Ancient Damascus

January 14, 2016

The city of Damascus, which lies in the southwestern part of Syria, is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world. This city is located in a desert oasis on the eastern foothills of the Anti-Lebanon mountain range. Additionally, the eastern Mediterranean coast is situated just 80 km (49.7 mi) to the west of this city. This area is believed to have been settled as early as the 7th millennium BC. The city of Damascus, however, was founded sometime during the 3rd millennium BC.

Early Mentions of Damascus

Over the millennia, Damascus was fought over and occupied by different civilizations. These include: The Aramaeans, Assyrians, Achaemenids, Greeks, Nabataeans, Romans, Umayyads, Mongols, Turks, and the French. Many of these civilizations have left behind monuments that are still visible in the city today, though perhaps not for much longer.

One of the earliest known mentions of the name of this city is found in the Ebla tablets. It has been suggested that the Amorites of the 18th century BC referred to Damascus as Dimaski. Another mention of the city can be found in the Amarna Letters, in which it is called Dimashqa. The current English name of the city was probably taken from the Greek version.

Some of the most visible monuments in Damascus are from the Islamic period, one of the city’s more recent phases. It was in 635 AD, just three years after the death of the Prophet Muhammad, that Damascus was conquered by the Muslims. Damascus became much more prominent in 661 AD, when it was made into the capital of the newly-founded Umayyad Dynasty.

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