Damascus

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Location of Damascus

Damascus (Arabic: دمشق‎ Dimashq or Al-Damisk, Hindi: दमिश्क) is the capital and the second-largest city of Syria after Aleppo. It is commonly known in Syria as ash-Sham (Arabic: الشام‎ ash-Shām) and nicknamed as the City of Jasmine (Arabic: مدينة الياسمين‎ Madīnat al-Yāsmīn). In addition to being one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world, Damascus is a major cultural and religious center of the Levant.

Location

Located in southwestern Syria, Damascus is the center of a large metropolitan area. The Barada River flows through Damascus.

History

First settled in the second millennium BC, it was chosen as the capital of the Umayyad Caliphate from 661 to 750. After the victory of the Abbasid dynasty, the seat of Islamic power was moved to Baghdad. Damascus saw a political decline throughout the Abbasid era, only to regain significant importance in the Ayyubid and Mamluk periods. During Ottoman rule, the city decayed while maintaining a certain cultural prestige. Today, it is the seat of the central government and all of the government ministries.

Carbon-14 dating at Tell Ramad, on the outskirts of Damascus, suggests that the site may have been occupied since the second half of the seventh millennium BC, possibly around 6300 BC. [1]

However, evidence of settlement in the wider Barada River basin dating back to 9000 BC exists, although no large-scale settlement was present within Damascus walls until the second millennium BC. [2] Damascus was part of the ancient province of Amurru in the Hyksos Kingdom, from 1720 to 1570 BC. [3]

Some of the earliest Egyptian records are from the 1350 BC Amarna letters, when Damascus-(called Dimasqu) was ruled by king Biryawaza. The Damascus region, as well as the rest of Syria, became a battleground circa 1260 BC, between the Hittites from the north and the Egyptians from the south, [4]ending with a signed treaty between Hattusili and Ramesses II where the former handed over control of the Damascus area to Ramesses II in 1259 BC. [5]

The arrival of the Sea Peoples, around 1200 BC, marked the end of the Bronze Age in the region and brought about new development of warfare. [6]

Damascus was only the peripheral part of this picture which mostly affected the larger population centers of ancient Syria. However, these events had contributed to the development of Damascus as a new influential center that emerged with the transition from the Bronze Age to the Iron Age. [7]

Damascus is mentioned in Genesis 14:15 as existing at the time of the War of the Kings. According to the 1st-century Jewish historian Flavius Josephus in his twenty-one volume Antiquities of the Jews, Damascus (along with Trachonitis), was founded by Uz, the son of Aram. [8]

Damascus was conquered by Alexander the Great. After the death of Alexander in 323 BC, Damascus became the site of a struggle between the Seleucid and Ptolemaic empires. The control of the city passed frequently from one empire to the other. Seleucus I Nicator, one of Alexander's generals, made Antioch the capital of his vast empire, which led to the decline of Damascus' importance compared with new Seleucid cities such as Latakia in the north. Later, Demetrius III Philopator rebuilt the city according to the Greek hippodamian system and renamed it "Demetrias". [9]

In 64 BC, the Roman general Pompey annexed the western part of Syria. The Romans occupied Damascus and subsequently incorporated it into the league of ten cities known as the Decapolis [10] which themselves were incorporated into the province of Syria and granted autonomy. [11]

in 23 BE Herod the Great was gifted lands controlled by Zenodorus son of Lysanias by Caesar Augustus and some scholars believe that Herod was also granted control of Damascus as well. The control of Damascus reverted to Syria either upon the death of Herod the Great or was part of the lands given to Herod Philip which were given to Syria with his death in 33/34. Some scholars suggest that control of Damascus was gained by Aretas IV Philopatris of Nabatea between the death of Herod Phillip in 33/44 and the death of Aretas in 40 CE but there is substantial evidence against Aretas controlling the city before 37 CE and many reasons why it could not have been a gift from Caligula between 37 and 40 CE.[28][29] In fact, all these theories stem not from any actual evidence outside the New Testament but rather "a certain understanding 2 Cor. 22:32" and in reality "neither from archeological evidence, secular-historical sources, nor New Testament texts can Nabartean sovereignty over Damascus in the first century AD be proven." [12] Damascus became a metropolis by the beginning of the 2nd century and in 222 it was upgraded to a colonia by the Emperor Septimius Severus. During the Pax Romana, Damascus and the Roman province of Syria in general began to prosper. Damascus's importance as a caravan city was evident with the trade routes from southern Arabia, Palmyra, Petra, and the silk routes from China all converging on it. The city satisfied the Roman demands for eastern luxuries.

Little remains of the architecture of the Romans, but the town planning of the old city did have a lasting effect. The Roman architects brought together the Greek and Aramaean foundations of the city and fused them into a new layout measuring approximately 1,500 by 750 meters (4,920 by 2,460 ft), surrounded by a city wall. The city wall contained seven gates, but only the eastern gate (Bab Sharqi) remains from the Roman period. Roman Damascus lies mostly at depths of up to five meters (16.4 ft) below the modern city.

The old borough of Bab Tuma was developed at the end of the Roman/Byzantine era by the local Eastern Orthodox community. According to the Acts of the Apostles, Saint Paul and Saint Thomas both lived in that neighborhood. Roman Catholic historians also consider Bab Tuma to be the birthplace of several Popes such as John V and Gregory III.

Muhammad's first interaction with the people of Damascus was when he sent Shiya bin Wahab to Haris bin Ghasanni to the king of Damascus during the Expedition of Zaid ibn Haritha (Hisma) called Harith bin Abi Shamir Al-Ghassani. In the Letter Muhammad stated: "Peace be upon him who follows true guidance. Be informed that my religion shall prevail everywhere. You should accept Islam, and whatever under your command shall remain yours"

External links

References

  1. Moore, A.M.T. The Neolithic of the Levant. Oxford, UK: Oxford University, 1978. 192–198. Print.
  2. Burns, Ross (2005). Damascus: A History. Routledge. ISBN 978-0-415-27105-9.p.2
  3. MacMillan, pp. 30–31
  4. Burns, Ross (2005). Damascus: A History. Routledge. ISBN 978-0-415-27105-9. Pp.5-6
  5. Burns, Ross (2005). Damascus: A History. Routledge. ISBN 978-0-415-27105-9. Pp.5-6
  6. Burns, Ross (2005). Damascus: A History. Routledge. ISBN 978-0-415-27105-9. Pp.7
  7. Burns, Ross (2005). Damascus: A History. Routledge. ISBN 978-0-415-27105-9. P.7
  8. "The Antiquities of the Jews, by Flavius Josephus, Book 1, Ch. 6, Sect. 4". Project Gutenberg.
  9. Cohen raises doubts about this claim in Cohen, Getzel M; EBSCOhost (2006), The Hellenistic settlements in Syria, the Red Sea Basin, and North Africa, University of California Press, retrieved 26 May 2014 page 137 note 4 - suggeasting the received tradition of the renaming rests on a few writers following Mionnets writings in 1811
  10. Warwick Ball (2002). Rome in the East: The Transformation of an Empire. p. 181
  11. Skolnik, Fred; Michael Berenbaum ( 2007) Encyclopaedia Judaica Volume 5 Granite Hill Publishers pg 527
  12. Riesner, Rainer (1998) Paul's Early Period: Chronology, Mission Strategy, Theology Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing pg 83-84, 89