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.
(Heb Aram), the name in the Old Testament given to the whole country which lay to the north-east of Phoenicia, extending to beyond the Euphrates and the Tigris. Mesopotamia is called (Ge 24:10; De 23:4) Aram-naharain (=Syria of the two rivers), also Padan-aram (Ge 25:20). Other portions of Syria were also known by separate names, as Aram-maahah (1Ch 19:6), Aram-beth-rehob (2Sa 10:6), Aram-zobah (2Sa 10:6,8). All these separate little kingdoms afterwards became subject to Damascus. In the time of the Romans, Syria included also a part of Palestine and Asia Minor.
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.
Septuagint Greek for Hebrew 'Aram, 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 Aram-Naharaim, 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 (Ge 25:18; Ex 15:22; 1Sa 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 Naharaim ('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 Bukaa) flows to the S.W.; the Orontes (nahr el Asi, 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 (Epiphaneia), Hierapolis, Heliopolis or Baalbek in Coelosyria, Chalybon or Aleppo, Apamea, and Emesa. Hamites, as the Hittites (the Khatti 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. 1Ki 10:29, "kings of Syria"; 2Ki 7:6, "kings of the Hittites." Joshua fought with the chiefs of the region of Lebanon and Hermon (Jos 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 (2Ki 19:13; 1Ch 18:9). In contrast with these two centralized monarchies stand the Hittites and the Phoenicians, with their several independent kings (1Ki 10:29; 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 (Lu 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 (2Co 11:32).
Syr'ia Syrian. Syr'ian
In scripture this name mostly signifies the district lying north and north-east of Palestine, the inhabitants of which were Syrians. If from Dan to Beersheba be taken as the boundaries of Palestine, it leaves for Syria a district quite as large on its north, besides extending also to the Euphrates on the east. For the sub-divisions of Syria mentioned in scripture see ARAM.
There are but few references to the Syrians in the early part of scripture. In connection with Rebekah the wife of Isaac, Laban (grandson of Nahor, Abraham's brother) 'the Syrian' is introduced, Ge 25:20; 28:5; 31:20,24; and an Israelite, in presenting his basket of first-fruits, was instructed to confess before the Lord, "A Syrian ready to perish was my father," followed by a rehearsal of what God had done for the descendants of Jacob, and how He had brought them into the promised land. De 26:5. The only reference to the name in the New Testament is in Lu 4:27, where it is stated that there were many lepers in Israel in the days of Elisha, but none were cured but Naaman the Syrian.
Damascus was the capital of the part of Syria which was often in conflict with Israel. It was conquered in David's reign and was subject to Solomon; but after the division of the kingdom it revolted and was again hostile to Israel. It became merged into the Assyrian and Babylonian empires. After that it passed to the Persians, and then submitted to Alexander the Great. On his death it came under the power of Seleucus Nicator, who built Antioch and made it his capital. For many years his successors contended with the Ptolemies for the possession of Palestine. See ANTIOCHUS. In B.C. 63 Syria was conquered by Pompey, and Palestine became subject to Rome. After the decline of Rome, Syria and Palestine had many different masters, and eventually fell into the hands of the Turks before obtaining independence.
The only governor of Syria mentioned in the New Testament is Cyrenius, q.v. Lu 2:2. Palestine was divided into sub-provinces after the death of Herod. The Lord in His journeys visited some of the borders of Syria, and His fame went throughout all Syria. Mt 4:24. After Antioch had become a sort of central station from whence the gospel went out to the Gentiles, Paul travelled throughout Syria and Cilicia confirming the churches. Ac 15:23,41.
The physical features of Western Syria and Palestine are very similar
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. 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 roof 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 lover against Lebanon, running in the same direction, i.e. nearly north and south, and extending the same length. [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,
which appears to have been already a place of some importance. Next to Damascus must be placed Hamath.
Syria at this time, and for many centuries afterward, seems to have been broken up among a number of petty kingdoms. The Jews first come into hostile contact with the Syrians, under that name, in the time of David.
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.
This army being completely defeated by Joab, Hadadezer obtained aid from Mesopotamia, ibid. ver. 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.
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.
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. [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,
partly by the exertions of St. Paul.
The Syrian Church soon grew to be one of the most flourishing
etc. (Syria remained under Roman and Byzantine rule till A.D. 634, when it was overrun by the Mohammedans; after which it was for many years the scene of fierce contests, and was finally subjugated by the Turks, A.D. 1517, under whose rule it still remains. --ED.)
SYRIA, 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.