From BiblePortal Wikipedia

Bridgeway Bible Dictionary [1]

The land of Syria bordered Israel to the north and stretched up into the mountains beyond the headwaters of the Euphrates River. The Old Testament mentions Syria chiefly in relation to its wars with Israel during the time of the divided kingdom. The New Testament mentions it chiefly in relation to the expansion of the early church.

Old Testament records

Originally Syria was known as Aram, and some versions of the Bible consistently use ‘Aram’ rather than ‘Syria’ in the Old Testament narratives (see Aram ). The land included parts of Mesopotamia, along with various smaller kingdoms such as Zobah, Geshur and Hamath ( Deuteronomy 23:4;  Judges 3:8;  1 Samuel 14:47;  2 Samuel 3:3;  2 Samuel 8:3;  2 Samuel 8:9). The capital of Syria during the time of its conflict with Israel was Damascus ( 1 Kings 11:24;  Isaiah 7:8; see Damascus ).

The ‘Israel’ with whom Syria fought was the northern part of the divided Israelite nation, as distinct from Judah, the southern part. Syria’s oppression of Israel began, it seems, during the reign of the Syrian king Ben-hadad I ( 1 Kings 15:16-22).

During the reign of the next king, Ben-hadad II, a combined army of Syria and neighbouring states attacked the Israelite capital, Samaria, but was defeated twice ( 1 Kings 20:1-31). The prophet Elisha on one occasion healed the commander-in-chief of the Syrian army, and on another was consulted when the Syrian king was ill ( 2 Kings 5:1-14;  2 Kings 8:7-8).

Ben-hadad II was assassinated by Hazael, who then seized the throne for himself. Hazael was a brutal enemy who repeatedly attacked Israel and butchered its people ( 2 Kings 8:12-15;  2 Kings 8:28;  2 Kings 10:32;  2 Kings 12:17;  2 Kings 13:3;  2 Kings 13:22;  Amos 1:3-4). During the reign of the next king, Ben-hadad III, Israel regained much of the territory that it had lost to Hazael ( 2 Kings 13:25). Syria continued to decline in power, and Israel at one stage took control of Damascus for a brief period ( 2 Kings 14:28).

With the rise of Assyria to power, both Syria and Israel were in danger of being conquered. The Syrian king Rezin and the Israelite king Pekah combined to attack Judah, with the aim of forcing Judah into a three-nation alliance that might be able to withstand Assyria. But Judah appealed to Assyria for help, and Assyria responded by conquering Syria and much of Israel ( 2 Kings 15:37;  2 Kings 16:5-9;  Isaiah 7:1-9;  Isaiah 17:1-3). This marked the end of Syria as a separate and independent nation (732 BC).

Into the New Testament era

During the latter part of the fourth century BC, Alexander the Great established the Greek Empire throughout eastern Europe and western Asia. After Alexander’s death in 323 BC, the empire split into sectors under the control of Alexander’s Greek generals. One of these sectors was centred on Syria, and in 300 BC the city of Antioch was built as the administrative capital of the Syrian sector (see Antioch In Syria ).

A dynasty of thirteen kings, most of them bearing the name Antiochus, reigned over Syria for about two and a half centuries. At first they commanded a large area stretching as far as Asia Minor in the west and Persia in the east. But over the years they consistently lost territory, till in the end they controlled only Syria itself. (For details of this era see Greece .) Then, in 64 BC, they were conquered by Rome, and Syria became a province of the emerging Roman Empire ( Luke 2:2).

Christianity first came to Syria through the efforts of Greek-speaking Jewish Christians who had been forced out of Jerusalem after the execution of Stephen ( Acts 8:1;  Acts 9:1-2;  Acts 9:10;  Acts 9:19;  Acts 11:19-20). Paul was converted in Syria and carried out his first recorded evangelistic ministry there ( Acts 9:1-22;  Galatians 1:21). He played an important part in the early growth of the church in Antioch ( Acts 11:19-26), and when opportunities arose he visited churches throughout the province ( Acts 15:41;  Acts 18:18-22).

Smith's Bible Dictionary [2]

Syr'ia. Syria is the term used throughout our version for the Hebrew, Aram , as well as for the Greek, Zupia . Most probably, Syria is for Tsyria , the country about Tsur , or Tyre, which was the first of the Syrian towns known to the Greeks. It is difficult to fix the limits of Syria. The limits of the Hebrew, Aram , and its subdivisions are spoken of under Aram. See Aram .

Syria, proper, was bounded by Amanus and Taurus on the north; by the Euphrates and the Arabian desert on the east; by Palestine on the south; by the Mediterranean near the mouth of the Orontes; and then by Phoenicia on the west. This tract is about 300 miles long from north to south, and from 50 to 150 miles broad. It contains an area of about 30,000 square miles.

General physical features. - The general character of the tract is mountainous, as the Hebrew name, Aram , (from a root signifying, "Height" ), sufficiently implies. The most fertile and valuable tract of Syria is the long valley intervening between Libanus and Anti-Libanus. Of the various mountain ranges of Syria, Lebanon possesses the greatest interest. It extends from the mouth of the Litany to Arka, a distance of nearly 100 miles. Anti-Libanus, as the name implies, stands lower against Lebanon, running in the same direction, that is, nearly north and south, and extending the same length. See Lebanon .

The principal rivers of Syria are the Litany and the Orontes. The Litany springs from a small lake situated in the middle of the Coele-Syrian valley, about six miles to the southwest of Baalbek. It enters the sea about five miles north of Tyre. The source of the Orontes is, but about 15 miles from that of the Litany. Its modern name is the Nahr-El-Asi , or "Rebel Stream", an appellation given to it on account of its violence and impetuosity in many parts of its course.

The chief towns of Syria may be thus arranged, as nearly as possible in the order of their importance: 1, Antioch; 2, Damascus; 3, Apamea; 4, Seleucia; 5, Tadmor or Palmyra; 6, Laodicea; 7, Epiphania (Hamath); 8, Samosata; 9, Hierapolis (Mabug); 10, Chalybon; 11, Emesa; 12, Heliopolis; 13, Laodicea ad Libanum; 14, Cyrrhus; 15, Chalcis; 16, Poseideum; 17, Heraclea; 18, Gindarus; 19, Zeugma; 20, Thapsacus.

Of these, Samosata, Zeugma and Thapsacus are on the Euphrates; Seleucia, Laodicea, Poseideum and Heraclea, on the seashore; Antioch, Apamea, Epiphania and Emesa (Hems), on the Orontes; Heliopolis and Laodicea ad Libanum, in Coele-Syria; Hierapolis, Chalybon, Cyrrhus, Chalcis and Gindarns, in the northern highlands; Damascus, on the skirts, and Palmyra, in the centre, of the eastern desert.

History. - The first occupants of Syria appear to have been of Hamitic descent - Hittites, Jebusites, Amorites, etc. After a while, the first comers, who were still to a great extent nomads, received a Semitic infusion, while most, probably, came to them from the southeast. The only Syrian town whose existence, we find distinctly marked at this time is Damascus,  Genesis 14:15;  Genesis 15:2, which appears to have been already a place of some importance. Next to Damascus, must be placed Hamath.  Numbers 13:21;  Numbers 34:8.

Syria at this time, and for many centuries afterward, seems to have been broken u, p among a number of petty kingdoms. The Jews first come into hostile contact with the Syrians, under that name, in the time of David.  Genesis 15:18;  2 Samuel 8:3-4;  2 Samuel 8:13. When, a few years later, the Ammonites determined on engaging in a war with David, and applied to the Syrians for aid, Zolah, together with Beth-rehob sent them 20,000 footmen, and two other Syrian kingdoms furnished 13,000.  2 Samuel 10:6.

This army being completely defeated by Joab, Hadadezer obtained aid from Mesopotamia,  2 Samuel 10:16, and tried the chance of a third battle, which, likewise, went against him, and produced the general submission of Syria to the Jewish monarch. The submission, thus begun, continued under the reign of Solomon.  1 Kings 4:21. The only part of Syria which Solomon lost, seems to have been Damascus, where an independent kingdom was set up by Rezon, a native of Zobah.  1 Kings 11:23-25.

On the separation of the two kingdoms, soon after the accession of Rehoboam, the remainder of Syria, no doubt, shook off the yoke. Damascus now became decidedly the leading state, Hamath being second to it, and the northern Hittites, whose capital was Carchemish, near Bambuk , third. See Damascus . Syria became attached to the great Assyrian empire, from which it passed to the Babylonians, and from them to the Persians, In B.C. 333, it submitted to Alexander without a struggle.

Upon the death of Alexander, Syria became, for the first time, the head of a great kingdom. On the division of the provinces among his generals, B.C. 321, Seleucus Nicator received Mesopotamia and Syria. The city of Antioch was begun in B.C. 300, and, being finished in a few years, was made the capital of Seleucus' kingdom. The country grew rich with the wealth, which now flowed into it on all sides.

Syria was added to the Roman empire by Pompey, B.C. 64, and as it holds an important place, not only in the Old Testament but in the New, some account of its condition under the Romans must be given. While the country, generally, was formed into a Roman province, under governors who were, at first, proprietors, or quaestors , then procounsuls, and finally legates, there were exempted from the direct rule of the governor in the first place, a number of "free cities" which retained the administration of their own affairs, subject to a tribute levied according to the Roman principles of taxation; secondly, a number of tracts, which were assigned to petty princes, commonly natives, to be ruled at their pleasure, subject to the same obligations with the free cities as to taxation.

After the formal division of the provinces between Augustus and the senate, Syria, being from its exposed situation among the province principis , were ruled by legates, who were of consular rank, ( consulares ), and bore severally the full title of "Legatus Augusti pro praetore". Judea occupied a peculiar position; a special procurator was, therefore, appointed to rule it, who was subordinate to the governor of Syria, but within his own province had the power of a legatus.

Syria continued without serious disturbance, from the expulsion of the Parthians, B.C. 38, to the breaking out of the Jewish war, A.D. 66. In A.D. 44-47, it was the scene of a severe famine. A little earlier, Christianity had begun to spread into it, partly by means of those who "were scattered" at the time of Stephen's persecution,  Acts 11:19, partly by the exertions of St. Paul.  Galatians 1:21. The Syrian Church soon grew to be one of the most flourishing,  Acts 13:1;  Acts 15:23;  Acts 15:35;  Acts 15:41; etc. (Syria remained under Roman and Byzantine rule till A.D. 634, when it was overrun by the Mohammedans; after which, it wa, s for many years, the scene of fierce contests, and was finally subjugated by the Turks, A.D. 1517, under whose rule it still remains. - Editor).

Holman Bible Dictionary [3]

Name and Geography Syria is most properly a geographical term for the northwestern Mediterranean region situated between Palestine and Mesopotamia, roughly equal to the modern states of Syria and Lebanon with small portions of Turkey and Iraq. The name may come from a Greek shortening of Assyria and was only accidentally applied to the area. There is no geographical connection between Assyria and Syria.

Syria, like Palestine, has four basic geographical features as one moves from the Mediterranean eastward: (1) a narrow coastal plain; (2) a line of mountains; (3) the rift valley; and (4) fertile steppe fading into desert. The two main rivers rise near one another in the rift valley. The Orontes flows north before abruptly turning west to the sea in the plain of Antioch, while the Leontes flows south then turns west through a narrow gorge and empties into the sea. See Palestine; Rivers.

Old Testament Early History During the Early Bronze Age (about 3200-2200 B.C.), Syria was home to large city states similar to those found in Mesopotamia. The latter part of this period has been illuminated by the recent discovery of cuneiform tablets in the state archive at Ebla, the capital of a small empire in northern Syria. Many of these tablets are in Eblaite, an ancient language similar to Hebrew and promise to aid in biblical study. See Ebla .

In the Middle Bronze Age (2200-1550 B.C.), the time of the Hebrew patriarchs, north Syria was home to the kingdoms of Yamhad, with its capital at Aleppo, and Qatna. The area south of Qatna was known as Amurru (the Akkadian word for Amorite). Further south, Damascus was probably in existence ( Genesis 15:2 ), though it is unknown from contemporary records. In the Late Bronze Age (about 1550-1200 B.C.), Syria became the frontier and sometimes battlefield between the empires of the new kingdom Egypt in the south and initially Mitanni, then the Hittites to the north. Important cities in this period included Qadesh and Ugarit. The former led a number of rebellions against Egyptian authority. Excavations at the latter yielded alphabetic cuneiform tablets in Ugaritic (a language similar to Hebrew) which have shed much light on the nature of Canaanite religion. See Archaeology; Canaan; Ugarit .

Aramean Kingdoms In most English versions of the Old Testament (Kjv, Nrsv, Nas ) “Syria” and “Syrian” (Niv, Nrsv “Aram” or “Aramean”) translate the Hebrew word Aram, which refers to the nations or territories of the Arameans, a group akin to Israel ( Deuteronomy 26:5 ). The Arameans began to settle in Syria and northern Mesopotamia around the beginning of the Iron Age (about 1200 B.C.), establishing a number of independent states. The Old Testament mentions the Aramean kingdoms of Beth-eden in north Syria, Zobah in south-central Syria, and Damascus in the south.

By the beginning of Israel's monarchy, the kingdom of Zobah held sway in Syria and was encountered by Saul ( 1 Samuel 14:47 ). David decisively defeated Aram-Zobah ( 2 Samuel 10:6-19 ) whose king, Hadadezer, had enlisted help from his Aramean subject states (2Samuel 10:16, 2 Samuel 10:19 ). As a result Zobah and its vassals, apparently including Damascus, became subject to David ( 2 Samuel 8:3-8;  2 Samuel 10:19 ). Hamath, a neo-Hittite state in north Syria which had been at war with Zobah, also established friendly relations with David ( 2 Samuel 8:9-10 ). Meanwhile, a certain Rezon broke from Hadadezer of Zobah following David's victory and became the leader of a marauding band. Late in Solomon's reign, he established himself as king in Damascus ( 1 Kings 11:23-25 ), taking southern Syria out of Israelite control. Subsequent occurrences of “Aram” or “Arameans” (“Syria” or “Syrians”) in the Old Testament refer to this Aramean kingdom of Damascus.

The rise of Aram-Damascus' power was facilitated by the division of Israel following the death of Solomon. When Baasha of Israel built a fort at Ramah threatening Jerusalem, Asa of Judah enticed the king of Damascus, “Ben-hadad the son of Tabrimmon, the son of Hezion,” to break his league with Israel and come to Judah's aid ( 1 Kings 15:18-19 ). Ben-hadad responded by conquering a number of cities and territory in the north of Israel ( 1 Kings 15:20 ). The genealogy given in this passage has been confirmed by a stele, found near Aleppo, dedicated to the god Melqart by Ben-hadad. Rezon is not mentioned, however, and it has been suggested that he is identical to Hezion. See Damascus .

Syrian Culture Aramean culture was essentially borrowed from their neighbors. Typical Semitic gods were worshiped, the most important of which was the storm god, Hadad, often called by the epithet Rimmon ( 2 Kings 5:18;  Zechariah 12:11 ), meaning “thunder.” See Canaan; Pagan Gods . The most enduring contribution of the Arameans was their language which became the language of commerce and diplomacy by the Persian period. Portions of Daniel and Ezra are written in Aramaic, which is similar to Hebrew. By New Testament times, Aramaic was the language commonly spoken in Palestine and probably used by Jesus. The Aramaic script was adopted and slightly modified for writing Hebrew. See Aramaic .

The Intertestamental Period In 331 B.C. Syria, with the rest of the Persian Empire, fell to the advances of Alexander the Great. At his death, the area formed the nucleus of the Hellenistic Seleucid kingdom with its capital at Antioch. It is in this period that the term Syria became widespread. The Seleucid kingdom oppressed Judaism, causing the Maccabean Revolt in 167 B.C. which resulted in Jewish independence. Syria continued to decline until the arrival of the Romans who made it a province in 64 B.C. See Intertestamental History; Seleucids .

New Testament In New Testament times, Judea was made part of a procuratorship within the larger Roman province of Syria ( Matthew 4:24 ), the latter being ruled by a governor ( Luke 2:2 ). Syria played an important role in the early spread of Christianity. Paul was converted on the road to Damascus ( Acts 9:1-9 ) and subsequently evangelized in the province ( Acts 15:41;  Galatians 1:21 ). Antioch, where believers were first called “Christians” ( Acts 11:26 ), became the base for his missionary journeys ( Acts 13:1-3 ).

Daniel C. Browning, Jr.

Fausset's Bible Dictionary [4]

Septuagint Greek for Hebrew 'Αram , fifth of Shem's sons. Aram means the high land N.E. of the Holy Land, extending from the Jordan and the sea of Galilee to the Euphrates; the term means "high". In Genesis Αram-Νaharaim , i.e. "Aram between the two rivers", is Mesopotamia, part of which is Padan Aram; and Laban who lived there is called the Aramaean or Syrian. Syria is by some derived from Assyria, by others from Tyre, as if Tsyria; by Ritter from Shur, the wilderness into which Israel passed out of Egypt ( Genesis 25:18;  Exodus 15:22;  1 Samuel 27:8), from whence the name was extended over all Syria. The Hebrew Aram begins on the northern border of Palestine, and thence goes northward to Mount Taurus, westward to the Mediterranean, eastward to the Khabour river. Divided into Aram or Syria of Damascus, Aram or Syria of Zobah (The Tract Between Euphrates And Coelosyria) , Aram or Syria Νaharaim ('of the two rivers"), i.e. Padan Aram or Mesopotamia, the N.W. part of the land between the Tigris and Euphrates.

On the W. two mountain chains run parallel to one another and to the coast from the latitude of Tyre to that of Antioch, namely, Lebanon and Antilebanon; Lebanon the western chain at its southern end becomes Bargylus. Mount Amanus, an offshoot of Taurus, meets the two long chains at their northern extremity, and separates Syria from Cilicia. The valley between Lebanon and Antilebanon is the most fertile in Syria, extending 230 miles, and in width from 8 to 20 miles. The southern portion is Coelosyria and Hamath. The Litany in this valley ( El Βukaa ) flows to the S.W.; the Orontes ( Nahr El Αsi , i.e. "the rebel stream") flows to the N. and N.E. for 200 miles; the Barada of Damascus is another river of Syria. The Syrian desert is E. of the inner chain of mountains, and S. of Aleppo; it contains the oasis of Palmyra, and toward its western side the productive plain of Damascus.

The chief towns were Antioch, Damascus, Tadmor or Palmyra, Laodicea, Hamath ( Εpiphaneia ), Hierapolis, Heliopolis or Baalbek in Coelosyria, Chalybon or Aleppo, Apamea, and Emesa. Hamites, as the Hittites (The Κhatti In The Monuments) , first occupied Syria. Then a Shemite element entered from the S.E., e.g. Abraham, Chedorlaomer, Amraphel. In early times Syria was divided among many petty "kings," as Damascus, Rehob, Maacah, Zobah, Geshur, etc.  1 Kings 10:29, "kings of Syria";  2 Kings 7:6, "kings of the Hittites." Joshua fought with the chiefs of the region of Lebanon and Hermon ( Joshua 11:2-18). David conquered Hadadezer of Zobah, the Syrians of Damascus, Bethrehob. Rezon of Zobah set up an independent kingdom at Damascus, in Solomon's time. Damascus became soon the chief state, Hamath next, the Hittites with Carchemish their capital third. Scripture and the Assyrian records remarkably agree in the general picture of Syria.

In both the country between the middle Euphrates and Egypt appears parceled out among many tribes or nations; in the N. the Hittites, Hamathites, Phoenicians, and Syrians of Damascus; in the S. the Philistines and Idumeans. Damascus in both appears the strongest state, ruled by one monarch from one center; Hamath with its single king is secondary ( 2 Kings 19:13;  1 Chronicles 18:9). In contrast with these two centralized monarchies stand the Hittites and the Phoenicians, with their several independent kings ( 1 Kings 10:29;  1 Kings 20:1). Chariots and infantry, but not horsemen, are their strength The kings combined their forces for joint expeditions against foreign countries. Egypt and Assyria appear in both in the background, not yet able to subdue Syria, but feeling their way toward it, and tending toward the mutual struggle for supremacy in the coveted land between the Nile and the Euphrates (G. Rawlinson, Hist. Illustr. Of Old Testament) .

Syria passed under Assyria (Tiglath Pileser Slaying Rezin And Carrying Away The People Of Damascus To Kir) , Babylon, and Graeco Macedonia successively. At Alexander's death Seleucus Nicator made Syria head of a vast kingdom, with Antioch (300 B.C.) as the capital. Under Nicator's successors Syria gradually disintegrated. The most remarkable of them was Antiochus IV (Epiphanes), who would have conquered Egypt but for the mediation of Rome (A.D. 168). Then he plundered the Jewish temple, desecrated the holy of holies, and so caused the revolt of the Jews which weakened the kingdom. The Parthians under Mithridates I overran the eastern provinces, 164 B.C. Syria passed under Tigranes of Armenia, 83 B.C., and finally under Rome upon Pompey's defeat of Mithridates and Tigranes his ally, 64 B.C.

In 27 B.C. at the division of provinces between the emperor and the senate Syria was assigned to the emperor and ruled by legates of consular rank. Judaea, being remote from the capital (Antioch) and having a restless people, was put under a special procurator, subordinate to the governor of Syria, but within his own province having the power of a legate. (See Benhadad ; Ahab; Hazael on the wars of the early kings of Syria.) Abilene, so-called from its capital Abila, was a tetrarchy E. of Antilibanus, between Baalbek and Damascus. Lysanias was over it when John began baptizing ( Luke 3:1), A.D. 26. Pompey left the principality of Damascus in the hands of Aretas, an Arabian prince, a tributary to Rome, and bound to allow if necessary a Roman garrison to hold it (Josephus, Ant. 14:4, section 5; 5, section 1; 11, section 7). Under Augustus Damascus was attached to Syria; Caligula severed it from Syria and gave it to another Aretas, king of Petra. At Paul's conversion an "ethnarch of king Aretas" held it ( 2 Corinthians 11:32).

Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament [5]


This term is employed in the Septuagintas the equivalent of the Heb. Arâm. It is probably the same word as the Babylonian Suri, which was applied to a N. Euphratean district. ‘Syria’ was distinct from ‘Assyria,’ though Herodotus (vii. 63) confounds Ἀσσύριοι and Σύριοι as barbarian and Greek forms of a single ethnic term. As defined by Strabo (XVI. ii. 1), who is followed by Pliny and Ptolemy, Syria was bounded on the W. by the Mediterranean, on the N. by the Tauric range of mountains, on the E. by the middle Euphrates and the Hamâd or desert steppe, and on the S. by the Sinaitic peninsula. Its component parts (ib. XVI. ii. 2) were Commagene, Seleucis, Ccelesyria, Phcenicia, and Judaea . The whole country was about 400 miles from N. to S., with a mean breadth of 150 miles. But there was a special, and a still prevalent, usage, wherein Syria was restricted to that part of the wider area which lies N. of Palestine, exclusive of Phcenicia. Under the Ottoman system Syria denotes no more than the district of Damascus, for the vilayets of Aleppo and Beyrout, as well as the sanjaks of Lebanon and Jerusalem, form separate areas.

The most prominent physical features of Syria are two parallel mountain ranges trending N. and S. The western range, springing from Taurus, includes Mt. Casius and Lebanon, and broadens out into the table-land of Galilee, Samaria, and Judaea . The eastern system, which rises into Anti-Libanus and culminates in Hermon, may be traced in Jebel Hauran and the mountains of Moab as far as Horeb. Between Lebanon and the sea is the plain of Phcenicia, which has only a few torrent-streams. From the high lacustrine district of Ccelesyria, between Lebanon and Anti-Libanus, the Orontes flows northward, the Litâny and Jordan southward. To the east of Hermon, the Abana (or Barada), after creating the oasis of Damascus, loses itself in desert marshes. The district of Commagene has two river-basins, which belong respectively to the Cilician and the Euphratean river-systems.

Most of the nationalities which have settled in Syria have been of the Semitic stock. Separated from one another by great mountain barriers, they have never formed a political unity, but during the centuries in which their freedom was undisturbed by the military powers on the Nile and Euphrates valleys they developed types of civilization and culture which, through the commerce of Phcenicia and the religion of Judaea , have powerfully influenced mankind. The Arabs who founded the Nabataean kingdom, with Petra as its centre, were largely affected by the manners and customs of their Aramaean neighbours.

The foundation of Greek cities in Syria after the time of Alexander the Great was of primary importance for the country. Antioch was built as the seat of the Seleucid dynasty, and became the third, if not the second, city in the world. The Graeco-Syrian civilization extended far down both sides of Jordan, and, but for the crazy policy of Antiochus Epiphanes and the consequent Maccabaean revolt, might have absorbed Judaea itself. Syria was conquered for the Romans by Pompey in 63 b.c. The province of that name which he constituted did not embrace the whole country of Syria in the wider sense. It extended from the Gulf of Issus in the N. to a little beyond Damascus in the S. The rest of ancient Syria was to be found partly in the territories of numerous free cities, and partly in petty principalities subject to Rome, while Commagene had become an independent kingdom before the time of Pompey’s conquest. Syria was geographically related to Cilicia, with which it easily communicated by the Pylae Syriae (Beilan Pass), and Augustus formed the great triple province of Syria-Cilicia-PhCEnice, which subsisted throughout the 1st cent. a.d. Syria and Cilicia formed a single mission-field for the Apostolic Church, and are therefore several times named together in the NT ( Acts 15:23;  Acts 15:41,  Galatians 1:21). Hadrian constituted the three provinces of Syria, Syria-PhCEnice, and Syria-Palestina. Antioch remained the capital of Syria till the time of Septimius Severus, who gave the honour to Laodicea (now Latakia), making it a colonia. After the Muhammadan conquest (a.d. 636) the old Semitic capital, Damascus, regained its ascendancy. Syria suffered greatly at the hands of the Mongols (a.d. 1260), and never recovered its old prosperity.

Literature.-J. L. Porter, Five Years in Damascus, 2 vols., 1855; G. A. Smith, Historical Geography of the Holy Land (G. A. Smith)4, 1897; H. C. Butler, Architecture and other Arts, 1903; G. L. Bell, The Desert and the Sown, 1907.

James Strahan.

Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary [6]

that part of Asia which, bathed by the Mediterranean on the west, had to the north Mount Taurus, to the east the Euphrates and a small portion of Arabia, and to the south Judea, or Palestine. The orientals called it Aram. The name, which has been transmitted to us by the Greeks, is a corruption or abridgment of Assyria, which was first adopted by the Ionians, who frequented these coasts after the Assyrians of Nineveh had reduced that country to be a province of their empire, about B.C. 750. By the appellation of Syria is ordinarily meant the kingdom of Syria, of which, since the reign of the Seleucidae, Antioch has been the capital. The government of Syria was for a long time monarchical; but some of its towns, which formed several states, were republics. With regard to religion, the Syrians were idolaters. The central place of their worship was Hieropolis, in which was a magnificent temple, and near the temple a lake that was reputed sacred. In this temple was an oracle, the credit of which the priests used every method to support. The priests were distributed into various classes, and among them were those who were denominated Galli, and who voluntarily renounced the power of transmitting the succession in their own families. The Syrians had bloody sacrifices. Among the religious ceremonies of the Syrians, one was that any one who undertook a journey to Hieropolis began with shaving his head and eye-brows. He was not allowed to bathe, except in cold water, to drink any liquor, nor to lie on any but a hard bed, before the term of his pilgrimage was finished. When the pilgrims arrived, they were maintained at the public expense, and lodged with those who engaged to instruct them in the sacred rites and ceremonies. All the pilgrims were marked on the neck and wrists. The youth consecrated to the goddess the first-fruits of their beard and hair, which was preserved in the temple, in a vessel of gold or silver, on which was inscribed the name of the person who made the offering. The sight of a dead person rendered it unfit for any one to enter into the temple during the whole day. The dynasties of Syria may be distributed into two classes; those that are made known to us in the sacred writings, or in the works of Josephus, acknowledged by the orientals; and the Seleucidan kings, successors of Alexander, with whom we are acquainted by Greek authors. The monarchy of Syria continued two hundred and fifty-seven years.

Easton's Bible Dictionary [7]

 Genesis 24:10 Deuteronomy 23:4 Genesis 25:20 1 Chronicles 19:6 2 Samuel 10:6 2 Samuel 10:6,8

"From the historic annals now accessible to us, the history of Syria may be divided into three periods: The first, the period when the power of the Pharaohs was dominant over the fertile fields or plains of Syria and the merchant cities of Tyre and Sidon, and when such mighty conquerors as Thothmes III. and Rameses II. could claim dominion and levy tribute from the nations from the banks of the Euphrates to the borders of the Libyan desert. Second, this was followed by a short period of independence, when the Jewish nation in the south was growing in power, until it reached its early zenith in the golden days of Solomon; and when Tyre and Sidon were rich cities, sending their traders far and wide, over land and sea, as missionaries of civilization, while in the north the confederate tribes of the Hittites held back the armies of the kings of Assyria. The third, and to us most interesting, period is that during which the kings of Assyria were dominant over the plains of Syria; when Tyre, Sidon, Ashdod, and Jerusalem bowed beneath the conquering armies of Shalmaneser, Sargon, and Sennacherib; and when at last Memphis and Thebes yielded to the power of the rulers of Nineveh and Babylon, and the kings of Assyria completed with terrible fulness the bruising of the reed of Egypt so clearly foretold by the Hebrew prophets.", Boscawen.

American Tract Society Bible Dictionary [8]

In Hebrew Aram , a large district of Asia, lying, in the widest acceptation of the name, between the Mediterranean, Mount Taurus, and the Tigris, and thus including Mesopotamia, that is, in Hebrew, Syria of the two rivers. See Aram 2. Excepting the Lebanon range, it is for the most part a level country. In the New Testament, Syria may be considered as bounded west and north-west by the Mediterranean and by Mount Taurus, which separates it from Cilicia and Cataonia in Asia Minor, east by the Euphrates, and south by Arabia Deserta and Palestine, or rather Judea, for the name Syria included also the northern part of Palestine.

The valley between the ridges of Lebanon and Anti-Lebanon was called Coele-Syria and Phoenicia were subject to the king of Babylon, and they afterwards were tributary to the Persian monarchs. After the country fell into the hands of the Romans, Syria was made the province of a proconsul; to which Judea, although governed by its own procurators, was annexed in such a way, that in some cases an appeal might be made to the proconsul of Syria, who had at least the power of removing the procurators from office. Syria is now in the possession of the Turks. Its better portions have been thickly populated from a very early period, and travellers find traces of numerous cities wholly unknown to history.

People's Dictionary of the Bible [9]

Syria ( Syr'I-Ah ); Hebrew, Aram. Syria proper was bounded by Amanus and Taurus on the north, by the Euphrates and the Arabian desert on the east, by Palestine on the south, by the Mediterranean near the mouth of the Orontes, and then by Phœnicia on the west. This tract is about 300 miles long from north to south, and from 50 to 150 miles broad, between the Libanus and the Anti-Libanus ranges. Of the various mountain ranges of Syria, Lebanon possesses the greatest interest. The principal rivers of Syria are the Litany and the Orontes. Among the principal cities are Damascus, Antioch, Hamath, Gebal, Beirut, Tadmor or Palmyra, Heliopolis or Baalbec, and Aleppo. Baalbec is one of the most wonderful rains in Syria; Damascus is the oldest and largest city. Syria is now one of the divisions of Asiatic Turkey, and contains about 60,000 square miles. The population is estimated at about 2,000,000—Mohammedans, Jews, and Christians of various churches. The language usually spoken is the Arabic.

Hawker's Poor Man's Concordance And Dictionary [10]

The principal city of Damascus: made memorable from the frequent wars with Israel.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia [11]

sir´i - a ( Συρία , Surı́a (  Matthew 4:24;  Luke 2:2 )):

1. Name and Its Origin

2. Other Designations

3. Physical

(1) The Maritime Plain

(2) First MoUntain Belt

(3) Second Mountain Belt

(4) Great Central Valley

(5) The Eastern Belt

(6) Rivers

(7) Nature of Soil

(8) Flora

(9) Fauna

(10) Minerals

(11) Central Position

4. History

(1) Canaanitic Semites

(2) Sargon of Agade

(3) Babylonian Supremacy

(4) Hittite and Aramean

(5) Hittites and Egyptians

(6) Amarna Period

(7) Rameses 2

(8) Philistines

(9) Tiglath-pileser I

(10) Aramean States

(11) Peaceful Development

(12) Shalmaneser 2

(13) Tiglath-pileser 3

(14) Shalmaneser 4 and Sargon

(15) Pharaoh-necoh and Nebuchadnezzar

1. Name and Its Origin:

The name does not occur in the Massoretic Text nor the Peshitta of the Old Testament, but is found in the Septuagint, in the Peshitta of the New Testament and in the Mishna In the Septuagint it represents "Aram" in all its combinations, as Aram-zobah, etc. The name itself first appears in Herodotus vii. 63, where he says that "Syrians" and "Assyrians" were the Greek and barbarian designations of the same people. Otherwise he is quite vague in his use of the term. Xenophon is clearer when he ( Anab  ; vii. 8,25) distinguishes between Syria and Phoenicia. Syria is undoubtedly an extension of the name "Suri" the ancient Babylonian designation of a district in North Mesopotamia, but later embracing regions beyond the Euphrates to the North and West, as far as the Taurus. Under the Seleucids, Syria was regarded as coextensive with their kingdom, and the name shrank with its dimensions. Strabo, Pliny and Ptolemy give its boundaries as the Taurus Mountains, the Euphrates, the Syro-Arabian desert and the Mediterranean, and the territory within these limits is still politically designated Syria, though popularly Palestine is generally named separately.

2. Other Designations:

Homer ( Iliad ii. 785) and Hesiod ( Theog . 304) call the inhabitants of the district "Arimoi," with which compare the cuneiform "Arimu" or "Aramu" for Arameans. The earliest Assyrian name was "Martu," which Hommel regards as a contraction of "Amartu," the land of the "Amurru" or Amorites. In Egyptian records the country is named "Ruten" or "Luten," and divided into "Lower" and "Upper," the former denoting Palestine and the latter Syria proper.

3. Physical:

(1) The Maritime Plain.

Syria, within the boundaries given, consists of a series of belts of low and high land running North and South, parallel to the Mediterranean. The first of these is the maritime plain. It consists of a broad strip of sand dunes covered by short grass and low bushes, followed by a series of low undulating hills and wide valleys which gradually rise to a height of about 500 ft. This belt begins in North Syria with the narrow Plain of Issus, which extends to a few miles South of Alxandretta, but farther South almost disappears, being represented only by the broader valleys and the smaller plains occupied by such towns as Latakia, Tripolis and Beirut. South of the last named the maritime belt is continuous, being interrupted only where the Ladder of Tyre and Mt. Carmel descend abruptly into the sea. In the Plain of Akka it has a breadth of 8 miles, and from Carmel southward it again broadens out, till beyond Caesarea it has an average of 10 miles. Within the sand dunes the soil is a rich alluvium and readily yields to cultivation. In ancient times it was covered with palm trees, which, being thence introduced into Greece, were from their place of origin named phoı́nikes .

(2) First Mountain Belt.

From the maritime plain we rise to the first mountain belt. It begins with the Amanus, a branch of the Taurus in the North. Under that name it ceases with the Orontes valley, but is continued in the Nuseiriyeh range (Mt. Cassius, 5,750 ft.), till the Eleutherus valley is reached, and thence rising again in Lebanon (average 5,000 ft.), Jebel Sunnin (8,780 ft.), it continues to the Leontes or Quasmiyeh . The range then breaks down into the rounded hills of Upper Galilee (3,500 ft.), extends through the table-land of Western Palestine (2,500 ft.), and in the South of Judea broadens out into the arid Badiet et - Tı̂h or Wilderness of Wandering.

(3) Second Mountain Belt.

Along with this may be considered the parallel mountain range. Beginning in the neighborhood of Riblah, the chain of anti-Lebanon extends southward to Hermon (9,200 ft.), and thence stretches out into the plateau of the Jaulan and Hauran, where we meet with the truncated cones of extinct volcanoes and great sheets of basaltic lava, especially in el - Leja and Jebel ed - Druz . The same table-land continues southward, with deep ravines piercing its sides, over Gilead, Moab and Edom.

(4) Great Central Valley.

Between Lebanon and Anti-Lebanon lies the great valley of Coele-Syria. It is continued northward along the Orontes and thence stretches away eastward to the Euphrates, while southward it merges into the valleys of the Jordan and the Arabah. From the sources of the Orontes and Leontes at Baalbek (4,000 ft.) it falls away gently to the North; but to the South the descent is rapid. In Merj ‛Ayun it has sunk to 1,800 ft., at Lake Huleh it is over 7 ft., at the Lake of Tiberias - 682 ft., and at the Dead Sea - 1,292 ft., and thence it rises again to the Gulf of Akabah. This great valley was caused by a line of fault or fracture of the earth's crust, with parallel and branching faults. In ancient times the whole valley formed an arm of the sea, and till the Glacial period at the end of the Tertiary (Pleistocene) Age, a lake extended along the whole Jordan valley as far as the Hûleh . We can thus understand that the great plain and adjoining valleys consist mainly of alluvial deposits with terraces of gravel and sand on the enclosing slopes. See Lebanon; Natural Features; Palestine; Phoenicia .

(5) The Eastern Belt.

To the East of the Anti-Lebanon belt there is a narrow stretch of cultivated land which in some places attains a breadth of several miles, but this is always determined by the distance to which the eastern streams from Anti-Lebanon flow. Around Damascus the Abana (Barada) and neighboring streams have made the district an earthly paradise, but they soon lose themselves in the salt marshes about 10 miles East of the city. Elsewhere the fruitful strip gradually falls away into the sands and rocks of the Syrian desert, barren alike of vegetable and animal life.

(6) Rivers.

The mountain ranges determine the course of the rivers and their length. The streams flowing westward are naturally short and little more than summer torrents. Those flowing to the desert are of the same character, the only one of importance being the Abana, to which Damascus owes its existence. Only the great central valley permits the formation of larger rivers, and there we find the Orontes and Leontes rising within a few feet of each other beside Baalbek, and draining Coele-Syria to the North and South, till breaking through the mountains they reach the sea. The Jordan is the only other stream of any size. In ancient, as also in modern times, the direction of these streams determined the direction of the great trade route from Mesopotamia to Egypt through Coele-Syria and across pal, as also the position of the larger towns, but, not being themselves navigable, they did not form a means of internal communication.

(7) Nature of Soil.

The variation in altitude both above and below the sea-level is naturally conducive to a great variety of climate, while the nature of the disintegrating rocks and the alluvial soil render great productivity possible. Both of the mountain belts in their whole length consist chiefly of cretaceous limestone, mixed with friable limestone with basaltic intrusions and volcanic products. The limestone is highly porous, and during the rainy season absorbs the moisture which forms reservoirs and feeds the numerous springs on both the eastern and western slopes. The rocks too are soft and penetrable and can easily be turned into orchard land, a fact that explains how much that now appears as barren wastes was productive in ancient times as gardens and fruitful fields (Bab Talmud, Megh . 6a).

(8) Flora.

The western valleys and the maritime plain have the flora of the Mediterranean, but the eastern slopes and the valleys facing the desert are poorer. On the southern coasts and in the deeper valleys the vegetation is tropical, and there we meet with the date-palm, the sugar-cane and the sycomore. Up to 1,600 ft., the products include the carob and the pine, after which the vine, the fig and the olive are met with amid great plantations of dwarf oak, till after 3,000 ft. is reached, then cypresses and cedars till the height of 6,200 ft., after which only Alpine plants are found. The once renowned "cedars of Lebanon" now exist only in the Qadisha and Baruk valleys. The walnut and mulberry are plentiful everywhere, and wheat, corn, barley, maize and lentils are widely cultivated. Pasture lands are to be found in the valleys and plains, and even during the dry season sheep, goats and cattle can glean sufficient pasturage among the low brushwood.

(9) Fauna.

The animal world is almost as varied. The fox, jackal, hyena, bear, wolf and hog are met nearly everywhere, and small tigers are sometimes seen (compare  2 Kings 14:9 ). The eagle, vulture, partridge and blue pigeon are plentiful, and gay birds chirp everywhere. The fish in the Jordan and its lakes are peculiar and interesting. There are in all 22 varieties, the largest being a kind of perch, the coracinus, which is known elsewhere also in the Nile (Josephus, Ant. , III, x, 8), and a peculiar old-world variety locally named ‛Abu - musht .

(10) Minerals.

In both the eastern and the western mountain belts there are abundant supplies of mineral wealth. They consist chiefly of coal, iron, bitumen, asphalt and mineral oil, but they are mostly unworked. In the Jordan valley all the springs below the level of the Mediterranean are brackish, and many of them are also hot and sulfurous, the best known being those Tiberias.

(11) Central Position.

The country, being in virtue of its geographical configuration separated into small isolated districts, naturally tended to break up into a series of petty independent states. Still the central position between the Mesopotamian empires on the one hand and Egypt and Arabia on the other made it the highway through which the trade of the ancient world passed, gave it an importance far in excess of its size or productivity, and made it a subject of contention whenever East and West were ruled by different powers.

4. History:

(1) Canaanitic Semites.

When history begins for us in the 3millennium BC, Syria was already occupied by a Semitic population belonging to the Canaanitic wave of immigration, i.e. such as spoke dialects akin to Hebrew or Phoenician. The Semites had been already settled for a considerable time, for a millennium earlier in Egypt we find Semitic names for Syrian articles of commerce as well as Semites depicted on the Egyptian monuments.

(2) Sargon of Agade.

Omitting as doubtful references to earlier relations between Babylonia and Syria, we may consider ourselves on solid ground in accepting the statements of the Omen Tablets which tell us that Sargon of Agade (2750 BC) four times visited the land of Martu and made the peoples of one accord. His son Naram-sin, while extending the empire in other directions maintained his authority here also. Commercial relations were continued, and Babylonia claimed at least a supremacy over Martu, and at times made it effective.

(3) Babylonian Supremacy.

Hammurabi and also his great-grandson Ammisatana designate themselves in inscriptions as kings of Martu, and it is very likely that other kings maintained the traditional limits of the empire. The long-continued supremacy of Babylon not only made itself felt in imposing place-names, but it made Assyrian the language of diplomacy, even between Syria and Egypt, as we see in the Tell el-Amarna Letters .

(4) Hittite and Aramean.

By the middle of the 2nd millennium Bc we find considerable change in the population. The Mitanni, a Hittite people, the remains of whose language are to be found in the still undeciphered inscriptions at Carchemish, Marash, Aleppo and Hamath, are now masters of North Syria. See Hittites .

The great discoveries of Dr. H. Winckler at Boghazkeui have furnished a most important contribution to our knowledge. The preliminary account may be found in Olz , December 15,1906, and the Mitteilungen der deutschen orient. Gesellschaft , number 35, December, 1907.

Elsewhere the Aramean wave has become the predominant Semitic element of population, the Canaanitic now occupying the coast towns (Phoenicians) and the Canaan of the Old Testament.

(5) Hittites and Egyptians.

At this time Babylonia was subject to the Kassites, an alien race of kings, and when they fell, about 1100 BC, they gave place to a number of dynasties of short duration. This gave the Egyptians, freed from the Hyksos rule, the opportunity to lay claim to Syria, and accordingly we find the struggle to be between the Hittites and the Egyptians. Thothmes I, about 1600 BCa overran Syria as far as the Euphrates and brought the country into subjection. Thothmes 3 did the same, and he has left us on the walls of Karnak an account of his campaigns and a list of the towns he conquered.

(6) Amarna Period.

In the reign of Thothmes 4 the Hittites began to leave their mountains more and more and to press forward into Central Syria. The Tell el-Amarna Letters show them to be the most serious opponents to the Egyptian authority in Syria and Palestine during the reign of Amenhotep 4 (circa 1380 BC), and before Seti I came to the throne the power of the Pharaohs had greatly diminished in Syria. Then the Egyptian sphere only reached to Carmel, while a neutral zone extended thence to Kadesh, northward of which all belonged to the Hitites.

(7) Rameses II.

Rameses 2 entered energetically into the war against Hatesar, king of the Hittites, and fought a battle near Kadesh. He claims a great victory, but the only result seems to have been that his authority was further extended into the neutral territory, and the sphere of Egyptian influence extended across Syria from the Lycus (Dog River) to the South of Damascus. The arrangement was confirmed by a treaty in which North Syria was formally recognized as the Hittite sphere of influence, and, on the part of the Assyrians who were soon to become the heirs of the Hittite pretensions, this treaty formed the basis of a claim against Egypt. About the year 1200 Bc the Hittites, weakened by this war, were further encroached upon by the movements of northern races, and the empire broke up into a number of small separate independent states.

(8) Philistines.

Among the moving races that helped to weaken and break up the Hittite influence in Syria were the Pulusati (or Purusati), a people whose origin is not yet definitely settled. They entered Syria from the North and overcame all who met them, after which they encamped within the Egyptian sphere of influence. Rameses 3 marched against them, and he claims a great victory. Later, however, we find them settled in Southeastern Palestine under the name of Philistines. Their settlement at that time is in harmony with the Tell el-Amarna Letters in which we find no trace of them, while in the 11th century Bc they are there as the inveterate foes of Israel.

(9) Tiglath-Pileser I.

Assyria was now slowly rising into power, but it had to settle with Babylon before it could do much in the West. Tiglath-pieser I, however, crossed the Euphrates, defeated the Hittite king of Carchemish, advanced to the coast of Arvad, hunted wild bulls in Lebanon and received gifts from the Pharaoh, who thus recognized him as the successor of the Hittites in North Syria.

(10) Aramean States.

When the Hittite empire broke up, the Arameans in Central Syria, now liberated, set up a number of separate Aramean states, which engaged in war with one another, except when they had to combine against a common enemy. Such states were established in Hamath, Hadrach, Zobah and Rehob. The exact position of Hadrach is still unknown, but Hamath was evidently met on its southern border by Rehob and Zobah, the former extending along the Biqa'a to the foot of Hermon, while the latter stretched along the eastern slopes of Anti-Lebanon and included Damascus, till Rezon broke away and there set up an independent kingdom, which soon rose to be the leading state; Southeast of Hermon were the two smaller Aramean states of Geshur and Maacah.

(11) Peaceful Development.

For nearly three centuries now, Syria and Palestine were, except on rare occasions, left in peace by both Mesopotamia and Egypt. In the 12th century Bc B abylonia was wasted by the Elamite invasion, and thereafter a prolonged war was carried on between Assyria and Babylonia, and although a lengthened period of peace succeeded, it was wisely used by the peaceful rulers of Assyria for the strengthening of their kingdom internally. In Egypt the successors of Rameses 3 were engaged against the aggressive Theban hierarchy. During the Xxi st Dynasty the throne was usurped by the high priests of Amen, while the Xxii d were Lybian usurpers, and the three following dynasties Ethiopian conquerors.

(12) Shalmaneser II.

In the 9th century Asshur-nazirpal crossed the Euphrates and overran the recently established state of Patin in the Plain of Antioch. He besieged its capital and planted a colony in its territory, but the arrangement was not final, for his successor, Shalmaneser II, had again to invade the territory and break up the kingdom into a number of small principalities. Then in 854 Bc he advanced into Central Syria, but was met at Karkar by a strong confederacy consisting of Ben-hadad of Damascus and his Syrian allies including Ahab of Israel. He claims a victory, but made no advance for 5 years. He then made three unsuccessful expeditions against Damascus, but in 842 received tribute from Tyre, Sidon and Jehu of Israel, as recorded and depicted on the Black Obelisk. It was not till the year 797 that Ramman-nirari, after subduing the coast of Phoenicia, was able to reduce Mari'a of Damascus to obedience at which time also he seems to have carried his conquests through Eastern Palestine as far as Edom. The Assyrian power now suffered a period of decline, during which risings took place at Hadrach and Damascus, and Jeroboam 2 of Israel was able ( 2 Kings 14:25 ) to extend his boundaries northward to the old limits.

(13) Tiglath-Pileser III.

It thus happened that Tiglath-pileser 3 (745-728) had to reconquer the whole of Syria. He captured Arpad after two years' warfare (742-740). Then he divided the territory of Hamath among his generals. At this juncture Ahaz of Judah implored his aid against Rezin of Damascus and Remaliah of Israel. Ahaz was relieved, but was made subject to Assyria. Damascus fell in 732 Bc and a Great Court was held there, which the tributary princes of Syria, including Ahaz ( 2 Kings 16:10 ), attended. The Assyrian empire now possessed the whole of Syria as far as the River of Egypt. Sibahe, however, encouraged revolt in what had been the Egyptian sphere of infiuence and insurrections took place in Phoenicia and Samaria.

(14) Shalmaneser 4 and Sargon.

After some difficulty Shalmaneser 4 compelled Tyre and Sidon to submit and to pay tribute. Samaria, too, was besieged, but was not taken till Sargon came to the throne in 722. Hamath and Carchemish again rose, but were finally reduced in 720,717 respectively. Again in 711 Sargon overran Palestine and broke up a fresh confederacy consisting of Egypt, Moab, Edom, Judah and the Philistines. In 705 the Egyptians under Sibahe and their allies the Philistines under Hanun of Gaza were defeated at Raphia.

The last three rulers of Assyria were in constant difficulties with Babylonia and a great part of the empire was also overrun by the Scythians (circa 626 BC), and so nothing further was done in the West save the annexation of the mainland possessions of Phoenicia.

(15) Pharaoh-Necoh and Nebuchadnezzar.

In 609 when Assyria was in the death grapple with Babylonia, Pharaoh-necoh took advantage of the situation, invaded Syria, and, defeating Josiah en route, marched to Carchemish. In 605, however, he was there completely defeated by Nebuchadnezzar, and the whole of Syria became tributary to Babylonia. the former Syrian states now appear as Babylonian provinces, and revolts in Judah reduced it also to that position in 586 BC.

Under Persian rule these provinces remained as they were for a time, but ultimately "Ebir nari" or Syria was formed into a satrapy. The Greek conquest with the Ptolemies in Egypt and the Seleucids in Babylon brought back some of the old rivalry between East and West, and the same unsettled conditions. On the advent of Rome, Syria was separated from Babylonia and made into a province with Antioch as its capital, and then the Semitic civilization which had continued practically untouched till the beginning of the Christian era was brought more and more into contact with the West. With the advent of Islam, Syria fell into Arab hands and Damascus became for a short time (661-750 AD) the capital of the new empire, but the central authority was soon removed to Babylonia. Thenceforward Syria sank to the level of a province of the caliphate, first Abbasside (750-1258), then Fatimite (1258-1517), and finally Ottoman.

Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature [12]

Syr´ia. It is difficult to define the limits of ancient Syria, as the name seems to have been very loosely applied by the old geographers. In general, however, we may perceive that they made it include the tract of country lying between the Euphrates and the Mediterranean, from the mountains of Taurus and Amanus in the north, to the desert of Suez and the borders of Egypt on the south; which coincides pretty well with the modern application of the name. It may be described as composed of three tracts of land, of very different descriptions. That which adjoins the Mediterranean is a hot, damp, and rather unwholesome, but very fruitful valley. The part next to this consists of a double chain of mountains, running parallel from south-west to northeast, with craggy precipitous rocks, devious valleys, and hollow defiles. The air is here dry and healthy; and on the western declivities of the mountains are seen beautiful and highly cultivated terraces, alternating with well-watered valleys, which have a rich and fertile soil, and are densely peopled. The eastern declivities, on the contrary, are dreary mountain deserts, connected with the third region, which may be described as a spacious plain of sand and rock, presenting an extensive and almost unbroken level.

Spring and autumn are very agreeable in Syria, and the heat of summer in the mountain districts is supportable. But in the plains, as soon as the sun reaches the equator, it becomes of a sudden oppressively hot, and this heat continues till the end of October. On the other hand, the winter; is so mild, that orange-trees, fig-trees, palms, and many tender shrubs and plants flourish in the open air while the heights of Lebanon are glittering with snow and hoar-frost. In the districts, however, which lie north and east of the mountains, the severity of winter is greater, though the heat of the summer is not less. At Antioch, Aleppo, and Damascus, there are ice and snow for several weeks every winter. Yet, upon the whole, the climate and soil combine to render his country one of the most agreeable residences throughout the East.

The principal Syrian towns mentioned in Scripture are the following, all of which are noticed under their respective names in the present work:—Antioch, Seleucia, Helbon, Rezeph, Tiphsah, Rehoboth, Hamath, Riblah, Tadmor, Baal-Gad, Damascus, Hobah, Beth-Eden.

Syria, when we first become acquainted with its history, was divided into a number of small kingdoms, of which the most important of those mentioned in Scripture was that of which Damascus was the metropolis. A sketch of its history' is given under Damascus. These kingdoms were broken up, or rather consolidated by conquerors, of whom the first appears to have been Tiglathpileser, King of Assyria, about 750 B.C. After the fall of the Assyrian monarchy, Syria came under the Chaldean yoke. It shared the fate of Babylonia when that country was conquered by the Persians; and was again subdued by Alexander the Great. At his death in B.C. 323 it was erected into a separate monarchy under the Seleucidae, and continued to be governed by its own sovereigns until, weakened and devastated by civil wars between competitors for the throne, it was finally, about B.C. 65, reduced by Pompey to the condition of a Roman province, after the monarchy had subsisted 257 years. On the decline of the Roman Empire, the Saracens became the next possessors of Syria, about A.D. 622; and when the crusading armies poured into Asia, this country became the chief theater of the great contest between the armies of the Crescent and the Cross, and its plains were deluged with Christian and Muslim blood. For nearly a century the Crusaders remained masters of the chief places in Syria; but at length the power of the Muslims predominated, and in 1186 Saladin, Sultan of Egypt, found himself in possession of Syria. It remained subject to the sultans of Egypt till, in A.D. 1517, the Turkish sultan, Selim I, overcame the Memlook dynasty, and Syria and Egypt became absorbed in the Ottoman Empire. In 1832, a series of successes over the Turkish arms gave Syria to Mehemet Ali, the Pasha of Egypt; from whom, however, after nine years, it again passed to the Turks, in consequence of the operations undertaken for that purpose by the fleet under the command of Admiral Stopford, the chief of which was the bombardment of Acre in November, 1840. The treaty restoring Syria to the Turks was ratified early in the ensuing year.

The Nuttall Encyclopedia [13]

One of three divisions of Asiatic Turkey, slightly larger than Italy, forms a long strip of mountains and tableland intersected by fertile valleys, lying along the eastern end of the Mediterranean from the Taurus range in the N. to the Egyptian border on the 8., and extending to the Euphrates and Arabian desert The coastal strip and waters fall within the Levant ( q. v .). In the S. lies Palestine, embracing Jordan, Dead Sea, Lake of Tiberias (Sea of Galilee), Jerusalem, Gaza, &c.; in the N., between the parallel ranges of Lebanon and Anti-Lebanon, lies the valley of Coele-Syria, through which flows the Orontes. Important towns are Aleppo, Damascus, Beyrout (chief port), &c.; principal exports are silk, wool, olive-oil, and fruits. Four-fifths of the people are Mohammedans of Aramæan (ancient Syrian) and Arabic stock. Once a portion of the Assyrian Empire ( q. v .), it became a possession successively of the Persians, Greeks, Romans, Arabs, Egyptians, and finally fell into the hands of the Ottoman Turks in 1516, under whose rule it now languishes. For further particulars see various names and places mentioned.

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature [14]

Bibliography Information McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Syria'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.