Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary
a celebrated city of Asia, and anciently the capital of Syria, may be accounted one of the most venerable places in the world for its antiquity. It is supposed to have been founded by Ux, the son of Aram; and is, at least, known to have subsisted in the time of Abraham, Genesis 15:2 . It was the residence of the Syrian kings, during the space of three centuries; and experienced a number of vicissitudes in every period of its history. Its sovereign, Hadad, whom Josephus calls the first of its kings, was conquered by David, king of Israel. In the reign of Ahaz, it was taken by Tiglath Pileser, who slew its last king, Rezin, and added its provinces to the Assyrian empire. It was taken and plundered, also, by Sennacherib, Nebuchadnezzar, the generals of Alexander the Great, Judas Maccabeus, and at length by the Romans in the war conducted by Pompey against Tigranes, in the year before Christ, 65. During the time of the emperors, it was one of the principal arsenals in Asia, and is celebrated by the emperor Julian as, even in his day, "the eye of the whole east." About the year 634, it was taken by the Saracen princes, who made it the place of their residence, till Bagdad was prepared for their reception; and, after suffering a variety of revolutions, it was taken and destroyed by Tamerlane, A.D. 1400. It was repaired by the Mamelukes, when they gained possession of Syria; but was wrested from them by the Turks, in 1506; and since that period has formed the capital of one of their pachalics. The modern city is delightfully situated about fifty miles from the sea, in a fertile and extensive plain, watered by the river which the Greeks called Chrysorrhoras, or "Golden River," but which is known by the name of Barrady, and of which the ancient Abana and Pharpar are supposed to have been branches. The city is nearly two miles in length from its north-east to its north-west extremity; but of very inconsiderable breadth, especially near the middle of its extent, where its width is much contracted. It is surrounded by a circular wall, which is strong, though not lofty; but its suburbs are extensive and irregular. Its streets are narrow; and one of them, called Straight, mentioned in Acts 9:11 , still runs through the city about half a mile in length. The houses, and especially those which front the streets, are very indifferently built, chiefly of mud formed into the shape of bricks, and dried in the sun; but those toward the gardens, and in the squares, present a more handsome appearance. In these mud walls, however, the gates and doors are often adorned with marble portals, carved and inlaid with great beauty and variety; and the inside of the habitation, which is generally a large square court, is ornamented with fragrant trees and marble fountains, and surrounded with splendid apartments, furnished and painted in the highest style of luxury. The market places are well constructed, and adorned with a rich colonnade of variegated marble. The principal public buildings are, the castle, which is about three hundred and forty paces in length; the hospital, a charitable establishment for the reception of strangers, composing a large quadrangle lined with a colonnade, and roofed in small domes covered with lead; and the mosque, the entrance of which is supported by four large columns of red granite; the apartments in it are numerous and magnificent, and the top is covered with a cupola ornamented with two minarets.
Damascus is surrounded by a fruitful and delightful country, forming a plain nearly eighty miles in circumference; and the lands, most adjacent to the city, are formed into gardens of great extent, which are stored with fruit trees of every description. "No place in the world," says Mr. Maundrell, "can promise to the beholder at a distance a greater voluptuousness;" and he mentions a tradition of the Turks, that their prophet, when approaching Damascus: took his station upon a certain precipice, in order to view the city; and, after considering its ravishing beauty and delightful aspect, was unwilling to tempt his frailty by going farther; but instantly took his departure with this remark, that there was but one paradise designed for man, and that, for his part, he was resolved not to take his in this world. The air or water of Damascus, or both, are supposed to have a powerful effect in curing the leprosy, or, at least, in arresting its progress, while the patient remains in the place.
The Rev. James Conner visited Damascus in 1820, as an agent of the Church Missionary Society. He had a letter from the archbishop of Cyprus to Seraphim, patriarch of Antioch, the head of the Christian church in the east, who resides at Damascus. This good man received Mr. Conner in the most friendly manner; and expressed himself delighted with the systems and operations of the Bible Society. He undertook to encourage and promote, to the utmost of his power, the sale and distribution of the Scriptures throughout the patriarchate; and, as a proof of his earnestness in the cause, he ordered, the next day, a number of letters to be prepared, and sent to his archbishops and bishops, urging them to promote the objects of the Bible Society in their respective stations.
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Watson, Richard. Entry for 'Damascus'. Richard Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/eng/wtd/d/damascus.html. 1831-2.