Settlements > Hamath
Hama (Arabic: حماة Ḥamāh [ħaˈmaː]; Biblical Hebrew: חֲמָת Ḥamāth, "fortress") is a city on the banks of the Orontes River in west-central Syria. It is located 213 km (132 mi) north of Damascus and 46 kilometres (29 mi) north of Homs. It is the provincial capital of the Hama Governorate. With a population of 854,000 (2009 census), Hama is the fourth-largest city in Syria after Aleppo, Damascus and Homs.
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.
In the last decades, the city of Hama has become known as a center of the anti-Ba'ath opposition in Syria, most notably the Muslim Brotherhood. The city was raided by the Syrian Army, beginning with the 1964 Hama riot, and becoming the scene of carnage during the Islamist uprising in Syria with the 1981 Hama massacre and a year later, when nearly 25,000 people were killed in what became known as the 1982 Hama massacre. The city was once again 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.
1.1 Ancient era
1.1.1 Amorite period and the Mittanni
1.1.3 Assyrian inscriptions
1.1.4 Destruction under Sargon II
1.1.5 Hama in the Bible
1.2 Hellenistic and Roman history
1.3 Muslim rule
1.4 Ottoman rule
1.5 Colonial rule and independence
1.6 Ba'athist rule 1963–today
3.1 Ecclesiastical status
4 Main sights
5 See also
8 Further reading
9 External links
See also: Timeline of Hama
An alley in Old Hama
The ancient settlement of Hamath was occupied from the early Neolithic to the Iron Age. 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 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). The overlying level L dates to the Chalcolithic Halaf culture.
Amorite period and the Mittanni
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. Mitanni was subsequently overthrown by the Hittites, who controlled all of northern Syria following the famous Battle of Kadesh against Ancient Egypt under Ramesses II near Homs in 1285.
In early 19th century, Johann Ludwig Burckhardt was the first to discover Hittite or Luwian hieroglyphic script at Hama.
The site also shows Assyrian and Aramaean settlement.
By the turn of the millennium, the centralized old Hittite Empire had fallen, and Hama is attested as the capital of one of the prosperous Syro-Hittite states known from the Hebrew Bible as Hamath (Aramaic: Ḥmt; Hittite: Amatuwana; Hebrew: חֲמָת Ḥəmåṯ), which traded extensively, particularly with Israel and Judah.
When the Assyrian king Shalmaneser III (BC 858-824) conquered the north of Syria he reached Hamath (Assyrian: Amat or Hamata) 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 Syrian cities against the encroaching Assyrian armies. According to Assyrian sources, they were confronted by 4000 chariots, 2000 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.
An Aramaic inscription of Zakkur, dual king of Hamath and Luhuti, tells of an attack by a coalition including Sam'al under Ben-Hadad III, son of Hazael, king of Aram-Damascus. Zakir was besieged in his fortress of Hazrak, but saved by intervention of the God Baalshamin. Later on, the state of Sam'al came to rule both Hamath and Aram.
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 1223 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 and replaced with captives from the Zagros Mountains.
Destruction under Sargon II
After the fall of the northern kingdom of Israel, Hamath's king Ilu-Bi'di (Jau-Bi'di) led a failed revolt of the newly organized Assyrian provinces of Arpad, Simirra, Damascus, and Samara.
Styling himself the "Destroyer of Hamath," Sargon II razed the city ca 720 BCE, 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.
Hama 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. Solomon, it would seem, took possession of Hamath and its territory and built store cities. Assyria's defeat of Hamath made a profound impression on Isaiah. The prophet Amos called the town "Hamath the Great." Indeed, the name appears to stem from Phoenician khamat, "fort."
Hellenistic and Roman history
Aqueduct in Epiphania (= Hama).
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 Epiphania (in Greek: Επιφανεία), 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 or Emathoùs (Εμαθούς 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.