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  • Jade in Ancient China › Origins
  • Ancient Rome › Origins
  • Ancient Syria › Origins

Ancient civilizations › Historical places, and their characters

Jade in Ancient China › Origins

Ancient Civilizations

Author: Mark Cartwright

Jade (nephrite) was regarded as the most precious stone in ancient China, and it symbolised purity and moral integrity. Prized for its durability and magical qualities, the stone was laboriously carved and polished into all manner of objects from jewellery to desk ornaments. Jade was especially used for ritual objects such as the bi disc and zong ( cong ) tubes, both of which are of unknown function.

MINING & WORKING

Jade, in the case of China, refers to the mineral nephrite, the hardest and rarest hard stone. There is another mineral with that name, jadeite, but this was unknown to the Chinese prior to the 18th century CE when it was imported from Burma. Nephrite comes in various shades of green and other colours depending on the percentage of iron content in the stone and other trace elements. The principal source was in the Xinjiang region but it is likely others sources, once exhausted, have disappeared from the historical record. The Khotan region of Central Asia is another known source of the stone in antiquity. Jade was first used from c. 6000 BCE and green long remained the preferred colour, but during the 5th and 4th century BCE there was a fashion for white jade with a brown tinge and again in the 1st century BCE when a pure white jade became available from central Asia following expansion under the Han Dynasty (206 BCE - 220 CE).
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Chinese Jade Dragon

Excavated from mountains and picked up in riverbeds - and so known as 'the essence of heaven and earth', the stones could not be cut by a metal knife, and so they were shaped using a cord and sand acting as an abrasive before being more precisely carved using a drill and then polished. Jade is a hard stone and working it with primitive tools would have required a great deal of time and effort, which, of course, only added to its value. Early pieces have engraved linear designs, but over the centuries a more sophisticated appearance was achieved by carving the jade so that the object had many contours, niches, and points which were highly polished.
IT WAS REGARDED AS VIRTUOUS FOR GENTLEMEN TO ADORN THEIR HOUSES, & ESPECIALLY THEIR WRITING DESKS, WITH OBJECTS CARVED FROM JADE.

ASSOCIATIONS & SIGNIFICANCE

The ancient Chinese considered jade the most precious and most beautiful natural material. It was carved as early as the Neolithic period (c. 3500-2000 BCE) when it was used to make sacrificial and ritual objects, especially in the Hongshan and Liangzhu cultures. However, it was the aesthetic quality of jade and an increasing association with moral ideas of purity and goodness ascribed to it by Confucian thought that ensured the precious stone would continue for centuries as the most desired decorative material. No doubt due to its high value, it also became associated with the aristocracy and it was regarded as virtuous for gentlemen to adorn their houses, and especially their writing desks, with aesthetically pleasing yet functional objects carved from jade. Another strength of jade was the belief that, as it was considered indestructible, it imparted some sort of immortality on its owner, and for this reason, jade objects were frequently buried with the dead.
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Chinese Jade mask

The 2nd-century CE Chinese dictionary Shuo-wen chieh-tzu gives the following definition of jade and its believed attributes:
Jade is the fairest of stones. It is endowed with five virtues. Charity is typified by its lustre, bright yet warm;rectitude by its translucency, revealing the colour and markings within; wisdom by the purity and penetrating quality of its note, when the stone is struck; courage, in that it may be broken but cannot be bent; equity, in that it has sharp angles which yet injure none. (Dawson, 229)
Jade was so highly valued that it was influential in other areas. Ceramics of the 8th century BCE frequently copied the green hues of jade, as did later celadon wares. Even in religion and mythology jade made its impact, with one of the major Chinese gods, the Jade Emperor, being named after the precious stone.

JADE OBJECTS

Large rectangular tablets were carved in the Neolithic period, many of which replicate forms of tools and weapons. Found in tombs, their function is unknown. Another common object is the ceremonial axe which copies other stone versions but made from impractically thin jade cut into a rectangular shape with a single hole.
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Chinese Cong

Another early use of jade, during the Shang Dynasty (1766-1111 BCE), was to make chimes as the resonance of the stone was highly esteemed. In the same period, seals for the orifices of the body in burials were made from the stone. Surfaces of jade pieces were carved much like contemporary bronze work with linear designs such as abstract meanders, spirals, and hooks. A typical object made in the stone was the ritual cups of unknown purpose known as zong (aka cong ). These have a circular tube-form inside a square, are sometimes decorated with notches and small circles, and can be up to 30 cm high and 15 cm across.
Another common jade ritual object, again of uncertain function, is the bi, a disc with a central hole cut out and sometimes with the outer edge decorated with notches, which was produced during the Shang and Zhou Dynasty (1111-221 BCE). Bi are often found placed on the waist or chest of the deceased. Also common to this period are jade bracelets, miniature human, monster, and bull masks, halberd blades, and miniature tools such as sickles, knives, combs, and scoops which frequently have holes made in them, presumably for suspension from a waist belt as indicated by the position of their discovery on the deceased in tombs. Finally, there are decorative plaques which are often crescent shaped and known as huang. They may sometimes be carved to represent stylised birds and dragons or snakes but maintain their overall crescent form.
By the 8th century BCE the skill and range of the jade carver are greater and wider, illustrating the sculptor is freer and more confident in pursuing his ideas. Animal figurines were popular and were represented in the round or as flat plaques showing owls, falcons, swallows, geese, ducks, parrots, cormorants, fish, tigers, elephants, deer, hares, cicadas, monkeys, buffalo, dogs, tortoise, horses, and bears. Decorative plaques for personal adornment, combs, hairpins, and tiger-tooth pendants were also produced.
By the 5th century BCE there are many more secular objects carved from jade and evidence that new and better drills were being employed. Dragon plaques with the creature forming a loose S-shape, protruding dragon decorations, regular pitted decoration of bi, and double-tiger head motifs are now common features. Green, brown, and white jade are all used and there is even one bi example in purple-blue nephrite.
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Chinese Jade Cormorant

By the beginning of the Han Period (206 BCE) some pieces begin to show signs of a circular cutting drill and iron tools but with a lower quality finish than previously, which suggests pieces were starting to be made quicker and on a larger scale of production. Another feature of Han jade sculpture is the use of flaws and impurities in the jade to make them part of the sculpture.
Jade is now used for ornaments, jewellery, figurines of humans, miniature landscape sculptures, chopsticks, sheaths to protect long fingernails, writing desk paraphernalia (ink stones, brush pots, and brush rests), belt buckles and even small items of furniture. A 113 BCE tomb at Mancheng (south of Beijing) is especially interesting as it contained a royal couple wearing jade 'suits' - complete body coverings made from over 1,000 small squares of jade, joined with silver and gold wiring.
Jade, besides being used as a precious material in its own right and without any additions, was frequently used as an inlay in other precious goods such as gilded bronze or pure gold jewellery, cups, and bowls.
Jade faced increasing competition for the attention of art lovers and aesthetes from developing crafts such as painting, ceramics, and lacquer work but the stone continued to hold its allure thanks to its mystical associations. The largest ever jade sculpture, Yu the Great Taming the Waters, is a massive depiction of a Qing landscape carved in 1787 CE by a team of sculptors who took over seven years to complete and it illustrates jade's continued hold on the Chinese imagination which remains firm even today.

Ancient Rome › Origins

Definition and Origins

Author: Joshua J. Mark

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According to legend, Ancient Rome was founded by the two brothers, and demi-gods, Romulus and Remus, on 21 April 753 BCE. The legend claims that, in an argument over who would rule the city (or, in another version, where the city would be located) Romulus killed Remus and named the city after himself. This story of the founding of Rome is the best known but it is not the only one.
Other legends claim the city was named after a woman, Roma, who traveled with Aeneas and the other survivors from Troyafter that city fell. Upon landing on the banks of the Tiber River, Roma and the other women objected when the men wanted to move on. She led the women in the burning of the Trojan ships and so effectively stranded the Trojan survivors at the site which would eventually become Rome. Aeneas of Troy is featured in this legend and also, famously, in Virgil 's Aeneid, as a founder of Rome and the ancestor of Romulus and Remus, thus linking Rome with the grandeur and might which was once Troy.
Still other theories concerning the name of the famous city suggest it came from Rumon, the ancient name for the Tiber River, and was simply a place-name given to the small trading centre established on its banks or that the name derived from an Etruscan word which could have designated one of their settlements.

EARLY ROME

Originally a small town on the banks of the Tiber, Rome grew in size and strength, early on, through trade. The location of the city provided merchants with an easily navigable waterway on which to traffic their goods. The city was ruled by seven kings, from Romulus to Tarquin, as it grew in size and power. Greek culture and civilization, which came to Rome via Greek colonies to the south, provided the early Romans with a model on which to build their own culture. From the Greeks they borrowed literacy and religion as well as the fundamentals of architecture.
The Etruscans, to the north, provided a model for trade and urban luxury. Etruria was also well situated for trade and the early Romans either learned the skills of trade from Etruscan example or were taught directly by the Etruscans who made incursions into the area around Rome sometime between 650 and 600 BCE (although their influence was felt much earlier).The extent of the role the Etruscans played in the development of Roman culture and society is debated but there seems little doubt they had a significant impact at an early stage.
From the start, the Romans showed a talent for borrowing and improving upon the skills and concepts of other cultures. The Kingdom of Rome grew rapidly from a trading town to a prosperous city between the 8th and 6th centuries BCE. When the last of the seven kings of Rome, Tarquin the Proud, was deposed in 509 BCE, his rival for power, Lucius Junius Brutus, reformed the system of government and established the Roman Republic.
IT WAS WAR WHICH WOULD MAKE ROME A POWERFUL FORCE IN THE ANCIENT WORLD.

WAR & EXPANSION

Though Rome owed its prosperity to trade in the early years, it was war which would make the city a powerful force in the ancient world. The wars with the North African city of Carthage (known as the Punic Wars, 264-146 BCE) consolidated Rome's power and helped the city grow in wealth and prestige. Rome and Carthage were rivals in trade in the Western Mediterranean and, with Carthage defeated, Rome held almost absolute dominance over the region; though there were still incursions by pirates which prevented complete Roman control of the sea.
As the Republic of Rome grew in power and prestige, the city of Rome began to suffer from the effects of corruption, greed and the over-reliance on foreign slave labor. Gangs of unemployed Romans, put out of work by the influx of slaves brought in through territorial conquests, hired themselves out as thugs to do the bidding of whatever wealthy Senator would pay them.The wealthy elite of the city, the Patricians, became ever richer at the expense of the working lower class, the Plebeians.
In the 2nd century BCE, the Gracchi brothers, Tiberius and Gaius, two Roman tribunes, led a movement for land reform and political reform in general. Though the brothers were both killed in this cause, their efforts did spur legislative reforms and the rampant corruption of the Senate was curtailed (or, at least, the Senators became more discreet in their corrupt activities). By the time of the First Triumvirate, both the city and the Republic of Rome were in full flourish.
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The Lost Gods: The Romans (Planet Knowledge)

THE REPUBLIC

Even so, Rome found itself divided across class lines. The ruling class called themselves Optimates (the best men) while the lower classes, or those who sympathized with them, were known as the Populares (the people). These names were applied simply to those who held a certain political ideology; they were not strict political parties nor were all of the ruling class Optimates nor all of the lower classes Populares.
In general, the Optimates held with traditional political and social values which favored the power of the Senate of Rome and the prestige and superiority of the ruling class. The Populares, again generally speaking, favored reform and democratization of the Roman Republic. These opposing ideologies would famously clash in the form of three men who would, unwittingly, bring about the end of the Roman Republic.
Marcus Licinius Crassus and his political rival, Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus ( Pompey the Great ) joined with another, younger, politician, Gaius Julius Caesar, to form what modern historians call the First Triumvirate of Rome (though the Romans of the time never used that term, nor did the three men who comprised the triumvirate). Crassus and Pompey both held the Optimate political line while Caesar was a Populare.
The three men were equally ambitious and, vying for power, were able to keep each other in check while helping to make Rome prosper. Crassus was the richest man in Rome and was corrupt to the point of forcing wealthy citizens to pay him `safety' money. If the citizen paid, Crassus would not burn down that person's house but, if no money was forthcoming, the fire would be lighted and Crassus would then charge a fee to send men to put the fire out. Although the motive behind the origin of these fire brigades was far from noble, Crassus did effectively create the first fire department which would, later, prove of great value to the city.
Both Pompey and Caesar were great generals who, through their respective conquests, made Rome wealthy. Though the richest man in Rome (and, it has been argued, the richest in all of Roman history) Crassus longed for the same respect people accorded Pompey and Caesar for their military successes. In 53 BCE he lead a sizeable force against the Parthians at Carrhae, in modern day Turkey, where he was killed when truce negotiations broke down.
With Crassus gone, the First Triumvirate disintegrated and Pompey and Caesar declared war on each other. Pompey tried to eliminate his rival through legal means and had the Senate order Caesar to Rome to stand trial on assorted charges. Instead of returning to the city in humility to face these charges, Caesar crossed the Rubicon River with his army in 49 BCE and entered Rome at the head of it.
He refused to answer the charges and directed his focus toward eliminating Pompey as a rival. Pompey and Caesar met in battle at Pharsalus in Greece in 48 BCE where Caesar's numerically inferior force defeated Pompey's greater one. Pompey himself fled to Egypt, expecting to find sanctuary there, but was assassinated upon his arrival. News of Caesar's great victory against overwhelming numbers at Pharsalus had spread quickly and many former friends and allies of Pompey swiftly sided with Caesar, believing he was favored by the gods.
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Bronze Head of Augustus

TOWARDS EMPIRE

Julius Caesar was now the most powerful man in Rome. He effectively ended the period of the Republic by having the Senate proclaim him dictator. His popularity among the people was enormous and his efforts to create a strong and stable central government meant increased prosperity for the city of Rome. He was assassinated by a group of Roman Senators in 44 BCE, however, precisely because of these achievements.
The conspirators, Brutus and Cassius among them, seemed to fear that Caesar was becoming too powerful and that he might eventually abolish the Senate. Following his death, his right-hand man, and cousin, Marcus Antonius ( Mark Antony ) joined forces with Caesar's nephew and heir, Gaius Octavius Thurinus ( Octavian ) and Caesar's friend, Marcus Aemilius Lepidus, to defeat the forces of Brutus and Cassius at the Battle of Phillippi in 42 BCE.
Octavian, Antony and Lepidus formed the Second Triumvirate of Rome but, as with the first, these men were also equally ambitious. Lepidus was effectively neutralized when Antony and Octavian agreed that he should have Hispania and Africa to rule over and thereby kept him from any power play in Rome. It was agreed that Octavian would rule Roman lands in the west and Antony in the east.
Antony's involvement with the Egyptian queen Cleopatra VII, however, upset the balance Octavian had hoped to maintain and the two went to war. Antony and Cleopatra 's combined forces were defeated at the Battle of Actium in 31 BCE and both later took their own lives. Octavian emerged as the sole power in Rome. In 27 BCE he was granted extraordinary powers by the Senate and took the name of Augustus, the first Emperor of Rome. Historians are in agreement that this is the point at which the history of Rome ends and the history of the Roman Empire begins.

Ancient Syria › Origins

Definition and Origins

Author: Joshua J. Mark

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Syria is a country located in the Middle East on the shore of Mediterranean Sea and bordered, from the north down to the west, by Turkey, Iraq, Jordan, Israel, and Lebanon. It is one of the oldest inhabited regions in the world with archaeological finds dating the first human habitation at c. 700,000 years ago. The Dederiyeh Cave near Aleppo has produced a number of significant finds, such as bones, placing Neanderthals in the region at that time and shows continual occupation of the site over a substantial period. The first evidence of modern humans appears c. 100,000 years ago as evidenced by finds of human skeletons, ceramics, and crude tools. There seem to have been mass migrations throughout the region that impacted the various communities but, as there is no written record of the period, it is unknown why they happened if they did occur. These migrations are suggested by archaeological finds throughout the region showing significant changes in the manufacture of ceramics and tools found at various sites. These developments, however, could be just as easily explained by cultural exchange between tribes in a region or simply similar developments in the manufacturing process rather than large-scale migration. The historian Soden notes that, “Scholars have sought to deduce especially important developments, for example, folk migrations, from cultural changes which can be read in archaeological remains, particularly in ceramic materials…Yet there can be frequent and substantial changes in the ceramic style, even if no other people has come onto the scene” (13). It is thought that climate change in the area c. 15,000 years ago may have influenced humans to abandon the hunter-gatherer lifestyle and initiate an agricultural one or that migrating tribes introduced agriculture to different regions. Soden writes, “We term 'prehistoric' those epochs in which nothing had yet been written down, without thereby assuming that events of great significance had not yet taken place” (13). The significance of the mass migration theory is that it explains how agriculture became so widespread in the region when it did but, again, this theory is far from proven. It is clear, however, that an agrarian civilization was already thriving in the region prior to the domestication of animals c. 10,000 BCE.
SYRIA WAS AN IMPORTANT TRADE REGION WITH PORTS ON THE MEDITERRANEAN, PRIZED BY A SUCCESSION OF MESOPOTAMIAN EMPIRES.

THE NAME & EARLY HISTORY

In its early written history, the region was known as Eber Nari ('across the river') by the Mesopotamians and included modern-day Syria, Lebanon, and Israel (collectively known as The Levant ). Eber Nari is referenced in the biblical books of Ezra and Nehemiah as well as in reports by the scribes of Assyrian and Persian kings. The modern name of Syria is claimed by some scholars to have derived from Herodotus ' habit of referring to the whole of Mesopotamia as ' Assyria ' and, after the Assyrian Empire fell in 612 BCE, the western part continued to be called 'Assyria' until after the Seleucid Empire when it became known as 'Syria'. This theory has been contested by the claim that the name comes from Hebrew, and the people of the land were referred to as 'Siryons' by the Hebrews because of their soldiers' metal armor ('Siryon' meaning armor, specifically chain mail, in Hebrew). There is also the theory that `Syria' derives from the Siddonian name for Mount Hermon - `Siryon' – which separated the regions of northern Eber Nari and southern Phoenicia (modern Lebanon, which Sidon was a part of), and it has also been suggested that the name comes from the Sumerian, `Saria' which was their name for Mount Hermon. As the designations `Siryon' and `Saria' would not have been known to Herodotus, and as his Histories had such an enormous impact on later writers in antiquity, it is most likely that the modern name `Syria' derives from `Assyria' (which comes from the Akkadian ` Ashur ' and designated the Assyrian's chief deity) and not from the Hebrew, Siddonian, or Sumerian words.
Early settlements in the area, such as Tell Brak, date back to at least 6000 BCE. It has long been understood that civilization began in southern Mesopotamia in the region of Sumer and then spread north. Excavations at Tell Brak, however, have challenged this view, and scholars are divided as to whether civilization actually began in the north or if there could have been simultaneous developments in both areas of Mesopotamia. The claim that, in the words of the scholar Samuel Noah Kramer, “history begins at Sumer” is still most widely accepted, however, owing to the certainty of the presence of the so-called Ubaid people in southern Mesopotamia prior to the rise of communities in the north such as Tell Brak. This debate will continue until more conclusive evidence of earlier development in the north is unearthed and, presently, both sides in the argument offer what seems to be conclusive proof for their respective claims. Until the discovery of Tell Brak (first excavated by Max Mallowan in 1937/1938 CE), there was no doubt regarding the origins of civilization in Mesopotamia, and it is certainly possible that future finds in the modern countries which were once Mesopotamia will help decide this point, although evidence for civilization beginning in Sumer seems far more conclusive at this point.
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Panorama of Palmyra

The two most important cities in ancient Syria were Mari and Ebla, both founded after the cities of Sumer (Mari in the 5th and Ebla in the 3rd millennium BCE) and both of which used Sumerian script, worshipped Sumerian deities, and dressed in Sumerian fashion. Both of these urban centers were repositories of vast cuneiform tablet collections, written in Akkadian and Sumerian, which recorded the history, daily life, and business transactions of the people and included personal letters. When Ebla was excavated in 1974 CE the palace was found to have been burned and, as with Ashurbanipal ’s famous library at Nineveh, the fire baked the clay tablets and preserved them. At Mari, following its destruction by Hammurabi of Babylon in 1759 BCE, the tablets were buried under the rubble and remained intact until their discovery in 1930 CE. Together, the tablets of Mari and Ebla provided archaeologists with a relatively complete understanding of life in Mesopotamia in the 3rd millennium BCE.

SYRIA & THE EMPIRES OF MESOPOTAMIA

Both cities were founded c. 4000-3000 BCE and were important centers of trade and culture by 2500 BCE. Sargon the Great(2334-2279 BCE) conquered the region and absorbed it into his Akkadian Empire. Whether Sargon, his grandson Naram-Sin, or the Ebalites themselves first destroyed the cities during the Akkadian conquest is a matter of debate which has continued for some decades now but both cities sustained significant damage during the time of the empire of Akkad and rose again under the control of the Amorites after the Akkadian Empire had fallen in the second millennium BCE. It was at this time that Syria came to be known as the Land of Amurru (Amorites). The Amorites would continue to call the land their own and to make incursions into the rest of Mesopotamia throughout its history but the region of Syria would also continually be wrested from their control. Since it was recognized as an important trade region with ports on the Mediterranean, it was prized by a succession of Mesopotamian empires. The Hurrian Kingdom of Mittani (c. 1475-1275 BCE) first seized the area and built (or re-built) the city of Washukanni as their capital. They were conquered by the Hittites under the reign of the Hittite king Suppiluliuma I (1344-1322 BCE) who placed Hittite rulers on the Mitanni throne.
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Map of Mesopotamia, 2000-1600 BC

Egypt had long had trade relations with Syria (archaeological finds at Ebla substantiate trade with Egypt as early as 3000 BCE) and fought a number of battles with the Hittites for control of the region and access to trade routes and ports.Suppiluliuma I had taken Syria before the conquest of the Mitanni and, from his bases there, made incursions down the coast throughout the Levant, threatening Egypt's borders. As the Hittite and Egyptian forces were equal in strength, neither could gain the upper hand until Suppiluliuma I and his successor Mursilli II died, and the kings who came after them could not maintain the same level of control. The famous Battle of Kadesh in 1274 BCE, between the Egyptians and the Hittites over the trade center of Kadesh in Syria, was a draw. Although both sides claimed victory, neither obtained their objective, and this was most likely noted by the other power growing in the region: the Assyrians. The Assyrian king Adad Nirari I (1307-1275 BCE) had already driven the Hittites from the region formerly held by the Mitanni and his successor, Tikulti- Ninurta I (1244-1208 BCE) decisively defeated the Hittite forces at the Battle of Nihriya in c. 1245 BCE. The Amorites then tried to assert control after the fall of the Hittites and gained and lost ground to the Assyrians over the next few centuries until the Middle Assyrian Empire rose to power, conquered the region, and stabilized it. This political stability was upset by the invasions of the Sea Peoples c. 1200 BCE, and Mesopotamian regions changed hands with different invading forces (such as the Elamiteconquest of Ur in 1750 BCE which ended the Sumerian culture). This instability in the region continued until the Assyrians gained supremacy with the rise of the Neo-Assyrian Empire under King Adad Nirari II (912-891 BCE). The Assyrians expanded their empire across the region, down through the Levant and, ultimately, controlled Egypt itself.
After the fall of the Assyrian Empire in 612 BCE, Babylon assumed control of the region and exerted control north and south of their city, conquering Syria and destroying Mari. The historian Paul Kriwaczek writes how, after Babylon's conquest of Assyria, “the western half of Assyria's domain was still called the province of Assyria – later, having lost its initial vowel, Syria. The Persian Empire retained the same name, as did Alexander ’s empire and its successor the Seleucid state, as well as the Roman Empire which was its inheritor” (207). At this time the Aramaeans were the majority in Syria and their alphabet, which had been adopted by the Assyrian king Tiglath Pileser III to replace Akkadian in the empire, provided the written history of the region. The Phoenicians, before this time, had occupied the coastal regions of Syria and their alphabet, which had merged with that of the Aramaeans (along with loan words from Akkadian), became the script inherited by the Greeks.

The Flood Tablet, relating part of the Epic of Gilgamesh

SYRIA & THE BIBLE

Babylon held the region from 605-549 BCE until the Persian conquest and the rise of the Achaemenid Empire (549-330 BCE). Alexander the Great conquered Syria in 332 BCE and, after his death in 323 BCE, the Seleucid Empire ruled the region. The Parthians reigned until, weakened by repeated attacks by the Scythians, their empire fell. Tigranes the Great (140-55 BCE) of the Kingdom of Armenia in Anatolia was welcomed by the people of Syria as a liberator in 83 BCE and held the land as part of his kingdom until Pompey the Great took Antioch in 64 BCE and annexed Syria as a Roman province. It was completely conquered by the Roman Empire in 115/116 CE. The Amorites, Aramaeans, and Assyrians made up most of the population at this time and had a significant impact on the religious and historical traditions of the Near East. The historian Kriwaczek, citing the work of the Assyriologist Professor Henry Saggs, writes:
Descendants of the Assyrian peasants would, as opportunity permitted, build new villages over the old cities and carried on with agricultural life, remembering traditions of the former cities. After seven or eight centuries and after various vicissitudes, these people became Christians. These Christians, and the Jewish communities scattered amongst them, not only kept alive the memory of their Assyrian predecessors but also combined them with traditions from the Bible. The Bible, indeed, came to be a powerful factor in keeping alive the memory of Assyria (207-208).
The historian Bertrand Lafont, among others, has noted the “parallels that are sometimes evident between the content of the tablets at Mari and biblical sources” (Bottero, 140).Kriwaczek, Bottero, en veel oudere wetenschappers en historici sinds de 19e eeuw CE ontdekking van een groot deel van het oude Mesopotamië en de 20e eeuw vondst van de tabletten Ebla hebben herhaaldelijk geschreven over de directe invloed van de Mesopotamische geschiedenis op de bijbelse verhalen, zodat op dit punt, is er geen twijfel over bestaan dat de populaire verhalen zoals de val van de mens, Kaïn en Abel, de zondvloed, en vele andere verhalen uit de Bijbel is ontstaan in Mesopotamische mythen. Er is ook geen twijfel over bestaan dat het patroon van het monotheïsme, zoals weergegeven in de Bijbel eerder bestond in Mesopotamië door aanbidding van de god Ashur, en dat dit idee van een enkele, almachtige, godheid een van de redenen achter de claim (die is geweest zou zijn betwist) dat de Assyriërs waren de eerste om te accepteren het christendomen het opzetten van een christelijk koninkrijk: omdat ze vertrouwd raken met het idee van een alomtegenwoordig, transcendente god die zichzelf op aarde kon manifesteren in een andere vorm waren al. Kriwaczek maakt dit duidelijk in het schrijven :
Dat wil niet zeggen dat de Hebreeën geleend het idee van een enkele almachtige en alomtegenwoordige God van Assyrische voorgangers. Alleen dat hun nieuwe theologie was verre van een volkomen revolutionaire en ongekende religieuze beweging. De joods-christelijke-islamitische traditie die begon in het Heilige Land was niet een totale breuk met het verleden, maar groeide uit van religieuze ideeën die al greep had genomen van Laat Brons en Vroege IJzertijd noordelijk Mesopotamië, het wereldbeeld van het Assyrische rijk, die zijn geloof evenals zijn macht aan de overkant van West-Azië in de loop van de volgende eeuwen (231) zou verspreiden.
This heritage was held by the people of Syria who, it is claimed, could have influenced depictions of kings, battles, and events as recorded in the Old Testament and even the vision of the risen god as given in the New Testament. Saul of Tarsus, who would later become the apostle Paul and then Saint Paul, was a Roman citizen of Tarsus in Syria who claimed to have seen a vision of Jesus while en route to Damascus (also in Syria). The first major center of Christendom rose in Syria, at Antioch, and the first evangelical missions were launched from that city. Scholars such as Hyam Maccoby (and, earlier, Heinrich Graetz in his History of the Jews) have suggested that the apostle Paul synthesized Judaism and Mesopotamian – particularly Assyrian – mystery religions to create the religion which became known as Christianity. If one accepts these claims, then Panbabylonism (the historical viewpoint that the Bible is derived from Mesopotamian sources) owes its existence to the people of Syria, who would have helped to spread Mesopotamian culture.
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Citadel of Aleppo

ROME, THE BYZANTINE EMPIRE, & ISLAM

Syria was an important province of the Roman Republic and, later the Roman Empire. Both Julius Caesar and Pompey the Great favored the region and, after the rise of the empire, it was considered one of the most essential regions owing to its trade routes and ports on the Mediterranean Sea. In the First Jewish-Roman War of 66-73 CE, Syrian troops played a decisive role at the Battle of Beth Horon (66 CE), where they were ambushed by Judean rebel forces and slaughtered. The Syrian warriors were highly regarded by the Romans for their skill, bravery, and effectiveness in battle, and the loss of a legion convinced Rome of the need to send the full force of the Roman military against the rebels of Judea. The rebellion was brutally put down by Titus in 73 CE with tremendous loss of life. Syrian infantry were also involved in putting down the Bar-Kokhba Revolt in Judea (132-136 CE) after which the emperor Hadrian exiled the Jews from the region and re-named it Syria Palaestina after the traditional enemies of the Jewish people.
Three later emperors were Syrian by birth: Elagabalus (reigned 218-222 CE), Alexander Severus (reigned 222-235 CE), and Philip the Arab (244-249 CE). Emperor Julian (361-363 CE), the last non-Christian emperor of Rome, paid particular attention to Antioch as a Christian center and tried, unsuccessfully, to mollify religious strife between pagans and Christians in the region which he had, unwittingly, fostered. After the fall of the Western Roman Empire, Syria was part of the Eastern, or Byzantine, Empire and continued as an important center of trade and commerce. In the 7th century CE, Islam began to spread through the region through the Arab Conquests and, in 637 CE, the Muslims defeated the armies of the Byzantine Empire at the Battle of the Iron Bridge at the Orontes River in Syria. This proved to be the decisive battle between the Byzantines and the Muslims and, after the fall and capture of Antioch, Syria became absorbed into the Rashidun Caliphate.
The majority of the populace was at first relatively unaffected by the change in government from the Byzantines to the Muslims. The Muslim conquerors maintained a tolerance for other faiths and allowed the continued practice of Christianity. Non-Muslims were not allowed to serve in the Rashidun Army, however, and, as the army offered steady employment, a majority of the populace may have converted to Islam simply to procure jobs. This theory has been contested but there was a steady conversion of the majority of the population to Islam. The Islamic Empire spread rapidly throughout the region and Damascus was made the capital, resulting in unprecedented prosperity for the whole of Syria which, at that time, had been divided into four provinces for ease of governance. The Umayyad Dynasty was overthrown by another Muslim faction, the Abbasid, in 750 CE and the capital was at that time moved from Damascus to Baghdad which caused economic decline throughout the region. Arabic was proclaimed the official language of the region of Syria, and Aramaean and Griekse viel buiten gebruik.
De nieuwe islamitische regering werd beziggehouden met zaken in het hele rijk, en de steden van de regio Syrië leed verslechtering. De Romeinse ruïnes en steden, nog bestaande in de moderne tijd, werden verlaten als dammen omgeleid water uit de buurt van eerder vitale gemeenschappen. De oude regio Eber Nari was nu Moslim Syrië, en de mensen zouden blijven de binnenvallende krachten van diverse krijgsheren en politieke facties vechten voor de controle van de middelen van de regio in de komende eeuwen te lijden, zonder rekening te houden met de indrukwekkende geschiedenis van het land, het behoud van die geschiedenis en die middelen of de bevolking die er woonden; een situatie die nog steeds problemen om de regio in uiteenlopende vorm, zelfs tot op heden.

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