Syria

Syria

Syria is one of the oldest inhabited regions in the world with archaeological finds dating the first human habitation at c. 700,000 years ago. The Dederiyeh Cave near Aleppo has produced a number of significant finds, such as bones, placing Neanderthal habitation in the region at that time and shows continual occupation of the site over a substantial period. The region was known as Eber Nari ('across the river') by the Mesopotamians and included modern-day Syria, Lebanon, and Israel (collectively known as The Levant). Eber Nari is referenced in the biblical books of Ezra and Nehemiah as well as in reports by the scribes of Assyrian and Persian kings. The modern name of Syria is claimed by some scholars to have derived from Herodotus' habit of referring to the whole of Mesopotamia as 'Assyria'.

Featured Article: Umayyad Mosque

The Umayyad Mosque, also called the Great Mosque of Damascus, was built on the site of the Roman Temple of Jupiter which was converted into the Church of St John the Baptist in 379 CE. It is the earliest surviving stone mosque, built between 705 and 715 CE by the Umayyads. After the Islamic conquest of Damascus, the holy site was shared between the Christians and the Muslims of the city. By the succession of the Umayyad Caliph al-Walid bin Abd al-Malik, the church was demolished and a vast congregational mosque constructed instead. Adjacent to the mosque is the tomb of one of the most illustrious Muslim leaders, Salah al-Din Ayyubi, who recaptured Jerusalem from the Crusaders. Explore >

Featured Article: Temple of Hadad

The temple of the Storm God has sat at the top of the citadel mound of the ancient city of Aleppo in Syria for four and a half millennia, buried for nearly three of those beneath later architectural remains. A German expedition working on the citadel since 1996 has recovered the plan of the temple in all its phases, from the Early Bronze through the Iron Ages. These finds provide important artistic, religious, and historical data for the period of the Hittite domination and the subsequent Neo-Hittite period in the region. The oldest remains of the structure date to the Early Bronze Age (3300-2200 BCE). Among the most important finds of the excavation were Late Bronze Age reliefs carved out of basalt that depict various religious scenes. It is thought that elements of the worship of the storm god persisted into Late Antiquity, in the form of the worship of Zeus that followed the conquest of Syria by Alexander the Great in 333 BCE. Explore >

Featured Article: Nur al-Din Bimaristan

The Bimaristan Nur al-Din, a hospital dating from the 6th Century Hijrah (circa 12th century CE), is one of the most famous buildings in Damascus. At the time of its construction, it was considered remarkably new and refined, a sentiment recorded by the memoirs of the Valencian voyager from al-Andalus, Ibn Jubayr. It functioned as a therapeutic refuge for the sick as well as a medical school for aspiring physicians. The Bimaristan Nur al-Din currently functions as a Museum of Arabic Medicine and Science. Located in a side road off the Suq al-Hamidiyyeh, it is easily discernable by its Mesopotamian-style red brick muqarnas dome rhythmically dotted with bulbs of dark glass. It is also famous for the eclecticism of its entrance fa├žade, the woodcarving of its door, and the perfect balance of its axial symmetric four-iwan plan. Explore >

Featured Article: Jerash Tetrapylae

The Roman-era city of Jerash was remodelled in the middle of the 1st century CE, and a complete rebuilding programme was launched. It was laid out on a north-south axis intersected by two side streets running east-west and marked by two tetrapyla. The tetrapyla were monumental civic structures associated with messages of imperial presence and triumph. These objects remained recognizable markers of specially designated honorific places. The Southern Tetrapylon marked the intersection of the Cardo Maximus with the South Decumanus. All that remains of it today are four solid pedestals embellished with niches. The North Tetrapylon lies at the intersection of the Cardo with the North Decumanus. It was erected between 165 and 170 CE. It was a square-shaped structure with a gate on each side and topped with a dome. Explore >

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