv, 20, 28.5, &c.)

The classical name Syria is commonly supposed to be an abbreviation or modification of Assyria, and to date from the period of the Assyrian subjugation of the ancient Aram; and this account of its origin is confirmed by the fact that the name Syria does not occur in Homer or Hesiod, who speak of the inhabitants of the country under the name of Arimi, (εἰν Ἀρίμοις, Hom. Il. β. 783. Hes. Th. 5.304), in connection with the myth of Typhon, recorded by Strabo in describing the Orontes [ORONTES]; and this writer informs us that the Syrians were called Aramaei or Arimi (i. p. 42, xiii. p. 627, xvi. pp. 784, 785), which name was, however, extended too far to the west or north by other writers, so as to comprehend Cilicia, and the Sacae of Scythia. (See Bochart, Geog. Sac. lib. ii. cap. 6.) Herodotus, the earliest extant writer who distinctly names the Syrians, declares the people to be identical with the Assyrians, where he is obviously speaking of the latter, making the former to be the Greek, the latter the barbarian name (7.63); and this name he extends as far south as the confines of Egypt,--placing Sidon, Azotus, Cadytis, and, in short, the Phoenicians in general, in Syria (2.12, 158, 159), calling the Jews the Syrians in Palestine (2.104); and as far west as Asia Minor, for the Cappadocians, he says, are called Syrians by the Greeks (1.72), and speaks of the Syrians about the Thermodon and Parthenius, rivers of Bithynia (2.104). Consistently with this early notice, Strabo, at a much later period, states that the name of Syri formerly extended from Babylonia as far as the gulf of Issus, and thence as far as the Euxine (xvi. p. 737); and in this wider sense the name is used by other classical writers, and thus includes a tract of country on the west which was not comprehended within the widest range of the ancient Aram.

II. Natural boundaries and divisions.

The limits of Syria proper, which is now to be considered, are clearly defined by the Mediterranean on the west, the Euphrates on the east, the range of Amanus and Taurus on the north, and the great Desert of Arabia on the south. On the west, however, a long and narrow strip of coast, commencing at Marathus, and running south to Mount Carmel, was reckoned to Phoenice, and has been described under that name. In compensation for this deduction on the south-west, a much more ample space is gained towards the south-east, by the rapid trending away of the Euphrates eastward, between the 36th and 34th degree north lat., from near the 38th to the 41st degree of east longitude, thereby increasing its distance from the Mediterranean sea, from about 100 miles at Zeugma (Bîr), to 250 miles at the boundary of Syria, south of Circesium (Karkisia). Commencing at the northern extremity of the Issicus Sinus (Gulf of Iskanderûn), near Issus itself, the Amanus Mons (Alma Dagh), a branch of the Taurus, runs off first in a northern direction for 18 miles, then north-east for 30 more, until it joins the main chain (Durdûn Dagh), a little westward of Mar'ash, from whence it runs due eastward to the Euphrates. The southern line cannot be accurately described, as being marked only by an imaginary line drawn through an interminable waste of sand. This irregular trapezium may now be subdivided.

For the purposes of a physical description, the ranges of Lebanon and Antilibanus may be assumed as landmarks towards the south, while the river Orontes affords a convenient division in the geography of the country towards the north; for the valley of the Orontes may be regarded as a continuation northward of the great crevass of Coelesyria, the watershed being in the vicinity of Baalbek, so that “this depression extends along the whole western side of the country, having on each side, through nearly 6 degrees of latitude, an almost continuous chain of mountains, from which numerous offsets strike into the interior in different directions.” (Col. Chesney, Expedition for the Survey of the Euphrates and Tigris, vol. i. p. 384.)

1. The western range.

Where the range of Amanus meets the coast at the Gulf of Iskanderûn, near the river Issus, it leaves only a narrow pass between its base and the sea, formerly occupied by the Armenian, Syrian, or Amanidan gates of the various geographers, which will be again referred to below. This range then advances southwards under various names, approaching or receding from the coast, and occasionally throwing out bold headlands into the sea, as at Ras Khanzeer, Ras Bosyt (Posidium Prom.), Ras-esh-Shaka, &c. The part of the chain north of the Orontes is thus described by Col. Chesney (p. 384): “The base of the chain consists of masses of serpentines and diallage rocks, rising abruptly from plains on each side, and supporting a tertiary formation, terminating with bold rugged peaks and conical summits, having at the crest an elevation of 5387 feet. The sides of this mass are occasionally furrowed by rocky fissures, or broken into valleys, between which there is a succession of rounded shoulders, either protruding through forests of pines, oaks, and larches, or diversified by the arbutus, the myrtle, oleander, and other shrubs. Some basalt [p. 2.1071]appears near Ayas, and again in larger masses at some little distance from the NE. side of the chain ... Southward of Beilan the chain becomes remarkable for its serrated sides and numerous summits, of which the Akhma Tagh shows about fifteen between that place and the valley of the Orontes.” The sharp ridge of Jebel Rhoms terminates in the rugged and serrated peaks of Cape Khanzir, which overhangs the sea, and separates the Gulf of Iskanderûn from the Bay of Antioch. South of this is Jebel Musa, the Mons Pieria of classic writers, a limestone offset from Mount Rhoms, and itself imperfectly connected with the other classical mount, Casius, by the lower range of Jebel Simán. A little to the south of the embouchure of the Orontes, Mount Casius reaches an elevation of 5699 feet, composed of supra-cretaceous limestone, on the skirts of which, among the birch and larch woods, are still to be seen the ruins of the temple, said to have been consecrated by Cronus or Ham (Ammianus Marcell. 22.14), while the upper part of its cone is entirely a naked rock, justifying its native modern name Jebel-el-Akra (the bald mountain). From this point the mountain chain continues southward, at a much lower elevation, and receding further from the coast, throws out its roots both east and west, towards the Orontes on the one side and the Mediterranean on the other. This range has the general name of Jebel Anzarieh from the tribe that inhabits it, but is distinguished in its various parts and branches by local names, chiefly derived from the towns and villages on its sides or base. The southern termination of this range must be the intervening plains which Pliny places between Libanus and Bargylus ( “interjacentes campi” ), on the north of the former. (Plin. Nat. 5.20.) These plain Shaw finds in the Jeune (fruitful), as the Arabs call a comparatively level tract, which “commences a little south of Maguzzel, and ends at Sumrah, extending itself all the way from the sea to the eastward, sometimes five, sometimes six or seven leagues, till it is terminated by a long chain of mountains. These seem to be the Mons Bargylus of Pliny.” Sumrah he identifies with Simyra,--which Pliny places in Coelesyria at the northern extremity of Mount Libanus,--but remarks that, as Sumrah lies in the Jeune, 2 leagues distant from that mountain, this circumstance will better fall in with Arca, where Mount Libanus is remarkably broken off and discontinued. (Shaw, Travels in Syria, pp. 268, 269, 4to ed.) We here reach the confines of Phoenice, to which a separate article has been devoted, as also to Mount Lebanon, which continues the coast-line to the southern extremity of Syria.

2. Coelesyria, and the valley of the Orontes.

Although the name of Coelesyria (Hollow Syria) is sometimes extended so as to include even the coast of the Mediterranean--as in the passage above cited from Pliny--from Seleucis to Egypt and Arabia (Strabo, ut infra), and especially the prolongation of the southern valley along the crevass of the Jordan to the Dead Sea (see Reland, Palaestina, pp. 103, 458, 607, 774), yet, according to Strabo, the name properly describes the valley between Libanus and Antilibanus (16.2.21), now known among the natives as El-Bŭkâ'a (the deep plain). “Under this name is embraced the valley between Lebanon and Anti-Lebanon, from Zahleh southward; including the villages on the declivities of both mountains, or rather at their foot: for the eastern declivity of Lebanon is so steep as to have very few villages much above its base; and the western side of Anti-Lebanon is not more inhabited. Between Zahleh and its suburb, Mu'allahah, a stream called El-Bŭrdôny descends from Lebanon and runs into the plain to join the Lîtâny. The latter river divides the Bŭkâ'a from north to south; and at its southern end passes out through a narrow gorge, between precipices in some places of great height, and finally enters the sea north of Sûr, where it is called Kâsimêyeh” [LEONTES]. To the south of the Bŭkâ'a is the Merj ‘Ayûn (meadow of the springs), “between Belâd Beshârah and Wâdy-et-Teim, on the left of the Lîtâny. Here Lebanon and Anti-Lebanon come together, but in such a manner that this district may be said to separate rather than to unite them. It consists of a beautiful fertile plain, surrounded by hills, in some parts high, but almost every where arable, until you begin to descend towards the Liîtâny. The mountains farther south are much more properly a continuation of Lebanon than of Anti-Lebanon.” (Dr. Eli Smith, in Biblical Researches, vol. iii. Appendix B. pp. 136, 140.) This then is the proper termination to the south of Coelesyria. The Merj ‘Ayûn terminates in the Erd-el-Huleh, which is traversed by the several tributaries of the Jordan, and extends as far south as the Bahr-el-Huleh. [SAMACHONITIS LACUS; PALAESTINA, pp. 521, 522.]

To return now to the watershed. Baalbek gives its name to the remainder of the Bŭkâ'a, from the village of Zahleh northward (Smith, ut sup. p. 143), in which direction, as has been stated, the remotest sources of the Orontes are found, not far from Baalbek, which lies in the plain nearer to the range of Antilibanus than to Lebanon. [ORONTES; HELIOPOLIS.] The copious fountain of Labweh is about 10 miles north-east of Baalbek; and this village gives its name to the stream which runs for 12 miles through a rocky desert, until it falls into the basin of a much larger stream at the village of Er-Ras or ‘Ain Zerka, where is the proper source of the Orontes, now El-‘Azi. The body of water now “becomes at least threefold greater than before, and continues in its rugged chasm generally in a north-easterly course for a considerable distance, until it passes near Ribleh,” then runs north through the valley of Homs, having been fed on its way by numerous streams from the slopes of Lebanon and Antilibanus, draining the slopes of Jebel Anzerieh, and forming as it approaches Homs the Bahr-el-Kades, which is 6 miles long by about 2 wide. (Chesney, ut sup. p. 394; Robinson, Journal of the R. G. S. vol. xxiv. p. 32.) Emerging from the lake, it waters the gardens of Homs about a mile and a half to the west of the town, then running north to Er-Rustan, where is a bridge of ten arches, it is turned from its direct course by Jebel Arbâyn on its left bank, round the roots of which it sweeps almost in a semicircle, and enters Hamah, where it is crossed by a bridge of thirteen arches. It now continues its course north-west for about 15 miles to Kaláat-es-Sejar (Larissa), then due west for 8 miles, when it turns due north, and so continues to the Jisr Hadid mentioned below. About 20 miles below Larissa it passes Kaláat-em-Medaik (Apameia) on its right bank, distant about 2 miles; a little to the north of which it receives an affluent from the small lake Et-Taka, remarkable for its abundance of black-fish and carp (Burckhardt, Syria, p. 143; Chesney, p. 395), then, running through Wady-el-Ghab, enters the Birket-el-Howash, 8 miles [p. 2.1072]north of Apameia, where its impetuosity is curbed and its waters dissipated in the morasses, so that it flows off in a diminished stream to Jisr Shogher, to be again replenished in its course through the plain of ‘Umk by other affluents, until it reaches its northernmost point at Jisr Hadid (the Iron Bridge), a little below which it winds round to the west, and about 5 miles above Antioch receives from Bahr-el-Abiad (the White Sea) the Nahr-el-Kowshît, a navigable river, containing a greater volume of water than El-Azy itself. It now flows to the north of Antioch and the infamous groves of Daphne, through an exceedingly picturesque valley, in a south-west course to the sea, which it enters a little to the south of Seleucia, after a circuitous course of about 200 miles, between 34° and 36° 15′ of north latitude, 36° and 37° of east longitude.

3. Antilibanus and the eastern range.

The mountain chain which confines Coelesyria on the east is properly designated Antilibanus, but it is further extended towards the north and south by offsets, which confine the valley of the Orontes and the Jordan valley respectively. Antilibanus itself, now called Jebel-esh-Shurkeh (Eastern Mountain), which is vastly inferior to Libanus both in majesty and fertility, has been already described, as has also its southern prolongation in Mount Hermon, now Jebel-esh-Sheikh, sometimes Jebel-et-Telge (the Snow Mountain). [ANTILIBANUS] The northern chain, on the east of the Orontes valley, has not been sufficiently surveyed to admit of an accurate description, but there is nothing striking in the height or general aspect of the range, which throws out branches into the great desert, of which it forms the western boundary.

4. The eastern desert.

Although for the purposes of a geographical description the whole country east of the mountain chains above described may be regarded as one region, and the insufficient materials for a minute and accurate survey make it convenient so to regard it, yet it is far from being an uniform flat, presenting throughout the same features of desolation. On the contrary, so far as it has yet been explored, particularly to the south of the parallel of Damascus, the country is diversified by successions of hills and valleys, which often present large fertile tracts of arable land, cultivated in many parts by a hardy and industrious race of inhabitants. By far the richest of these is the plain of Damascus (El-Ghûtah), at the foot of the eastern declivity of Antilibanus, the most excellent of the four earthly paradises of the Arabian geographers. (Dr. Eli Smith, in Bib. Res. vol. iii. Append. B. p. 147.) It owes its beauty, not less than its fertility, to the abundance of water conveyed to it in the united streams of the Barada and the Phêgeh, which, issuing together from the eastern roots of Antilibanus, and distributed into numerous rivulets, permeate the city and its thousands of gardens, and finally lose themselves in the Sea of the Plain, Bahr-el-Merj, which the exploration of a recent traveller has found to consist of two lakes instead of one, as has been hitherto represented in all modern maps. (Porter, Five Years in Damascus, 1855, vol. i. pp. 377--382, and map.) Indeed, so much fresh light has been thrown on the south-west of Syria by Mr. Porter's careful surveys, that the geography of the whole country will have to be greatly modified in all future maps, as we are now, for the first time, in a position to define with some degree of accuracy the limits of several districts mentioned both by sacred and classical writers, whose relative position even has hitherto been only matter of doubtful conjecture. The statements of Burckhardt, who has hitherto been the sole authority, require considerable correction.

The Barada, the ancient Abana, from its rise in Antilibanus, near the plain of Zebdany to its termination in the South and East Lakes, is computed to traverse a distance of 42 miles, and to water a tract equal to 311 square miles, inhabited by a population of 150,000 souls, or an average of 482 to every square mile, including Damascus and its suburbs. “The prevailing rock of the mountains through which it flows is limestone. In the higher regions it is hard and compact, but near Damascus soft and chalky, with large nodules of flint intermixed. Fossil shells and corals in great variety are found along the central chain of Antilibanus, through which the river first cuts. In the white hills near Damascus are large quantities of ammonites. At Sûk Wady Barada (near its source) is a vast bed of organic remains, not less than a mile in length, and in some places exceeding 100 feet in thickness. Trunks of trees, branches of every size and form, and even the delicate tracery of the leaves may be seen scattered about in vast masses. There are in several places among the mountains traces of volcanic action. On a lofty summit, two hours' north-east of Sûk, is what appears to be an extinct crater. The mountain has been rent, the limestone strata thrown back, and black porous trap-rock fills up the cavity. The plain of Damascus has a loamy soil intermixed with fine sand. The substratum is generally conglomerate, made up of rounded smooth pebbles, flint, and sand. The south-eastern portion of the plain is entirely volcanic.” (Porter, Journal of Sacred Literature, vol. iv. p. 262.) The plain of Damascus is bounded towards the south by a low range of hills called Jebel-el-Aswad (the Black Mountain), the southern base of which is washed by a stream, which has lately been supposed by some travellers to represent the ancient Pharpar. It is now called Nahr-el-Awaj, which, rising in the roots of Hermon, runs in a course about north-east to a small lake named Bahret-el-Heijâny, only about 4 miles south of the Bahret-el-Kibliyah, into which the Barada flows. It runs partly through a limestone and partly through a volcanic formation, which continues hence far to the south. (Porter, in Journal of Sac. Lit. vol. v. pp. 45--57, Travels, vol. i. pp. 297--322.) On the south side of the river, opposite to Jebel-el-Aswad, is another low mountain range called Jebel Mânia, and a higher elevation connected with this range commands a view of those ancient divisions of Southern Syria, which have hitherto been only conjecturally placed in modern maps. Their boundaries have notwithstanding been indelibly traced by the hand of nature, and the limits so clearly defined that they actually exist, mostly under their identical ancient names, as an evidence of the fidelity of classical and sacred geographers. But these will be more conveniently considered in connection with Trachonitis, round which they are grouped [TRACHONITIS], particularly as this part of the country may be regarded as debateable ground between Syria, Arabia, and Palestine.

Turning now to the north of Damascus and the east of the mountain range, the country between this city and Aleppo offers nothing worthy of particular notice; indeed its geography is still a blank in the map of Syria, except its western side, which is traversed by the Haj road, the most northern part [p. 2.1073]of which has been described by Burckhardt, arid its southern by the no less enterprising and more accurate Porter, in more recent times. (Burckhardt, Syria, p. 121, &c.; Porter, Damascus, vol. ii. p. 350, &c.)

The northern part of Syria is now comprehended in the pashalic of Aleppo. It is bounded on the east by the Euphrates, and on the north and west by the mountain chains of Taurus and Amanus, the former of which throws off other diverging branches to the south, until they ultimately flank the valley of the Orontes on the east, so continuing the connection between Antilibanus and its parent stock. Aleppo itself is situated in a rich and extensive plain, separated on the east by undulating hills from the almost unoccupied country, which consists of a level sheep-track, extending from thence to the Euphrates. The sandy level of this Syrian desert is, however, diversified by occasional ranges of hills, and the plateaus are of various elevation, rising a little west of the meridian of Aleppo to a height of 1500 feet above the Mediterranean, and thence declining suddenly to the east and much more gradually to the west. It is on one of these ranges in the heart of the desert, north-east of Damascus, that Palmyra is situated, the only noticeable point in all the dreary waste, which has been described in an article of its own [PALMYRA]. The tract between Damascus and Palmyra has been frequently explored by modern travellers, as well as the ruins themselves; but there is no better account to be found of them than in Mr. Porter's book, already so frequently referred to (vol. i. pp. 149--254; compare Irby and Mangles, pp. 257--276).

III. Ancient geographical divisions.

The earliest classical notice of Syria, which could be expected to enter into any detail, is that of Xenophon in his Anabasis. Unhappily, however, this writer's account of the march of Cyrus through the north of Syria is very brief. The following notes are all that he offers for the illustration of its ancient geography. Issus he mentions as the last city of Cilicia, towards Syria. One day's march of 5 parasangs brought the army to the gates of Cilicia and Syria: two walls, 3 stadia apart,--the river Cersus (Κέρσος) flowing between,--drawn from the sea to the precipitous rocks, fitted with gates, allowing a very narrow approach along the coast, and so difficult to force, even against inferior numbers, that Cyrus had thought it necessary to send for the fleet in order to enable him to turn the flank of the enemy: but the position was abandoned by the general of Artaxerxes. One day's march of 5 parasangs brought them to Myriandrus (Μυρίανδρος), a mercantile city of the Phoenicians, on the sea. Four days' march, or 20 parasangs, to the river Chalus (Χάλος), abounding in a fish held sacred by the Syrians. Six days, or 30 parasangs, to the fountains of the Daradax (al. Dardes, Δάρδης), where were palaces and parks of Belesys, governor of Syria. Three days, 15 parasangs, to the city Thapsacus on the Euphrates (Anab. 1.4. § § 4--18). It is to be remarked that the 9 days' march of 50 parasangs beyond this is said by Xenophon to have led through Syria, where he uses that term of the Aram Naharaim, of the Scriptures, equivalent to Mesopotamia. Of the places named by the historian in Syria Proper, Issus has been fully described [ISSUS]. The position of the Cilician and Syrian gates is marked by the narrow passage left between the base of the Amanus and the sea, where the ruins of two walls, separated by an interval of about 600 yards, still preserve the tradition of the fortifications mentioned in the narrative. The Cersus, however, now called the Merkez-su, appears to have been diverted from its ancient channel, and runs to the sea in two small streams, one to the north of the northern wall, the other to the south of the southern. The site of Myriandrus has not yet been positively determined, but it must have been situated about half-way between Iskanderûn (Alexandria) and Arsûs (Rhosus), as Strabo also intimates (see below). From this point the army must have crossed the Amanus by the Beïlán pass, and have marched through the plain of ‘Umk, north of the lake of Antioch, where three fordable rivers, the Labotas (Kara-su), the Oenoparas (Aswád), and the Arceuthus (‘Afrin), must have been crossed on their march; which, however, are unnoticed by the historian. The river Chalus, with its sacred fish, is identified with the Chalib or Koweik, the river of Aleppo, the principal tributary to which in the mountains is still called Balóklú--sú, or Fish-river. The veneration of fish by the Syrians is mentioned also by Diodorus, Lucian, and other ancient writers. (Ainsworth, Travels in the Track of the Ten Thousand, pp. 57--65.) The source of the river Daradax, with the palaces and parks of Belesys, 30 parasangs, or 90 geographical miles, from Chalus, is marked by an ancient site called to the present day Ba'lis, “peculiarly positioned with regard to the Euphrates, and at a point where that river would be first approached on coining across Northern Syria in a direct line trending a little southward, and corresponding at the same time with the distances given by Xenophon.” (Ainsworth, l.c. p. 66.) The ruins of a Roman castle, built upon a mound of ruins of greater antiquity, doubtless preserve the site of the satrap's palace; while the rich and productive alluvial soil of the plain around, covered with grasses, flowering plants, jungle, and shrubs, and abounding in game, such as wild boars, francolin, quails, landrails, &c., represents “the very large and beautiful paradise:” the river Daradax, however, is reduced to a canal cut from the Euphrates, about a mile distant, which separated the large park from the mainland; and Mr. Ainsworth thinks that the fact of the fountain being 100 feet wide at its source, “tends to show that the origin of a canal is meant, rather than the source of a river” (p. 67. n. 1). Thapsacus is described in a separate article. [THAPSACUS]

Far more full, but still unsatisfactory, is the description of Syria given by Strabo, a comparison of which with the later notices of Pliny and Ptolemy, illustrated by earlier histories and subsequent Itineraries, will furnish as complete a view of the classical geography of the country as the existing materials allow. The notices of Phoenicia, necessarily intermingled with those of Syria, are here omitted as having been considered in a separate article [PHOENICIA]. On the north Syria was separated from Cilicia by Mons Amanus. From the sea at the gulf of Issus to the bridge of the Euphrates in Commagene was a distance of 1400 stadia. On the east of the Euphrates, it was bounded by the Scenite Arabs, on the south by Arabia Felix and Egypt, on the west by the Egyptian sea as far as Issus (xvi. p. 749). He divides it into the following districts, commencing on the north: Commagene; Seleucis of Syria; Coelesyria; Phoenice on the coast; Judaea inland. Commagene was a small territory, having Samosata for its capital, surrounded by a rich country. Seleucis, the fortress of Mesopotamia, [p. 2.1074]was situated at the bridge of the Euphrates in this district, and was assigned to Commagene by Pompey. Seleucis, otherwise called Tetrapolis, the best of the before-named districts, was subdivided according to the number of its four principal cities, Seleucis of Pieria, Antioch, Apameia, and Laodiceia. The Orontes flowed from Coelesyria through this district, having to the east the cities of Bambyce, Beroea, and Heracleia, and the river Euphrates. Heracleia was 20 stadia distant from the temple of Athena at Cyrrhestis. This gave its name to Cyrrhestice which extended as far as Antiochis to the south, touched the Amanus on the north, and was conterminous with Commagene on the east. In Cyrrhestice were situated Gindarus, its capital, and near it Heracleum. Contiguous to Gindarus lay Pagrae of Antiochis, on the Amanus, above the plain of Antioch, which was watered by the Arceuthus, the Orontes, the Labotas, and the Oenoparas, in which was also the camp of Meleager; above these lay the table mount, Trapezae. On the coast were Seleuceia and Mount Pieria, attached to the Amanus, and Rhosus (Ρ̓ωσός), between Issus and Seleuceia. South of Antiochis was Apameia, lying inland; south of Seleucis Mount Casius and Anticasius: but the former was divided from Seleuceia by the embouchure of the Orontes and the rock-hewn temple of Nymphaeum; then Posidium a small town, Heracleia, Laodiceia, &c. The mountains east of Laodiceia, sloping gradually on their west side, had a steeper inclination on the east towards Apameia (named by the Macedonians Pella) and the Chersonese, as the rich valley of the Orontes about that city was called. Conterminous with the district of Apamene, on the east, was the country of the phylarch of the Arabs, named Parapotamia, and Chalcidice, extending from the Massyas; while the Scenite Arabs also occupied the south, being less wild and less distinctively Arabs in proportion as they were brought nearer by position to the influences of Syrian civilisation. (Ibid. pp. 749--753.) Then follows the description of the coast, which belongs to Phoenicia (sup. p. 606), and his extraordinary mis-statement about Libanus and Antilibanus (p. 755) alluded to under those articles. According to this view, the western termination of Libanus was on the coast, a little to the south of Tripoli, at a place called Θεοῦ πρόσωπον, while Antilibanus commenced at Sidon. The two ranges then ran parallel towards the east, until they terminated in the mountains of the Arabians, above Damascus, and in the two Trachones [TRACHONITIS]. Between these two ranges lay the great plain of Coelesyria, divided into several districts, the width at the sea 200 stadia, the length inland about double the width; fertilised by rivers, the largest of which was the Jordan, and having a lake called Gennesaritis [TIBERIAS MARE]. The Chrysorrhoas, which rose near Damascus, was almost wholly absorbed in irrigation. The Lycus and Jordan were navigated by the Aradians. The westernmost of the plains, along the sea-border, was called Macra (Μάκρα πεδίον), next to which was Massyas, with a hilly district in which Chalcis was situated as a kind of acropolis of the district, which commenced at Laodiceia ad Libanum. This hilly district was held by the Ituraeans and Arabs [ITURAEA]. Above Massyas was the Royal Plain (Αὐλὼν Βασιλικὸς) and the country of Damascus, followed by the Trachones, &c. (pp. 755, 756). This very confused and inaccurate description has been sufficiently corrected in the account above given of the Physical Geography of Syria, and need not be further noticed than to observe that it is very strange that, after Syria had been occupied by the Macedonians and the Romans for so many years, and notwithstanding the frequent campaigns of the Roman legions in that country, even its main features were so little known.

Pliny confines Syria to the limits usually assigned it, that is he distinguishes between Syria and Palestine, which are confounded by Strabo. He describes Galilee as that part of Judaea which adjoins Syria (5.14. s. 15), but coincides with Strabo in giving a description of the coast under the name of Phoenice (19. s. 17). His notion of the direction of the ranges of Libanus and Antilibanus is more correct than that of Strabo; but his description of the coast of Phoenice, like that of his predecessor, is far more correct than that of the interior of the country; while his grouping of the various districts is altogether arbitrary and incorrect. Thus, while he correctly describes Mount Lebanon as commencing behind Sidon, he makes it extend for 1500 stadia (a monstrous exaggeration, if the reading is correct) to Simyra, and this he calls Coelesyria. Then he loosely states the parallel range of Antilibanus to be equal to this, and adds a fact, unnoticed by other writers, that the two ranges were joined by a wall drawn across the intermediate valley. Within, i. e. east of, this last range ( “post eum introrsus” ) he places the region of Decapolis and the tetrarchies which he had before enumerated (viz. Trachonitis, Paneas, Abila, Arca, Ampeloessa, Gabe), and the whole extent of Palestine ( “Palaestinae tota laxitas” ),--a confusion on the part of the author involving a double or triple error; for, 1st, unless Damascus be included in the Decapolis, the whole region lay south of Antilibanus; 2dly, the cities of the Decapolis lay in several tetrarchies, and therefore ought not to be distinguished from them as a separate district; 3dly, the tetrarchies themselves, which are wrongly enumerated, lay, for the most part, within Coelesyria proper, and only Abilene, in any proper sense, to the east of Antilibanus, although this description might loosely apply to Trachonitis also [TRACHONITIS]. But to descend to particulars.

Phoenice terminates to the north, according to Pliny, at the island Aradus, north of the river Eleutheros, near Simyra and Marathos. On the coast were situated Carne, Balanea, Paltos, Gabale, the promontory on which lay Laodiceia Libera, Diospolis, Heraclea, Charadrus, Posidium; then the promontory of Syria of Antioch, then that of Seleucia Libera, called also Pieria. Another egregious error follows this generally correct statement, and is accompanied with another example of exaggeration. Mons Casius he places above Seleucia ( “super eam” )--from which it is distant about 15 miles to the north, the Orontes intervening--and states its ascent to be xix. M.P., and its direct height iv. M. P., or nearly 20,000 feet!--its actual height being about 5,700 feet,--from the summit of which the sun might be seen above the horizon at the fourth watch, i. e. three hours before sunrise. North of this came the town Rhosos, behind which ( “a tergo” ) Portae Syriae, between the Rhosii Montes and the Taurus; then Myriandros, on the coast, and Mount Amanus, on which was Bomitae, and which separated Syria from Cilicia (5.20--22). In the interior the following districts belonged to Coelesyria: Apameia, divided by the river Marsyas from the tetrarchy of the Nazerini; Bambyce, otherwise called Hierapolis, but Mabog by the Syrians (famous for the worship [p. 2.1075]of the monstrous Atargatis, the Derceto of the Greeks); Chalcis ad Belum, which gave its name to the region of Chalcidene, the most fertile in Syria; then Cyrrhestice, named from Cyrrhum; the Gazatae, Gindareni, Gabeni; two tetrarchies named Granucomatae; the Emeseni; Hylatae; the Ituraeans and their kindred Baetarveni; the Mariammitani, the tetrarchy of Mammisea, Paradisus, Pagrae, Pinaritae; two other Seleuciae, the one at the Euphrates, the other at Belus; the Cardytenses. All these he places in Coelesyria: the towns and peoples enumerated in the rest of Syria, omitting those on the Euphrates, which are separately described, are the Arethusii, Beroeenses, Epiphanoenses; on the east, the Laodiceans by Libanus, the Leucadii, Larisaei, besides seventeen tetrarchies with barbarous names not further specified. The towns named in connection with the Euphrates are, Samosata, the head of Commagene, xl. M. P. below the cataracts, where it receives the Marsyas; Cingilla the end, and Immea the commencement, of Commagene; Epiphania, Antiochia ad Euphraten; then Zeugma, lxxii. M. P. from Samosata, celebrated for the bridge over the Euphrates--whence its name--which connected it with Apameia on the left bank of the river; Europus; Thapsacus, then called Amphipolis. On reaching Ura, the river turned to the east, leaving the vast desert of Palmyra on the right. Palmyra was cccxxxvii. M. P. from the Parthian city of Seleuceia ad Tigrim, cciii. M. P. from the nearest part of the Syrian coast, and xxvii. M. P. from Damascus. Below ( “infra” ) the deserts of Palmyra was the region Strelendena, and the above-named Hierapolis, Beroea, and Chalcis; and beyond ( “ultra” ) Palmyra,Emesa and Elatius, half as near again ( “dimidio propior” ) to Petra as was Damascus (Ib. cc. 23--26).

It is difficult to discover many of these names in their Latin disguise still further obscured by corrupt readings; but many of them will occur in the more accurate and methodical notices of Ptolemy, in connection with which a comparative Geography of Ancient and Modern Syria may be attempted. The boundaries of Syria are fixed by Ptolemy consistently with earlier writers. On the N., Cilicia, part of Cappadocia, and Mons Amanus; on the W. the Syrian sea; on the S. Judaea; on the E. the Arabian desert as far as the ford of the Euphrates, near Thapsacus; then the river itself as far as Cappadocia (Ptol. 5.15. § § 1--8).

The districts and towns are enumerated under the following subdivisions:--

  • i. THE COAST ( § § 2, 3) after Issus and the Cilician Gates. 1. Alexandreia by the Issus. 2. Myriandrus. 3. Rhossus. 4. The Rhossian Rock (σκόπελος). 5. Seleuceia of Pieria. 6. The mouth of the Orontes. 7. Poseidion. 8. Heracleia. 9. Laodiceia. 10. Gabala. 11. Paltos. 12. Balaneae. [Then follows Phoenice, from the Eleutherus to the Chorseus, S. of Dora. See PHOENICE] Of the above-named maritime towns of Syria, No. 2 alone has occurred in Xenophon, 5 parasangs S. of the Cilician Gates. Both this and most of the others occur in Strabo and Pliny, and the distances are furnished by the author of the Stadiasmus Maris Magni, and the Itinerarium Hierosolymitanum. Alexandreia (Iskanderûn), not mentioned by Strabo or Pliny, was 45 stadia from the Cilician Pylae. Myriandrus was 80 stadia from Alexandreia. Its site has not been identified (Ainsworth, Travels in the Track of the Ten Thousand, p. 59), but is conjecturally, though probably, placed by Pococke on the river Dulgehan. (Observations on Syria, p. 179.) Rhossus (now Arsûs) is 90 stadia from Myriandrus; while the Rhossicus Scopulus, 80 stadia from Rhossus, is to be identified in the Ras Khanzeer, the southern promontory of the Gulf of Iskanderûn, a well-known nautical feature on this coast. (Ib. p. 180; Chesney, Expedition, i. p. 410.) Between Seleuceia and the Rhossic rock the Stadiasmus inserts Georgia, 40 stadia from the former, 80 from the latter. Seleuceia is clearly marked by extensive and important ruins. [SELEUCEIA] From Seleuceia to the Orontes, 40 stadia. Between the Orontes and Poseidion the Stadiasmus enumerates Nymphaeum, 15 stadia; Long Island (Μακρὰ νῆσος), one of the Pigeon Rocks, 50 stadia; Chaladrus, or Chaladropolis (obviously the Charadrus of Ptolemy), 10 stadia; Sidonia, 60 stadia, above which was a lofty mountain called the Throne (Θρόνος), distant 80 stadia from Poseidium. Heracleia (Ras-el-Basit), situated on a cape called Polia, was 100 stadia from Poseidium, and Laodiceia 120 stadia direct distance from Heracleia; between which the Stadiasmus inserts Pasieria and Albus Portus, the former 120 stadia from Polia, the latter 30 stadia from Laodiceia, with a like interval between the two. From Laodiceia the Stadiasmus reckons 200 stadia to Balaneae (Banias), in direct distance, subdivided as follows: from Laodiceia to a navigable river, probably Nahr-el-Kebir, 70 stadia; from that to Gabala (Jebili), 80; to Paltus (Boldo), 30; to Cape Balaneae, 70 stadia.
  • ii. BY THE EUPHRATES ( § 11). 1. Cholmadara. 2. Samosata.
  • iii. PIERIA ( § 12.) 1. Pinara. 2. Pagrae. 3. The Syrian Gates. This was the N.-western part of the country, where Bagras still marks about the centre of the district. [PAGRAE]
  • iv. CYRRHESTICE ( § 13). 1. Ariseria. 2. Rhegias. 3. Buba. 4. Heracleia. 5. Niara. 6. Hierapolis 7. Cyrrhus. 8. Berrhoea. 9. Baena. 10. Paphara. This district lay to the east of Pieria, and corresponded with the fertile plain watered by the three streams that flow into the lake of Antioch, the Labotas, the Arceuthus, and the Oenoparas of Strabo; on the last and easternmost of which, now called the Afrîn, the modern village of Corus still represents the ancient Cyrrhus, the capital of the district to which it gave its name. This part of Syria is so little known that it is impossible to identify its other ancient towns, the names of which, however, might doubtless be recovered in existing villages or sites. The village of Corus, which has ruins in its vicinity, is situated on the slopes of the Taurus, about 40 miles N. by W. of Aleppo and 15 miles NW. of Kilis, the seat of the Turcoman government, whose limits nearly correspond with those of the ancient Cyrrhestice. (Chesney, Euphrates Expedition, vol. i. p. 422, and map i.)
  • v. BY THE EUPHRATES ( § 14). 1. Urima. 2. Arustis. 3. Zeugma. 4. Europus. 5. Caecilia. 6. Bethamania. 7. Gerrhe. 8. Arimara. 9. Eragiza or Errhasiga. These towns of the Euphrates were situated lower down the stream than those mentioned above (iii.), apparently between Samosat and the river Sajúr, a tributary of the Euphrates, which, rising near ‘Ain Tab, enters that river a little below some ancient ruins, supposed to represent the Caecilia of Ptolemy (No. 5). The names of several of these towns are still preserved in the native villages situated between the Sajur and the Euphrates; and it is clear that the geographer did [p. 2.1076]not intend to say that all these towns were on the river. The castle of Oroum, not far above Bireh-Jik and Port William, is Urima (No. 1 in the list), to the west of which, not far from ‘Ain Tab, is the small village of Arúl, Arulis (No. 2). (Chesney, p. 419.)
  • vi. SELEUCIS ( § 15). 1. Gephyra. 2. Gindarus. 3. Imma. The Seleucis of Ptolemy comprehended a small part only of that district described under the same name by Strabo, probably that tract of coast to the north of the Orontes, in which Seleuceia Pieria was situated. [SELEUCIS; SELEUCEIA PIERIA.]
  • vii. CASSIOTIS ( § 16). 1. Antioch on the Orontes. 2. Daphne. 3. Bactäialle. 4. Audeia (al. Lydia). 5. Seleuceia ad Belum. 6. Larissa. 7. Epiphaneia. 8. Rhaphaneae. 9. Antaradus. 10. Marathus. 11. Mariame. 12. Mamuga. This district comprehended the coast from the mouth of the Orontes to Aradus, so including part of Phoenice, while to the east it extended as far as the Orontes; thus corresponding nearly with the pashalic of Tripoli in the modern division of the country. This also was part of Strabo's Seleucis, in which he places Antioch. Of the towns recited, 7, 6, 5, 1, 2 were situated at or near the Orontes; 8, 9, and 10 on the coast (see under the names): 3, 4, 11, and 12 have not been identified.
  • viii. CHALYBONITIS ( § 17). 1. Thema. 2. Acoraca (al. Acoraba). 3. Derrhima. 4. Chalybon. 5. Spelunca; and, by the Euphrates, 6, Barbarissus. 7. Athis. Chalybonitis received its name from No. 4 in the list of cities, afterwards called Beroea by Seleucus Nicator, and so designated by Strabo, situated about half-way been Antioch and Hierapolis. [BEROEA No. 3.] This fixes the district to the east of Cassiotis, in the pashalic of Aleppo, whose renowned capital called in Arabic Chaleb, is the modern representative of Chalybon, which had resuined its ancient name as early as the time of Ptolemy, unless it had rather retained it throughout among the natives. The district extended from the Orontes to the Euphrates. The sites have not been identified.
  • ix. CHALCIDICE ( § 18). 1. Chalcis. 2. Asapheidama. 3. Tolmidessa. 4. Maronias. 5. Coara. This district lay south of Aleppo, and therefore of Chalybonitis, according to Pococke (Observations on Syria, p. 149), which is confirmed by the existence of Kennasserin, which he takes to be identical in situation with Chalcis, and which, among Arab writers, gives its name to this part of Syria, and to the gate of Aleppo, which leads in this direction. [CHALCIS No. 1.]
  • x. APAMENE ( § 19). 1. Nazaba (al. Nazama). And on the east of the Orontes, 2. Thelmenissus (al. Thelbenissus). 3. Apameia. 4. Emissa. This is comprehended in Strabo's Seleucis, and is easily identified with the district of Homs. [See EMESA &c.]
  • xi. LAODICENE ( § 20). 1. Scabiosa Laodiceia, 2. Paradisus. 3. Jabruda. To the south of the former, higher up the Orontes, also comprehended in the Seleucis of Strabo. No. 1 is identical with Strabo and Pliny's Laodiceia ad Libanum, placed by Mr. Porter and Dr. Robinson at Tell Neby Mindan on the left bank of the Orontes, near Lake Homs, Paradisus (2), still marked by a pyramid, on which are represented hunting scenes. (See above, p. 495, s. v. ORONTES) Dr. Robinson so nearly agrees with this identification as to place Paradisus at Júseieh-el-Kadim, which is only a few miles distant from the pyramid of Hurmul to the east. (Robinson, Bib. Res. 1852, p. 556; Porter, Five Years in Damascus, vol. ii. p. 339.) Jabruda (3) is distinctly marked by Yabrúd on the east of Antilibanus, a town mentioned by writers of sacred geography as an episcopal city in the fourth century, a distinction which it still retains.
  • xii. PHOENICE inland cities ( § 21). 1. Arca. 2. Palaeobiblus. 3. Gabala. 4. Caesareia Panias. These have been noticed under the articles PHOENICE &c.
  • xiii. COELESYRIA cities of the Decapolis ( § § 22. 23). 1. Heliopolis. 2. Abila, named of Lysanias, 3. Saana. 4. Ina. 5. Damascus. 6. Samulis. 7. Abida. 8. Hippus. 9. Capitolias. 10. Gadara. 11. Adra. 12. Scythopolis. 13. Gerasa. 14. Pella. 15. Dion. 16. Gadôra. 17. Philadelpheia. 18. Canatha. The statement of the geographer that these are the cities of the Decapolis, preceding, as it does, the enumeration of eighteen cities, can only be taken to mean that the ten cities of the Decapolis were comprehended in the list, and that the remainder might be regarded as situated in that region. It is remarkable, too, that the name Coelesyria is here used in a more restricted and proper sense than at the heading of the chapter under consideration, where it is equivalent to Syria in its widest acceptation. According to Pliny the nine cities marked by italics in the above list, with the addition of Raphana,--apparently the Raphaneae of Ptolemy in Cassiotis,--properly constituted the cities of the Decapolis, according to most authorities. These and the remaining cities require a very large district to be assigned to this division of the country, comprehending the whole length of the Bŭkâ‘a, i. e. Coelesyria Proper, from Heliopolis (1) (Baalbek) to Philadelpheia (17) (Ammon), and in width from Damascus almost to the Mediterranean. Abila of Lysanias (2), has only lately been identified, and attracted the notice which it deserves, as the capital of the tetrarchy of Abilene, mentioned by St. Luke, in connection perhaps with this same Lysanias, whose name is attached to it by the geographer. (St. Luke, 3.1.) It is situated in the heart of Antilibanus, on the north side of the river Barada, where the numerous remains of antiquity and some inscriptions leave no doubt of the identity of the site. (De Saulcy, Voyage autour de la Mer Morte, vol. ii. pp. 593--604; Porter, Damascus, vol. i. pp. 15, 102, 261--273; Robinson, Bib. Res. 1852, pp. 479--484.)
  • xiv. PALMYRENE ( § 24). 1. Rhesapha. 2. Cholle. 3. Oriza. 4. Putea. 5. Adada. 6. Palmyra. 7. Adacha. 8. Danaba. 9. Goaria. 10. Aueria (al. Aueira). 11. Casama. 12. Odmana. 13. Atera; and, near the Euphrates, 14. Alalis. 15. Sura. 16. Alamatha. This district obviously lay to the east of the last-named, and south of Chalybonitis. It comprehended the vast desert region in which Palmyra is situated, but which is almost a blank on the map, so as to defy all attempts to identify the sites.
  • xv. BATANAEA ( § 26). 1. Gerra. 2. Elere. 3. Nelaxa. 4. Adrama. This district will best be considered in connection with Trachonitis.


IV. History

The earliest accounts which we possess of Syria represent it as consisting of a number of independent kingdoms. Thus we hear of the kings of Maacha in the time of David (2 Sam. 10.6), of the kings of the neighbouring town of Gesher in the time of Solomon (Ib. 3.3, 13.37), &c. But of all the Aramaean monarchies the most [p. 2.1077]powerful in the time of Saul and David was Zobah, as appears from the number of men which that people brought into the field against David (Ib. 8.4), and from the rich booty of which they were spoiled by the Israelites (Ib. 5.7). Even after sustaining a signal defeat, they were able in a little time to take the field again with a considerable force (Ib. 10.6). David nevertheless subdued all Syria, which, however, recovered its independence after the death of Solomon, B.C. 975. From this period Damascus, the history of which has been already given [DAMASCUS Vol. I. p. 748], became the most considerable of the Syrian kingdoms. Syria was conquered by Tiglath-Pileser, king of Assyria, about the year 747 B.C., and was annexed to that kingdom. Hence it successively formed part of the Babylonian and Persian empires; but its history presents nothing remarkable down to the time of its conquest by Alexander the Great. After the death of that conqueror in B.C. 323, Syria and Mesopotamia fell to the share of his general Seleucus Nicator. The sovereignty of Seleucus, however, was disputed by Antigonus, and was not established till after the battle of Ipsus, in 301 B.C., when he founded Antioch on the Orontes, as the new capital of his kingdom. [ANTIOCHEIA Vol. I. p. 142.] From this period the descendants of Seleucus, known by the appellation of Seleucidae, occupied the throne of Syria down to the year 65 B.C., when Antiochus XIII. Asiaticus was dethroned by Pompey, and Syria became a Roman province. (Plut. Pomp. 39; Appian, App. Syr. 46; Eutrop. 6.14.) Into the history of Syria under the Seleucidae it is unnecessary to enter, since a table of that dynasty is given in the Dictionary of Biography [Vol. III. p. 769], and the public events will be found described in the lives of the respective monarchs.

The tract of which Pompey took possession under the name of Syria comprised the whole country from the gulf of Issus and the Euphrates to Egypt and the deserts of Arabia. (Appian, App. Syr. 50, Mith. 106.) The province, however, did not at first comprehend the whole of this tract, but consisted merely of a strip of land along the sea-coast, which, from the gulf of Issus to Damascus, was of slender breadth, but which to the S. of that city spread itself out as far as the town of Canatha. The rest was parcelled out in such a manner that part consisted of the territories of a great number of free cities, and part was assigned to various petty princes, whose absolute dependence upon Rome led to their dominions being gradually incorporated into the province. (Appian, App. Syr. 50.) The extent of the province was thus continually increased during the first century of the Empire; and in the time of Hadrian it had become so large, that a partition of it was deemed advisable. Commagene, the most northern of the ten districts into which, according to Ptolemy (5.15), the upper or northern Syria was divided, had become an independent kingdom before the time of Pompey's conquest, and therefore did not form part of the province established by him. [COMMAGENE Vol. I. p. 651.] The extent of this province may be determined by the free cities into which it was divided by Pompey; the names of which are known partly from their being mentioned by Josephus (J. AJ 14.4.4), and partly from the era which they used, namely that of B.C. 63, the year in which they received their freedom. In this way we are enabled to enumerate the following cities in the original province of Syria: Antiocheia, Seleuceia in Pieria, Epiphaneia, between Arethusa and Emesa, Apameia; nearly all the towns of the Decapolis, as Abila (near Gadara), Antiocheia ad Hippum or Hippos, Canatha, Dium, Gadara, Pella, and Philadelpheia; in Phoenicia, Tripolis, Sidon, Tyrus, Dora; in the north of Palestine, Scythopolis and Samaria; on the coast, Turris Stratonis (Caesareia), Joppe, Iamneia, Azotus, Gaza; and in the south, Marissa. The gift of freedom to so many cities is not to be attributed to the generosity of the Romans, but must be regarded as a necessary measure of policy. All these towns had their own jurisdiction, and administered their own revenues; but they were tributary to the Romans, and their taxes were levied according to the Roman system established on the organisation of the province. ( “Syria tum primum facta est stipendiaria,” Vell. 2.37.) The first governors of Syria, and especially Gabinius, who was proconsul in the year 57 B.C., took much pains in restoring the cities which had been destroyed. (J. AJ 14.5.3.) The divisions established in Judaea by Gabinius have been noticed in another article. [PALAESTINA Vol. II. p. 532.] Caesar, during his expedition against Pharnaces, B.C. 47, confirmed these cities in their rights, and likewise extended them to others, as Gabala, Laodiceia ad Mare, and Ptolemais. (Eckhel, vol. iii. p. 314, sq.; Norisius, Ep. Syrom. pp. 175--213, 450.) Of the regulations adopted in Syria during the reign of Augustus we have little information.

The same political reasons which dictated the establishment of these free cities, where it was possible to do so, rendered the continuance of dynastic governments necessary in the eastern and southern districts of the province, where either the nomadic character of the population, or its obstinate adherence to ancient institutions was adverse to the introduction of new and regular forms of government. These dynasties, however, like the free cities, were used as the responsible organs of the Roman administration, and were tributaries of Rome. Thus, in the histories of Commagene and Judaea, we find instances in which their sovereigns were cited to appear at Rome, were tried, condemned, and punished. The Roman idea of a province is essentially a financial one. A province was considered as a “praedium populi Romani” (Cic. Ver. 2.3); and hence the dynasties of Syria may be considered as belonging to the province just as much as the free towns, since, like them, they were merely instruments for the collection of revenue. (Cf. Huschke, Ueber den zur Zeit der Geburt Jesu Christi gehaltenen Census, pp. 100--112.) Thus we find these petty sovereigns in other parts of the world regarding themselves merely as the agents, or procuratores, of the Roman people (Sail. Jug. 14; Maffei, Mus. Ver. p. 234); nor were they allowed to subsist longer than was necessary to prepare their subjects for incorporation with the province of which they were merely adjuncts.

The Syrian dynasties were as follows: 1. Chalcis ad Belum. 2. The dynasty of Arethusa and Emesa. 3. Abila. 4. Damascus. 5. Judaea. 6. Palmyra. These states have been treated of under their respective names, and we shall here only add a few particulars that may serve further to illustrate the history of some of them during the time that they were under the Roman sway. All that is essential to be known respecting the first three dynasties has already been recorded. With regard to Damascus, it may be added that M. Aemilius Scaurus, the first [p. 2.1078]governor of Syria appointed by Pompey, after having punished its ruler, the Arabian prince Aretas, for the attacks which he had made upon the province before it had been reduced to order, concluded a treaty with him in B.C. 62. It is to this event that the coins of Scaurus refer, bearing the inscription REX ARETAS. (Eckhel, vol. v. p. 131; cf. D. C. 37.15; Appian. Syr. 51; J. AJ 14.4.5, 5.1.) Damascus was dependent on the Romans, and sometimes had a Roman garrison (Hieron. in Isai. 100.17; J. AJ 14.11.7), though it cannot be doubted that the Arabian kings were in possession of it, on the condition of paying a tribute. It has already been remarked that the city was in the possession of an ethnarch of Aretas in A.D. 39; and it was not till the year 105, when Arabia Petraea became a province, that Damascus was united with Syria, in the proconsulship of Cornelius Palma. (Eckhel, vol. iii. p. 330.)

On the other hand, Judaea appears to have been annexed to the province of Syria immediately after its conquest by Pompey in B.C. 63 (D. C. 37.15, 16; Eutrop. 6.14; Liv. Ep. 102; Strab. xvi. p.762, sq.; Joseph. B. J. 1.7.7; Amm. Marc. 14.8.12); though it retained its own administration, with regard especially to the taxes which it paid to the Romans. (J. AJ 14.4.4, B. J. 1.7.6.) The race of the Jewish kings ended with Aristobulus, whom Pompey, after the capture of Jerusalem, carried to Rome to adorn his triumph (Appian, App. Syr. 50; D. C. 37.16; Plut. Pomp. 45; J. AJ 14.4, &c.) Hyrcanus, the brother of Aristobulus, was left indeed in Judaea as chief priest and ethnarch, in which offices he was confirmed by Caesar; but his dignity was only that of a priest and judge. (Dio Cass. l.c.; and Joseph. l.c. and 14.7.2, 10.2.) The land, like the province of Syria, was divided for the convenience of administration into districts or circles of an aristocratic constitution (Joseph. B. J. 1.8.5); and during the constant state of war in which it was kept either by internal disorders, or by the incursions of the Arabians and Parthians, the presence of Roman troops, and of the governor of the province himself, was almost always necessary.

It has been already related [JERUSALEM Vol. I. p. 26] that Antigonus, the son of Aristobulus, obtained possession of the throne with the assistance of the Parthians in B.C. 40. In the following year the Parthians were expelled from Syria by Ventidius (D. C. 48.39-41; Liv. Epit. 127); and in B.C. 38 Judaea was conquered by Sosius, Antony's legatus, Antigonus was captured and executed, and Herod, surnamed the Great, was placed upon the throne, which had been promised to him two years previously. (D. C. 49.19-22; Plut. Ant. 34, sqq.; Tac. Hist. 5.9; Appian, App. BC 5.75; Strab. xvi. p.765.) From this time, Judaea again became a kingdom. With regard to the relation of Herod to the Romans we may remark, that a Roman legion was stationed at Jerusalem to uphold his sovereignty, that the oath of fealty was taken to the emperor, as lord paramount, as well as to the king, and that the absolute dependence of the latter was recognised by the payment of a tribute and the providing of subsidiary troops. (J. AJ 15.3.7, 17.2.4; Appian, App. BC 5.75.) Herod, therefore, is to be regarded only as a procurator of the emperor, with the title of king. Antony assigned part of the revenues of Judaea to Cleopatra. (J. AJ 15.4. § § 2, 4.) According to an ordinance of Caesar, the places in the jurisdiction of Jerusalem, with the exception of Joppa, had to pay a yearly tribute of a fourth of all agricultural produce, which was to be delivered the following year in Sidon, besides a tenth to be paid to Hyrcanus. (Ibid. 14.10.6.) In the seventh. or Sabbath year, however, the tribute was intermitted. Besides this tribute, there was a capitation tax; and it was for the organising of this tax that the census mentioned in the Gospel of St. Luke (2.1, 2) was taken in the year of our Saviour's birth, which appears to have been conducted by Herod's officers according to a Roman forma censualis. The division of Judaea among the sons of Herod, and its subsequent history till it was incorporated in the province of Syria by the emperor Claudius, A.D. 44 (Tac. Ann. 12.23, Hist. 5.9), have been already narrated [Vol. II. p. 532], as well as the fate of Jerusalem under the emperors Titus and Hadrian. [Vol. II. p. 26, seq.]

With regard to Palmyra, the sixth of the dynasties before enumerated, we need here only add to what has been already said [Vol. II. p. 536] that it was united to the province of Syria by Hadrian, and bore from him the name of Ἀδριανὴ Πάλμυρα. (Steph. B. sub voce p. 498, ed Meineke; cf. Gruter, p. 86. 8.) But whether it became a colony with the Jus Italicum on that occasion or at a later period, cannot be determined.

Respecting the administration of the province of Syria, it may be mentioned that the series of Roman governors commences with M. Scaurus, who was left there by Pompey in the year 62 B.C. with the title of quaestor pro praetore. Scaurus was succeeded by two pro-praetores, L. Marcius Philippus, 61--60, and Lentulus Marcellinus, 59--58; when, on account of the war with the Arabs, Gabinius was sent there as proconsul, with an army (Appian, App. Syr. 51; cf. Joseph. 14.4, seq., B. Jud. 1.6--8; Eckhel, vol. v. p. 131). We then find the following names: Crassus, 55--53; Cassius, his quaestor, 53--51; M. Calpurnius Bibulus, proconsul. (Drumann, Gesch. Roms, vol. ii. pp. 101, 118--120). After the battle of Pharsalus, Caesar gave Syria to Sex. Julius Caesar, B.C. 47, who was put to death in the following year by Caecilius Bassus, an adherent of Pompey. (Ib. p. 125, iii. p. 768.) Bassus retained possession of the province till the end of 44, when Cassius seized it, and assumed the title of proconsul. (Cic. Fam. 12.1. 1) After the battle of Philippi, Antony appointed to it his lieutenant, L. Decidius Saxa, B.C. 41, whose overthrow by the Parthians in the following year occasioned the loss of the whole province. (D. C. 48.24; Liv. Epit. 127.) The Parthians, however, were driven out by Ventidius, another of Antony's lieutenants, in the autumn of 39. (Dio Cass. ib. 39--43; Liv. ib.; Plut. Ant. 33.) Syria continued to be governed by Antony's officers till his defeat at Actium in 31, namely, C. Sosius, B.C. 38 (by whom, as we have said, the throne of Judaea was given to Herod), L. Munatius Plancus, B.C. 35, and L. Bibulus, B.C. 31. In B.C. 30, Octavian intrusted Syria to his legate, Q. Didius. After the division of the provinces between the emperor and senate in B.C. 27, Syria continued to have as governors legati Augusti pro praetore, who were always consulares. (Suet. Tib. 41; Appian, App. Syr. 51.) The most accurate account of the governors of Syria, from B.C. 47 to A.D. 69, will be found in Norisius, Cenotaphia Pisana. (Opp. vol. iii. pp. 424--531.) Their [p. 2.1079]residence was Antioch, which, as the metropolis of the province, reached its highest pitch of prosperity. It was principally this circumstance that induced the emperor Hadrian to divide Syria into three parts (Spart. Hadr. 14), namely: I. SYRIA which by way of distinction from the other two provinces was called Syria Coele, Magna Syria, Syria Major, and sometimes simply Syria. (Gruter, Inscr. 346. 1, 1091. 5; Orelli, Inscr. no. 3186, 4997; Galen, de Antidot. 1.2.) Antioch remained the capital till the time of Septimius Severus, who deprived it of that privilege on account of its having sided with Pescennius Niger, and substituted Laodiceia, which he made a colony in its stead (Capitol. M. Anton. 25; Avid Cass. 9; Ulp. Dig. 50. tit. 15. s. 50.3); and although Caracalla procured that its rights should be restored to Antioch, yet Laodiceia retained its title of metropolis, together with a small territory comprising four dependent cities, whilst Antioch, which had also been made a colony by Caracalla, was likewise called Metrocolonia (Corp. Inscr. Gr. no. 4472; Paul. Dig. 50. tit. 15. s. 8.5; Eckhel, iii. p. 302, sq.,319, sq.) II. SYRIA PHOENICE, or SYROPHOENICE, under a legatus Augusti pro praetore (Murat. 2009. 1, 2; Marini, Atti, &c. p. 744), consisted of three parts, with three metropolitan cities, namely: 1. Tyre, which first obtained the title of metropolis, with relation to the Roman province, under Hadrian (Suidas, ii. p. 147, Bernh.), though it had that appellation previously with relation to its own colonies (Strab. xvi. p.756; Eckhel, vol. iii. p. 386). 2. Damascus, which from the time of Hadrian became a metropolis, with a small territory comprising five towns. (Just. Mart. Dial.c. Tryphone, 100.78; Tertull. adv. Marcian, 3.13; Eckhel, vol. iii. pp. 331--333.) 3. Palmyra, which appears to have been the residence of a procurator Caesaris; whence we may infer that it was the centre of a fiscal circle (Notit. Dign. i. p. 85; Ulpian, Dig. 50. tit. 15. s. 1.5; Procop. de Aed. 2.11; Corp. Inscr. Gr. no. 4485. 4496--4499.) Afourth metropolis, Emesa, was added under Heliogabalus (Eckhel, iii. p. 311; Ulpian, Dig. 50. tit. 15. s. 1.4). Trachonitis also formed a separate circle at this time, with the village of Phaina as its μετροκωμία (Corp. Inscr. Gr. 4551; Orell. Inscr. vol. ii. p. 437, no. 5040). III. SYRIA PALAESTINA, from the time of Hadrian administered by a legatus Augusti pro praet. The name of Syria Palaestina does not appear on coins till the time of the Antonines (Eckhel, iii. p. 435; cf. Aristid. ii. p. 470, Dind.; Galen. de Simpl. Medic. 4.19; Just. Mart. Apol. 1.1; Corp. Inscr. Gr. no. 4029, 4151, &c.). Its metropolis was Caesareia, anciently Turris Stratonis (Eckhel, iii. p. 432).

This division of the province of Syria was connected with an alteration in the quarters of the three legions usually stationed in Syria. In the time of Dio Cassius (55.23) the Legio VI. Scythica was cantoned in Syria, the Legio III. Gallica in Phoenicia, and the Legio VI. Ferrata in Syria Palaestina. The system of colonisation which was begun by Augustus, and continued into the third century of our era, was also adapted to insure the security of the province. The first of these colonies was Berytus, where Augustus settled the veterans of the Legio V. Macedonica and VIII. Augusta. It was a Colonia juris Italici. (Eckhel, iii. p. 356; Orelli, Inscr. no. 514; Ulpian, Dig. 50. tit. 15. s. 1.1; Euseb. Chron. p. 155, Seal.) Augustus also founded Heliopolis (Baalbek), which received the jus Italicum under Septimius Severus (Ulpian, l.c.; Eckhel, iii. p. 334). Under Claudius was founded Ptolemais (Ace), which did not possess the jus Italicum (Ulpian, ib. § 3; Plin. Nat. 5.1; Eckhel, iii. p. 424). Vespasian planted two colonies, Caesareia (Turris Stratonis) and Nicopolis (Emmaus) Paul. Dig. 50. tit. 15. s. 8.7; Eckhel, iii. p. 430); which latter, however, though originally a military colony, appears to have possessed neither the right, nor the name of a colonia (Eckhel, iii. p. 454; Joseph. Bell. Jud. 7.6; Sozomen, Hist. Eccles. 5.21.) The chief colony founded by Hadrian was Aelia Capitolina (Jerusalem), whose. colonists, however, were Greeks, and therefore it did not possess the jus Italicum. (D. C. 69.12; Euseb. Hist. Eccles. 4.6; Malalas, xi. p. 279, ed. Bonn; Ulpian, l.c. § 6.) Hadrian also probably founded Palmyra. Under Septimius Severus we have Laodiceia, Tyrus, and Sebaste (Samaria), of which the first two possessed the jus Italicum. (Ulpian, ib. § 3. and 7; Eckhel, iii. p. 319, 387, seq., 440, seq.). Caracalla founded Antioch and Emesa (Ulpian, ib. § 4; Paul. ib. § 5; Eckhel, 3.302, 311), Elagabalus Sidon (Eckhel, iii. p. 371), and Philippus, apparently, Damascus (ib. p. 331). To these must be added two colonies whose foundation is unknown, Capitolias, of whose former name we are ignorant (Paul. Dig. 50. tit. 15. s. 8.7; Eckhel, iii. p. 328, seq.), and Caesareia ad Libanum (Arca). (Eckhel, ib. p. 361.)

At the end of the fourth century of our era, Syria was divided into still smaller portions, namely: 1. Syria prima, governed by a consularis, with the metropolis of Antioch and the following cities: Seleuceia, Laodiceia, Gabala, Paltos, Beroea, Chalcis. 2, Syria Secunda, under a praeses, with Apameia for its chief city, and the dependent towns of Epiphaneia, Arethusa, Larissa, Mariamne, Balaneia, Raphaneae, and Seleuceia ad Belum. Malalas (xiv. p. 265, ed. Bonn.) ascribes its separation from Syria Prima to the reign of Theodosius II., which, however, may be doubted. Böcking attributes the division to Theodosius the Great (ad Not. Dignit. i. p. 129). 3. Phoenicia Prima, under a consularis, with the metropolis of Tyrus and the cities Ptolemais, Sidon, Berytus, Byblos, Botryo, Tripolis, Arcae, Orthosias, Aradus, Antaradus, Caesarea Paneas. 4. Phoenicia Secunda, or Phoenicia ad Libanum, under a praeses, having Damascus for its capital, and embracing the cities of Emesa, Laodiceia ad Libanum, Heliopolis, Abila, Palmyra. It was first separated by Theodosius the Great. 5. Palaestina Prima, administered by a consularis, and in the years 383--385 by a proconsul. Its chief city was Caesareia, and it comprehended the towns of Dora, Antipatris, Diospolis, Azotus ad Mare, Azotus Mediterranea, Eleutheropolis, Aelia Capitolina (Jerusalem), Neapolis, Livias, Sebaste, Anthedon, Diocletianopolis, Joppa, Gaza, Raphia, Ascalon, &100.6. Palaestina Secunda, under a praeses, with the capital of Scythopolis, and the towns of Gadara, Abila, Capitolias, Hippos, Tiberias, Dio Caesareia, and Gabae. 7. Palaestina Tertia. This was formed out of the former province of Arabia. (Procop. de Aed. 5.8.) It was governed by a praeses, and its chief city was Petra. (Cf. PALAESTINA Vol. II. p. 533.)

With respect to these later subdivisions of Syria, the reader may consult Hierocles, p. 397, ed. Bonn, with the notes of Wesseling, p. 518, sqq.; the Notitia Dignit. i. p. 5, seq., and the commentary of Böcking, pp. 128--140, 511; Bingham, Orig. Eccl. vol. iii. p. 434, seq.; Norisius, de Epoch. Syromaced. in Opp. vol. ii. p. 374, sqq., p. 419, seq. [p. 2.1080]

In the year 632, Syria was invaded by the Saracens, nominally under the command of Abu Obeidah, one of the “companions” of Mahomet, but really led by Chaled, “the sword of God.” The easy conquest of Bosra inspirited the Moslems to attack Damascus: but here the resistance was more determined, and, though invested in 633, the city was not captured till the following year. Heraclius had been able to collect a large force, which, however, under the command of his general Werdan, was completely defeated at the battle of Aisnadin; and Damascus, after that decisive engagement, though it still held out for seventy days, was compelled to yield. Heliopolis and Emesa speedily shared the fate of Bosra and Damascus. The last efforts of Heraclius in defence of Syria, though of extraordinary magnitude, were frustrated by the battle of the Yermuk. Jerusalem, Aleppo, and Damascus successively yielded to the Saracen arms, and Heraclius abandoned a province which he could no longer hope to retain. Thus in six campaigns (633--639) Syria was entirely wrested from the Roman empire. (Gibbon, Decline and Fall, ch. 51; Marquardt, Röm. Alterth. vol. iii.)


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  • Cross-references from this page (26):
    • Cicero, Letters to his Friends, 12.1.1
    • Hesiod, Theogony, 5
    • Flavius Josephus, Jewish Antiquities, 14.11.7
    • Flavius Josephus, Jewish Antiquities, 15.3.7
    • Flavius Josephus, Jewish Antiquities, 17.2.4
    • Flavius Josephus, Jewish Antiquities, 14.4
    • Flavius Josephus, Jewish Antiquities, 14.4.4
    • Flavius Josephus, Jewish Antiquities, 14.4.5
    • Flavius Josephus, Jewish Antiquities, 14.5.1
    • Flavius Josephus, Jewish Antiquities, 14.5.3
    • Flavius Josephus, Jewish Antiquities, 15.4
    • Appian, Syrian Wars, 8.50
    • Appian, Syrian Wars, 8.51
    • Appian, Syrian Wars, 8.46
    • Appian, Civil Wars, 5.8.75
    • Cicero, Against Verres, 2.3
    • Suetonius, Tiberius, 41
    • Tacitus, Annales, 12.23
    • Tacitus, Historiae, 5.9
    • Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, 5.20
    • Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, 5.1
    • Ammianus Marcellinus, Rerum Gestarum, 14.8.12
    • Plutarch, Antonius, 33
    • Plutarch, Pompey, 39
    • Plutarch, Antonius, 34
    • Plutarch, Pompey, 45
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