Thursday, February 2, 2023
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Thursday, February 2, 2023

Orontes River: Syrian civilization in a watercolor portrait

The Orontes River

The Orontes River (called also Asi River, meaning disobedient river as it flows from south to north) originates from the south of the Levant (Lebanon) and heads north over the plains of Homs forming Qattinah Lake where ancient civilizations had established large cities, the most important of which is the city of Kadesh where one of the most significant battles of ancient history took place between Pharaoh Ramses II and the Hittites led by Muwatallis in the thirteenth century BC. This battle eventually resulted in the establishment of a nonaggression pact between the Egyptians and the Hittites in the area, the first known treaty in history. The first intermarriage between a pharaoh and a Syrian girl occurred in the ensuing years. 

The city of Homs was established three kilometers away from the bed of the Orontes River

The city of Homs was established three kilometers away from the bed of the Orontes River because the inhabitants chose a patch of land with a stargate of cosmic energy more potent than the energy that manifested on the banks of the river. Consequently, they built canals to bring water from the river to their city and invested in the surrounding lands for the development of agriculture and livestock. The great Roman Heraclius resided in Homs and built a palace for himself on the bank of the Orontes.

The Orontes inspired artists in the area and presented humanity with magnificent mosaics indicative of the extent of wealth, luxury, and bliss the region

From Homs, the Orontes continues running north, forming a dam in the Rastan area allowing for the establishment of a civilization that has existed there since the second millennium BC. The Orontes inspired artists in the area and presented humanity with magnificent mosaics indicative of the extent of wealth, luxury, and bliss the region experienced thanks to the Orontes, especially in the Roman, Byzantine, and Islamic eras. 

Part of a Roman-era mosaic panel in Rastan city in central Homs governorate; Credit: Ouruba newspaper

From Rastan the Orontes continues to flow north through the plains of Apamea, a city comparable to Rome in beauty and grandeur. All thanks to the Orontes, which created a unique civilized zone rarely repeated in history with its breadth, diversity, and density of civilizations spread around it, especially Aramaic, Amorite,and Syriac.   

Apamea

From Apamea, the Orontes heads still further north to reach Shaizar, a city that resisted the Crusaders and from which came the most significant Muslim heroes and most brilliant historians such as Osama bin Munqidh, friend and historian partner of Salah al-Din al-Ayyubi. In addition, the military castles scattered around the Orontes protected the interior of the Levant from Crusader incursions, the most important of which are the castles of Osama bin Munqidh in Homs and the castle of Shaizar. The establishment of these military cities, castles, dams, and bridges is credited to the Orontes River, the undisputed source of the growth of Syrian civilization.

Shaizar Castle; Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Because the Orontes continues its northward journey through the ancient city of Hama, the science and arts of mechanical engineering and excellent modern irrigation methods (the famous waterwheels of Hama) emerged. They still exist today. Located within a large valley, they are the oldest means of irrigating the lands of Hama. Engineers invented a unique water system three thousand years ago to enable the river to water the highlands. It is a scientific innovation that survives to this day and stands as a testimony to the creativity and ingenuity of ancient Syrian civilization.

Waterwheels of Hama

Because the Orontes fascinated Alexander, he built the city of Alexandretta on its banks. He gave it his name to add to the history of urbanization, a new city that still exists today

From Hama, the river flows north until it enters the city of Alexandretta, the sister city of Alexandria, both of these magnificent cities built by Alexander of Macedon. Because the Orontes fascinated Alexander, he built the city of Alexandretta on its banks. He gave it his name to add to the history of urbanization, a new city that still exists today. Now known as Iskenderun, it is located in what is currently known as the Province of Hatay in Turkey.

The long, arduous journey of the Orontes continues, exhausted by wars, dam construction, castles, and walls, inspiring inventors and engineers along the way to invent the first water-run mills for grinding grain on the banks of the river. Along the river, many villages spread out on a vast plain without any natural terrain or obstacles to the river line. 

At the end of its northward journey, Orontes turns left and finds a warrior’s rest as it silently pours into the Mediterranean Sea after a 600-kilometer journey. It ends its task by depositing tales of our history anchored at the bottom of the river with carved stones, artifacts, and the remains of civilizations before being thrown into the sea where they would be lost.

George Tuma
George Tuma
George Tuma is the publisher and chief editor of Medical & Cosmetic Arts Magazine; specialist in Spirituality, Health, and Healing; an Instructor of Electro Cosmetic, Therapy and a Practioner of Holistic Medicine, (Complementary and Alternative). He has published several articles in scientific journals.

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