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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 agri…


(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 double barrier of mountains which rise to 3,000 metres, the city, which is deprived by these of seawinds and cloud, gives the impression already of belonging to the desert. The seasons are capricious, the winter short but severe with very occasional snowfalls. The rains which come in December, January and February, this last being a particularly wet month, are by no means abundant (in fact the city only has from 250 to 300 mm. as against 850 to 930 at Bayrūt [ q.v.]. The spring, sudden and short, lasts for only a few weeks at the end of March and the beginning of April, followed by a relentless summer. From May to November there is absolute dryness, the daily temperature exceeds 35° centigrade in the shade and the glaring light accentuates ¶ the shadow. At the end of November the first heavy showers wash the dust from the leaves; it is autumn. In this semi-desert type of climate vegetation sufficiently abundant and above all sufficiently lasting to support animals or man would sca…


(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 h…


(515 words)

Author(s): Elisséeff, N.
(D̲j̲abal), mountain which forms part of the Anti-Lebanon and rises to the northwest of Damascus [see …


(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 appears under the name Beruta in the tablets of Tell al-ʿAmarna (14th century B.C.), at that time a modest settlement long since eclipsed by …


(4,665 words)

Author(s): Honigmann, E. | Elisséeff, N.
, a town of central Syria on the eastern side of the D̲j̲abal al-Nuṣayriyya situated at 33 miles/54 km to the east of Bāniyās [ q.v.] and 28 miles/45 km to th…


(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 (

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 settlement existed on the site during the Roman period, beside the Leuctrum. The castle, which was considered impregnable, is situated at an altitude of 670 m., high on a rocky crest, at the extreme southern end of the mountain range of Lebanon. To the east, standing above a sheer drop of 300 m., it dominates the deep and narrow valley of the Nahr al-Līṭānī, while to the west the mountain falls away in a fairly steep slope to the level of the plain where the village of ʿArnūn is situa…

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, al…


(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 and scholars, one of whom was the historian Ibn Kat̲h̲īr [ q.v.]. Al-Ḥasan b. Hibat Allāh had three sons: al-Ṣāʿīn, ʿAlī and Muḥammad, and a daughter. The eldest, al-Ṣāʿīn Hibat Allāh b. Ḥasan, was born in Rad̲j̲ab 488/July 1095 and was an eminent lawyer. He taught in the G̲h̲azāliyya zāwiya at the Great Mosque of Damascus and was himself a muftī ; he died in S̲h̲aʿbān 563/June 1168 without issue, and was buried like the other members of his family in the cemetery of Bāb al-Ṣag̲h̲īr. The youngest son, Muḥammad b. al-Ḥasan, who was S̲h̲āfiʿī

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 controll…


(1,702 words)

Author(s): Elisséeff, N.
, a place in western Syria, situated in the D̲j̲abal Bahrāʾ region. This last becomes lower as it falls southwards, with a large gap commanded to the north by Ṣāfīt̲h̲a and Ḥiṣn al-Akrād [ q.v.] and to the south by ʿAkkār and ʿIrḳa [ q.vv.]. The mountains of the ʿAlawīs fall southwards into the Ṣāfīt̲h̲a depression. Ṣāfīt̲h̲a was the ’Αργυρόκστρων of Byzantine authors, Castrum Album …


(354 words)

Author(s): Elisséeff, N.
or Bécharré, one of the oldest villages in northern Lebanon, 1400 metres above sea-level. It is situated at the bottom of an amphitheatre at the entrance to the Ḳadīs̲h̲a gorge, a hollow ravine of many caves and hermitages, where traces of very ancient monastic settlements are to be found. The Arab geographers refer to the district under the name of D̲j̲ubbat Bs̲h̲…


(1,818 words)

Author(s): Elisséeff, N.
, an ancient town and military district in Syria; the name is of Aramaic origin and appears as Kennes̲h̲rīn in the Syriac texts. Composed of ḳinnā “nest” and nasrīn “of eagles”, it is mentioned in the Babylonian Talmud in the form of Kannis̲h̲rayyā and the European historians of the Middle Ages called the area Canestrine. A distinction must be drawn between the town and the d̲j̲und . 1. The town. At the present d…


(1,058 words)

Author(s): Elisséeff, N.
(a.) meant, in the Umayyad period, a residence in the countryside (whence the verb tabaddā ), an estate in the environs of a settlement or a rural landed property in the Syro-Jordanian steppeland. For Musil, the bādiya was the successor to the summer encampment called by the old Syrian Bedouin name of al-ḥīra . At the opening of the 20th century, the sense was restricted by archaeologists to the desert castles. They went so far as to construct theories about the attraction of the Bedouin way of life for the Umayyads and about the conservatory role of the desert in upholding certain very persistent traditions stronger than those of the nascent Islam. Since the Umayyads were of urban Meccan origin, it is hardly necessary to look for an atavistic Bedouinism in order to explain their preferences for the …


(7,272 words)

Author(s): Elisséeff, N.
, an ancient town of Syria which was situated to the north-east of Aleppo. It appears that an urban settlement with the name Nappigi or Nampīgi existed on this site in the Assyrian period. In the time of Shalmaneser, it was known as Lita As̲h̲ūr, The Syriac appears to refer back to the Assyrian root; in fact the name became Mabbog or Mambog which signifies “gushing water”, linked, according to Yāḳūt, to the root nabad̲j̲a . “to gush”, which would hardly be surprising in a region of abundant springs. The following spellings are encountered: in the Greek texts of the Byzantine period βέμπετξ, Μέμπεξε (Leo the Deacon, iv), βαμσν́χη; elsewhere Manbad̲j̲ ( Ṣubḥ , iv, 127), Manbid̲j̲ (Yāḳūt, v, 205), Mambed̲j̲ (Volney, 279), Mambid̲j̲ (Honigmann), Menbid̲j̲ (Dussaud, Topographie , 474), Meenbidj (Baedeker and Wirth), Membîdj ( Guide Bleu


(6,030 words)

Author(s): Elisséeff, N.
, a word of Persian origin designating on the one hand a staging-post and lodging [see also manzil …


(2,180 words)

Author(s): Elisséeff, N.
, name given in Syria to abundantly irrigated areas of intense cultivation surrounded by arid land. A g̲h̲ūṭa is produced by the co-operative activity of a rural community settled near to one or several perennial springs, whose water is used in a system of canalization to irrigate several dozen or several hundred acres. Each
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