A celebrated metropolis of Syria, first mentioned in Genesis 14:15 15:2, and now probably the oldest city on the globe. It stands on the river Barada, the ancient Chrysorrhoas, in a beautiful and fertile plain on the east and south east of Anti-Lebanon. See ABANA, and Pharpar. This plain is about fifty miles in circumference; it is open to the desert of Arabiaon the south and east, and is bounded on the other sides by the mountains. The region around and north of Damascus, including probably the valley between the ridges of Lebanon and Anti-Lebanon, is called in the Scriptures, "Syria of Damascus," 2 Samuel 8:5, and by Strabo, Coelesyria. This city, which at first had its own kings, was taken by David, 2 Samuel 8:5,6; and by Jeroboam 2 Kings 14:28. Its history at this period is to be found in the accounts given of Naaman, Ben-hadad, Hazael, and Rezin. It was subdued by Tiglath-pileser, 2 Kings 16:9; and was afterwards subject to the Assyrians, Babylonians, Persians, Seleucidea, and Romans. In the days of Paul it appears to have been held, for a time at least, by Aretas, king of Arabia Petraea, the father-in-law of Herod Antipas. At this period the city was so much thronged by the Jews, that, according to Josephus, ten thousand of them, by command of Nero, were put to death at once. It is memorable to Christians as the scene of the miraculous conversion of that most illustrious "servant of the Lord Jesus Christ," the apostle Paul, Acts 9:1-27 22:1-16. Since 1506, Damascus has been held by the Turks; it is the metropolis of "the Pashalic of Damascus," and has a population of about one hundred and fifty thousand. The Arabs call it Eshshams. It is still celebrated, with the surrounding country, by all travellers, as one of the most beautiful and luxuriant regions in the world. The orientals themselves call it "Paradise on earth," and it is pretended that Mohammed refused to enter it, lest he should thereby forfeit his heavenly Paradise. The plain around the city is well watered and of exuberant fertility; and the eye of the traveller from any direction is fascinated by the view-a wilderness of verdure, interspersed with innumerable villas and hamlets, with gardens, fountains, and groves. A nearer view of the city discloses much that is offensive to the senses, as well as to the spirit. It is the most purely oriental city yet remaining of all that are named in the Bible. Its public buildings and bazaars are fine; and many private dwellings, though outwardly mean, are decorated within in a style of the most costly luxury. Its position has made it from the very first a commercial city, Ezekiel 27:18. They cloth called Damask is supposed to have originated here, and Damascus steel has never been equaled. It still caries on an extensive traffic in woven stuffs of silk and cotton, in fine inlaid cabinet work, in leather, fruits, sweetmeats, etc. For this purpose huge caravans assemble here at intervals, and traverse, just as of old, the desert routes to remote cities. Here too is a chief gathering-place of pilgrims to Mecca. People from all the nations of East resort to Damascus, a fact which shows its importance as a missionary station. An encouraging commencement has been made by English Christians, and the fierce and bigoted intolerance of its Mussulman population has begun to give way. A street is still found here called "Straight," probably the same referred to in Acts 9:11. It runs a mile or more through the city from the eastern gate.
These dictionary topics are from American Tract Society Bible Dictionary published in 1859. Public Domain, copy freely.
Rand, W. W. "Entry for 'DAMASCUS'". "American Tract Society Bible Dictionary".