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HOMS, or HUMS (anc. Emesa or Emessa, near the Hittite Kadesh), a town of Syria, on the right bank of the Orontes, and capital of a sanjak in the vilayet of Syria (Damascus). Pop. 30,000 (20,000 Moslem, 10,000 Christian). The importance of the place arises from its command of the great north road from Egypt, Palestine and Damascus by the Orontes valley. Invading armies from the south have often been opposed near Horns, from the time of Rameses II., who had to fight the battle of Kadesh, to that of Ibrahim Pasha, who broke the first line of Ottoman defence in 1831 by his victory there. Ancient Emesa, in the district of Apamea, was a very old Syrian city, devoted to the worship of Baal, the Sun god, of whose great temple the emperor Heliogabalus was originally a priest (A.D. 218). As a centre of native influences it was overawed by the Seleucid foundation of Apamea; but it opposed the Roman advance. There Aurelian crushed, in A.D. 272, the Syrian national movement led by Zenobia. Caracalla made it a Roman colony, and later it became the capital of a small province, Phoenicia Libanesia or ad Libanum. About 630 it was captured by the Moslem leader, Khalid ibn Walid, who is buried there. It now became the capital of ajund, or military district, which under the Omayyad Caliphs extended from Palmyra to the sea. Under the Arabs it was one of the largest cities in Syria, with walls and a strong citadel, which stood on a hill, occupying perhaps the site of the great Sun temple. The ruins of this castle, blown up by Ibrahim Pasha, are still the most conspicuous feature of Horns, and contain many remains of ancient buildings. Its men were noted for their courage in war, and its women for their beauty. The climate was extolled for its excellence, and the land for its fertility. A succession of gardens bordered the Orontes, and the vineyards were remarkable for their abundant yield of grapes. When the place capitulated the great church of St John was divided between the Christians and Moslems, an arrangement which apparently lasted until the arrival of the Turks. At the end of the 11th century it fell into crusading hands, but was recovered by the Moslems under Saladin in 1187. Its decay probably dates from the invasion of the Mongols (1260), who fought two important battles with the Egyptians (1281 and 1299) in its vicinity. The construction of a carriage road to Tripoli led to a partial revival of prosperity and to an export of cereals and fruit, and this growth has, in turn, been accentuated by the railway, which now connects it with Aleppo and the Damascus-Beirut line. The district is well planted with mulberries and produces much silk, most of which is worked up on the spot. (D. G. H.)

Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)

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