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Fausset's Bible Dictionary [1]

The most ancient city of Syria, at the foot of the S.E. range of Antilibanus, which rises 1,500 ft. above the plain of Damascus, which is itself 2,200 above the sea. Hence, Damascus enjoys a temperate climate cooled by breezes. The plain is a circle of 30 miles diameter, watered by the Barada (the Abana of 2 Kings 5), which bursts through a narrow cleft in the mountain into the country beneath, pouring fertility on every side. This strikes the eye the more, as bareness and barrenness characterize all the hills and the plain outside. Fruit of various kinds, especially olive trees, grain and grass abound within the Damascus plain. The Barada flows through Damascus, and thence eastward 15 miles, when it divides and one stream falls into lake el Kiblijeh: another into lake esh-Shurkijeh, on the border of the desert. The wady Helbon on the N. and Awaj on the S. also water the plain.

The Awaj is probably the scriptural Pharpar First mentioned in  Genesis 14:15;  Genesis 15:2. Abraham entering Canaan by way of Damascus there obtained Eliezer as his retainer. Josephus makes Damascus to have been founded by Uz, son of Aram, grandson of Shem. The next Scriptural notice of Damascus is  2 Samuel 8:5, when "the Syrians of Damascus succored Hadadezer king of Zobah" against David. David slew 22,000 Syrians, and "put garrisons in Syria of Damascus, and the Syrians became servants to David and brought gifts" ( 1 Chronicles 18:3-6). Nicholaus of Damascus says Hadad (so he named him) reigned over "all Syria except Phoenicia," and began the war by attacking David, and was defeated in a last engagement at the Euphrates River. His subject Rezon, who escaped when David conquered Zobah, with the help of a band made himself king at Damascus over Syria ( 1 Kings 11:23-25), and was an adversary to Israel all the days of Solomon.

Hadad's family recovered the throne; or else (See Benhadad I, who helped Baasha against Asa and afterward Asa against Baasha, was grandson of Rezon. He "made himself streets" in Samaria ( 1 Kings 20:34), so completely was he Israel's master. His son, Benhadad II, who besieged Ahab ( 1 Kings 20:1), is the Ben-idri of the Assyrian inscriptions. These state that in spite of his having the help of the Phoenicians, Hittites and Hamathites, he was unable to oppose Assyria, which slew 20,000 of his men in just one battle. Hazael, taking advantage of his subjects' disaffection owing to their defeats, murdered Benhadad ( 2 Kings 8:10-15;  1 Kings 19:15). Hazael was defeated by Assyria in his turn, with great loss, at Antilibanus; but repulsed Ahaziah's and Jehoram's attack on Israel ( 2 Kings 8:28), ravaged Gilead, the land of Gad, Reuben, and Manasseh ( 2 Kings 10:32-33); took also Gath, and was only diverted from Jerusalem by Jehoash giving the royal and the temple treasures ( 2 Kings 12:17-18). (See Hazael .)

Benhadad his son continued to exercise a lordship over Israel ( 2 Kings 13:3-7;  2 Kings 13:22) at first; but Joash, Jehoahaz' son, beat him thrice, according to Elisha's dying prophecy ( 2 Kings 13:14-19), for "the Lord had compassion on His people ... because of His covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, neither east He them from His presence us yet" ( 2 Kings 13:23). Jeroboam II, Joash's son, further "recovered Damascus and Hamath, which belonged to Judah, for Israel ... according to the word of the Lord ... by Jonah the prophet" ( 2 Kings 14:23-28), 836 B.C. Rezin of Damascus, a century later, in a respite from the Assyrian invasions, allied himself to Pekah of Israel against Judah, with a view to depose Ahaz and set up one designated "the son of Tabeal." (See Ahaz .) The successive invasions of Pul and Tiglath Pileser suggested the thought of combining Syria, Israel, and Judah as a joint power against Assyria. Ahaz' leaning to Assyria made him obnoxious to Syria and Israel.

But, as their counsel was contrary to God's counsel that David's royal line should continue until Immanuel, it came to nought ( 2 Kings 15:19;  2 Kings 15:29;  2 Kings 15:57;  2 Kings 16:5;  Isaiah 7:1-6). Elath on the shore of the Red Sea, in Edom, built by Azariah of Judah on territory alleged to be Syrian, was "recovered" by Rezin. Whereupon Ahaz begged Assyria's alliance; and the very policy of Damascus and Israel against Assyria, namely, to absorb Judah, was the very means of causing their own complete absorption by Assyria ( 2 Kings 16:6-9;  2 Kings 16:17;  Isaiah 7:14-25;  Isaiah 8:6-10;  Isaiah 10:9). The people of Damascus were carried captive to Kir, as Amos ( Amos 1:5) foretold, the region from which they originally came, associated with Elam ( Isaiah 22:6), probably in Lower Mesopotamia = Kish or Cush, i.e. eastern Ethiopia, the Cissia of Herodotus (G. Rawlinson).

Isaiah ( Isaiah 17:1) and Amos ( Amos 1:4) had prophesied that Damascus should be "taken away from being a city, and should be a ruinous heap," that Jehovah should "send a fire into the house of Hazael, which should devour the palaces of Benhadad"; and Jeremiah ( Jeremiah 49:24-25) that "Damascus is waxed feeble .... How is the city of praise not left, the city of my joy!" By the time of the Mede-Persian supremacy Damascus had not only been rebuilt, but was the most famous city in Syria (Strabo, 16:2,19). In Paul's time ( 2 Corinthians 11:32) it was part of (See Aretas ' (see) kingdom. It is still a city of 150,000 inhabitants, of whom about 130,000 are Mahometans, 15,000 Christians, and about 5,000 Jews. Damascus was the center through which the trade of Tyre passed on its way to Assyria, Palmyra, Babylon, and the East.

It supplied "white wool and the wine of Helbon" (in Antilebanon, 10 miles N.W. of Damascus) in return for "the wares of Tyre's making" ( Ezekiel 27:18). Its once famous damask and steel were not manufactured until Mahometan times, and are no longer renowned. The street called "Straight" is still there, leading from one gate to the pasha's palace, i.e. from E. to W. a mile long; it was originally divided by Corinthian colonnades into three avenues, of which the remains are still traced ( Acts 9:11); called by the natives "the street of bazaars." The traditional localities of  Acts 9:3;  Acts 9:25;  2 Corinthians 11:33 (Paul's conversion on his way to Damascus, and his subsequent escape in a basket let down from the wall) are more than doubtful. Now Es-Sham , "The East." Magnus was its bishop at the council of Nice, A.D. 325. The khalif Omar A.D. 635 took it. It fell into the hands of the Turks, its present masters, under Selim I, A.D. 1516.

Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible [2]


1. Situation , etc. The chief city of N. Syria, situated in lat. 33° 30′ N. and long. 36° 18′ E. It lies in a plain east of the Anti-Lebanon, famous for its beauty and fertility, and watered by the Barada River, the Abanah (wh. see) of the Bible. The luxuriance of its gardens has long been renowned: the English traveller W. G. Browne in 1797 noted that the fruit-trees were so numerous that those which died and were cut down were sufficient to supply the town with firewood. Its population is estimated at from 150,000 to 220,000. It derives its modern importance from local manufactures (woodwork, furniture, artistic metal and textile work), from its situation and convenience as a market for the desert tribes, and from its religious significance as the starting-point of the annual Syrian pilgrim caravan to Mecca. Railways run from Damascus to Haifa, Beyrout, and Mezerîb, and the important line to Mecca, begun in 1901, is expected to be finished in 1910. The writer of Canticles, in his appreciation of the sensuous beauty of scenery, has not forgotten Damascus: the nose of the Shulammite is compared to the ‘tower of Lebanon which looketh toward Damascus’ (  Song of Solomon 7:4 ).

The history of Damascus begins in remote antiquity: the time of its foundation is quite unknown; but that a settlement should have been founded in so desirable a locality was inevitable from the very beginning of human association. It was probably already an ancient city at the time of the Tell el-Amarna tablets, on which we meet with its name more than once. It also appears in the tribute lists of Thothmes III. as Demesku .

2. OT references . In the Biblical history we first meet with the name of Damascus as a territorial indication in defining the line of Abram’s pursuit of the five kings (  Genesis 14:15 ). In   Genesis 15:2 the name of Abram’s steward is given in the MT [Note: Massoretic Text.] as Dammesek Eliezer (so RV [Note: Revised Version.] ) a name probably corrupt. It is explained in the Aram. [Note: Aramaic.] , Targum, and Syr. as ‘Eliezer the Damascene,’ which gives sense, though it presupposes a most improbable corruption in the Hebrew text. We must therefore pass this passage by with the remark that it is not unlikely that Abram’s servant was a native of Damascus. We hear nothing more of Damascus till   2 Samuel 8:5-6 , which describes David’s capture of the city as a reprisal for its assistance given to Hadadezer, king of Zobah; David garrisoned it and reduced it to a tributary condition (cf.   1 Chronicles 18:5 ). The general of Hadadezer, however, Rezon by name, succeeded in establishing himself as king in Damascus in the time of Solomon, and made himself continuously a very troublesome neighbour (  1 Kings 11:23-24 ). In the wars between Asa and Baasha (  1 Kings 15:17 ff.,   2 Chronicles 16:2 ff.) the king of Judah invoked the aid of Ben-hadad, king of Syria, whose royal city was Damascus, against his Israelite enemy. By gifts he persuaded him to break the truce already existing between Ben-hadad and Israel, and to join partnership with Judah. Accordingly Ben-hadad proceeded to harass Baasha on his northern borders, and so induced him to desist from his plan of erecting border fortifications between the two Hebrew kingdoms. Hostilities continued between Syria and Israel till the days of Ahab: Ahab’s sparing of Ben-hadad after the battle of Aphek and his making a truce with him, were the cause of a prophetic denunciation (  1 Kings 20:42 ). In the reign of Jehoram, the Syrian general Naaman came to be cleansed of leprosy (  2 Kings 5:1-27 ), and Elisha’s directions led to his famous depreciating comparison of the muddy Jordan with the clear-flowing Abanah and Pharpar (v. 12). The Chronicler (  2 Chronicles 24:23 ) reports a victorious invasion of Judah by Damascus in the days of Joash. The city of Damascus was re-taken by Jeroboam II. (  2 Kings 14:28 ), though the circumstances are not related; but must have been lost again immediately, for we find the Syrian king Rezin there (  2 Kings 16:1-20 ) oppressing Ahaz, so that he was led to the policy, which (as Isaiah foresaw,   Isaiah 7:1-25;   Isaiah 10:5-11 ) proved suicidal, of calling in the aid of Tiglath-pileser, king of Assyria, and submitting himself as a vassal of that great king. Prophetic denunciations of Damascus, as of the other enemies of the Hebrews, are found in   Isaiah 17:1-14 ,   Jeremiah 49:23 ,   Amos 1:3-5 , and   Zechariah 9:1 . Damascus as a commercial centre was always of great importance, and Ezekiel (  Ezekiel 27:18 ) alludes to its trade in vines and wool. It is, of course, included in the imaginary restoration of the kingdom (  Ezekiel 47:17 ).

3. NT references . Damascus appears only in connexion with St. Paul. Here took place his miraculous conversion (  Acts 9:1-43;   Acts 22:1-30;   Acts 26:1-32 ) with the well-known attendant circumstances, and his escape from Aretas (wh. see), the governor, by being lowered in a basket over the wall (  Acts 9:25 ,   2 Corinthians 11:32-33 ), and hither he returned after his Arabian retirement (  Galatians 1:17 ).

4. Later history . The late extra-Biblical history is very complicated. In 333 b.c., after the battle of Issus, the city was surrendered to Parmenio, the general of Alexander the Great, and during the subsequent Græco-Egyptian wars it fell more than once into the hands of the Ptolemys. In 111 b.c., on the partition of Syria between Antiochus Grypus and A. Cyzicenus, the latter obtained possession of the city. His successor, Demetrius Eucærus, invaded Palestine in 88 b.c. and defeated Alexander Jannæus at Shechem. His brother, who succeeded him, was driven out by the Arabian Haritha (Aretas). For a while it remained in Arab hands, then, after a temporary occupation by Tigranes, king of Armenia, it was conquered by Metellus, the Roman general. It was a city of the Decapolis. The great temple of the city was by one of the early Christian emperors probably Theodosius transformed into a church. It is now the principal mosque of the city, but was partly destroyed by fire in 1893. Since 635 Damascus has been a Muslim city, though governed from time to time by different tribes and dynasties of that faith. It was conquered by the Seljuks in 1075. The Crusaders never succeeded in making a strong position for themselves in the city. In 1860 about 6000 Christians were massacred by the Muslim population of the city. Few remains of antiquity are to be seen in the modern city, which is attractive principally for its undiluted Oriental life and its extensive markets and bazaars. The mosque just mentioned, a mediæval castle, and part of the ancient walls, are the principal relics. Of course, there are the usual traditional sites of historical events, but these are not more trustworthy at Damascus than anywhere else in Syria and Palestine.

R. A. S. Macalister.

Holman Bible Dictionary [3]

Setting Its geographical location enabled Damascus to become a dominant trading and transportation center. Standing 2300 feet above sea level, it lay northeast of Mount Hermon and about 60 miles east of Sidon, the Mediterranean port city. Both major international highways ran through Damascus the Via Maris from Mesopotamia in the east through Damascus and the Jezreel Valley to the Plain of Sharon and the Mediterranean coast, then south to Egypt; and the King's Highway from Damascus south through Ashtaroth, Rabbath-ammon, and Bozrah to Elath on the Red Sea and to Arabia. By the same token, Damascus saw armies march along the highways, often using Damascus as the staging area.

History Archaeology cannot contribute much to the study of Damascus, since the continued existence of the city makes excavation difficult, if not impossible. Explorations do indicate settlement from before 3000 B.C. Tablets from the Syrian center of Ebla mention Damascus about 2300 B.C. Thutmose III of Egypt claimed to have conquered Damascus about 1475 B.C. The Hittites battled Egypt for control of Damascus until the Hittites were defeated by the Sea Peoples about 1200 B.C. At this time Arameans from the nearby desert came in and took control of an independent Damascus, gradually establishing a political power base.

In the Bible Abraham chased invading kings north of Damascus to recover Lot, whom they had taken captive ( Genesis 14:15 ). Abraham's servant Eliezer apparently came from Damascus ( Genesis 15:2 ).

Soldiers of Damascus attempted to help Hadadezer, king of Zobah another Syrian city-state against David. David won and occupied Damascus ( 2 Samuel 8:5-6 ). The weakness of Zobah encouraged Rezon to organize a renegade band, much as David had in opposing Saul ( 1 Samuel 22:2 ). Rezon became the leader of Syria headquartered in Damascus ( 1 Kings 11:23-25 ). God used him to harass Solomon.

The new Syrian city-state faced a strong opponent from the east as Assyria rose to power. Ben-hadad strengthened Damascus to the point that Asa, king of Judah (910-869), paid him tribute to attack Baasha, king of Israel, and relieve pressure on Judah ( 1 Kings 15:16-23 ). This gave Damascus reason to interfere repeatedly in politics in Palestine.

 1 Kings 20:1 also features Ben-hadad of Damascus, giving reason to believe that Ben-hadad (literally, “son of Hadad”) was a royal title in Syria, identifying the king of Damascus as a worshiper of the god Hadad, another name for Baal. See   1 Kings 20:26 ). Again a prophet pointed the way to Israel's victory. Ahab agreed to a covenant treaty with the defeated Syrian king, for which he met a prophet's strong judgment ( 1 Kings 20:35-43 ).

Naaman, a Syrian officer, sought Elisha's help in curing his skin disease but decided Abana and Pharphar, the great rivers of Damascus, offered greater help than did the Jordan ( 2 Kings 5:12 ). These rivers made Damascus an oasis in the midst of the desert. Elisha helped deliver Samaria when Ben-hadad besieged it ( 2 Kings 6-7 ). Elisha also prophesied a change of dynasty in Damascus, naming Hazael its king ( 2 Kings 8:7-15 ). Shalmaneser III of Assyria (858-824) claimed to have defeated both Ben-hadad and Hazael. The first important battle came at Qarqar in 853 B.C. Ahaziah, king of Judah (841), joined Joram, king of Israel (852-841), in battle against Hazael with Joram being wounded. Jehu took advantage of the wounded king and killed him ( 2 Kings 8:25-9:26 ).

Having fought against Damascus in campaigns in 853,849, 848, and 845, Shalmaneser III of Assyria severely weakened Damascus, besieging it in 841 and then receiving tribute again in 838. After this, Hazael of Damascus exercised strong influence, gaining influence in Israel, Judah, and Philistia ( 2 Kings 10:32-33 ). His son Ben-hadad maintained Damascus' strength ( 2 Kings 13:3-25 ). Finally, Jehoash, king of Israel (798-782), regained some cities from Damascus ( 2 Kings 13:25 ). Jeroboam II, king of Israel (793-753), expanded Israelite influence and gained control of Damascus ( 2 Kings 14:28 ). This was possible because Assyria threatened Syria again, as Adad-nirari III, king of Assyria (810-783), invaded Syria from 805 to 802 and again in 796. About 760 B.C. Amos the prophet condemned Damascus and its kings Hazael and Ben-hadad ( Amos 1:3-5 ).

Tiglath-pileser III, king of Assyria (744-727), threatened Damascus anew. King Rezin of Damascus joined with Pekah, king of Israel, about 734 B.C. in an effort to stop the Assyrians. They marched on Jerusalem, trying to force Ahaz of Judah to join them in fighting Assyria ( 2 Kings 16:5 ). The prophet Isaiah warned Ahaz not to participate with Syria and Israel ( Isaiah 7:1 ). He also said that Assyria would destroy Damascus ( Isaiah 8:4; compare  Isaiah 17:1 ). Rezin of Damascus had some military success ( 2 Kings 16:6 ), but he could not get Ahaz of Judah to cooperate. Neither could Isaiah. Instead, Ahaz sent money to Tiglath-pileser, asking him to rescue Judah from Israel and Damascus. The Assyrians responded readily and captured Damascus in 732 B.C., exiling its leading people ( 2 Kings 16:7-9 ). Damascus had one last influence on Judah; for when Ahaz went to Damascus to pay tribute to Tiglath-pileser, he liked the altar he saw there and had a copy made for the Jerusalem Temple ( 2 Kings 16:10-16 ). Damascus sought to gain independence from Assyria in 727,720 but without success. Thus Damascus became a captive state of first the Assyrians, then the Babylonians, Persians, Greeks, Ptolemies, and Seleuccids. Finally, Rome gained control under Pompey in 64 B.C. Jews began to migrate to Damascus and establish synagogues there. Thus Saul went to Damascus to determine if any Christian believers were attached to the synagogues there so that he might persecute them ( Acts 9:1 ). Thus the Damascus Road became the sight of Saul's conversion experience and Damascus the sight of his introduction to the church. He had to escape from Damascus in a basket to begin his ministry ( 2 Corinthians 11:32 ). Damascus gained importance, eventually becoming a Roman colony. It also gained importance as a Christian city, with a bishop stationed there prior to A.D. 400. The Arabs captured it in 636 and made it a capital city for the Moslem world, which it continues to be. See Hadad; Syria .

Trent C. Butler

Morrish Bible Dictionary [4]

One of the oldest cities in the world, being mentioned as a known city in the days of Abraham.  Genesis 14:15;  Genesis 15:2 . Josephus says it was founded by Uz, grandson of Shem. It is not again mentioned in scripture until the time of David. It was the capital of Syria.  Isaiah 7:8 . The Syriansof Damascus sided with Hadadezer, king of Zobah, against Israel, but David slew 22,000 of the Syrians.  2 Samuel 8:5 . David put garrisons in Syria, and they brought him gifts.  1 Chronicles 18:3-6 . Rezon escaped and established himself at Damascus as king of Syria and was an adversary to Israel all the days of Solomon.  1 Kings 11:23-25 .

A few years later Ben-hadad was induced by Judah to attack Baasha king of Israel, when all the land of Naphtali was smitten.  1 Kings 15:16-20 . About 30 years after this Benhadad II. besieged Samaria; but God wrought for their deliverance, and Ben-hadad was taken prisoner; but Ahab called him 'brother' and released him, for which he was rebuked by a prophet.  1 Kings 20 . About B.C. 890 Hazael murdered Ben-hadad and became king of Syria; and we read that Jehovah began to cut Israel short and He used Hazael as His instrument. He smote all the coasts of Israel, from Jordan eastward, in Gilead and the lands of Gad, Reuben, and Manasseh.  2 Kings 10:32,33 . He took also Gath, and was only diverted from Jerusalem by Jehoash giving up the royal and temple treasures.  2 Kings 12:17,18 . Ben-hadad III. his son continued to exercise dominion over Israel,  2 Kings 13:3-7,22; but Jehovah had compassion on Israel, and Joash, according to the dying prophecy of Elisha, overcame the king of Syria three times and recovered the cities of Israel.  2 Kings 13:14-19,23-25 . Jeroboam also 'restored' the coast of Israel, and recovered Damascus and Hamath, according to the prophecy of Jonah.  2 Kings 14:23-28 .

About a century later, Rezin king of Syria and Pekah king of Israel attacked Ahaz and besieged Jerusalem. Ahaz sent the royal and temple treasures to Tiglath-pileser king of Assyria to induce him to resist Rezin. He attacked Damascus, and took it, and carried away the inhabitants to Kir, and slew Rezin, about B.C. 740.  2 Kings 16:5-9;  Isaiah 7:1-9 .

Isaiah prophesied that Damascus should be a ruinous heap, because of its confederacy with Ephraim against God's city Jerusalem.  Isaiah 17:1 : cf. also  Amos 1:3-5;  Jeremiah 49:23-27;  Zechariah 9:1 . God had used the kings of Syria to punish Israel; but, as in other cases, He afterwards for their arrogance and cruelty brought them to nought.

In the time of the Medo-Persian kingdom, Damascus was again rebuilt and was the most famous city of Syria; it afterwards belonged to the Greeks, and later to the Romans, and eventually to the Arabs, Saracens, and Turks.

In the N.T. Damascus is of note as the city near to which Paul was converted, and where he received his sight, and began to preach. He escaped from his enemies by being let down by the wall in a basket.  Acts 9:2-27;  Acts 22:5-11 . In  2 Corinthians 11:32 its inhabitants are called Damascenes Damascus was the first Gentile city in which Jesus was preached as 'the Son of God;' and though it is now in possession of Muslims, yet in their great mosque a stone has been preserved that formed part of a church erected on the spot, bearing this inscription in Greek: " Thy kingdom, O Christ, is an everlasting kingdom, and Thy dominion endureth throughout all generations. " The city is also lamentably memorable on account of the outburst of Muslim hatred in 1860, when on the 9th, 10th and 11th of July not less than 2,500 adult Christians were murdered by them in cold blood, and many besides lost their lives in their flight.

The city is beautifully situated (33 30' N, 36 18' E ) at the foot of the south-east range of Antilibanus on a large plain, watered by the two rivers Barada and Awaj (the Abana and Pharpar of  2 Kings 5:12 ), the former of which runs through the city, and may be said to be the life of the place. The plain abounds in corn-fields, olive-groves, and meadows, with vines, figs, apricots, citrons, plums, pomegranates, and other fruits. There is a long street of more than a mile in length that may well have been called 'Straight,' but is now a street of Bazaars. This was divided into rows by Corinthian columns, the remains of which can still be traced.

Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary [5]

a celebrated city of Asia, and anciently the capital of Syria, may be accounted one of the most venerable places in the world for its antiquity. It is supposed to have been founded by Ux, the son of Aram; and is, at least, known to have subsisted in the time of Abraham,  Genesis 15:2 . It was the residence of the Syrian kings, during the space of three centuries; and experienced a number of vicissitudes in every period of its history. Its sovereign, Hadad, whom Josephus calls the first of its kings, was conquered by David, king of Israel. In the reign of Ahaz, it was taken by Tiglath Pileser, who slew its last king, Rezin, and added its provinces to the Assyrian empire. It was taken and plundered, also, by Sennacherib, Nebuchadnezzar, the generals of Alexander the Great, Judas Maccabeus, and at length by the Romans in the war conducted by Pompey against Tigranes, in the year before Christ, 65. During the time of the emperors, it was one of the principal arsenals in Asia, and is celebrated by the emperor Julian as, even in his day, "the eye of the whole east." About the year 634, it was taken by the Saracen princes, who made it the place of their residence, till Bagdad was prepared for their reception; and, after suffering a variety of revolutions, it was taken and destroyed by Tamerlane, A.D. 1400. It was repaired by the Mamelukes, when they gained possession of Syria; but was wrested from them by the Turks, in 1506; and since that period has formed the capital of one of their pachalics. The modern city is delightfully situated about fifty miles from the sea, in a fertile and extensive plain, watered by the river which the Greeks called Chrysorrhoras, or "Golden River," but which is known by the name of Barrady, and of which the ancient Abana and Pharpar are supposed to have been branches. The city is nearly two miles in length from its north-east to its north-west extremity; but of very inconsiderable breadth, especially near the middle of its extent, where its width is much contracted. It is surrounded by a circular wall, which is strong, though not lofty; but its suburbs are extensive and irregular. Its streets are narrow; and one of them, called Straight, mentioned in  Acts 9:11 , still runs through the city about half a mile in length. The houses, and especially those which front the streets, are very indifferently built, chiefly of mud formed into the shape of bricks, and dried in the sun; but those toward the gardens, and in the squares, present a more handsome appearance. In these mud walls, however, the gates and doors are often adorned with marble portals, carved and inlaid with great beauty and variety; and the inside of the habitation, which is generally a large square court, is ornamented with fragrant trees and marble fountains, and surrounded with splendid apartments, furnished and painted in the highest style of luxury. The market places are well constructed, and adorned with a rich colonnade of variegated marble. The principal public buildings are, the castle, which is about three hundred and forty paces in length; the hospital, a charitable establishment for the reception of strangers, composing a large quadrangle lined with a colonnade, and roofed in small domes covered with lead; and the mosque, the entrance of which is supported by four large columns of red granite; the apartments in it are numerous and magnificent, and the top is covered with a cupola ornamented with two minarets.

Damascus is surrounded by a fruitful and delightful country, forming a plain nearly eighty miles in circumference; and the lands, most adjacent to the city, are formed into gardens of great extent, which are stored with fruit trees of every description. "No place in the world," says Mr. Maundrell, "can promise to the beholder at a distance a greater voluptuousness;" and he mentions a tradition of the Turks, that their prophet, when approaching Damascus: took his station upon a certain precipice, in order to view the city; and, after considering its ravishing beauty and delightful aspect, was unwilling to tempt his frailty by going farther; but instantly took his departure with this remark, that there was but one paradise designed for man, and that, for his part, he was resolved not to take his in this world. The air or water of Damascus, or both, are supposed to have a powerful effect in curing the leprosy, or, at least, in arresting its progress, while the patient remains in the place.

The Rev. James Conner visited Damascus in 1820, as an agent of the Church Missionary Society. He had a letter from the archbishop of Cyprus to Seraphim, patriarch of Antioch, the head of the Christian church in the east, who resides at Damascus. This good man received Mr. Conner in the most friendly manner; and expressed himself delighted with the systems and operations of the Bible Society. He undertook to encourage and promote, to the utmost of his power, the sale and distribution of the Scriptures throughout the patriarchate; and, as a proof of his earnestness in the cause, he ordered, the next day, a number of letters to be prepared, and sent to his archbishops and bishops, urging them to promote the objects of the Bible Society in their respective stations.

American Tract Society Bible Dictionary [6]

A celebrated metropolis of Syria, first mentioned in  Genesis 14:15   15:2 , and now probably the oldest city on the globe. It stands on the river Barada, the ancient Chrysorrhoas, in a beautiful and fertile plain on the east and south east of Anti-Lebanon. See ABANA, and Pharpar. This plain is about fifty miles in circumference; it is open to the desert of Arabiaon the south and east, and is bounded on the other sides by the mountains. The region around and north of Damascus, including probably the valley between the ridges of Lebanon and Anti-Lebanon, is called in the Scriptures, "Syria of Damascus,"  2 Samuel 8:5 , and by Strabo, Coelesyria. This city, which at first had its own kings, was taken by David,  2 Samuel 8:5,6; and by Jeroboam  2 Kings 14:28 . Its history at this period is to be found in the accounts given of Naaman, Ben-hadad, Hazael, and Rezin. It was subdued by Tiglath-pileser,  2 Kings 16:9; and was afterwards subject to the Assyrians, Babylonians, Persians, Seleucidea, and Romans. In the days of Paul it appears to have been held, for a time at least, by Aretas, king of Arabia Petraea, the father-in-law of Herod Antipas. At this period the city was so much thronged by the Jews, that, according to Josephus, ten thousand of them, by command of Nero, were put to death at once. It is memorable to Christians as the scene of the miraculous conversion of that most illustrious "servant of the Lord Jesus Christ," the apostle Paul,  Acts 9:1-27   22:1-16 . Since 1506, Damascus has been held by the Turks; it is the metropolis of "the Pashalic of Damascus," and has a population of about one hundred and fifty thousand. The Arabs call it Eshshams. It is still celebrated, with the surrounding country, by all travellers, as one of the most beautiful and luxuriant regions in the world. The orientals themselves call it "Paradise on earth," and it is pretended that Mohammed refused to enter it, lest he should thereby forfeit his heavenly Paradise. The plain around the city is well watered and of exuberant fertility; and the eye of the traveller from any direction is fascinated by the view-a wilderness of verdure, interspersed with innumerable villas and hamlets, with gardens, fountains, and groves. A nearer view of the city discloses much that is offensive to the senses, as well as to the spirit. It is the most purely oriental city yet remaining of all that are named in the Bible. Its public buildings and bazaars are fine; and many private dwellings, though outwardly mean, are decorated within in a style of the most costly luxury. Its position has made it from the very first a commercial city,  Ezekiel 27:18 . They cloth called Damask is supposed to have originated here, and Damascus steel has never been equaled. It still caries on an extensive traffic in woven stuffs of silk and cotton, in fine inlaid cabinet work, in leather, fruits, sweetmeats, etc. For this purpose huge caravans assemble here at intervals, and traverse, just as of old, the desert routes to remote cities. Here too is a chief gathering-place of pilgrims to Mecca. People from all the nations of East resort to Damascus, a fact which shows its importance as a missionary station. An encouraging commencement has been made by English Christians, and the fierce and bigoted intolerance of its Mussulman population has begun to give way. A street is still found here called "Straight," probably the same referred to in  Acts 9:11 . It runs a mile or more through the city from the eastern gate.

People's Dictionary of the Bible [7]

Damascus ( Da-Măs'Kus ). The ancient city of Syria, 133 miles northeast of Jerusalem. It is on a fertile plain, 30 miles in diameter, with mountains on three sides. The plain is well watered by the Barada, the Chrysorrhoas (or "Golden Stream" of the Greeks, the Abana of Scripture; now El AʾWaj, "the Crooked"), and the Pharpar of Scripture.  2 Kings 5:12. The climate is delightful; the nights are cool and the dews heavy: yet the people sleep on the flat roofs of their houses. Damascus is called by the Arabs "the Eye of the Desert" and the "Pearl of the East." It is to the Mohammedan the earthly reflection of Paradise. Travellers have vied with each other in describing the beauty of Damascus. "From the edge of the mountain range," says Stanley, "you look down on the plain.... The river Abana (the Barada), with its green banks, is seen at the bottom rushing through the cleft: it bursts forth, and as if in a moment scatters over the plain, through a circle of 30 miles, the same verdure which had hitherto been confined to its single channel.... Far and wide in front extends the level plain, its horizon bare, its lines of surrounding hills bare, all bare far away on the road to Palmyra and Bagdad. In the midst of this plain lies at your feet the vast lake or island of deep verdure, walnuts and apricots waving above, corn and grass below; and in the midst of this mass of foliage rises, striking out its wide arms of streets hither and thither, and its white minarets above the trees which embosom them, the city of Damascus. On the right towers the snowy height of Hermon, overlooking the whole scene. Close behind are the sterile limestone mountains; so that you can stand literally between the living and the dead." Sinai And Palestine, p. 410. Damascus has been called the oldest city in the world. Josephus says it was founded by Uz, a grandson of Shem; Abraham' visited it,  Genesis 14:15;  Genesis 15:2, A. V., but the R. V. reads "Dammesek Eliezer;" it was conquered by David,  2 Samuel 8:5-6; was allied with Israel and against Israel,  1 Kings 15:18;  1 Kings 15:20;  2 Chronicles 16:3; was taken by Tiglath-pileser; denounced by Jeremiah,  Jeremiah 49:27; and afterward seldom noticed in Old Testament history. It was surrendered to Alexander the Great after the battle of Issus, b.c. 333. In the New Testament it is noticed as the place of the scene of Paul's conversion,  Acts 9:1-25; later it became the residence of a Christian bishop; was conquered by the Arabs a.d. 635; became a provincial capital of the Turkish empire, 1516; and is now the residence of a Turkish governor. It is the hot-bed of Mohammedan fanaticism. In 1860, 6000 Christians were massacred by the Moslems in cold blood, in the city and adjoining districts. It has a population of from 110,000 to 150,000. The principal street, known as Sultany, or Queen's street, runs in nearly a straight line from east to west, and is supposed to be the same as the street called "Straight" in  Acts 9:11.

Easton's Bible Dictionary [8]

 Isaiah 7:8 17:3

The situation of this city is said to be the most beautiful of all Western Asia. It is mentioned among the conquests of the Egyptian king Thothmes Iii. (BC 1500), and in the Amarna tablets (B.C. 1400).

It is first mentioned in Scripture in connection with Abraham's victory over the confederate kings under Chedorlaomer ( Genesis 14:15 ). It was the native place of Abraham's steward (15:2). It is not again noticed till the time of David, when "the Syrians of Damascus came to succour Hadadezer" (q.v.),  2 Samuel 8:5;  1 Chronicles 18:5 . In the reign of Solomon, Rezon became leader of a band who revolted from Hadadezer ( 1 Kings 11:23 ), and betaking themselves to Damascus, settled there and made their leader king. There was a long war, with varying success, between the Israelites and Syrians, who at a later period became allies of Israel against Judah ( 2 Kings 15:37 ).

The Syrians were at length subdued by the Assyrians, the city of Damascus was taken and destroyed, and the inhabitants carried captive into Assyria ( 2 Kings 16:7-9; Compare  Isaiah 7:8 ). In this, prophecy was fulfilled ( Isaiah 17:1;  Amos 1:4;  Jeremiah 49:24 ). The kingdom of Syria remained a province of Assyria till the capture of Nineveh by the Medes (B.C. 625), when it fell under the conquerors. After passing through various vicissitudes, Syria was invaded by the Romans (B.C. 64), and Damascus became the seat of the government of the province. In A.D. 37 Aretas, the king of Arabia, became master of Damascus, having driven back Herod Antipas.

This city is memorable as the scene of Saul's conversion ( Acts 9:1-25 ). The street called "Straight," in which Judas lived, in whose house Saul was found by Ananias, is known by the name Sultany, or "Queen's Street." It is the principal street of the city. Paul visited Damascus again on his return from Arabia ( Galatians 1:16,17 ). Christianity was planted here as a centre ( Acts 9:20 ), from which it spread to the surrounding regions.

In A.D. 634Damascus was conquered by the growing Mohammedan power. In A.D. 1516 it fell under the dominion of the Turks, its present rulers. It is now the largest city in Asiatic Turkey. Christianity has again found a firm footing within its walls.

Smith's Bible Dictionary [9]

Damas'cus. One of the most ancient and most important of the cities of Syria. It is situated 130 miles northeast of Jerusalem, in a plain of vast size and of extreme fertility, which lies east of the great chain of Anti-Libanus, on the edge of the desert. This fertile plain, which is nearly circular and about 30 miles in diameter, is due to the river Barada , which is probably the "Abana" of Scripture. Two other streams, the Wady Helbon upon the north and the Awaj , which flows direct from Hermon upon the south, increase the fertility of the Damascene plain, and contend for the honor of representing the "Pharpar" of Scripture.

According to Josephus, Damascus was founded by Uz, grandson of Shem. It is first mentioned, in Scripture, in connection with Abraham,  Genesis 14:15, whose steward was a native of the place.  Genesis 15:2. At one time, David became complete master of the whole territory, which he garrisoned with Israelites.  2 Samuel 8:5-6. It was in league with Baasha, king of Israel against Asa,  1 Kings 15:19;  2 Chronicles 16:3, and afterwards in league with Asa against Baasha.  1 Kings 15:20. Under Ahaz, it was taken by Tiglath-pileser,  2 Kings 16:7-9, the kingdom of Damascus brought to an end, and the city itself destroyed, the inhabitants being carried captive into Assyria.  2 Kings 16:9. Compare  Isaiah 7:8 and  Amos 1:5.

Afterwards, it passed successively under the dominion of the Assyrians, Babylonians, Persians, Macedonians, Romans and Saracens, and was, at last, captured by the Turks, in 1516 A.D. Here, the apostle Paul was converted and preached the gospel.  Acts 9:1-25. Damascus has always been a great centre for trade. Its present population is from 100,000 to 150,000. It has a delightful climate. Certain localities are shown as the site of those scriptural events which specially interest us in its history. Queen's Street, which runs straight through the city from east to west, may be the street called Straight.  Acts 9:11. The house of Judas and that of Ananias are shown, but little confidence can be placed in any of these traditions.

Bridgeway Bible Dictionary [10]

One of the world’s most ancient cities, Damascus has existed from at least the time of Abraham ( Genesis 14:15). It is important in the Bible story as capital of the nation Syria, which was much involved in Israel’s affairs from the time of the division of the Israelite kingdom in 930 BC to the conquest of Syria by Assyria in 732 BC. (For the history of Damascus during this period see Syria .)

The city of Damascus was on the major trade routes that crossed the region and was an important commercial centre ( 1 Kings 20:34;  Ezekiel 27:18). It was also the religious centre of Syria. The ungodly Judean king Ahaz worshipped the Syrian gods there, and built a copy of the Syrian altar in Jerusalem ( 2 Kings 16:10-16;  2 Chronicles 28:22-24).

After Alexander the Great’s conquest in 333 BC, Syria was made into an important province of the eastern part of the Greek Empire. But instead of making Damascus the provincial capital, the new rulers built a new capital at Antioch. With the Roman conquest of 64 BC, Damascus came under the administration of Rome, though for one brief period it was in the hands of an Arab king called Aretas ( 2 Corinthians 11:32-33).

The great persecutor of the early Christians, Paul, was converted to Christianity while on the way to Damascus ( Acts 9:1-19). There were several Jewish synagogues in the city, and the Jews opposed Paul so violently that he had to escape to save his life ( Acts 9:20-25). After a period in Arabia, he returned to Damascus ( Galatians 1:17). It is not known how often Paul visited Damascus, though it is known that on several occasions he visited churches in Syria ( Acts 15:41;  Galatians 1:21).

Hawker's Poor Man's Concordance And Dictionary [11]

The chief city of Syria; so called from Damashech, a place of blood, from Damah, blood. Here Paul was directing his course for the destruction of the church when the Lord converted him. ( Acts 9:2-6, etc.)

Webster's Dictionary [12]

(n.) A city of Syria.

Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature [13]

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature [14]

Copyright StatementThese files are public domain. Bibliography InformationMcClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Damascus'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/eng/tce/d/damascus.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia [15]

da - mas´kus  :

1. The Name

2. Situation and Natural Features

3. The City Itself

4. Its History

(1) The Early Period (to circa 950 bc)

(2) The Aramean Kingdom (circa 950-732 bc)

(3) The Middle Period (732 bc-650 ad)

(4) Under Islam

1. Name

The English name is the same as the Greek Δαμασκός , Damaskós ̌ . The Hebrew name is דמּשׂק , Dammeseḳ , but the Aramaic form דּרמשׂק , Darmeseḳ , occurs in  1 Chronicles 18:5;  2 Chronicles 28:5 . The name appears in Egyptian inscriptions as Ti - mas - ku (16th century bc), and Sa - ra - mas - ki (13th century bc), which W. M. Müller, Asien u. Europa , 227, regards as representing Ti - ra - mas - ki , concluding from the " ra " in this form that Damascus had by that time passed under Aramaic influence. In the Tell el-Amarna Letters the forms Ti - ma - - gi and Di - maš - ka occur. The Arabic name is Dimashk esh - Sham ("Damascus of Syria") usually contrasted to Esh - Sham simply. The meaning of the name Damascus is unknown. Esh - Sham (Syria) means "the left," in contrast to the Yemen (Arabia) = "the right."

2. Situation and Natural Features

Damascus is situated (33 degrees 30´ North latitude, 36 degrees 18´ East longitude) in the Northwest corner of the Ghuta, a fertile plain about 2,300 ft. above sea level, West of Mt. Hermon. The part of the Ghuta East of the city is called el - Merj , the "meadow-land" of Damascus. The river Barada (see Asana ) flows through Damascus and waters the plain, through which the Nahr el - Awaj (see Pharpar ) also flows, a few miles South of the city. Surrounded on three sides by bare hills, and bordered on the East, its open side, by the desert, its well-watered and fertile Ghuta, with its streams and fountains, its fields and orchards, makes a vivid impression on the Arab of the desert. Arabic literature is rich in praises of Damascus, which is described as an earthly paradise. The European or American traveler is apt to feel that these praises are exaggerated, and it is perhaps only in early summer that the beauty of the innumerable fruit trees - apricots, pomegranates, walnuts and many others - justifies enthusiasm. To see Damascus as the Arab sees it, we must approach it, as he does, from the desert. The Barada (Abana) is the life blood of Damascus. Confined in a narrow gorge until close to the city, where it spreads itself in many channels over the plain, only to lose itself a few miles away in the marshes that fringe the desert, its whole strength is expended in making a small area between the hills and the desert really fertile. That is why a city on this site is inevitable and permanent. Damascus, almost defenseless from a military point of view, is the natural mart and factory of inland Syria. In the course of its long history it has more than once enjoyed and lost political supremacy, but in all the vicissitudes of political fortune it has remained the natural harbor of the Syrian desert.

3. The City Itself

Damascus lies along the main stream of the Barada, almost entirely on its south bank. The city is about a mile long (East to West) and about half a mile broad (North to South). On the south side a long suburb, consisting for the most part of a single street, called the Meidan , stretches for a mile beyond the line of the city wall, terminating at the Bawwabet Allah , the "Gate of God," the starting-point of the Haj, the annual pilgrimage to Mecca. The city has thus roughly the shape of a broad-headed spoon, of which the Meidan is the handle. In the Greek period, a long, colonnaded street ran through the city, doubtless the "street which is called Straight" ( Acts 9:11 ). This street, along the course of which remains of columns have been discovered, runs westward from the Babesh - Sherki , the "East Gate." Part of it is still called Derb el - Mustakim ("Straight Street"), but it is not certain that it has borne the name through all the intervening centuries. It runs between the Jewish and Christian quarters (on the left and right, respectively, going west), and terminates in the Suk el - Midhatiyeh , a bazaar built by Midhat Pasha, on the north of which is the main Moslem quarter, in which are the citadel and the Great Mosque. The houses are flat-roofed, and are usually built round a courtyard, in which is a fountain. The streets, with the exception of Straight Street, are mostly narrow and tortuous, but on the west side of the city there are some good covered bazaars. Damascus is not rich in antiquities. The Omayyad Mosque, or Great Mosque, replaced a Christian church, which in its time had taken the place of a pagan temple. The site was doubtless occupied from time immemorial by the chief religious edifice of the city. A small part of the ancient Christian church is still extant. Part of the city wall has been preserved, with a foundation going back to Roman times, surmounted by Arab work. The traditional site of Paul's escape ( Acts 9:25;  2 Corinthians 11:33 ) and of the House of Naaman (2 Ki 5) are pointed out to the traveler, but the traditions are valueless. The charm of Damascus lies in the life of the bazaars, in the variety of types which may be seen there - the Druse, the Kurd, the Bedouin and many others - and in its historical associations. It has always been a manufacturing city. Our word "damask" bears witness to the fame of its textile industry, and the "Damascus blades" of the Crusading period were equally famous; and though Timur (Tamerlane) destroyed the trade in arms in 1399 by carrying away the armorers to Samarcand, Damascus is still a city of busy craftsmen in cloth and wood. Its antiquity casts a spell of romance upon it. After a traceable history of thirty-five centuries it is still a populous and flourishing city, and, in spite of the advent of the railway and even the electric street car, it still preserves the flavor of the East.

4. Its History

(1) The Early Period (to Circa 950 bc)

The origin of Damascus is unknown. Mention has already been made (section 1 ) of the references to the city in Egyptian inscriptions and in the Tell el-Amarna Letters . It appears once - possibly twice - in the history of Abraham. In  Genesis 14:15 we read that Abraham pursued the four kings as far as Hobah, "which is on the left hand (i.e. the north) of Damascus." But this is simply a geographical note which shows only that Damascus was well known at the time when Gen 14 was written. Greater interest attaches to   Genesis 15:2 , where Abraham complains that he is childless and that his heir is "Dammesek Eliezer" (English Revised Version), for which the Syriac version reads "Eliezer the Damaschul." The clause, however, is hopelessly obscure, and it is doubtful whether it contains any reference to Damascus at all. In the time of David Damascus was an Aramean city, which assisted the neighboring Aramean states in their unsuccessful wars against David ( 2 Samuel 8:5 f). These campaigns resulted indirectly in the establishment of a powerful Aramean kingdom in Damascus. Rezon, son of Eliada, an officer in the army of Hadadezer, king of Zobah, escaped in the hour of defeat, and became a captain of banditti. Later he established himself in Damascus, and became its king (  1 Kings 11:23 ). He cherished a not unnatural animosity against Israel and the rise of a powerful and hostile kingdom in the Israelite frontier was a constant source of anxiety to Solomon ( 1 Kings 11:25 ).

(2) The Aramean Kingdom (Circa 950-732 bc)

Whether Rezon was himself the founder of a dynasty is not clear. He has been identified with Hezion, father of Tab-rimmon, and grandfather of Ben-hadad ( 1 Kings 15:18 ), but the identification, though a natural one, is insecure. Ben-hadad (Biridri) is the first king of Damascus, after Rezon, of whom we have any detailed knowledge. The disruption of the Hebrew kingdom afforded the Arameans an opportunity of playing off the rival Hebrew states against each other, and of bestowing their favors now on one, and now on the other. Benhadad was induced by Asa of Judah to accept a large bribe, or tribute, from the Temple treasures, and relieve Asa by attacking the Northern Kingdom ( 1 Kings 15:18 ). Some years later (circa 880 bc) Ben-hadad (or his successor?) defeated Omri of Israel, annexed several Israelite cities, and secured the right of having Syrian "streets" (i.e. probably a bazaar for Syrian merchants) in Samaria ( 1 Kings 20:34 ). Ben-hadad Ii (according to Winckler the two Ben-hadads are really identical, but this view, though just possible chronologically, conflicts with  1 Kings 20:34 ) was the great antagonist of Ahab. His campaigns against Israel are narrated in  1 Kings 20:22 . At first successful, he was subsequently twice defeated by Ahab, and after the rout at Aphek was at the mercy of the conqueror, who treated him with generous leniency, claiming only the restoration of the lost Israelite towns, and the right of establishing an Israelite bazaar in Damascus. On the renewal of hostilities three years later Ahab fell before Ramoth-gilead, and his death relieved Ben-hadad of the only neighboring monarch who could ever challenge the superiority of Damascus. Further light is thrown upon the history of Damascus at this time by the Assyrian inscriptions. In 854 bc the Assyrians defeated a coalition of Syrian and Palestine states (including Israel) under the leadership of Ben-hadad at Karḳar . In 849 and 846 bc renewed attacks were made upon Damascus by the Assyrians, who, however, did not effect any considerable conquest. From this date until the fall of the city in 732 bc the power of the Aramean kingdom depended upon the activity or quiescence of Assyria. Hazael, who murdered Ben-hadad and usurped his throne circa 844 bc, was attacked in 842 and 839, but during the next thirty years Assyria made no further advance westward. Hazael was able to devote all his energies to his western neighbors, and Israel suffered severely at his hands. In 803 Mari' of Damascus, who is probably identical with the Ben-hadad of  2 Kings 13:3 , Hazael's son, was made tributary to Ramman-nirari Iii of Assyria. This blow weakened Aram, and afforded Jeroboam Ii of Israel an opportunity of avenging the defeats inflicted upon his country by Hazael. In 773 Assyria again invaded the territory of Damascus. Tiglath-pileser Iii (745-727 bc) pushed vigorously westward, and in 738 Rezin of Damascus paid tribute. A year or two later he revolted, and attempted in concert with Pekah of Israel, to coerce Judah into joining an anti-Assyrian league ( 2 Kings 15:37;  2 Kings 16:5; Isa 7). His punishment was swift and decisive. In 734 the Assyrians advanced and laid siege to Damascus, which fell in 732. Rezin was executed, his kingdom was overthrown, and the city suffered the fate which a few years later befell Samaria.

(3) The Middle Period (Circa 732 bc-650 ad)

Damascus had now lost its political importance, and for more than two centuries we have only one or two inconsiderable references to it. It is mentioned in an inscription of Sargon (722-705 bc) as having taken part in an unsuccessful insurrection along with Hamath and Arpad. There are incidental references to it in  Jeremiah 49:23 and   Ezekiel 27:18;  Ezekiel 47:16 . In the Persian period Damascus, if not politically of great importance, was a prosperous city. The overthrow of the Persian empire by Alexander was soon followed (301 bc) by the establishment of the Seleucid kingdom of Syria, with Antioch as its capital, and Damascus lost its position as the chief city of Syria. The center of gravity was moved toward the sea, and the maritime commerce of the Levant became more important than the trade of Damascus with the interior. In 111 bc the Syrian kingdom was divided, and Antiochus Cyzicenus became king of Coele-Syria, with Damascus as his capital. His successors, Demetrius Eucaerus and Antiochus Dionysus, had troubled careers, being involved in domestic conflicts and in wars with the Parthians, with Alexander Janneus of Judea, and with Aretas the Nabatean, who obtained possession of Damascus in 85 bc. Tigranes, being of Armenia, held Syria for some years after this date, but was defeated by the Romans, and in 64 bc Pompey finally annexed the country. The position of Damascus during the first century and a half of Roman rule in Syria is obscure. For a time it was in Roman hands, and from 31 bc-33 ad its coins bear the names of Augustus or Tiberius. Subsequently it was again in the hands of the Nabateans, and was ruled by an ethnarch, or governor, appointed by Aretas, the Nabatean king. This ethnarch adopted a hostile attitude to Paul ( 2 Corinthians 11:32 f) . Later, in the time of Nero, it again became a Roman city. In the early history of Christianity Damascus, as compared with Antioch, played a very minor part. But it is memorable in Christian history on account of its associations with Paul's conversion, and as the scene of his earliest Christian preaching (Acts 9:1-25). All the New Testament references to the city relate to this event (  Acts 9:1 :25;   Acts 22:5-11;  Acts 26:12 ,  Acts 26:20;  2 Corinthians 11:32 f;   Galatians 1:17 ). Afterward, under the early Byzantine emperor, Damascus, though important as an outpost of civilization on the edge of the desert, continued to be second to Antioch both politically and ecclesiastically. It was not until the Arabian conquest (634 ad when it passed out of Christian hands, and reverted to the desert, that it once more became a true capital.

(4) Under Islam

Damascus has now been a Moslem city, or rather a city under Moslem rule, for nearly thirteen centuries. For about a century after 650 ad it was the seat of the Omayyad caliphs, and enjoyed a position of preeminence in the Moslem world. Later it was supplanted by Bagdad, and in the 10th century it came under the rule of the Fatimites of Egypt. Toward the close of the 11th century the Seljuk Turks entered Syria and captured Damascus. In the period of the Crusades the city, though never of decisive importance, played a considerable part, and was for a time the headquarters of Saladin. In 1300 it was plundered by the Tartars, and in 1399 Timur exacted an enormous ransom from it, and carried off its famous armorers, Thus robbing it of one of its most important industries. Finally, in 1516 ad, the Osmanli Turks under Sultan Selim conquered Syria, and Damascus became, and still is, the capital of a province of the Ottoman Empire.

The Nuttall Encyclopedia [16]

The capital of Syria, one of the oldest cities in the world; stands 2260 ft. above the sea-level; is a great centre of the caravan trade; is embosomed in the midst of gardens and orchards, hence its appearance as the traveller approaches it is most striking; its history goes as far back as the days of Abraham; it was the scene of two great events in human destiny—the conversion of St. Paul, and, according to Moslem tradition, a great decisive moment in the life of Mahomet, when he resolutely turned his back once for all on the pleasures of the world.