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Mard̲j̲ Rāhiṭ

(2,214 words)

Author(s): Elisséeff, N.
, the name of a plain near Damascus famous in Islamic history on account of the battles which took place there. According to Ibn Ḥawḳal, “a mard̲j̲ is a wide expanse of land with numerous estates where large ¶ and small cattle and beasts are raised”. For M. Canard ( H’amdânides , 204), a mard̲j̲ is “the place where agriculture and gardens cease to be found”. Beyond the mard̲j̲ lies the ḥamād , the sterile terrain. Mard̲j̲ is a term which, in reference to Damascus, denotes a semicircular zone situated between the G̲h̲ūṭa [ q.v.] and the marches of ʿUṭayba and Ḥid̲j̲d̲j̲āna, and the desert…


(16,125 words)

Author(s): Elisséeff, N.
, Dimas̲h̲ḳ al-S̲h̲ām or simply al-S̲h̲ām , (Lat. Damascus, Fr. Damas) is the largest city of Syria. It is situated at longitude 36° 18′ east and latitude 33° 30′ north, very much at the same latitude as Bag̲h̲dād and Fās, at an altitude of nearly 700 metres, on the edge of the desert at the foot of Diabal Ḳāsiyūn, one of the massifs of the eastern slopes of the Anti-Lebanon. To the east and the north-east the steppe extends as far as the Euphrates, while to the south it merges with Arabia. A hundred or more kilometres from the Mediterranean behind the Lebanon and Anti-Lebanon, a doubl…


(3,759 words)

Author(s): Elisséeff, N.
(European transcriptions: Lattaquié, Latakia), a major Syrian port, was known by the Greek name of Λαοδίκεια ἡ ἐπι θαλάσση, and later by the Latin name of Laodicea ad Mare, whilst the Crusaders called it La Liche. In the second millenium, the settlement bore the name of Ramitha of the Phoenicians and was dependent, before taking its place, on Ugarit, a powerful metropolis lying 8 miles/12 km. to the north. It was in 327 B.C., or six years after the death of Alexander that Seleucus Nicator (301-281 B.C.) founded on this site ¶ a city to which he gave the name of Laodicea in honour of h…


(515 words)

Author(s): Elisséeff, N.
(D̲j̲abal), mountain which forms part of the Anti-Lebanon and rises to the northwest of Damascus [see dimas̲h̲ḳ ]. Two tributaries of the Baradā [ q.v.], the Nahr T̲h̲awra and the Nahr Yazīd, up until the middle of the 20th century used to irrigate the orchards of Nayrab, which rose in tiers on its southern flank. This mountain has a sacred character because God is said to have spoken to it and also due to ancient traditions which relate to some grottoes opening in the midst of the slope. Three of them, Muṣallāt al-K̲h̲iḍr, Mag̲h̲ārat al-D̲j̲awʿ and…

Ḥamza al-Ḥarrānī

(534 words)

Author(s): Elisséeff, N.
, ancestor of the Banū Ḥamza who for several generations held the office of naḳīb al-as̲h̲rāf [see s̲h̲arīf ] in Damascus, with the result that in the end the family was named Bayt al-Naḳīb . As early as 330/942 a representative of this house, Ismāʿīl b. Ḥusayn b. Aḥmad al-Natīf, was acting as naḳīb . Several of his descendants distinguished themselves through their ability and learning. Two sons of ʿAlāʾ al-Dīn ʿAlī b. Ibrāhīm, the sayyid Nāṣir al-Dīn Muḥammad and the sayyid S̲h̲ihāb al-Dīn, left their names in the history of Damascus. The former, called al-Zurayḳ o…

Ḥiṣn al-Akrād

(2,945 words)

Author(s): Elisséeff, N.
(“Fortress of the Kurds”), a castle in Syria known in Europe by the name of “Crac des Chevaliers”. The castle crowns a rounded and almost isolated summit, mount K̲h̲alīl, the last southerly inclination of the D̲j̲abal Anṣāriyya, some 60 km. to the north-west of Ḥimṣ. Situated like an eagle’s nest at a height of 750 m. on a spur flanked by two ravines on the north-east and north-west, it overlooks from a height of 300 m. the plain of the Buḳayʿa [ q.v.] which extends eastward and southeastward. In the Frankish period this very fertile cultivated region contained numerous farms…


(1,019 words)

Author(s): Elisséeff, N.
, referred to by Naʿamān the leper (Kings, ii, 5, 12) by the name of Abana, and by Greek and Latin authors called Chrysorrhoas, is the most important perennial river of the eastern slopes of the Anti-Lebanon. It has determined the site of Damascus and permitted the development of the G̲h̲ūṭa. It owes its existence to the high peaks which dominate the gap between Zabadānī and Sarg̲h̲āya. At the foot of a limestone cliff over 1,000 m. high, a copious Vauclusian spring forms a vast lake on the Western side of the Zabadānī hollow at the foot of the …

Ḳaṣr al-Ḥayr al-G̲h̲arbī

(1,563 words)

Author(s): Elisséeff, N.
Umayyad castle in the Syrian desert at 60 km. SSW of Palmyra (Tadmur [ q.v.]) on the track connecting this oasis to Damascus via Ḳaryatayn and the one leading from Ḥimṣ [ q.v.] to al-Ḏj̲awf [ q.v.] through the pass of Harbaka. The whole of the Umayyad ruins include a ḥammām , a k̲h̲ān , a large garden ( bustān ), a zone of cultivable lands irrigated by canalizations connected with a birka and with the Roman dam of Harbaḳa, and a residential palace which occupies an important place in the history of Umayyad architecture and environment in the Near East. Before the organization of this bādiya [ q.v.], s…


(712 words)

Author(s): Elisséeff, N.
, the name of a pre-Islamic site famous for its abundant water and shady gardens, and often celebrated by Damascene poets who discovered This name in Ḥassān b. T̲h̲ābit. It was there that the G̲h̲assānid princes of the Ḏj̲afnid branch venerated the tomb of one of their ancestors, and that they built what was, with the exception of D̲j̲ābiya [ q.v.], the most renowned of their dwellings. It was also no doubt the principal, if not permanent, place of encampment for their troops. About twelve kilometres south of Damascus, the place became a bādiya [see ḥīra ] to which Ya…

Nūr al-Dīn Maḥmūd b. Zankī

(6,699 words)

Author(s): Elisséeff, N.
, Zankid or Zangid sultan and successor to Zankī (d. 565/1174), who was murdered during the siege of Ḳalʿat D̲j̲aʿbar [ q.v.] in Rabīʿ I 541/September 1146. The succession posed a series of problems since there were four heirs: Sayf al-Dīn G̲h̲āzī, the eldest, represented his father at Mawṣil [ q.v.], the second son, Nūr al-Dīn Maḥmūd, had accompanied his father in the majority of his military operations, the third, Nuṣrat al-Dīn Amīr-Amīrān, was to be governor of Ḥarrān [ q.v.], the fourth son, Ḳuṭb al-Dīn Mawdūd [ q.v.] was to succeed his eldest brother at Mawṣil. There was also …


(1,496 words)

Author(s): Elisséeff, N.
(currently written Beyrouth or Beirut), capital of the Lebanese Republic, situated 33° 54′ lat. N. and 35° 28′ Long. E., is spread at first on the north face of a promontory, of which it now occupies almost the entire surface. The etymology of the name, long disputed, is no doubt derived from the Hebrew beʾerot , plural of beʾer , (well), the only local means of water supply until the Roman period. As a human habitat the site is prehistoric, traces of the Acheulian and Levalloisian periods ¶ having been found there. It is as a port on the Phoenician coast that the agglomeration ap…


(353 words)

Author(s): Elisséeff, N.
(or bat̲h̲rūn ), Graeco-Roman Bostrys and the Boutron of the Crusaders; a small t o w n on the Lebanese coast, situated 56 kms. north of Bayrūt; it witnessed the passage of all the armies of conquest, covering as it does the Bayrūt-Ṭarābulūs road to the south of the precipitons promontary of Rās S̲h̲aḳḳa (Theouprosôpon). According to a tradition cited by Josephus ( Antiq . viii, 3, 52), it was apparently founded by Ithobaal, king of Tyre. In reality it is of much older origin and is mentioned in the Tell al-ʿAmarna letters (15th century…

Ḳalʿat al-S̲h̲aḳīf

(1,541 words)

Author(s): Elisséeff, N.
(the “Citadel of the Rock”) is the Crusaders’ castle of Beaufort. It is also known by the name of S̲h̲aḳīf ʿArnūn. On the testimony of the Arab authors, Yāḳūt among others, it was long believed that ʿArnūn was the Arabic transcription of the name Arnould, a Frank said to have been lord of the region. In fact, it is a toponym which occurs even in the Bible (Joshua, XII, 1); its position to the west of the Jordan indicates that it corresponds to the present village of ʿArnūn which, in former times, marked the frontier of the land of Moab. From the earliest remains it may be supposed that a ¶ military sett…

Maʿarrat Maṣrīn or Miṣrīn

(1,438 words)

Author(s): Elisséeff, N.
, a small town in North Syria (lat. 36° 01′ N., long. 36° 40′ E.). It is 40 km. to the north of Maʿarrat al-Nuʿmān [ q.v.], 50 km. south-west of Aleppo or Ḥalab [ q.v.] and 12 km. north-west of Sarmīn. It owes its importance to its position between the districts of the Rūd̲j̲, the D̲j̲azr and the D̲j̲abal al-Summāḳ and formerly served as the market for this region which the road from Ḥalab to Armanāz traverses, a route used in the Middle Ages by the Turkomans. Its role has devolved today on Idlib. The land, although poorly watere…


(6,647 words)

Author(s): Elisséeff, N.
(Latin Emesa, French and English Homs, Turkish Humus), town in Syria (36° E. and 34° 20′ N.) 500 m above sea level on the eastern bank of the Orontes (Nahr al-ʿĀṣī), in the centre of a vast cultivated plain which is bounded in the east by the desert and in the west by volcanic mountains. Situated at the entrance to a depression between the mountains of Lebanon and the D̲j̲abal Anṣāriyya, Ḥimṣ benefits from the climatic influences of the sea which come …

Ibrāhīm b. S̲h̲īrkūh

(509 words)

Author(s): Elisséeff, N.
, al-Malik al-Manṣūr Nāṣir al-Dīn Ibrāhīm b. al-Malik al-Mud̲j̲āhid Asad al-Dīn S̲h̲īrkūh II, cousin of Salāḥ al-Dīn (Saladin), succeeded his father S̲h̲īrkūh [ q.v.], prince of Aleppo and Damascus, in Rad̲j̲ab 637/January-February 1240. When he became master of the province of Ḥimṣ, to which at that time there belonged Tadmur, Raḥba and Māksīn, the pressure of the K̲h̲uwārizmians in northern Syria was very great. When Ibrāhīm learned of the defeat of the Aleppan army at Buzāʿa in Rabīʿ II 638/October-November 1240, h…

Ibn ʿAsākir

(1,769 words)

Author(s): Elisséeff, N.
, the name of the members of the Banū ʿAsākir family, eminent figures who for almost two centuries, from 470 to 660/1077-1261, held an important position in the history of the town of Damascus and produced a dynasty of S̲h̲āfiʿī scholars. Among the most illustrious members of this remarkable family it is fitting to mention al-Ḥasan b. Hibat Allāh, who was born in 470/1077 and died at Damascus in 519/1125. A grammarian and juris-consult of note, he allied himself by marriage to the family of the Banū Kurās̲h̲ī, which traced its ancestry back to the Umayyads and which included numerous ḳāḍīs

Kawkab al-Hawāʾ

(599 words)

Author(s): Elisséeff, N.
, the Compass Dial, mediaeval fortress in Palestine whose name has been corrupted into “Coquet” by the Frankish authors who also cite it by the name of Belvoir. Constructed not far from Mount Tabor (al-Ṭūr) on a promontory 297 m above the Valley of the Jordan and situated 4 km to the south of the Lake of Tiberias and 14 km to the north of Baysān [ q.v.], a watchpost in the G̲h̲awr, it controlled the province of ¶ the Jordan and guarded the fords into Galilee, notably below the confluence of the Yarmūk, the D̲j̲isr al-Mad̲j̲āmiʿ (Bridge of the Confluence). The castle presents a plan of Byzantine…

Mawdūd b. ʿImād Al-dīn Zankī

(1,905 words)

Author(s): Elisséeff, N.
, Ḳuṭb al-Dīn , Atabeg [see atabak ] of al-Mawṣil. ʿImād al-Dīn Zankī, on his death on 6 Rabīʿ II 541/15 September 1146, left four heirs: of these Mawdūd b. ʿImād al-Dīn Zankī, Ḳuṭb al-Dīn al-Aʿrad̲j̲, the youngest of his sons, was only sixteen years old. The eldest, Sayf al-Dīn G̲h̲āzī represented his father at al-Mawsīl of which Zankī [ q.v.] held only the usufruct; the second son, Nūr al-Dīn Maḥmūd [ q.v.], twenty-nine years old, accompanied his father in his campaigns; the third, Nuṣrat al-Dīn Amīr-Amīrān was named as heir presumptive when the former was ill, in…


(427 words)

Author(s): Elisséeff, N.
, D̲j̲eblé, Lat. Gabala, Fr. Gibel, Zibel (not to be confused with Giblet-Ḏj̲oubayl) is a small port on the Syrian coast, situated 30 km. to the south of al-Lād̲h̲iḳiya, facing the island of Ruwad; it is one of the termini of the main road from K̲h̲urāsān, through the valley of the ʿAya al-S̲h̲arḳī in contact with D̲j̲abal Bahirā and G̲h̲āb, where there are roads towards Apamée and Aleppo. This town was an important commercial centre from the time of the Phoenicians, a Dorian colony in the 5th century B.C. and then a prosperous Roman town, surrounded by a coasta…
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