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Hamatha

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(AMATHA).

A titular see of Syria Secunda, suffragan of Apamea. Hamath was the capital of a Canaanite kingdom ( 2 Kings 23:33 ; 24:21 ) whose king, Thou, congratulated David on his victory over the king of Soba ( 2 Samuel 8:9-11 ; 1 Chronicles 13:9-11 ). Solomon, it would seem took possession of Hamath and its territory ( 1 Kings 4:21-24 ; 2 Chronicles 8:4 ). Amos (vi, 2) calls the town "Hamath the Great". The Assyrians took possession of it in the seventh century B.C. At the time of the Macedonian conquest it was given the name Epiphania, no doubt in honour of Antiochus Epiphanes. Aquila and Theodoretus call it Emath-Epiphania. It is as Epiphania that it is best known in ecclesiastical documents. Lequien (Oriens Christianus, II, 915-918) mentions nine Greek bishops of Epiphania. The first of them, whom he calls Mauritius, is the Manikeios whose signature appears in the Council of Nicaea (Gelzer, "Patrum Nicaenorum Nomina", p. lxi). Conquered by the Arabs in 639, the town regained its ancient name, and has since retained it, under the form Hamah, meaning a fortress.

Tancred took it in 1108, but in 1115 the Franks lost it definitively. The Arab geographer, Yakout (1148-1229), was born there. The modern Hamah is a town of 45,000 inhabitants, prettily situated on the Orontes. It is the residence of a Mutessarif, depending on Damascus. The main portion of the population is Mussulman ; but there are about 10,000 Christians of various rites. It has two Catholic archbishops, a Greek Melchite and a Syrian, the one residing at labroud, the other at Homs, reuniting the titles of Homs (Emesus) and Hamah (Missiones Catholicae, 781-804) The Orthodox Greeks have a bishop of their own for either see. The modern town is without interest, the main curiosity of the place being the norias used for watering the gardens.

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