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Bible Dictionaries

Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary

Syria

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that part of Asia which, bathed by the Mediterranean on the west, had to the north Mount Taurus, to the east the Euphrates and a small portion of Arabia, and to the south Judea, or Palestine. The orientals called it Aram. The name, which has been transmitted to us by the Greeks, is a corruption or abridgment of Assyria, which was first adopted by the Ionians, who frequented these coasts after the Assyrians of Nineveh had reduced that country to be a province of their empire, about B.C. 750. By the appellation of Syria is ordinarily meant the kingdom of Syria, of which, since the reign of the Seleucidae, Antioch has been the capital. The government of Syria was for a long time monarchical; but some of its towns, which formed several states, were republics. With regard to religion, the Syrians were idolaters. The central place of their worship was Hieropolis, in which was a magnificent temple, and near the temple a lake that was reputed sacred. In this temple was an oracle, the credit of which the priests used every method to support. The priests were distributed into various classes, and among them were those who were denominated Galli, and who voluntarily renounced the power of transmitting the succession in their own families. The Syrians had bloody sacrifices. Among the religious ceremonies of the Syrians, one was that any one who undertook a journey to Hieropolis began with shaving his head and eye-brows. He was not allowed to bathe, except in cold water, to drink any liquor, nor to lie on any but a hard bed, before the term of his pilgrimage was finished. When the pilgrims arrived, they were maintained at the public expense, and lodged with those who engaged to instruct them in the sacred rites and ceremonies. All the pilgrims were marked on the neck and wrists. The youth consecrated to the goddess the first-fruits of their beard and hair, which was preserved in the temple, in a vessel of gold or silver, on which was inscribed the name of the person who made the offering. The sight of a dead person rendered it unfit for any one to enter into the temple during the whole day. The dynasties of Syria may be distributed into two classes; those that are made known to us in the sacred writings, or in the works of Josephus, acknowledged by the orientals; and the Seleucidan kings, successors of Alexander, with whom we are acquainted by Greek authors. The monarchy of Syria continued two hundred and fifty-seven years.

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Bibliography Information
Watson, Richard. Entry for 'Syria'. Richard Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/eng/wtd/s/syria.html. 1831-2.

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