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Syria

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SYRIA, a country of western Asia, geo graphically and anthropologically a kind of peninsula of the Mediterranean, forming a bridge between north and south, connecting Asia Minor and Mesopotamia with Arabia and Egypt, and hounded by the sea on the west and by the desert, only some 60 miles inland (at the narrowest part) on the east. The name "Syria" is rather a geographical expression than a geo graphical fact, for the region which bears that name on our maps has been arbitrarily thus delimited by modern (Christian) geographers. The name was originally of much wider appli cation than it is now, while even to-day, strictly speaking, it includes Palestine. The subjects of the Assyrian Empire, from the Black Sea to the Mediterranean, were known 'in ancient times as Assyrians or, in the abbreviated form, Syrians. These two names came at a later period to have different applications: Whereas "Syria)) once meant all the Assyrian Empire and also Mesopotamia, it became usual with the Greeks and Romans to apply that name to the more western of these regions, but in cluding Palestine. Later on, Christian senti ment created imaginary boundaries out of ex isting landmarks and separated the "Holy Land)) from a part of itself, a proceeding that gave birth to the prevalent erroneous impression that Syria and Palestine are two distinct coun tries. Geographically and geologically they cannot be separated; the mountains of Pales tine, both on the western and eastern sides of the Jordan, are, respectively, the terminations of the Lebanon and Anti-Lebanon Mountains. The Jordan Valley is a continuation of the Buka Valley, and three out of the four sources of the river Jordan itself are in Syria. The district we describe as Palestine no longer means as once "the land of the Philistines,)) and always has included much which the Philistines never held; it was never entirely held by the He brews for any length of time. Its boundaries correspond with the idealized limits of Canaan as divided among the 12 tribes, with the possessions of the Hebrew kings in the days of their greatness, and with the Palestine of New Testament history.

Syria, under Turkish rule, was divided into four vilayets and two "independent sanjaks)) as follows : Aleppo, 33,430 square miles, pop. 1,500,000; Syria, 37,020 square miles, pop. 1,000, 000; Beirut, 6,180 square miles, pop. 533,500; Lebanon, 1,190 square miles, pop. 200,000; Zor, 30,110 square miles, pop. 100,000; Jerusalem, 6,600 square miles, pop, 341,600. The last two are "sanjaks"; the whole of Palestine was in cluded in that of Jerusalem and the vilayet of Lebanon. Total area, 114,530 square miles; pop. 3,675,000. Of the area, not more than 12,000 square miles comprise Palestine, to which also belong between 600,000 and 700,000 of the population. The ancient inhabitants called the country "Aram," of which name the Biblical "Syrian is a translation. The Arabs called it esh-Sham (the left) north of Mecca and Me dina; and-Yemen (Yamin) to the right of those cities. Damascus, believed to be the most an cient city in the world, was the capital of the Aramaic kingdom. While the modern inhab itants use the ancient inclusive name Suriyya, the Arabs call both Syria and Damascus esh Sham ; the Turkish name is Suria (also Sham); the Persians call it Soristan.

Topography.— Regarded in the ordinary sense of the name, Syria is the long and nar row district on the ("astern shore of the Mediter ranean, extending from the Taurus range on the north, separating it from Asia Minor, to Egypt on the southwest, between 36° 5' and 31° N. lat. and long. 33° 30' and 39° E. The Euphra tes forms the northeastern border; the Syrian Desert the eastern limits, and Arabia on the south and southwest. The Mesopotamian plains are separated by the desert from the Mediter ranean coast region, which stretches nearly in a straight line from the Sinai Peninsula north ward to Anatolia. The desert forms a chalk and limestone tableland rising gradually to an altitude of over 2,000 feet above sea-level, stretching away southward into the Arabian Peninsula, but on the west sinking abruptly down to the long, deep and narrow depression of El-Ghor, which forms the eastern limit of the southern section of the coast region known as Palestine. Farther north the desert merges imperceptibly in the plains of Damascus and Aleppo and thus presents no natural well-de fined limits to Syria on the east. Elsewhere the boundaries are sufficiently clear. The total length north and south is variously estimated at between 370 and 430 miles, with a mean breadth of 100 miles, narrowing in the south to 60 and expanding northward to 150 miles. Palestine is cut off by the Lower Orontes (Nahr el-Asi) and Mount Hermon from Syria proper, measuring from this point to the southern end of the Dead Sea (Bahr Lilt, i.e., Lake of Lot) about 160 miles, with an average breadth of 70 miles. Geologically, Syria is a great desert plateau only differentiated from the North Arabian Desert by a picturesque mountain wall, split in the north into two parallel chains — the Lebanon and Anti-Lebanon, the latter falling gradually northward down to the plains of Upper Mesopotamia, while the former is continued by the less elevated Jebel-Nusarieh as far as the plain of Antioch, about the 36th parallel. North of this plain the Jebel-Nusa rieh is continued by the Giaour-Dagh and Akma-Dagh to the Taurus above the Gulf of Alexandretta. These ranges condense the va

pors from the sea and remain snow-clad till late in summer, giving the 10 to 16 miles' breadth of the Syrian seaboard its luxuriant subtropical vegetation and Palestine its fertil ity as far as its southern borders. The Leb anon range runs for about 90 miles southwest and approaches at some points to within 8 or 10 miles of the Mediterranean, presenting to seaward the appearance of bare, rocky walls surmounted here and there by a few snow decked peaks, Dahr-el-Kodib (10,200 feet) and Jehel-Makmal (10,020 feet). From these is de rived the name of Lebanon (white moun tains), which was already current in the time of Moses. Despite its rugged appearance the Lebanon contains many fertile slopes and val leys, well cultivated and thickly populated. East ward it is cut off from the Anti-Lebanon by the still more fertile plain of the Beka'a• (Coele •yria), whose bald, rocky ramparts present more varied outlines than the coast range. The southern extremity of the Anti-Lebanon rises in the Jehel-esh-Sheikh (Mount Hermon) to an altitude of nearly 10,000 feet, the culminating point of the Syrian highlands, about 30 miles southwest of Damascus, the capital of Syria. The offshoots of the Lebanon range also stretch southward, with slight interruptions, throughout the whole of Palestine. Where it enters that country the upper part approaches the sea and at Mount Carmel sends forth a lat eral branch, which farther south is separated from the sea by a fertile plain. Within this region are situated the oldest and most famous places in Palestine, including the mountains of Naphtali, and of Ephraim and Judah. It is this range which prevents the Jordan from flowing toward the sea and compels it to fol low a southern course until it loses itself in the Dead Sea. Excluding the southeastern flanks of Hermon, both the Lebanon and Anti Lebanon ranges are of limestone formation; the former is a single ridge deeply marked from the effects of erosion by water, while from the latter five ridges diverge northward. The spaces between them is taken up by a plateau of from 4,000 to over 5,000 feet above sea level. The depression of El-Ghor, referred to above, is the deepest in the earth's crust, fall ing about 13,000 feet below sea-level, or more than 4,000 feet lower than the Beka'a• plain. The four main streams — the Jordan, Leontes, Orontes and Abana — rise in the neighborhood of Baalbek, under the 34th parallel. They flow in four opposite directions, south to the Dead Sea, southwest and northwest to the Mediterranean, and east to the Bahr-et-el-Atei beh, some five hours' journey beyond Damas cus. The Euphrates, breaking the Taurus in a succession of cataracts and rapids, flows south and southeast, separating Mesopotamia from Syria and the deserts of Syrian Arabia, and is joined by the Tigris at Kurna. In the course of the Jordan are the lakes of Merom (El Huleh) and Tiberias, and at its mouth is the Dead Sea. There are few perennial streams in Syria; the rain is quickly absorbed by the stony ground. Some of the old river-beds (wady) are deeply eroded. The mountain chains divide Syria into three regions — a western, consisting of a narrow belt of low land extending between the sea and the moun tains, sometimes sandy, but generally fertile; a central, occupied by the principal mountains of the chain; and an eastern, consisting for the most part of a bare, arid, sandy plateau, occa sionally relieved by a few oases. Above all towers Mount Hermon, visible from almost all parts of Syria and forming a valuable land mark for the guidance of caravans. The "Lit tle Ghor" or plain of Gennesareth stretches west of Lake Tiberias. On the eastern border of Syria extends the interior of the country, a fertile steppe, which when artificially watered yields the most luxuriant produce. This re gion, which is called the desert on account of its lack of water, stretches at a mean level of 1,900 feet to the vicinity of the Euphrates. It is inhabited by independent, nomadic Bedouins and frequently traversed by caravans. Beyond the Jordan, not far from Mount Hermon, rim the volcanic hills of Tulfil. To the south of Damascus lie the ancient wheat-bearing plains of Hauran and the mountains of that name, a region in which numerous ancient inscriptions are to be found. Farther south extend the mountains of Gilead, partially wooded. The mountains of Moab form an extensive table land separated from the desert toward the east by a low range of hills. Between the Haurin and the Oasis of Damascus there stretches a broad expanse of volcanic hills, the Eastern Trachonitis (Tulfil-es-Safa), toward the north ern verge of which stand the stupendous ruins of Palmyra (Tudmur), supposed to have been built by Solomon. The Ala region between the vilayets of Damascus and Aleppo forms an ex tensive basaltic upland tract for many miles east of the Orontes. Here are the ruins of many ancient cities. In the extreme north the great inland plateaux of Aleppo, Uink and Ain tib occupy all the space between the bend of the Euphrates and the coast range, and are thickly inhabited by Turkoman and Armenian agriculturists. This region marks the extreme limits of both of these races toward the south west. West of the Umk plateau lies the Bahr el-Abiad (Lake of Antioch), a fine sheet of water, eight miles by six, formed by the junc tion of several steppe streams and draining to the Orontes.

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