The History of Damascus
Its first appearance in history, is as a city conquered in the
15th century BC by the Pharaoh Thutmosis III. According to the Old
Testament, it was once the capital of the Aramean Kingdom in the
11th Century BC. In the 10th Century BC, it started being attacked
and it was in battle with several other kingdoms including the
Hebrews and Assyrians. Finally, in 732 BC, it was taken over by
Tiglath Pileser II ordered by the King of Judea, Achaz. Some years
after the fall of the Assyrian capital, Nineveh, the Kingdom of Damascus
was destroyed by Babylon.
Damascus was conquered in 333 BC by Parmenion, one of Alexander's
lieutenants, who took it from the Persians. It later fell to the
Seleucids who fell into dispute with a branch of the empire of the
Macedonian conqueror, the Lagides, who ruled Egypt. In 66 BC it was
occupied by Pompey and belonged to the province of Syria.
It was on the way to Damascus,
that St. Paul, who was sent to put down the Christians, had the
revelation of faith. He was directed by Jesus (in the vision of
light) to the house of Judas. There he met Ananias and together they
preached for Christ.
Byzantium and the Persians
Under the Byzantine Empire, .Damascus was an important base for
watching over the Syrian Desert, But it was fatally looted by
the Sassanid Persians. Damascus
was later besieged by the Muslim faith fighters in 635, and was
retaken by Khaled Ibn al Waleed in 636. This meant a radical change
of civilization for this city as it swung from Byzantium and
Christianity to the Orient and the Semitic world.
Damascus's most glorious time was in the first decades of Islam,
when it became the capital of an empire spreading from the Atlantic
coast to central Asia, the Umayyad Empire. This golden age ended
with the Abbassids who moved the Capital to Baghdad. From then on,
it fell under the power of various Muslim sects and sovereigns, the
most important of which was the Egyptian Fatimids. It later went
through another rich period, when Saladin took it from the Fatimids
and started the Ayyubid Dynasty. At the time it was battling against
the Franks (the Crusaders). Numerous monuments built by Nur al Din
and Saladin are still the pride of Damascus.
Mamelukes and Ottomans
In 1260 it was taken over by the Mamelukes of Egypt who pushed the
Mongols back. In 1516, the Ottomans from Turkey (Anatolia), took
over from the Mamelukes and kept control until World War I. After
World War I, a very exhausted Damascus
was liberated in 1918, by an Arab contingent under the command of
the British Army of General Allenby. The Syrian National Congress
was formed in 1919 under the patronage of Emir Faisal who came from
Hedjaz. He was named King of Syria in 1920, and one month later was
taken over by the French in the name of the League of Nations.
After resistance and a few uprisings, Syria was proclaimed
Independent by the French general, Catroux, on September 16th 1941.
This however was not taken into effect until 1946 and since then has
been considerably developed and industrialized while its political
role was strengthened thanks to an increased centralization.