ḤAMĀH
Ḥamāh
Syria
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Alternative Titles: Emath, Epiphaneia, Epiphania, Hama
Ḥamāh, also spelled Hama, city, central Syria, on the banks of the Orontes River. It was an important prehistoric settlement, becoming the kingdom of Hamath under the Aramaeans in the 11th century BCE. It fell under Assyrian control in the 9th century BCE and later passed under Persian, Macedonian, and Seleucid rule, the Seleucids renaming the city Epiphaneia in the 2nd century BCE. During Byzantine rule it reverted to Emath, a form of its traditional name. When the Arabs took the city in the 7th century CE, they transformed the principal Christian church into a great mosque. Ḥamāh was captured by Crusaders in 1108, retaken by the Muslims in 1115, destroyed by an earthquake in 1175, and occupied by Saladin in 1188, the Mamlūk sultans about 1300, and the Ottomans in the early 16th century. It passed to Syria after World War I.
Waterwheel, Ḥamāh, Syria
Ray Manley/Shostal Associates
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Ḥamāh serves as an important agricultural market centre for cotton, cereals, fruit, and vegetables. Other economic activities include flour milling, wool and textile weaving, tanning, and cement manufacturing. Especially famous are the city’s gardens, which flank the river and are irrigated by great wooden waterwheels (Arabic nawāʿīr, singular nāʿūrah) measuring between 33 feet (10 metres) and 72 feet (22 metres) in diameter. They were constructed in the 14th century to raise water to aqueducts, which supplied water for drinking and irrigation. Several of the original 32 of these waterwheels are in present-day use.
Ḥamāh
Wooden waterwheels used to irrigate gardens in Ḥamāh, Syria.
© Francisco Javier Gil Oreja/Dreamstime.com
The ʿAẓm Palace (Bayt al-ʿAẓm), originally the residence of the governor of Ḥamāh (and later Damascus), Asʿad Paşa al-ʿAẓm, was restored by the Syrian Department of Antiquities but was damaged in fighting in 1982. The perfectly preserved 18th-century residence is now a museum that houses artifacts from the citadel of Hama, a little to the north of the city. This citadel (or tell) has produced artifacts from the 5th millennium BCE down through the Syro-Hittite kingdom of Hamath in the 2nd millennium into the Byzantine period. In the early 1980s, increasing political unrest culminated in a rebellion in the city by the Muslim Brotherhood in February 1982. The uprising was suppressed by the Syrian government with great force; about one-fourth of the old city was destroyed, and some 25,000 people were estimated to have been killed. Pop. (2004 est.) 366,800.
This article was most recently revised and updated by Laura Etheredge, Associate Editor.
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ORONTES RIVER
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Orontes River
river, Asia
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Alternative Title: Nahr al-ʿĀṣī
Orontes River, Arabic Nahr al-ʿĀṣī, river in southwestern Asia, draining a large part of the northern Levant into the Mediterranean Sea. From its source in Al-Biqāʿ (Bekaa) Valley of central Lebanon, the river flows northward between the parallel ranges of the Lebanon and Anti-Lebanon mountains into Syria, where it has been dammed to form Lake Qaṭṭīnah. Northwest of Ḥamāh the Orontes crosses the fertile Al-Ghāb, once a swampy depression, and enters Turkey, where it bends westward and empties into the sea near Samandağı. Largely unnavigable for most of its 250-mile (400-km) length, it is nonetheless an important source of irrigation water, especially between Homs and Ḥamāh and in Al-Ghāb. Major tributaries of the Orontes include the Karasu and ʿAfrīn rivers. Homs, Ḥamāh, and the ancient Greek city of Antioch (Antakya) are the largest riparian settlements.
Orontes River
Noria on the Orontes River, Hamah, Syria.
Bernard Gagnon
This article was most recently revised and updated by Noah Tesch, Associate Editor.
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The Orontes is the principal river of the mountainous region. It rises in Lebanon, flows northward through...…
Lebanon: Drainage
…other important rivers are the Orontes (Nahr al-ʿĀṣī), which rises in the north of Al-Biqāʿ and flows...…
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Asia, the world’s largest and most diverse continent. It occupies the eastern four-fifths...…
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