History and Archaology of Syria



By the Editors of the Madain Project

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'.

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Brief History of Ancient Syria

Prehistoric Period:
Syria's history dates back to the prehistoric era, with evidence of human habitation dating to the Paleolithic period. Early societies engaged in hunting and gathering in the region.

Bronze Age:
Syria was home to several significant Bronze Age civilizations, including the Eblaite Kingdom and the city of Mari. Ebla, in particular, was known for its advanced writing system and extensive trade networks.

Hittite and Mitanni Empires:
In the second millennium BCE, Syria came under the influence of the Hittite and Mitanni empires, which controlled parts of the region for a time.

The Arameans, a Semitic people, settled in Syria around the 12th century BCE and established several city-states. Their Aramaic language became widely used in the region.

Assyrian and Neo-Babylonian Empires:
Syria was repeatedly conquered by the Assyrians and Neo-Babylonians, who ruled the region for several centuries. Major cities like Damascus and Mari fell under their control.

Persian Empire:
In the 6th century BCE, Syria became part of the Achaemenid Persian Empire, which extended its influence over the entire Near East, including present-day Iran, Iraq, and Anatolia.

Hellenistic Period:
After the conquests of Alexander the Great, Syria became part of the Hellenistic Seleucid Empire. Greek culture, language, and administration left a significant impact on the region.

Roman and Byzantine Periods:
Syria was incorporated into the Roman Empire and later the Byzantine Empire, with the city of Antioch serving as a major center of commerce, culture, and Christianity.

Islamic Conquest:
In the 7th century CE, Muslim armies under the Rashidun Caliphs conquered Syria, bringing Islam to the region. Damascus became an important Islamic city.

Umayyad Caliphate:
During the Umayyad Caliphate, Damascus served as the capital, and Syria played a crucial role in the early expansion of Islam. The Umayyad Mosque in Damascus remains a significant historical and religious site.

Crusader Period:
Syria experienced periods of Crusader rule during the medieval era. Major cities like Aleppo and Antioch were contested by Crusaders and Muslims.

Ottoman Empire:
Syria came under Ottoman rule in the 16th century and remained part of the Ottoman Empire until World War I.

French Mandate and Independence:
After World War I, Syria came under French mandate but gained independence in 1946, forming the modern nation of Syria.

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Archaeology of Ancient Syria

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