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A country in Western Asia, which in modern times comprises all that region bounded on the north by the highlands of the Taurus, on the south by Egypt, on the east by Mesopotamia and the Arabia Desert, and on the west by the Mediterranean; thus including with its area the ancient and modern countries of Aram or North Syria, a portion of the Hittite and Mitanni kingdoms, Phœnicia, the land of Canaan or Palestine, and even a section of the Sinaitic Peninsula. Strictly speaking, however, and especially from the point of view of Biblical and classical geography, which is the one followed in this article, Syria proper composes only that portion of the above-mentioned territories that is bounded on the north and north-west by the Taurus and Asia Minor, on the south by Palestine, on the east by the Euphrates, the Syro-Arabian desert and Mesopotamia, and on the west by the Mediterranean. The northern portion is elevated, the eastern is level, extending to the Syro-Arabian desert ; the north-western is crowned by the Amanus and Taurus mountains, while the mountains of Lebanon and Anti-Lebanon are parallel ranges on the north of Palestine or south of Syria. Between these two ranges is the long narrow valley called Cœle-Syria (Hollow Syria). Its chief rivers are the Litâny (Leontes), the Orontes (Al-'Asi), and the Barad or Abana. Cœle-Syria varies in breadth from three or four miles to fifteen miles, and in some places broken by projecting spurs of the Lebanon ranges. At its northern end it curves round to the west and opens out to the Mediterranean. It has two slopes, a northerly and a southerly one, and both are fertile and beautiful. This valley was always an important route of travel between Mesopotamia, the Mediterranean coast, Arabia, and Egypt. The whole of Syria, however, is about 250 miles in length, and an average of 130 miles in breadth, having a total area of about 32,500 square miles. The most important towns of Syria in ancient times were Damascus, Karkamish, Hamath, Baalbec, Palmyra or Tadmur, Riblah, Antioch, Daphne, Seleucia, Abila, Chalcis, Lybo, Laodicea, Arethusa, and Apamæa, whereas the famous cities of Tyre, Sidon, Beritus Byblos, and Aradus belong properly speaking to Phœnicia. The most important towns of modern Syria are Alexandretta, Antakia, Beirut, Aleppo, Latakyah, Hamah, Homs, Tripoli, Damascus, Sayda, Akka and Jaffa.

The name "Syria" was formerly believed to be either an abbreviation of "Assyria" or derived from Tsur (Tyre), hence Tsurya, and that it was of Greek origin. This, however, is untenable, as the name, in all probability, is derived from the old Babylonian name Suri, applied originally to the north-eastern portion of the present Syria. Later on the name Syria was applied by the Greeks and the Romans to the whole of Syria, or the country lying between the Euphrates, the Mediterranean, the Taurus, and Egypt. By the Babylonians and the Assyrians it was called "Amurru" (the Land of the Amorites) and Martu (the West-Land). The extreme northern part of it was also known as "Khatti", or the Land of the Hittites, whilst the most southern region was known as "Kena'nu" or "Kanaan" (Palestine). In Arabic it is called either "Suriyya" (Syria) or "Al-Sham" (the country situated to the "left"), in opposition to "El-Yemen", or South Arabia, which is situated to the "right". The political and geographic divisions of Syria have been numerous and constantly varying. In the Old Testament it is generally called "Aram", and its inhabitant "Arameans". But there were several Biblical "Arams", viz: "Aram-naharaim" or "Aram of the Two Rivers", i.e., Mesopotamia; "Paddon-Aram" (the region of Haran), in the extreme north of Mesopotamia; "Aram-Ma'rak" to the north of Palestine; "Aram-beth Rehob", "Aram-Sobah", etc. The Syrian Aram, however, which corresponds to the classical Syria is called generally in the Old Testament "Aram of Damascus " from the principal city of the country. It is one of these Arameans, or Syrians, who occupied Central Syria, with Damascus as the capital city, that we hear most in the Old Testament.

During the Greek and Roman dominations the political divisions of Syria were indefinite and almost unintelligible. Strabo mentions five great provinces: (1) Commagene, a small territory in the extreme north, with Samosata for capital, situated on the Euphrates; (2) Seleucia, lying south of the former, and subdivided into four divisions, according to the number of its chief cities, viz: Antioch Epidaphne, Seleucia, in Pieria; Apamæa, and Laodicea ; (3) Cœle-Syria, comprising Laodicea and Libanum, Chalcia, Abilene, Damascus, Ituræa, and others farther south, included in Palestine; (4) Phœnicia; (5) Judæa. Pliny's divisions are still more numerous than those of Strabo. It appears that each city on rising to importance gave its name to a surrounding territory, larger or smaller, and this in time assumed the rank of a province. Ptolemy mentions thirteen provinces: Cammagene, Pieria, Cyrrhestica, Seleucia, Casiotis, Chalibonitis, Chalcis, Apamene, Laodicea, Phœnicia, Cœle-Syria, Palmyrene, and Batanea, and he gives a long list of the cities contained in them. Under the Romans, Syria became a province of the empire. Some portions of it were permitted to remain for a time under the rule of petty princes, dependent on the imperial government. Gradually, however, all these were incorporated, and Antioch was the capital. Under Hadrian the province was divided into two parts: Syria-Major, on the north, and Syria-Phœnice, on the south. Towards the close of the fourth century another partition of Syria was made, and formed the basis of its ecclesiastical government: (1) Syria Prima, with Antioch as its capital; (2) Syria Secunda, with Apamæa as its capital; (3) Phœnicia Prima, including the greater part of ancient Phœnicia, with Tyre as its capital; (4) Phœnicia Secunda, also called Phœnicia ad Libanum, with Damascus as its capital. During the Arabian domination, i.e., from the seventh to the fifteenth century, Syria was generally divided into six large districts (Giunds), viz: (1) Filistîn (Palestine), consisting of Judæa, Samaria, and a portion of the territory east of the Jordan, its capital was at Ramlah, Jerusalem ranking next; (2) Urdun (Jordan) of which the capital was Tabaria ( Tiberias ), roughly speaking it consisted of the rest of Palestine as far as Tyre ; (3) Damascus, a district which included Baalbeck, Tripoli, Beirut, and the Hauran; (4) Hams, including Hamah; (5) Qinnasrin, corresponding to northern Syria; the capital at first was Qinnasrin, to the south of Aleppo, by which it was afterwards superseded; (6) the sixth district was the military frontier ('awâsim) bordering upon the Byzantine dominions in Asia Minor. Under the present Turkish rule, Syria is divided into the following six vilayets, or provinces: (1) the Vilayet of Aleppo, with the 3 liwas of Aleppo, Marash, and Urfa; (2) the independent Liwa of Zor (Deir es-Zor); (3) the Vilayet of Beirut, including the south coast of the mouth of the Orontes, the mountain-district of the Nosairiyeh and Lebanon to the south of Tripoli, further the town of Beirut and the country between the sea and the Jordan from Saida to the north of Jaffa, and is divided into 5 liwas: Ladikiyeh, Tarabulus, Beirut, 'Akka (Acre), and Nabulus; (4) Lebanon, from the north of Tripoli to the north of Saida, exclusive of the town of Beirut, forms an independent liwa, administered by a governor and with the rank of mushîr; (5) the Vilayet of Suriyya (Syria), comprises the country from Hamah to the Hijaz—the capital is Damascus &151; and is divided into the liwas of Hamah, Damascus, Hauran, and Kerak; (6) El-Quds, or Jerusalem, is an independent liwa under a mutesarrif of the first class. At the head of each vilayet is a vali, or governor-general, whose province is divided into departments (sanjak, liwa), each presided over by a mutesarrif; each department again contains so many divisions (kaimmakamlik, kada), each under a kaimmakam; and these again are divided into districts (mudiriyeh, nahiya) under mudirs. The independent liwas of Ez-Zor and El-Quds stand in direct connexion with the central government at Constantinople.


Ethnographically, the modern inhabitants of Syria consist of Arabs, Turks, Jews, and Franks or Europeans. (1) The Syrians are direct descendants of the ancient Arameans who inhabited the country from about the first millennium B.C. and who spoke Aramaic. Most of these embraced Christianity and spoke Aramaic until about the seventh century, when Arab invasion forced the Arabic language to become the vernacular tongue of the country. Aramaic, however, held its ground for a considerable time and traces of it are still to be found in the liturgy of the so-called Syrian, Chaldean, and Maronite Churches, as well as in three villages of the anti-Libanus. (2) The Arabian population consists of hadari, or settles, and bedawi (p. bedu) or nomadic tribes. The settled population is of very mixed origin, but the Bedouins are mostly of mixed Arab blood. They are the direct descendants of the half-savage nomads who have inhabited Arabia from time immemorial. Their dwellings consist of portable tents made of black goats' hair. There are two main branches. One of these consist of the 'Ænezch who migrate in winter towards Central Arabia, while the other embraces those tribes which remain permanently in Syria. (3) The Turks are not a numerous class in the community of Syria. They are intellectually inferior to the Arabs, but the lower classes are generally characterized by patriarchal simplicity of manner. There are two parties of Turks, the Old, and the Young, or Liberal Party. In Northern Syria, as well as on the Great Hermon, are still several nomadic Turkish tribes, or Turcomans, whose mode of life is the same as that of the Bedouin Arabs. (4) The Jews who remained in the country are but few in number; most of those who now reside in Palestine are comparatively recent settlers from Europe. (5) The Franks ( Europeans ) form a very small proportion of the population. Distinct from them are the so-called "Levantines", who are either Europeans or descendants of Europeans, who have entirely adopted the manners of the country.


In regard to religion, the modern inhabitants of Syria consist of Mohammedans, Christians, and Jews. The first are divided into Sunnites, or orthodox Mohammedans, Metawileh, Nusairiyyeh, or Ansairiyyeh, and Ismaliyyeh. To these may be added the Druzes. The Christians include Roman Catholics of the Latin Rite ; Roman Catholic Greeks or Melchites ; Maronites (all Roman Catholic ); Roman Catholic Syrians, Roman Catholic Chaldeans, Roman Catholic Armenians, Schismatic Syrians, i.e., Monophysites, commonly called Jacobites ; Schismatic Armenians, Catholic Armenians, and Protestants.

The Mohammedans or Moslems

The Moslems are and have been for the last twelve centuries the lords of the land and still constitute the great majority of its inhabitants. They are generally ignorant and fanatical, although of late education has spread among the better class in the larger towns. Till a few years ago they were inclined to look with contempt on all other peoples and religions. This, however, is gradually disappearing owing to the wonderful strides the Christians of Syria have been making of late in the matter of schools, universities, hospitals, seminaries, and educational and commercial institutions. The Syrian Muslims are generally noble in bearing, polite in address, and profuse in hospitality ; but they are regardless of truth, dishonest in their dealings, and immoral in their conduct. In large towns the greater proportion of the upper classes are both physically and morally feeble, owing to the effects of polygamy, early marriages, and degrading vices; but the peasantry are robust and vigorous, and much might be hoped from them if they were brought under the influence of liberal institutions, and if they had examples around them of the industry and the enterprise of Western Europe. Experience, indeed, has already shown that they are not slow to adopt the improvement of other lands. In religion, the Mohammedans of Syria are Sunnites, or traditionalists—that is, in addition to the written word of the Koran, they recognize the Sunna, a collection of tradition sayings of the Prophet, which is a kind of supplement to the Koran directing the right observance of many things omitted in that book. They are in general exact in observance of the outward rites of their religion.

The Metawileh

The Metawileh (sing. Metaly) are the followers of 'Aly, the son-in-law of Mohammed. His predecessors, Abu Bekr, 'Omar, and Othman, they do not acknowledge as true khalifs. 'Aly they maintain is the lawful Imam; and they hold that the supreme authority, both spiritual and temporal, belongs of right to his descendants alone. They reject the Sunna, and are therefore regarded as heretics by the orthodox. They are allied in faith to the Shi'ites of Persia. They are almost as scrupulous in their ceremonial observance as the Hindus. The districts in which they chiefly reside are Ba'albek, where their chiefs are the noted family of Harfush; Belad Besharah, on the southern part of the Lebanon range; and a district on the west bank of the Orontes, around the village of Hurmul. They also occupy several scattered villages in Lebanon.

The Nusairiyyeh

It is not easy to tell whether these people are Mohammedans or not. Their religion still remains a secret, notwithstanding all attempts lately made to dive into their mysteries. They are represented as holding a faith half Christian and half Mohammedan. They believe in the transmigration of souls, and observe in a singular, perhaps idolatrous, manner a few of the ceremonies common in the Eastern Church. They inhabit a range of mountains extending from the great valley north of Lebanon to the gorge of the Orontes at Antioch.

The Ismailiyyeh

The Ismailiyyeh, who inhabit a few villages on the eastern slopes of the Ansairiyeh mountains, resemble the Nusairiyyeh in this, that their religion is a mystery. There were originally a religious-political subdivision of the Shi'ites, and are the feeble remains of a people too well known in the time of the Crusades as the Assassins. They have still their chief seat in the castle of Masyad, on the mountains west of Hamah.

The Druzes

(The generic name in Arabic is ed-Deruz, sing. Derzy). The peculiar doctrines of the Druzes was first propagated in Egypt by the notorious Hakim, third of the Fatimite dynasty. This khalif, who gave himself out as a prophet, though he acted more like a madman, taught a system of half-materialism, asserting that the Deity resided in 'Aly. In A. D. 1017 a Persian of the sect of Batanism called Mohammed Ben-Ismail ed-Dorazy, settled in Egypt, and became a devoted follower and stimulator of Hakim. He not only affected to believe in and propagate the pretensions of the new Egyptian prophet, but he added to his doctrines that of the transmigration of souls, which he had brought from his native country, and he carried his fanaticism to such an extent that the people at last drove him out of Egypt. He took refuge in Wady el-Teim, at the western base of Hermon ; and being secretly supplied with money by the Egyptian monarch, propagated his dogmas, and became the founder of the Druzes. His system was enlarged, and to some degree modified, by other disciples of Hakim, especially by the Persian Hamzeh, whom the Druze still venerate as the founder of their sect and the author of their law. Hamzeh tried to gain over the Christians by representing himself as the Messiah whose advent they expected. For further details see DRUZES.

The Jews

The Jews of Syria are of several different classes. The Sephardim are the Spanish-Portuguese Jews, who immigrated after the expulsion of the Jews from Spain under Isabella I ; most of them now speak Arabic, though some still speak a Spanish patois. The Ashkenazim are from Russia, Galicia, Hungary, Bohemia, Moravia, Germany, and Holland, and speak the dialect known as Yiddish. These again are well divided into the Perushim and the Chasadim. The Jews of the East have retained their character to a considerable extent, and are generally tall and slender in stature. They live in the towns, generally in a quarter of their own.


The history of Christianity in Syria proper during the first three centuries and down to the Council of Nicea (A. D. 325), centres chiefly about Antioch, while from the time of the Council of Nicea to the Arab invasion it is absorbed into that of the Antiochine Patriarchate (see ANTIOCH, THE CHURCH OF), just as the Christianity of Palestine is practically that of Jerusalem, of Egypt, that or Alexandria, of the West that of Rome, of Mesopotamia and Persia that of Seleucia Ctesiphon, and of the Byzantine Greek Church that of Constantinople. As Jewish Christianity originated at Jerusalem, so Gentile Christianity started at Antioch, then the leading center of the Hellenistic East, with Peter and Paul as its apostles. From Antioch it spread to the various cities and provinces of Syria, among the Hellenistic Syrians as well as among the Hellenistic Jews who, as a result of the great rebellions against the Romans in A. D. 70 and 130, were driven out from Jerusalem and Palestine into Syria. The spread of the new religion was so rapid and successful that at the time of Constantine Syria was honeycombed with Christian churches. The history of the Christian Church in Syria during the second and third centuries is rather obscure, yet sufficient data to furnish a fair idea of the rapid spread of Christianity in Syria have been collected by Harnack in his well-known work "The Mission and Expansion of Christianity in the First Three Centuries" (Eng. Tr., 2nd ed., London 1908, vol. II, pp. 120 sqq.).

Outside the city of Antioch, that "fair city of the Greeks" (see Isaac of Antioch's "Carmen", 15, ed. Bickell, i, 294), Syriac was the language of the people; in fact it was spoken by the lower classes in Antioch itself and only among the upper classes of the Greek towns was it displaced by Greek. The Syriac spirit was wedded to Greek, however, even here, and remained the predominant factor in religious and social life, although at first and indeed for long it did not look as if it would. Yet, in this Christian world, Christianity seems to have operated from Edessa, rather than from Antioch. The wide territory lying between these cities was consequently evangelized from two centres during the third century: from Antioch in the West by means of Greek Christian propaganda, and from Edessa in the East by means of one which was Syro-Christian. The inference is that the larger towns practically adopted the former while the country towns and villages went over to the latter. At the same time there was also a Western Syrian movement of Christianity, thought it did not amount to much, both in and after the days of Paul of Samosata and Zenobia. The work of conversion, so it would appear, made greater headway in Cœle-Syria, however, than in Phœnicia. No fewer than twenty-two bishops from Cœle-Syria attended Nicea (two chorepiscopi ), including several who had Hellenic names. Hence we may infer the existence of no inconsiderable number of national Syrian Christians. By about 325 the district round Antioch seems to have contained a very large number of Christians, and one dated (331) inscription runs as follows: "Christ, have mercy; there is but one God."

In Chysostom's day these Syria villages appear to have been practically Christian. Lucian, the priest of Antioch, declares in his speech before the magistrate in Nicomedia (311) that "almost the greater part of the world now adheres to this Truth, yea whole cities; even if any of this evidence seems suspect, there is no doubt regarding multitudes of country-folk, who are innocent of guile" (pars paene mundi eam maior huic veritate adstipulatur, urbes integræ, aut si in his alquid suspectum videtur, contestatur de his etiam agrestis manus, ignara figmenti); and although this may reflect impressions he had just received in Bythynia, there was substantial ground for the statement in the local circumstances of Syria. The number of clergy in 303 throughout Syria is evident from Eus., H. E., viii, 6: "An enormous number were put in prison at every place. The prisons, hitherto reserved for murderers and riflers of graves, were now packed everywhere with bishops, priests, deacons, lectors, and exorcists ". Further data at our command are as follows: (1) Acts, xv, already mentions churches in Syria besides Antioch. (2) Ignatius, apropos of Antioch (ad Philad., 10) mentions "Churches in the neighbourhood" which had already bishops of their own. These certainly included Seleucia, the seaport of Antioch, mentioned in Acts, viii, 4. (3) Apamæa was a centre of Elkesaites. (4) Dionys. Alex. (in Eus., "H. E.", VIII, v) observes that the Roman church frequently sent contributions to the Syrian Churches. (5) The document of the Antiochene Synod of 268 (Eus., VII, xxx), mentions, in connexion with Antioch, " bishops of the neighbouring country and cities".

The towns in the vicinity of Antioch, both far and near, must already have had bishops, in all or nearly all cases, if country bishops were in existence. From Eus. VI, vii, we learn that by about A. D. 200 there was a Christian community as Rhossus which was gravitating towards Antioch. (6) Two chorepiscopi from Cœle-Syria attended the Council of Nicea. In Martyrol Hieron. (Achelis, "Mart. Hieron," p. 168) a martyrdom is noted as having occurred "in Syria provencia regione Apamæ vico Aprovavicta" but both of these places are unknown. (7) Bishops from the following places in Cœle-Syria were present at Nicea: Antioch, Seleucia, Laodicea, Apameæ, Raphaneæ, Hieropolis (=Maybug, Bambyce), Germanicia, Samosata, Doliche, Balaneæ Gabula, Zeugma, Larissa, Epiphania, Arethusa, Neocæsarea, Cyrrhus, Gindron, Arbokadama, and Gabala. These towns lay in the most diverse districts of this wide country, on the seaboard, in the valley of the Orantes, in the Euphrates Valley, between the Orontes and the Euphrates, and in the north. Their distribution shows that Christianity was fairly uniform and fairly strong in Syria about 325, as is strikingly shown by the rescript of Daza to Sabinus (Eus, "H. E.", IX, ix), for we must understand the experiences undergone by the churches of Syrian Antioch and Asia Minor , when we read the emperor's words about almost all men abandoning the worship of the gods and attaching themselves to the Christian people. This remark is not one to be taken simply as a rhetorical flourish. For later speaking in one place about the first edict of Diocletian, Eusebius proceeds as follows: "Not long afterwards, as some people in the district called Melitene and other districts throughout Syria attempted to usurp the kingdom, a royal decree went forth to the effect that the head officials of the churches everywhere should be put in prison and chains" (VIII, vi, 8). Eusebius does not say it in so many words, but the context makes it quite clear that the emperor held the Christians responsible for both of these outbreaks (that of Melitene being unknown to history). This means that the Christians in Melitene and Syria must have been extremely numerous, otherwise the emperor would never have met revolutionary outbreaks (which, in Syria, and, one may conjecture, in Melitene also, originated with the army) with edicts against the Christian clergy. The Bishop of Rhossus was not at Nicea (Rhossus, however, may also be assigned to Cilicia). But as we already know, Rhossus did possess a Christian Church about A. D. 200, which came under the supervision of the church at Antioch. There was a Jewish Christian church at Berœa (Aleppo) in the fourth century. The local gentile Christian church cannot have been important; cf. The experience of Julian there (Ep. xvii, p. 516, ed. Hertlein).

As to Phœnicia, one of the most important provinces of Syria, the history of Christianity there is also obscure. Here again we learn from the Acts of the Apostles that Christianity reached Phœnician cities at a very early period. When Paul was converted there were already Christians at Damascus ( Acts 9:2, 10 sqq. , 19 ; for Christians in Tyre see 22:4 ; for Ptolemais see 21:7 ; for Sidon, 27:3 ; and in general, 11:19 ). The metropolitan position of Tyre, which was the leading city of the East for manufactures and trade, made it the ecclesiastical capital of the province; but it is questionable if Tyre enjoyed this pre-eminence as early as the second century, for at the Palestinian Synod on the Eastern controversy, Cassius, the Bishop of Tyre, and Clarus, the Bishop of Ptolemais, took counsel with the Bishop of Ælia and of Cæsarea (Eus., "H. E.", V, xxv), to whom they seem to have been subordinate. On the other hand, Marinus of Tyre is mentioned in a letter of Dionysius of Alexandria (ibid, VII, v, 1) in such a way as to make his metropolitan dignity extremely probable. Martyrs in or from Tyre, during the great persecution, are noted by Eusebius, VIII, vii, 1 (VIII, viii) VIII, xiii, 3. Origen died at Tyre and was buried there. It is curious also to note that the learned Antiochine priest, Dorotheus, the teacher of Eusebius, was appointed by the emperor ( Diocletian, or one of his immediate predecessors) to be the director of the purple-dyeing trade in Tyre (Eus., "H. E.", VII, xxxii). A particularly libelous edict issued by the Emperor Daza against the Christians is preserved by Eusebius (IX, vii) who copied it from the pillar in Tyre on which it was cut, and the historian's work reaches its climax in the great speech upon the reconstruction of the church at Tyre, "by far the most beautiful in all Phœnicia" (X, iv). This speech is dedicated to Paulinus, Bishop of Tyre, in whose honour indeed the whole of the tenth book of its history is written. Unfortunately we get no information whatever, in this long address, upon the Christian community at Tyre. We can only infer the size of the community from the size of the church building, which may have stood where the ruins of the large crusading church now astonish the traveller (cf. Baedecker's "Palestine", pp. 300 sq). Tyre as a Christian city was to Phœnicia what Cæsarea was to Palestine. It seems to have blossomed out as a manufacturing and trading centre during the imperial age, especially in the third century. A number of passages in Jerome give characteristic estimates of its size and importance. In Sidon, Origen stayed for some time (Hom, xiv, 2 in Josuam), while it was there that the presbyter Zenobius (Eus., "H. E.", VIII, xiii, 3) died in the great persecution, as did some Christians at Damascus (IX, v). Eleven bishops, but no chorepsicopi, were present at the Council of Nicea from Phœnicia; namely the bishops of Tyre, Ptolemais, Damascus, Sidon, Tripolis, Paneas, Berytus, Palmyra, Alassus, Emessa, and Antaradus. From Eusebius we also learn that many Jewish Christians resided in Paneas (Eus., "H. E.", VII, xvii, 18). Tripolis is mentioned even before the Council of Nicea (in "Mart. Pal.," III, where a Christian named Dionysius comes from Tripolis ); the Apostolic Constitutions (vii, 46) declare that Marthones was bishop of this town as early as the Apostolic age; while, previous to the Council of Nicea , Hellenicus, the local bishop, opposed Arius (Thedoret, "H. E.", I, iv), though Gregory, Bishop of Berytus, sided with him (loc. cit.; for Berytus, see also "Mart. Pal.", iv). The local church was burnt under Julian (cf. Thed., "H. E.", IV, xx). Eusebius (VIII, xiii) calls Silvanus, at the period of the great persecution, bishop, not of Emesa, but of "the churches round Emesa ". Emesa thus resembled Gaza ; owing to the fanaticism of the inhabitants, Christians were unable to reside within the town itself, they had to quarter themselves in the adjoining villages. Anatolius, the successor of Silvanus, was the first to take up his abode within the town. Theodoret ("H. E.", III, vii), writing at the age of Julian, says that the church there was xxx (newly built). With regard to Heliopolis, we have this definite information, that the town acquired its first church and bishop, thanks to Constantine, after 325 (cf. "Vita Constant.", III, lviii, and Socrates, I, xviii). The "Mart. Syriacum" mentions one martyr, Lucius, at Heliopolis. Christians were also deported ("Mart. Pal.", XIII, ii) by Daza to Lebanon for penal servitude. One martyrdom makes it plain that there were Christians at Byblus. At Choda (Kabun), north of Damascus, there were also numerous Jewish Christians in the days of Eusebius.

We have no information in detail upon the diffusion and density of the Christian population throughout Phœnicia. Rather general and satisfactory information is available for Syria, a province with which Phœnicia was at that time very closely bound up; even the Phœnicia tongue had long been dislodged by Syriac. From the letters of Chysostum and the state of matters which still obtained in the second half of the sixth century, however, it is quite clear that Christianity got a firm footing only on the seaboard, while the inland districts of Phœnicia remained pagan for the most part. Yet it was but recently, not earlier than the third century, that these Phœnician-Hellenic cults had experienced a powerful revival. The situation is quite clear: wherever Christianity went, it implied Hellenizing, and vice versa. Christianity, in the first instance, only secured a firm footing where there were Greeks. The majority of the Phœnicia towns where Christian bishops can be traced lay on the coast; i.e., there were towns with a strong Greek population. In the large pagan cities, Emesa and Heliopolis, Christians were not tolerated. Once we leave out inland locations where " heretics ", viz., Marcionites and Jewish Christians resided, the only place in the interior where Christians can be found are Damascus, Paneas, and Palmyra. Damascus, the great trading city, was Greek (cf. Mommsen, "Rom. Gesch.", V., p. 473; Eng. Trans, II, 146); so was Paneas. In Palmyra, the headquarters of the desert trade, a strong Greek element also existed (Mommsen, p. 425 sq.; Eng. Trans, II, 96 sq.). The national royal house at Palmyra, with its Greek infusion, was well-disposed not towards the Greek but towards the scanty indigenous Christians of Syria, as may be inferred from the relations between Paul of Samosata and Zenobia, no less than from the policy adopted by Rome against him.

The Edict of Milan (A. D. 313) marks the beginning of a better-known period in the history of Syrian Christianity, during which the See of Antioch was filled by a succession of bishops illustrious throughout the church, and the Church in Syria was involved in the most troublesome period of church history and theology, which marks the beginning of those fatal schisms, heresies, and Christological controversies which led to the final separation of the Syrian Church and the Churches of the East from the Church of Rome (see ARIANISM ; NESTORIANISM; MONOPHYSITISM). The death of Severus (542), the deposed Monophysite Patriarch of Antioch, may be taken to mark the beginning of a new period in the history of the Syrian Church ; for from this date the double succession in the See of Antioch has been maintained to the present day. The death of Emperor Maurice (A. D. 602), and the succession of his murderer, Phocas, gave the signal for the Persians to ravage the Roman dominions. Hitherto Mesopotamia had been the arena of war between the rival powers, and Dara, Amida, and Nisibis the keys of possession. But Heraclius came to the throne in 602 to find all Syria in the hands of Chosroes. First Damascus, then the holy city itself fell before the Persian general Shahrbarz (614), and the Patriarch Zecharius was carried off with the True Cross itself, to grace the infidel's triumph. Never since Constantinople was built had there been such a disaster; and at Chalcedon itself, almost opposite the very walls of the capital, the Persians were encamped, stretching out their hands to the Slavs and the Avars, who threatened the city on the north side of the isthmus, and inviting them to join in its destruction. An insulting and blasphemous letter from the Persian king aroused the emperor and all Christendom ; while from Constantinople to Arabia the Church poured forth her treasures of plate and money to help in the crusade. Constantinople was fortified, and with a gigantic effort, worthy of the great conquerors of the world's history, Heraclius drove back the Persians, cutting them off in Celicia, and forcing them finally to make an abject appeal for mercy in the very royal palace of Dastagerd itself. Chosroes had been already murdered by his son, who submitted to Heraclius (A. D. 628). The emperor returned, leaving the East in peace, to restore the cross to its place in Jerusalem.

Meanwhile in an obscure corner of the empire Mohammed had been born, and in this very year sent round a letter demanding for a new creed the submission of the kings of the earth. "The year of flight" (622) had passed, and Mohammed was at the head of a devoted band of followers ready to conquer Arabia and perhaps the world. It was an epoch of the world's history, and twice the patriarchs of Jerusalem saw the abomination of desolation standing in the holy place, and thought the end of all things at hand. Ten years after Sharzbarz (637), when the glories of Heraclius paled before the storm of Arab conquest, Sophronius the Patriarch and Omar the Arab stood side by side at the altar of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. East of the Mediterranean the Roman Empire had given way forever, and the Arab arms now ruled the Churches which the councils of two centuries before had cut off from the orthodox communion. For the future it was not the Melchite or Imperialist to whom the Eastern Churches were to acknowledge an unwilling homage, but the sword of Islam. Byzantine history now affected them little, for the successors of Heraclius had enough to do to keep the Saracen fleets away from the capital. The famous Iconoclastic controversy begun by Leo the Isaurian, was continued for nearly a hundred years (720-802) by his successors. How little the second great controversy of the times affected the Syrians may be judged by their own language in regard to the "Procession of the Holy Ghost." The words inserted in the Creed by the Western Church were the occasion of the rupture, for which the rival claims of Gregory of Rome and John Scholasticus of Constantinople had paved the way; and the ninth century witnessed the unseemly recriminations and the final break between the two great communions.

In the seventh century the Syrian Christians fade from the general history of the Church. The Arabs were inclined to favour them as rivals of the Greeks and early in the eighth century Wâlid secured the entry of their patriarch into Antioch, whence they had been driven by the Greeks since the death of Jacobus Baradæus. But he remained there only a short time, nor where his people free from the persecutions which Abdelmalik and Yazid ordered against the Christians ; while in 771 the Khalif Abdullah took a census throughout Syria and Mesopotamia, ordering all Jews and Christians, especially at Jerusalem, to be branded on the neck and forehead. A short-lived union between the Syrians and the Armenians (726) was followed by persecution at the hands of the Greeks (750), who took away many Syrians and Armenian slaves from Mesopotamia to the West. Two centuries later, Nicephorus Phocas, anxious to unite Christendom against the Arabs, caused John Sarighta, the Patriarch of the Syrians, to be brought to Constantinople, there to discuss with Polyeuctus, patriarch of that city, the differences that divided them. In the letter written by John to Mennas of Alexandria we perceive how much the controversy had become a mere matter of verbal expression, and how the Syrians clung to the words which Greek tyranny had made the badge of a rival party. The imprisonment of John, added to other acts of tyranny, confirmed their hatred of the Greeks, and made them prefer even the domination of the Moslem. From the eighth and ninth century down to our own times the history of Christianity in Syria is the history of Nestorianism and of the Nestorian Church, of Eutychianism and the Monophysite or Jacobite Syrian Church, of the Monophysite Armenian Church of Syria, of the Greek Schism, and of the Byzantine, Russian, and Greek, or the so-called Orthodox Eastern Church ; the Schismatic and Melchite (Catholic) Greek Patriarchates of Antioch, the Latin Patriarchate of Antioch, and the Maronite Church, for all which see respective articles.


The Christians of modern Syria, schismatic as well as Catholic, are divided into the following sects and churches :

Greek Orthodox, i. e., the Syrian Greek Schismatic Church

The Greek Orthodox of Syria are under the jurisdiction of the Patriarch of the Greek Orthodox of Antioch, whose residence is at Damascus and who has under his jurisdiction two suffragan or auxiliary bishops attached to him personally, and 13 eparchies, or archdioceses, 50,000 families, or about 250,000 subjects, most of whom dwell in Syria proper. Of these thirteen eparchies, eleven are in Syria, one in Northern Mesopotamia, one in Armenia and Asia Minor. The Greek Orthodox of Syria have 5 schools with 810 pupils in Beirut ; 24 in Damascus and surrounding villages, with 2215 pupils and 60 teachers; and 12 in northern Syria with 2400 pupils and 65 teachers. The liturgy of the Syrian Greek Orthodox is that of the Greek Church, and the liturgical language, Greek with a great deal of Arabic, which is the vernacular of all the Christians of Syria.

Greek Melchites, i.e. The Roman Catholic Syrians of the Greek Rite

These are under the jurisdiction of the Greek-Melchite Patriarch of Antioch, whose residence is at Damascus, and who has under his patriarchal jurisdiction 4 archdioceses, 8 dioceses, 2 patriarchal vicariates (at Jerusalem and Alexandria ), with a total of about 125,000 thousand souls, divided as follows: (1) Archdiocese of Aleppo, 6 churches and chapels, 10,000 souls, 86 colleges superintended by Franciscan, Capuchin, and Jesuit missionaries; (2) Archdiocese of Bostra and Hauran with 12,000 souls, 4 churches and 8 chapels, 15 priests and 4 schools ; (3) Archdiocese of Homs and Hamah, with 8000 souls, 20 churches and chapels, 20 priests and 18 schools, residence at Homs; (4) Archdiocese of Tyre, with 6200 souls, 11 churches and chapels, 20 priests, of which 15 are Basilian monks, and 13 schools, residence at Sur (Tyre); (5) Diocese

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