|San José State University |
The Economic History|
of Damascus, Syria
First there was an oasis. That oasis, now known as al-Ghutah, became a resting place for trade caravans
crossing the desert. The city that grew up providing services for the traders became attractive to the martial leaders
who then made it their capital. It helped to make Damascus attractive that it was at the eastern base of Jabal (Mount) Qaisiyun.
The city grew up in the area at an elevation of about 2300 feet above sea level. More recent growth extends up the
slope of Jabal Qaisiyun to an altitude of about three thousand feet.
Notably Damascus is the oldest living city.
The major climatic problem for Damascus is its low rainfall. The average is about 7 inches per year, but it has fallen to
2 inches in some years and risen to 14 inches. This is in contrast to Beirut which is only about 50 miles to the west on the
other side of the mountain chain where the average rainfall is about 33 inches per year. The rainfall in Damascus is limited
to the period from November through February.
There is a river, the Barada, which flows eastward through Damascus to disappear into the desert.
The temperatures in Damascus are not extreme. January temperatures average 45° F. and August 81° F.
Timeline of the History of Damascus
- Third Millennium BCE: Excavated pottery dates from this era.
- Second Millennium BCE: Several kingdoms were established in Syria by the Aramaeans including one around Damascus.
- 15th Century BCE: Damascus along with the rest of Syria was conquered by the forces of the Egyptian pharaoh Thutmose III.
- 1000 BCE: Damascus was conquered by the forces of King David of Israel.
- 732 BCE: Damascus was conquered by the forces of Tiglath-pileser III of the Assyrians.
- 604 BCE: Damascus was conquered by the forces of Nebuchadressar II of the Chaldeans.
- 530 BCE: Damascus was conquered by the forces of Cambyses of the Persians.
- 333 BCE: Damascus and the rest of Syria were conquered by the forces of Alexander of Macedonia. This led to an influx
of Greek people and culture to Damascus.
- 85 BCE: Damascus was conquered by the forces of Aretas III of the Nabataeans.
- 64 BCE: Damascus was conquered by the forces of Rome.
- 37 BCE: Damascus was reoccupied by the Nabataeans.
- 54 CE: Damascus was returned to Roman control.
- 635 CE: Damascus was conquered by the Arab forces of Islam.
- 661: Damascus was made the capital of the Islamic Empire by the Umayyads.
- 750: The Umayyads were defeated by the Abbasids and Baghdad was made the capital of the Islamic Empire. The army
of the Abbasids tried to destroy Damascus.
- 1076: Damascus was conquered by the forces of the Seljuq Turks.
- 1148: Damascus was captured by the Crusader forces of Conrad III of Germany and Louis VII of France.
- 1154: Damascus was reconquered by the forces of Nureddin of Egypt.
- c. 1250: Damascus was occupied briefly by the Mongols.
- 1260: The Mamluks of Egypt unite Syria with Egypt.
- 1401: Damascus was conquered by the Mongol forces of Timur (Tamerlane). They tried to destroy Damascus and
they did deport its scholars and artisans to the Mongol capital of Samarkand. The Mamluks immediately
reoccupied the city and tried to restore it.
- 1516: Damascus was conquered by the Ottoman Turks.
- 1831: Damascus and the rest of Syria were combined with Egypt by Mohammed Ali Pasha, the Ottoman Turkish governor of Egypt.
Damascus was made capital of Syria.
- 1840: Syria was separated from Egypt as a province of the Ottoman Empire.
- 1878: A new Ottoman governor, Midhat Pasha, was appointed for Damascus and he undertook an extensive program of improvement
of the city transportation and sanitation systems.
- 1894: A rail line linking Damascus with Beirut was completed.
- 1908: A rail line linking Damascus with Medina was completed which facilitated the pilgrimage of Moslems to Mecca.
- 1918: The Arab Legion, with Lawrence of Arabia, captured Damascus from the Turks.
- 1919: A Syrian government was created with Damascus as the capital.
- 1920: French forces took over Damascus and the rest of Syria on the basis of a mandate from the League of Nations.
- 1925: A rebellion against the French broke out in Damascus that was suppressed only by bombarding the city twice.
- 1929: The first wool-cloth factory in Damascus was built,
- 1930: The cement factory in Damascus was built.
- 1935: The first food-preservation plant in Damascus was built.
- 1937: The first cotton textile plants in Damascus were built. These plants used imported yarn.
- 1945: The first glass factory in Damascus was built.
- 1941: Allied forces captured control of Damascus from the Vichy-French authorities.
- 1946: Syria became an independent country with Damascus as its capital.
- (To be continued.)