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CHIEF TOWNS OF SYRIA.

Antioch, the capital of the Seleucidæ, is situated 16 miles from the sea (41 from the mouth of the tortuous Orontes); its seaport was Seleucia. It was the third city in the Roman Empire, became the first centre of Christian Missions under Paul and Barnabas (Acts xiii. 1, 2, &c., and after the destruction of Jerusalem was the head of the Eastern Church, its Patriarchate extending to Babylon, and enclosing the whole of Syria and Palestine.

Damascus is the most ancient existing city. Founded by Uz, son of Aram, son of Shem, it has existed as a city without intermission for about 4,000 years, and is still prosperous, with a population of 150,000. It owes its continued prosperity to its unique position, at the foot of the barren mountains that form the eastern termination of Anti-Libanus, and at the edge of the wide sandy desert that stretches for eight days' journey to the Euphrates. It is a paradise in a wilderness, the "garden of the Lord" in the middle of wide-spread desolation. Its luxuriance is due to the river Abana (and its tributary the Pharpar), which bursts out from the mountains, forces a passage through the limestone rock, distributes its waters over the alluvial deposit brought down by its boisterous torrent, and is entirely absorbed in a plain only 30 miles in diameter. It was probably visited by Abram in his journey to Canaan (Gen. xv. 2), whence he obtained his steward; and to it he pursued the four kings who sacked Sodom. It was subjugated by David (2 Sam. viii. 6), after which, under the dynasty of the Hadads, its policy was to encourage internecine war between the rival kingdoms of Israel and Judah, siding sometimes with one, sometimes with the other, and it is alternately conquered and victorious, until the Assyrians triumph over it and Israel (2 Kings xvi. 9); but it is called by Isaiah "the head of Syria" (Is. vii. 8). For a time it became inferior to Antioch; after the battle of Issus it passed into the hands of the Romans; in Paul's time was held by Aretas the Arabian (2 Cor. xi. 32); grew in magnificence; and when captured by Mahometan Arabs (A.D. 634) it was "one of the first cities of the East."

Tyre (Tsur—the Rock) probably gave its name to Syria. Its marvellous wealth and commerce are described by Ezekiel (xxvii.), and its destruction by Nebuchadnezzar foretold (Ezek. xxvi. 7), which happened after thirteen years' siege. It was rebuilt on an island rock, but again stormed by Alexander. The Israelites were unable to take it (Judg. i. 31). David and Solomon made peace with Hiram its king (2 Sam. v. 11; 1 Kings v.). Our Lord once visited its neighbourhood (Matt. xv. 21), and Paul landed at its port (Acts xxi. 3).

Zidon (Saïda—Fishing), the mother city of Phoenicia (Is. xxiii. 12), is said to take its name from a son of Canaan; but it is more probable that it obtained it from the primary occupation of its Canaanite builders, and that Sidon is the Greek spelling of the Syriac Saida. It is one of the oldest cities in the world, already famous in Joshua's time (xix. 28). Her architects were the best in Syria (1 Kings v.); Ahab married the daughter of her king Ethbaal. It was captured by Shalmaneser, B.C. 720, and again by the Persians, B.C. 350. Paul touched there on his voyage to Rome (Acts xxvii. 3). Near to Zidon stood Zarephath, where Elijah was received by the widow (1 Kings xvii. 9).

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