What is Damascus?
, the most ancient and famous city of Syria, 133 miles north-east of Jerusalem, at the base of Anti-Lebanon mountains. It is on a fertile plain 30 miles in diameter, with mountains on three sides. The plain is well watered by the Barada, the Chrysorrhoas (or "Golden Stream") of the Greeks, the Abana of Scripture; and El A'waj ("the crooked"), the Pharpar of Scripture. 2 Kgs 5:12. These streams flow into meadow-lakes 18 miles east of the city. Damascus lies 2260 feet above the sealevel. The climate is delightful; frost is not uncommon in winter, but fireplaces are unknown; in summer the thermometer marks 100 F to 104 F but the nights are cool and the dews heavy; yet the people sleep on the flat roofs of their houses. Damascus is called by the Arabs "the Eye of the Desert" and the "Pearl of the East." It is to the Mohammedan the earthly reflection of paradise. The chief cause of its beauty and fertility is the abundance of water, which calls forth a most luxuriant vegetation round about the city, and makes it a blooming oasis in the midst of a vast desert. History. -Damascus is called the oldest city in the world; said by Josephus to have been founded by Uz, a grandson of Shem; Abraham visited it, Gen 14:15; Gen 15:2; it was conquered by David, 2 Sam 8:5-6; was allied with Israel and against Israel, 1 Kgs 15:18, Ruth 4:20; 2 Chr 16:3; was taken by Tiglath-pileser; Wall of Damascus.(From, Conybeare and Howson's "St. Paul.") denounced by Jeremiah. Jer 49:27; and afterward seldom noticed in O.T. history. It was surrendered to Alexander the Great after the battle of Issus, b.c. 333. In the N.T. it is noticed as the place of the scene of Paul's conversion, Acts 9:1-25; later it became the residence of a Christian bishop; was conquered by the Arabs, a.d. 635; attacked by the Crusaders, A.D. 1126: several times besieged; was taken by the Mongols, 1260; plundered by the Tartars, 1300; attacked by Timour, 1399, to whom it paid a million pieces of gold; became A provincial capital of the Turkish empire, 1516; and is now the residence of a Turkish governor. It is the hot-bed of Mohammedan fanaticism. In 1860, 6000 Christians were massacred by the Moslems in cold blood, in the city and adjoining districts. Present Condition. -Though twelve times pillaged and burned, it now extends on both sides of the Barada, and has a population of from 110,000 to 150,000. The most remarkable building is the Great Mosque, which was once a Byzantine church dedicated to John the Baptist. The principal street, known as Sultany, or Queen's street, runs in nearly a straight line from east to west, and is supposed to be the same as the street called "Straight" in Acts 9:11. The traditional sites of the houses of Naaman and Ananias and the place in the wall where Paul was let down in a basket are still pointed out. No less than four places near the city have been claimed as the scene of Paul's conversion. The Presbyterian Church of Ireland maintains a Protestant mission there, which has several substantial buildings and labors among the Greeks and the Jews. There is also an Episcopal mission and chapel in Damascus.