Syria is often described as “The Land of Civilizations.” For the past 12,000 years, Syria has, more than any other place in the world, been marked by the birth and interaction of civilizations that changed the course of human history. With its cultural wealth and close links with neighboring peoples, Syria has truly been a crucible in the development of ancient civilizations in the Near East. These in turn have had a marked influence on the Western world.

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Aleppo is the second capital of Syria (350 km north of Damascus), and one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in history. Abraham is said to have camped on the acropolis which, long before his time, served as the foundation of a fortress (where the Aleppo citadel is standing now). He milked his grey cow there, hence Aleppo's name: "Halab al-Shahba".

Ever since the 3rd millennium B.C., Aleppo has been a flourishing city, with a unique strategic position. This position gave the city a distinctive role from the days of the Akhadian and Amorite kingdoms until modern times. It was the meeting-point of several important commercial roads in the north. This enabled Aleppo to be the link in trade between Mesopotamia, the Fertile Crescent and Egypt. The Amorites made it their capital in the 18th century B.C.

This position made it subject to invasions from various races; from Hittites, Egyptians, Assyrians, Persians, Greeks and Romans. Aleppo was prominent in the Christian era; it became a Bishopric and a huge cathedral was built in it, which is still standing.

The conflict between Byzantium and Persia, however, resulted in the latter's occupation of Aleppo in 440. The Persians robbed the city, burned considerable parts of it and damaged many of its features. Though expelled by Justinian, the Persians still threatened Aleppo and frightened its inhabitants until the Arab Islamic conquest came in 636. The city then regained its status, both cultural and commercial. Apart from the Omayyad and Abbassid periods in which Aleppo flourished the Hamadani state established by Sayf al-Dawla in 944 made Aleppo the northern capital of Syria. Sayf al-Dawla built Aleppo's famous citadel, and in his days the city enjoyed great prosperity and fame in science, literature and medicine, despite this leader's military ambitions. Mention should be made of the two most prominent poets, al-Mutanabbi and Abu al-Firas; of the philosopher and scientist, al-Farabi; and of the linguist, Ibn Khalaweh, all of whom lived in Sayf al-Dawla's court and were renowned for great knowledge and scholarship.

Aleppo was famous for its architecture; for its attractive churches, mosques, schools, tombs and baths. As an important center of trade between the eastern Mediterranean kingdoms and the merchants of Venice, Aleppo became prosperous and famous in the centuries preceding the Ottoman era. Many of its "khans" (caravanserai) are still in use even today; one of them is called "Banadiqa Khan", "Banadiqa" in Arabic being the term for "inhabitants of Venice".

In the Ottoman age, Aleppo remained an important center of trade with Turkey, France, England and Holland. This caused various types of European architecture to be adopted in Aleppo which can be seen in many buildings today.

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Wayne State University Aleppo University

University of Aleppo