History Files


Middle East Kingdoms

Ancient Syria




MapDamas (Damascus / Upe?)

One of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world, with inhabitation dating to between 6000 to 5000 BC, the name Damas (or Damascus) is suspected to be pre-Semitic. The Amorites of the eighteenth century BC certainly knew it as Dimaski (according to the Ebla archives), and the Semitic Akkadians of the fourteenth century BC knew it as Dimashqa (as shown in the Armana letters). Its pre-Iron Age history is very obscure, but it may correspond to the Egypt's 'Upe' (in the northern Levant). Ancient Damascus lay on the south bank of the River Barada, behind the mountains of Lebanon, with the city being surrounded by an oasis, but it appears not to have achieved any importance until it was occupied by Aramaeans in the tenth century BC.

c.2500 BC

Uz ben Shem

Existence cannot be proven.

1453 BC

Egypt reasserts its authority in the region by conquering territory in the Levant and Syria as far north as Amurru. The Egyptians establish three provinces, one of which, Upe, in the northern Levant, may correspond to Damas.

c.1370 BC

The Hittites extend their influence and control in Syria as far south as Damas, although in this period the city is controlled by nearby Amurru, and still administered overall by Egypt.

fl c.1350 BC


Canaanite vassal of Amurru. Named in Egypt's Armana letters.

c.1335 BC

Aziru / Azirou

King of Amurru.

c.1300 BC

Egypt still conducts profitable trade with Damascus via a trade route which cuts through the friendly kingdom of Moab.

c.1100 BC

With the destruction of the city's former master, Amurru, a century before, Aramaeans are free to move in and take control of Damas.

Aram Damascus

Formerly controlled by Amurru, the regional power vacuum which was created when that city was destroyed in about 1200 BC allowed groups of Aramaeans to migrate into the area. Attracted by the concentration of a population in a fertile, well-watered plain dominating one of the region's principal trade routes, they occupied the city and developed it into a powerful state known as Aram Damascus which dominated Syria. The state's kings were the Biblical 'kings of Syria', and were to prove troublesome enemies for over a century and a half. However, archaeological evidence for the city is almost non-existent, thanks to continued occupation causing it to be overbuilt, and Aramaean royal inscriptions are rare.

c.980 BC

Ammon is conquered by Israel, despite assistance being supplied by Aram Damascus (its Aramaean rulers are unknown for this date).

fl c.980s? BC


An unknown ruler who is an ally of Ammon?

c.970? BC

A young officer named Rezon, son of Eliada, escapes the fall of Zobah and establishes himself in Damas, where he 'founds' Aram Damascus - in other words he takes control of it - and severely threatens Israel and its northern successor, Samaria. The rule of a Hezion/Hadyon (Hebrew/Aramaic versions) and his descendents has been confirmed by discoveries of stelae in Syria. It is presumed that the Bible's Rezon is the same kingdom-creating figure, although this form of the name is a corruption of the original.

fl c.950 - 930s? BC

Hezion / Hadyon / Rezon I

Son of Eliada. The Bible's Rezon, probably the same at Hezion.

Tab-Rimmon / Tabrimmon


928 - 925 BC

The break-up of Israel allows Damascus to rapidly grow in power and at times even threaten the existence of its southern neighbour. It is frequently called upon by Judah to help against Samaria and probably gains some of the latter's northern towns during this period. It also gains the important caravan routes westwards to the Phoenician ports, bringing immense wealth into the city.

c.914 - 880 BC

Ben-Hadad I / Benhadad I / Birhadad


c.880 - 843 BC

Ben-Hadad II / Benhadad II / Adad-Idri

Ben-Hadad I & II may be one and the same.

855 - 854 BC

Damascus makes its long-awaited attack on Samaria, destroying Hazor along the way. But Ben-Hadad and 32 vassal kings are strategically defeated by Samaria twice in two years.

853 BC

Ben-Hadad is a member of an alliance of states which also include Ammon, Arvad, Byblos, Edom, Egypt, Hamath, Kedar, and Samaria. Together they fight Shalmaneser III of Assyria at the Battle of Qarqar which consists of the largest known number of combatants in a single battle to date, and is the first historical mention of the Arabs from the southern deserts. Despite claims to the contrary, the Assyrians are defeated, since they do not press on to their nearest target, Hamath, and do not resume their attacks on Hamath and Damascus for about six years.

850 BC

Damascus removes Bashan from Samarian control.

c.843 - 804 BC

Hazael / Haza'el

Usurper. Probably a court official. Murdered Ben-Hadad.

c.840 BC

Under Hazael, Damascus expands its borders by annexing all the Hebrew possessions east of the Jordan, ravaging Judah, and rendering Israel impotent. From inscriptions by Shalmaneser III of Assyria it appears that Hazael also withstands an attack by the Assyrian army and keeps Damascus, Syria, and Philistia independent (although he does seize the Philistine city of Gath). However, his actions against his neighbours unleashes a long series of conflicts with Jerusalem. Gath is subsequently besieged and then destroyed, towards the end of the century, and it never recovers.

fl c.796 BC

Ben-Hadad III / Benhadad III / Hadadezer


c.796 BC

Ben-Hadad III is not the man his father had been. He loses Hazael's empire, and in this year the Assyrians return, attacking Damascus and forcing tribute from it. This attack is almost certainly led by Shamshi-ilu from his western base at Kar-Shulmanu-Ashared. He is perhaps the most powerful man of his time, one of a small group of almost equally powerful magnates - princes who govern Assyria under the sovereignty of Adad-Nirari and his three immediate successors. Ben-Hadad also leads a coalition of states against Zakir of Hamath, and Luash to the north of Damascus, but is defeated by the latter. Israel is also able to throw off his domination, and later makes Damascus a vassal state.

fl c.770 BC


c.740 - 732 BC

Rezon II / Rezin / Radyan

Killed by the Assyrians.

738 BC

Damascus becomes a vassal of Assyria, but the king remains on the throne.

734 BC

Pekah of Israel and Rezon II form an anti-Assyrian coalition. They try to force Ahaz of Judah to join them but are stopped when Tiglath-Pileser III marches an army into the region. Over the next two years he re-conquers all the rebellious states, and takes Damascus.

732 - 609 BC

The Assyrians capture and destroy Damascus in retaliation for all the city's attempts to challenge its supremacy in the Levant, and the city's inhabitants are deported. A governor is appointed to Damascus, something that happens to more than one Syrian city, as witnessed in Carchemish. The city remains significant throughout the following centuries, but its territory is carved up into five provinces: Mansuate (north-west), Subite (far north), Damascus, Karnaim (south of Damascus and east of the River Jordan), and Hauran (south-east).

fl 700s BC


Assyrian governor.

612 - 572 BC

Damascus' immediate fate after the fall of Assyria is not clear. Some sources state that Babylonia inherits it immediately.

572 - 332 BC

Damascus falls to Babylonia, and after them it becomes part of the Persian empire. Damascus is made the capital of the province of Syria until it falls to the Greeks of Macedon in 332 BC.

332 BC - AD 1127

Damascus follows the Syrian sequence of events, briefly becoming part of the Nabataean kingdom in the first century AD. In the seventh century it is conquered by the Islamic empire and later in the same century, the Umayyads move the capital of the empire to Damascus, making Islamic Syria the centre of power.