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Greater Syria

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Greater Syria - This term describes a variable region that is centered around the actual borders of modern Syria, but may also include the entire Levant and the territory of the former British Mandate for Palestine, parts of Turkey and Cyprus. "Greater Syria" is usually a term used to justify the imperialist and irredentist ambitions and program of pan-Syrian nationalists. It is sometimes confused with  Assyria, an area and kingdom located somewhat to the east.. The Arab imperialists called this general area Bilad a Shams. The names "Greater Syria" are both names for an indefinite geographic entity and a separate political entity that never really existed and certainly does not exist today.  

Roman "Syria" comprised the entire northern Levant with an uncertain border to the northeast that Pliny the Elder describes as including, from west to east, Commagene, Sophene, and Adiabene, "formerly known as Assyria."

In 64 BCE, Syria became a province of the Roman Empire. Roman Syria bordered on Judaea to the south (renamed Palaestina in AD 135 (the region roughly corresponding to modern Israel and Jordan) and Phoenicia, corresponding to Lebanon. Phoenicia and Judea were separate entities. Within the area south of Phoenicia and Syria, there were several provincial entities that varied at different times, including Judea and Samaria. The Golan Heights were administered as part of a Jewish kingdom. There does not seem to have been a "Greater" Syria as a historic concept, unless we consider the later Roman provinces of Syria and Coele Syria together as "Greater Syria." 

In AD 193, the province was divided into Syria proper and Syria Coele along the western bank of the Euphrates. Sometime between 330 and 350 (likely about 341), the province of Euphratensis was created out of the territory of Syria Coele and the former kingdom of Commagene, with Hierapolis as its capital. Since Coele Syria is well to the East, this province is not relevant to current territorial claims. to

The regions were annexed to the Islamic Caliphate after the Muslim victory over the Byzantine Empire at the Battle of Yarmouk, and became known afterwards by its Arabic name, ash-Shām. During Umayyad times, Sham was divided into junds or military districts. They were Jund Dimashq, Jund Hims, Jund Filastin and Jund al-Urdunn. Later Jund Qinnasrin was created out of part of Jund Hims. Jund Filastin was soon conquered and passed out of Arab control.

The city of Damascus was the capital of the Islamic caliphate until the rise of Abbasid caliphs.

The area of "Syria" was now enlarged to include both Palestine and Phoenicia. The latter was included Jund Dimashq, which also included The Jaulan or Golan, as well a the Huleh. Part of the clamed territory of "Greater Syria" seems to reflect short lived conquest of Arab imperialism. 

In the later periods  of Ottoman rule, Syrian territory included wilayahs (vilayets) or sub-provinces the borders of which,and the choice of cities as seats of government within them varied over time. The vilayets or sub-provinces of Aleppo, Damascus, and Beirut, in addition to the two special districts of Mount Lebanon and Jerusalem. Aleppo consisted of northern modern-day Syria plus parts of southern Turkey, Damascus covered southern Syria and modern-day Jordan.

Ottoman Syria - 1918 

(adapted from Wikicommons

Beirut included Lebanon, the Syrian coast and Northwest Palestine or israel  from the port-city of Latakia southward to the Galilee, while Jerusalem consisted of the land south of the Galilee and west of the Jordan River and the Wadi Arabah. The Golan was not part of Syria.

After the San Remo conference and the defeat of King Faisal's short-lived monarchy in Syria at the Battle of Maysalun, the French general Henri Gouraud, subdivided the French Mandate of Syria into six states. They were the states of Damascus (1920), Aleppo (1920), Alawite State (1920), Jabal Druze (1921), the autonomous Sanjak of Alexandretta (1921) (modern Hatay, Turkey), and Greater Lebanon (1920) which later became modern Lebanon. The British ceded the Golan heights to France during this period.

French Syrian states

(adapted from Wikicommons

The Syrian Socialist Nationalist party developed  the concept or myth of "Bilad a Shams" that includes a very wide territory, comprising all of Lebanon, Jordan, Israel, Palestine, Iraq, Cyprus, as well as parts of Egypt and Turkey.  

Greater Syria of the Syrian Nationalist Party

(based on from Wikicommons)

In modern usage, "Greater Syria" always includes all of Lebanon, Israel and Palestinian areas as well as Syria. This is not an empty theoretical concept. it is shown on Syrian maps.

Ami Isseroff

February 23, 2011


Synonyms and alternate spellings:

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Hebrew/Arabic pronunciation and transliteration conventions:

'H - ('het) a guttural sound made deep in the throat. To Western ears it may sound like the "ch" in loch. In Arabic there are several letters that have similar sounds. Examples: 'hanukah, 'hamas, 'haredi. Formerly, this sound was often represented by ch, especially in German transliterations of Hebrew. Thus, 'hanukah is often rendered as Chanuka for example.

ch - (chaf) a sound like "ch" in loch or the Russian Kh as in Khruschev or German Ach, made by putting the tongue against the roof of the mouth. In Hebrew, a chaf can never occur at the beginning of a word. At the beginning of a word, it has a dot in it and is pronounced "Kaf."

u - usually between oo as in spoon and u as in put.

a- sounded like a in arm

ah- used to represent an a sound made by the letter hey at the end of a word. It is the same sound as a. Haganah and Hagana are alternative acceptable transliterations.

'a-notation used for Hebrew and Arabic ayin, a guttural ah sound.

o - close to the French o as in homme.

th - (taf without a dot) - Th was formerly used to transliterate the Hebrew taf sound for taf without a dot. However in modern Hebrew there is no detectable difference in standard pronunciation of taf with or without a dot, and therefore Histadruth and Histadrut, Rehovoth and Rehovot are all acceptable.

q- (quf) - In transliteration of Hebrew and Arabic, it is best to consistently use the letter q for the quf, to avoid confusion with similar sounding words that might be spelled with a kaf, which should be transliterated as K. Thus, Hatiqva is preferable to Hatikva for example.


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