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Not to be confused with Hamas.
The city is renowned for its seventeen norias used for watering the gardens, which are locally claimed to date back to 1100 BC. Though historically used for purpose of irrigation
, the norias exist today as an almost entirely aesthetic traditional show.
The name "Hama" appears to stem from Phoenician khamat
The ancient settlement of Hamath was occupied from the early Neolithic
to the Iron Age.
The stratigraphy is very generalized, which makes detailed comparison to other sites difficult. Level M (6 m or 20 ft thick) contained both white ware (lime-plaster) and true pottery. It may be contemporary with Ras Shamra V (6000–5000 BC).
Remains from the Chalcolithic have been uncovered by Danish archaeologists on the mount on which the former citadel once stood. The excavation took place between 1931 and 1938 under the direction of Harald Ingholt. The overlying level L dates to the Chalcolithic Halaf culture.
Although the town appears to be unmentioned in cuneiform sources before the first millennium BC, the site appears to have been prosperous around 1500 BC, when it was presumably an Amorite dependency of Mitanni
, an empire along the Euphrates in northeastern Syria.
By around 1350 BC, Mitanni was overthrown by the Hittites, who controlled all of northern Syria. In the south, the Hittites were in conflict with the Egyptians. Hamath became an important urban center. The conflict culminated in the famous Battle of Kadesh
against Ancient Egypt
under Ramesses II
in 1285 BC.
When the Assyrian king Shalmaneser III (858–824 BC) conquered the north of Aramea
, he reached Hamath (Assyrian
) in 835 BC; this marks the beginning of Assyrian inscriptions relating to the kingdom. Irhuleni
of Hamath and Hadadezer
of Aram-Damascus (biblical "Bar-Hadad") led a coalition of Aramean cities against the encroaching Assyrian armies. According to Assyrian sources, they were confronted by 4,000 chariots, 2,000 horsemen, 62,000-foot-soldiers and 1,000 Arab camel-riders in the Battle of Qarqar. The Assyrian victory seems to have been more of a draw, although Shalmaneser III continued on to the shore and even took a ship to open sea. In the following years, Shalmaneser III failed to conquer Hamath or Aram-Damascus. After the death of Shalmaneser III, the former allies Hamath and Aram-Damascus fell out, and Aram-Damascus seems to have taken over some of Hamath's territory.
In 743 BC, Tiglath-Pileser III took a number of towns in the territory of Hamath, distributed the territories among his generals, and forcibly removed 1,223 selected inhabitants to the valley of the Upper Tigris; he exacted tribute from Hamath's king, Eni-Ilu (Eniel).
In 738 BC, Hamath is listed among the cities again conquered by Assyrian troops. Over 30,000 natives were deported to Ullaba
(located in Urartu
and replaced with captives from the Zagros Mountains
Destruction under Sargon II Styling himself the "Destroyer of Hamath," Sargon II
razed the city c. 720 BC, recolonized it with 6,300 Assyrians, and removed its king to be flayed alive in Assyria.
He also carried off to Nimrud the ivory-adorned furnishings of its kings.
Hamath in the Bible
The few Biblical
reports state that Hamath was the capital of a Canaanite
kingdom (Genesis 10:18
; 2 Kings 23:33; 25:21), whose king congratulated King David
on his victory over Hadadezer
, king of Zobah
(2 Samuel 8:9-11
; 1 Chronicles 18:9-11). In God's instructions to Moses, Hamath is specified as part of the northern border of the land that will fall to the children of Israel as an inheritance when they enter the land of Canaan (Numbers 34.1–9
). Solomon, it would seem, took possession of Hamath and its territory and built store cities (1 Kings 4:21–24
; 2 Chronicles 8:4
). 1 Kings 8:65 names the "entrance of Hamath", or Lebo-Hamath, as the northern border of Israel at the time of the dedication of the first temple
in Jerusalem. The area was subsequently lost to the Syrians, but Jeroboam II
, king of Israel
, is said to have "restored the territory of Israel from the entrance of Hamath to the Sea of the Arabah
(the Dead Sea
Assyria's defeat of Hamath made a profound impression on Isaiah
). The prophet Amos
also named the town "Hamath the Great" Amos 6:2
Persian, Hellenistic and Roman history In the second half of the 4th century BC the modern region of Syria came under the influence of Greco-Roman culture, following long lasting semitic and Persian cultures. Alexander the Great's campaign from 334 to 323 BC brought Syria under Hellenic rule. Since the country lay on the trade routes from Asia to Greece, Hama and many other Syrian cities again grew rich through trade. After the death of Alexander the Great his Near East conquests were divided between his generals, and Seleucus Nicator
became ruler of Syria and the founder of the Seleucid dynasty. Under the Seleucids there was a revival in the fortunes of Hama. The Aramaeans were allowed to return to the city, which was renamed Epiphaneia
after the Seleucid Emperor Antiochus IV Epiphanes. Seleucid rule began to decline, however, in the next two centuries, and Arab dynasties began to gain control of cities in this part of Syria, including Hama.
The Romans took over original settlements such as Hama and made them their own. They met little resistance when they invaded Syria under Pompey and annexed it in 64 BC, whereupon Hama became part of the Roman province of Syria, ruled from Rome by a proconsul. Hama was an important city during the Greek and Roman periods, but very little archaeological evidence remains.
In AD 330, the capital of the Roman Empire was moved to Byzantium, and the city continued to prosper. In Byzantine
days Hama was known as Emath
in Greek). Roman rule from Byzantium meant the Christian religion was strengthened throughout the Near East, and churches were built in Hama and other cities. The Byzantine historian John of Epiphania was born in Hama in the 6th century.
Eustathius of Epiphaneia (Ancient Greek
: Εὐστάθιος Ἐπιφανεύς) was a Greek historian. All his works lost. The most famous was the "Brief Chronicle" (Ancient Greek
: Χρονικὴν ἐπιτομὴν
It came under the control of the Hamdanid
rulers of Aleppo in the 10th century and was consequently drawn into the orbit of that city where it remained until the 12th century. These were considered the "dark years" of Hama as the local rulers of northern and southern Syria struggled for dominance in the region. The Byzantines under emperor Nicephorus Phocas
raided the town in 968 and burned the Great Mosque
. By the 11th century, the Fatimids gained suzerainty over northern Syria and during this period, the Mirdasids
sacked Hama. Persian geographer Nasir Khusraw noted in 1047 that Hama was "well populated" and stood on the banks of the Orontes River.
Tancred, Prince of Galilee
, took it in 1108,
but in 1114 the Crusaders lost it definitively to the Seljuks
during the reign of Toghtekin, atabeg of Damascus. The governor of Hama in the early 12th century was Ali Kurd, and his sons, Nasir and Kurdanshah became vassals of Toghtekin.
In 1157 an earthquake shattered the city. For the next sixty years, Hama was battled for by competing rulers. Nur al-Din
, the Zengid
sultan, erected a mosque
with a tall, square minaret
in the city in 1172.
In 1175, Hama was taken from the Zengids by Saladin
. He granted the city to his nephew, al-Muzaffar Umar
, four years later, putting it under the rule of his Ayyubid family. This ushered in an era of stability and prosperity in Hama as the Ayyubids ruled it almost continuously until 1342. Geographer Yaqut al-Hamawi, who was born in Hama, described it in 1225 as a large town surrounded by a strongly built wall.
Hama was sacked by the Mongols
in 1260, as were most other Syrian cities, but the Mongols were defeated
that same year and then again in 1303 by the Mamluks who succeeded the Ayyubids as rulers of the region. Hama briefly passed to Mamluk control in 1299 after the death of governor al-Mansur Mahmoud II. However, unlike other former Ayyubid cities, the Mamluks reinstated Ayyubid rule in Hama by making Abu al-Fida, the historian and geographer, governor of the city and he reigned from 1310 to 1332. He described his city as "very ancient... mentioned in the book of the Israelites. It is one of the pleasantest places in Syria." After his death, he was succeeded by his son al-Afdal Muhammad who eventually lost Mamluk favor and was deposed. Thus, Hama came under direct Mamluk control.
Hama grew prosperous during the Ayyubid period, as well as the Mamluk period. It gradually expanded to both banks of the Orontes River, with the suburb on the right bank being connected to the town proper by a newly built bridge. The town on the left bank was divided into upper and lower parts, each of which was surrounded by a wall. The city was filled with palaces, markets, mosques, madrasas
, and a hospital, and over thirty different sized norias (water-wheels). In addition, there stood a massive citadel in Hama. Moreover, a special aqueduct brought drinking water to Hama from the neighboring town of Salamiyah
Ibn Battuta visited Hama in 1335 and remarked that the Orontes River made the city "pleasant to live in, with its many gardens full of trees and fruits." He also speaks of a large suburb called al-Mansuriyyah (named after an Ayyubid emir) that contained "a fine market, a mosque, and bathes."
In 1400, Timurlane
took Hama, along with nearby Homs
The prosperous period of Mamluk rule came to an end in 1516, when the Ottoman Turks conquered Syria from the Mamluks after defeating them at the Battle of Marj Dabiq
near Aleppo. Hama, and the rest of Syria, came under Ottoman rule from Constantinople
. Under the Ottomans, Hama gradually became more important in the administrative structure of the region. It was first made capital of one of the liwas ("districts") of the vilayet ("province") of Tripoli
. Hama once again became an important center for trade routes running east from the Mediterranean
coast into Asia. A number of khans
("caravansaries"s) were built in the city, like Khan Rustum Pasha which dates from 1556. Syria was later divided into three governorships and Hama was ruled by the governorship based at Aleppo.
Then in the 18th century, it became a part of the holdings of the governor of Damascus. The governors of Damascus at this time were the Azems, who also ruled other parts of Syria, for the Ottomans. They erected sumptuous residences in Hama, including the Azem Palace
and Khan As'ad Pasha which were built by As'ad Pasha al-Azem, who governed Hama for a number of years until 1742. By then, there were 14 caravansaries in the city, mostly used for the storage and distribution of seeds, cotton, wool, and other commodities. After the passing of the Vilayet Law in 1864, Hama became the capital of the Sanjak of Hama (gaining the city more administrative powers), part of the larger vilayet of Sham
Ottoman rule ended in 1918, after their defeat in World War I
to the Allied Forces
. Hama was made part of the French Mandate of Syria. By then, Hama had developed into what it has remained: a medium-sized provincial town, important as the market for an agricultural area abundant in cereals, but also cotton and sugar beets. It gained notoriety as the center of large estates worked by peasants and dominated by a few magnate families. The 1925 Hama uprising
occurred in the city during the Great Syrian Revolt
against the French.
During the French Mandate, the district of Hama contained within its bounds the municipality of Hama and 114 villages. By an estimate in 1930, only four of these villages were owned outright by local cultivators, while sharing ownership of two villages with a notable family. Thus, the hinterland was owned by landowning elites. Starting in the late 1940s, significant class conflict erupted as agricultural workers sought reform in Hama. Syria gained full independence from France in 1946. Akram al-Hawrani, a member of an impoverished notable family in Hama, began to agitate for land reform and better social conditions. He made Hama the base of his Arab Socialist Party
, which later merged with another socialist party, the Ba'ath. This party's ascent to power in 1963 signaled the end of power for the landowning elite.
Political insurgency by Sunni Islamic groups, particularly the Muslim Brotherhood, occurred in the city, which was reputed as a stronghold of conservative Sunni Islam. As early as the spring of 1964, Hama became the epicenter of an uprising by conservative forces, encouraged by speeches from mosque preachers, denouncing the policies of the Ba'ath. The Syrian government sent tanks and troops into the quarters of Hama's old city to put down the insurrection. In the early 1980s, Hama had emerged as a major source of opposition to the Ba'ath government during the Sunni armed Islamist uprising
, which had begun in 1976. The city was a focal point for bloody events in the 1981 massacre
and the most notable 1982 Hama massacre
. The most serious insurrection of the Syrian Islamic uprising happened in Hama during February 1982, when Government forces, led by the president's brother, Rifaat al-Assad
, quelled the revolt
in Hama with very harsh means. Tanks and artillery shelled the neighbourhoods held by the insurgents indiscriminately, and government forces are alleged to have executed thousands of prisoners and civilian residents after subduing the revolt, which became known as the Hama massacre. The story is suppressed and regarded as highly sensitive in Syria. The Hama Massacre led to the military term "Hama Rules" meaning the complete large-scale destruction of a military objective or target. The city was the site of conflict between the Syrian military and opposition forces as one of the main arenas of the Syrian civil war
during the 2011 siege of Hama.
In 2018, archaeologists revealed a Byzantine mosaic painting of a church dates back to the fifth century AD. The painting, which was decorated with geometric shapes and inscriptions in Latin, was unearthed in Tell-Salhab area in Khareb village. According to Josiah C. Russel, during the 12th century, Hama had a population of 6,750. James Reilly accounts the historical population as: 1812– 30,000 (Burckhardt) 1830– 20,000 (Robinson) 1839– 30–44,000 (Bowring) 1850– 30,000 (Porter) 1862– 10–12,000 (Guys) 1880– 27,656 (Parliamentary Papers) 1901– 60,000 (Parliamentary Papers) 1902–1907 80,000 (Trade Reports) 1906– 40,000 (al-Sabuni) 1909– 60,000 (Trade Reports) In 1932, while Hama was under the French Mandate, there were approximately 50,000 residents. In the 1960 census, there were 110,000 inhabitants. The population continued to rise, reaching 180,000 in 1978 and 273,000 in 1994.
The infant mortality rate per 1,000 live births in the Hama Governorate
was 99.4. A 2005 estimate had Hama's population at around 325,000 inhabitants.
Most of the residents are Sunni Muslims (including mostly Arabs
, and Turkmen), although some districts of the city are exclusively Christian. Hama is reputed to be the most conservative Sunni Muslim city in Syria since French Mandate times. During that period there was an old saying reflecting this characteristic: "In Damascus, it takes only three men to make a political demonstration, while in Hama it takes only three men to get the town to pray." The Christian population mostly adheres to the Greek Orthodox Church
or the Syriac Orthodox Church
Ecclesiastical status Hama's most famous attractions are the 17 Norias of Hama
: نواعير حماة
), dating back to the Byzantine
times. Fed by the Orontes river, they are up to 20 metres (66 ft) in diameter. The largest noria
s are the al-Mamunye
(1453) and the al-Muhammediye (14th century). Originally they were used to route water into aqueducts, which led into the town and the neighbouring agricultural areas.
Other sights include:
- the museum, housed in an 18th-century Ottoman governor residence (Azem Palace). Remains in the exhibition include a precious Roman mosaic from the nearby village of Maryamin (4th century AD)
- al-Nuri mosque, finished in 1163 by Nur ad-Din after the earthquake of 1157. Notable is the minaret.
- The small Mamluk al-Izzi mosque (15th century)
- The mosque and Mausoleum of Abu al-Fida, a celebrated Ayyubid historian who was also governor of the city.
- al-Hasanain mosque, also rebuilt by Nur ad-Din after the aforementioned earthquake.
- The Great Mosque. Destroyed in the 1982 bombardment, it has been rebuilt in its original forms. It has elements dating from the ancient and Christian structures existing in the same location. It has two minarets, and is preceded by a portico with an elevated treasury.
Room, Adrian. Placenames of the World. London: MacFarland and Company, Inc., 1997.
^ a b c d e f Hawkins, J.D. "Hamath." Reallexikon der Assyriologie und Vorderasiatischen Archäologie
, Vol. 4. Walter de Gruyter, 1975.
. Jewish Encyclopedia. Jewishencyclopedia.com. Retrieved
4 February 2013.
^ Hamath's history from the inscriptions was encapsulated by George L. Robinson, "The Entrance of Hamath" The Biblical World 32.1 (July 1908:7–18), in discussing the topography evoked by the Biblical phrase "the entrance of Hamath". ^ "Hamath Wrecked to Terrify Small Opponents of Assyria" The Science News-Letter. 39:13 (29 March 1941:205–206.) ^ The ivories were found there by Layard. One of the ivory panels found at "Fort Shalmaneser" is inscribed "Hamath." (R. D. Barnett, "Hamath and Nimrud: Shell Fragments from Hamath and the Provenance of the Nimrud Ivories." Iraq. 25:1. [Spring 1963:81–85.]) ^ a b c d
Ring, 1996, p.317.
^ a b c d e f g h i j kDumper, Stanley, and Abu-Lughod, 2007, p.163. ^
le Strange, 1890, p.39.
le Strange, 1890, p.357.
^ Chaliand, Gerard (1993). A People Without a Country: The Kurds and Kurdistan. London: Interlink Books. ^
le Strange, 1890, p.359.
^ a b
le Strange, 1890, p.360.
le Strange, 1890, p.xxiii.
^ a b c
Ring, 1996, p.318.
^ a b c Dumper, Stanley, and Abu-Lughod, 2007, p. 164. ^ "Klimatafel von Hama / Syrien"
(PDF). Baseline climate means (1961–1990) from stations all over the world (in German). Deutscher Wetterdienst. Retrieved
26 April 2017.
^ Shatzmiller, 1994, p.59. ^
James Reilly, A Small Town in Syria, Ottoman Hama in the 18th and 19th Centuries, p73. Peter Lang Publishing (2002)
^ a b Dumper, Stanley, and Abu-Lughod, 2007, p.162. ^ a b
Schaff and Herzog, 1911, p.232.
^ Oriens Christianus, II, pp.915–918. ^ Missiones Catholicae. pp.781–804.
- This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Herbermann, Charles, ed. (1913). Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Missing or empty |title= (help) 
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- le Strange, Guy (1890), Palestine Under the Moslems: A Description of Syria and the Holy Land from A.D. 650 to 1500, Committee of the Palestine Exploration Fund.
- Winckler, Onn (1998), Demographic developments and population policies in Baʻathist Syria, Sussex Academic Press, ISBN 1-902210-16-6.
- J.L. Whitaker (2008), "Hamah", in Michael R.T. Dumper; Bruce E. Stanley (eds.), Cities of the Middle East and North Africa, Santa Barbara, USA: ABC-CLIO
P. J. Riis/V. Poulsen, Hama: fouilles et recherches 1931–1938 (Copenhagen 1957).
This page was last edited on 16 April 2021, at 21:39