Syria Encyclopedia Online

By | December 17, 2021

Syria State of southwestern Asia. The territory overlooks the Mediterranean with a coastal stretch of 160 km and extends inland towards the E and towards the S for more than 600 km; it borders Turkey to the N, Iraq to the E, Jordan to the S; to the SW, at the eastern coast of the Sea of ​​Galilee and the Golan Heights, it touches the territories occupied by the State of Israel ; to the West, it surrounds Lebanon on two sides.

Physical characteristics

The territory of the State participates in three distinct geomorphological units, namely the Mediterranean coastal region, the Arabian plateau and the lowland of the upper valley of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers (Mesopotamia). The coastal region, which extends inland from 60 to 100 km, is formed by a narrow plain along the Mediterranean and by the hills that extend the folds of Lebanon and Anti-Lebanon to the north: the highest heights are recorded in the chain of mountains. Ansariyya with an average of 1200-1500 m; the internal reliefs are furrowed, from N to S, by the northern extension of the rift valley of the Jordan and the Dead Sea and are separated by a valley (al-Ghab), crossed by the Orontes river. The climate of the coastal region is of the Mediterranean type, with annual rainfall of 700 mm in the coastal plain, while it exceeds 1000 mm in the mountainous part. The Arabian plateau, in the southern section of the country, is limited to the west by the reliefs of the Golan, Mount Hermon (2814 m) and the Anti-Lebanon, while to the South, on the border with Jordan, it is dominated by the massif of Jebel Drusus (1800 m). The plateau has the possibility of irrigation only in the section between the Antilibano and the Jebel Druso, while the rest is largely arid, with natural steppe-type vegetation. The innermost region of the lowland crossed by the two great Mesopotamian rivers (the Syria is interested in the Euphrates basin, which crosses the lowland almost in the center, while the Tigris only marks, for a short distance. For Syria 2008, please check


In the Middle Palaeolithic, various typologically distinct industrial complexes are distinguished in Syria, linked to different economic activities, and represented in the shelters of Jabrud (scrapers, burins). From the 12th millennium BC, with the transition from the Mesolithic to the Neolithic, the harvest of cereals intensified, although hunting continues to play an important role. The environmental conditions of the Syria, favorable to the system of ‘dry agriculture’ and breeding, facilitated the establishment of early phenomena of pre-ceramic Neolithic cultures from the 8th millennium BC, which have provided some of the most ancient attestations of villages. The site of Mureybet, on the Euphrates, dates back to this period: a village of circular houses with walls of clay mixed with straw, sometimes paved with limestone slabs; there were no pets, hunting and gathering of wild grasses were practiced. In the second half of the 7th millennium BC, Neolithic sites develop in Tell Ramad, in Bouqras, in Mureybet himself, in Ras Shamra; towards the end of the millennium ceramic appears. In this phase, influences from northern Mesopotamia manifest themselves, which intensify in the subsequent period called Halaf. Later, while in Mesopotamia it develops the culture of al-‛Ubaid, contacts begin (attested by the site of Brak, near the border with Iraq) with the cities of the lower Euphrates: relations that become close just before 3000 BC, when a development of urban culture is determined, probably consequence of a colonization process by the Sumerians of southern Mesopotamia, of the middle and upper course of the Euphrates. Typical pottery of al-‛Ubaid, as well as in Brak, is also found in the site of Ras Shamra (Ugarit), on the coast: it characterizes a distinctly different level from the previous and subsequent ones, perhaps due to the arrival of new people from the east.


Eastern Aramaic dialect, spoken in Edessa in Osroene and in the neighboring regions of Mesopotamia, widely established because it was adopted as a literary language by the Syriac Church. It was spoken and written even before Christianity, and was only slightly different from the other dialects of the Eastern Aramaic group. As far as vocalism is concerned, there are two varieties of Syriac: the Western or Jacobite and the Eastern or Nestorian. In morphology there are few differences from the common Aramaic. The syntax, on the other hand, has very peculiar traits, in which, especially due to the influence of Greek, a greater freedom of construction and a development of subordinate propositions are determined; the frequency of periphrastic conjugations is also noteworthy. The conquest by the Arabs of the area of ​​diffusion of the s. determined the progressive crisis of the latter, which in the 13th century. it was now nearly extinct. Isolated dialectal varieties, however, have been preserved to this day in Mesopotamia and Armenia.


A very rich series of archaeological sites has been unearthed in Syria (fig. 2). The Syria, central and northern, provided information on the various Paleosirian states of the 2nd millennium BC: the investigations in Aleppo led to the discovery of the most important sanctuary in the State of Yamkad ; Tell Tuqan, Tell Afis and Tell Mardīkh showed the complexity of the city walls. Excavations at Terqa (Tell Ashara), Tuttul (Tell Bia) and Tell Laylan have shed light on the history of the northeastern area. AN, on the right bank of the Euphrates, a network of fortified sites dating back to the late Bronze Age (el-Qitar, Tell Faqus) has been identified. As for the Iron Age, the rebuilding of the Hadad temple in Alepporevealed a splendid series of orthostats carved in relief; Also important is the identification of Tell Afis with Hazreq, capital (800 BC) of the state of Hamath and Laash. The findings of Tell Ahmar (Til Barsip), Tell Sheikh Hassan, Shadikanni (Tell Aǧaǧa), Kakhat (Tell Barri), Dūr Katlimmu (from which also neo-Babylonian tablets come) have made it possible to clarify the phase of the Assyrian rule. ● During the Achaemenid domination, in the inner Syria the centers of Damascus and Aleppo had the function of attractive poles of a commercial circulation. New research approaches have made it possible to increase knowledge on ancient centers, where the continuity of occupation has directed research to the study of urban plans (Damascus, Laodicea, Emesa, Aleppo). ● The Syrian cities had great development during the Roman period, and the architecture assumed impressive proportions (Palmira, Apamea, Dura), preserving local, Hellenistic, Roman and oriental influences. Sculpture and painting were also highly developed, with polychrome floors and mosaics (Antioch).


The Syrian musical tradition is characterized, as in general that of the neighboring Arab countries (Egypt, Lebanon and Iraq), by the importance given to improvisation. Its main form is taqsim, an extemporaneous prelude to a solo instrument, in free rhythm. Its vowel equivalent is layali, a vocalization on the words “yālayl, ya ‘aynī” (“oh night, oh my eyes”). The most common instruments are the ud, or Arabic lute, the qanun, a sort of trapezoidal zither, the kaman, a violin, the nay, a straight flute, and the req, a small drum with five orders of rattles.

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