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What is Syria?
        , the Greek name for the country known to the Hebrews as "Aram." It may signify "the region of Tyre." This country included, in a stricter sense, only the highlands of Libanus and Anti-Libanus, but in a more extended sense it reached to the Taurus Mountains on the north and across the Euphrates, eastward to the Tigris and the great desert, and westward to Phoenicia and the Mediterranean Sea. It was about 370 miles long and 150 miles wide, and may be called a continuation of Palestine on the north. In its most extended sense it consisted of Syria of Damascus, Syria of Zobah, and Syria of the Two Rivers, which was nearly the same as Mesopotamia. For this latter district see Mesopotamia. Physical Features. - Syria proper is naturally divided into three or four separate sections: (1) North of the Orontes. The principal feature of this region is Mount Amanus (Musa Dagh), between 5000 and 6000 feet high. East of Mount Amanus is a hilly tract, drained by the streams which fall into the Lake of Antioch. Beyond this lies the dry upland tract extending to the Euphrates. (2) The Orontes valley extends from Antioch to Eleutherus. Through this district, and almost parallel to the coast, runs a mountain- range which is steep toward the Orontes, but descends into low, irregular hills on the west. East of the fertile valley is another range of mountains of less elevation. (3) The valley of the Leontes (Litany), which flows between the two great mountain ranges of Lebanon and Anti-Lebanon. See Lebanon. The valley between the mountains is called "Coele-Syria," or "hollow Syria." Among the rivers of Syria, besides the Orontes and the Leontes, are the Barada, known as the Abana of Scripture, and the Awaj, or Pharpar. The chief mountains of Syria are: Great Hermon, 9:583 feet high, in the Anti-Libanus or eastern range; Jebel Makhual, near Beirut and Tripoli, 10,016 feet high; and Dakr-el-Kodib, lO,052feet high, in the Lebanon, or western range. Mons Carius of the ancients is on the coast, and Amanus (Musa Dagh) borders on the Taurus range. Of the mountains on the east of Jordan to the south, the largest number are volcanic until the table-lands of the Hauran are reached. See Moab. On the climate of Syria consult the article Palestine. Among the principal cities may be noticed Damascus, Antioch, Hamath, Gebal, Berytus or Beirut, Tadmor or Palmyra, Heliopolis or Baalbec, Aleppo, Emesah, and Zedad. Baalbec is one of the most wonderful ruins in Syria; Damascus is its oldest and largest city; Beirut is a flourishing seaport-town, which is a progressive and energetic modern city and the seat of an American Protestant college. History. - Syria was first settled by the Hittites and other Hamitic races. Later, a Shemitic element entered it from the south-east, under leaders such as Abraham and Chedorlaomer. In early times the country was divided among many petty kings, as those at Damascus, Rehob, Zobah, and Geshur. 1 Kgs 10:29; 2 Kgs 7:6. Joshua subdued the country in the region of Hermon and Lebanon. Josh 11:2-18. David conquered the Syrians of Damascus and reduced the country to submission. 2 Sam 8; 2 Sam 10:6-19. It continued subject to Solomon, but near the close of his reign an independent kingdom was formed at Damascus. 1 Kgs 4:21; 1 Kgs 11:23-25. The kings of Damascus became formidable enemies of Israel, and were frequently engaged in wars with one or the other of the Israelitish nations. 1 Kgs 15:18-20; 1 Kgs 15:20; 1 Kgs 15:22; 2 Kgs 6:8-33;2 Kgs 7; 2 Kgs 9:14-15; 2 Kgs 10:32-33; 2 Kgs 13:3; 2 Kgs 13:14-25. The attempt of the king of Syria and of the king of Israel to overthrow Judah led Ahaz to seek the aid of the king of Assyria, and at the end of the conflict Syria became a part of the great Assyrian empire. It was ruled by the Babylonians, by the Persians, and conquered by Alexander the Great, b.c. 333. At his death it came into possession of one of his generals, Seleucus Nicator, who made Syria the head of a vast kingdom and founded Antioch as its capital, b.c. 300. The country was less prosperous under his successors, the most remarkable of them being Antiochus Epiphanes, who was a most cruel oppressor of the Jews. He plundered the Jewish temple, desecrated the holy of holies, and caused a revolt of the Jews under the Hasmonean princes, who gained their independence. The Parthians, under Mithridates I., overran the eastern provinces, b.c. 164, but, later, Syria was added to the Roman empire by Pompey, b.c. 64. In the organization under Augustus, Syria became an imperial province, of which Antioch was the capital. Several districts, however, retained a degree of independence for some time, and took the position of protected states. Of these, Chaleis was a little kingdom; Abilene, a tetrarchy; Damascus, partially independent (till the time of Nero); while Judaea, being remote from Antioch, the capital, and having a restless people, was put under a special procurator, subordinate to the governor of Syria, but having the power of a legate within his own province. Damascus was under a governor or ethnarch, appointed by Aretas, king of Arabia Petraea, when Paul escaped from it. 2 Cor 11:32. Palmyra did not actually belong to the empire until a later age - about a.d. 114. Christianity spread in Syria through the preaching of Paul. Acts 15:23, 1 Chr 4:41; Matt 18:18; Acts 21:3; Gal 1:21. The country was overrun by the Saracens, a.d. 632, but was under the control of the Crusaders for a time. Selim I. conquered the country, a.d. 1517, and it has since belonged to the Turkish empire, with the exception of a few years when it was controlled by Egypt. See Map at the end of the Dictionary. Present Condition. - 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, and consists of a very mixed race, including many wandering tribes of Bedouins poorly governed. In religion the people are Mohammedans, Jews, and Christians of various churches. The American missionaries have been very successful in establishing missions and churches, and Protestant missionary societies in Europe also have prosperous missions in the country. The language usually spoken is the Arabic. Syria has great natural resources, and, under a good government, it would have a promising future. The mode of travelling in Syria is much the same now as in the days of the patriarchs. There are no railroads, and the only modern carriage-roads are the diligence-route from Beirut to Damascus, built by a French company after the massacre of Christians in 1860, and, in Palestine, the road from Jaffa to Jerusalem. Horses, mules, donkeys, and camels, accompanied by dragomans, tents, cooking-utensils, beds, blankets, and whatever else may be actually necessary for the traveller, are still the means of transporting passengers and tourists through this land. Steamers ply along the coast from the various Mediterranean ports, but inland the primitive method of journeying followed four thousand years ago still prevails. Under Syrians proper are usually classed all the descendants of the people who spoke Aramaic at the beginning of the Christian era, except the Jews. The Aramaic language has been displaced by the Arabic, the former being spoken in only a few (perhaps three) villages of Antilibanus. Some Greeks have recently settled in the country, but there are few, if any, descendants of those Greeks who settled in Syria during the supremacy of the Europeans, which extended over nearly one thousand years. The Arabians are of two classes - the settlers in towns, and the Bedouins, or nomadic tribes. The latter are professed Muslims, living a half-savage life, dwelling in tents, and preying upon the traveller, the settled inhabitants, and not infrequently upon one another. The Bedouin regards with great scrupulosity the law of hospitality, and protects a guest for three days after his departure from his camp, if he has been hospitably received. There are many small tribes of these nomadic Arabs, and they are generally at war with each other or have deadly blood-feuds existing among them, rendering it unsafe to travel within any region over which they roam. About four-fifths of the whole population of Syria are believed to be Muslims and followers of Mohammed. The native Christians chiefly belong to the Greek Church, but usually speak and conduct their services in the Arabic tongue. The Roman Catholic, or Latin, Church includes several sects. Among them are the Maronites and the European monks. The Maronite population of Lebanon alone is upward of 200,000. They live by agriculture, silk-culture, and raising cattle. The Jews in Syria, and especially Palestine, are rapidly increasing, though they still form only a small fraction of the entire population in any section of the country. Syria has not been very thoroughly or scientifically explored, and the ruins and inscriptions, as those at Hamath, when investigated thoroughly, may hereafter throw much clearer light upon its early history.

Bibliography Information
Schaff, Philip, Dr. "Biblical Definition for 'syria' in Schaffs Bible Dictionary". - Schaff's

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