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The Orontes River and norias in Hama

Hama is a city that is located on the Orontes in Syria, north of the city of Homs.

A massacre occurred in the city of Hama starting 2 February 1982. It lasted for 27 days. The town was shelled by the Syrian military, and the massacre claimed 30,000 to 40,000 civilian lives. One third of Hama was destroyed. See: Hama Massacre

Ancient history

The ancient settlement of Hama was occupied from the early Neolithic to the Iron Age. It was excavated between 1931-1933 by a Danish team under the direction of H. Ingholt. The stratigraphy is very generalised, which makes detailed comparison to other sites difficult. Level M (6 m thick) contained both white ware, vessels made from lime-plaster and true pottery. It should be contemporary with Ras Shamra VA and B (6000-5000 BC). The overlying level L dates to the Chalcolithic Halaf-period.

The Hettite levels are overlain by Aramaic remains which date to the end of the 11th century. At this time, Aramaic tribes seem to have taken over the whole Orontes and Litani-valley.

Iron age Hama (Hamath) seems to have been a centre of ivory-working. It shows strong Egyptian influence. Together with Aram (Damascus) Hama formed an important Aramaic state in the Syrian interior. As the Aramaic script was written on paper, very few records have been recovered in Hama itself, and Biblical reports are scarce.

When the Assyrian king Shalmaneser III (858-824 BC) conquered the North of Syria he reached Hama in 835 BC; this marks the beginning of Assyrian sources on the kingdom. Irhuleni of Hama and IM-idri of Aram (biblical Bar-Hadad) led a coalition of Syrian cities against the encroaching Assyrian armies. According to Assyrian sources, they were confronted by 4,000 chariots, 2,000 horsemen, 62,000 foot-soldiers and 1,000 Arab camel-riders at the fortess of Qarqar. The Assyrian victory seems to have been more of a draw, although Shalmaneser III continued to the ocean and even took a ship to open sea. In the following years, Shalmaneser III failed to conquer Hamath and Aram as well. After the death of Shalmaneser III the former allies Hamath and Aram fell out, and Aram seems to have taken over some of Hama's territory.

An aramic inscription by Zakir, king of Hamath and La'ash tells of an attack by a coalition under Bar-Hadad, son of Hasael, king of Aram, including Sam'al. Zakir was besieged in his fortress of Hazrak, but saved by intervention of the God Be'elschamen. Later on, Ja'udi-Sam'al came to rule both Hamath and Aram.

In 743 BC Tiglath-Pileser III took a number of towns in the territory of Hama, but not the town itself. In 738 Hama is listed among the towns conquered by Assyrian troops. Over 30,000 Syrians from the environs of Hama were deported to the Zagros-mountains.

In 605 BC, the remains of the Egyptian garrison of Karkemish was annihilated at Hama by the Babylonian king Nebukadnezar. In 554/553 Hama was the target of a campaign by Nabonidus of Babylon.

Further reading

  • P. J. Riis/V. Paulsen, Hama: fouilles et recherches 1931-1938 (Copenhagen 1957).de:Hama

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