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Homs is an almost legendary place, capable of instilling wonder both in the Romans and in the great leader Khalid ibn al Walid who, right here, laid his grave
The words of Ibn Battuta
A pleasant city with elegant surroundings, full of lush trees, rivers full of water and markets with very wide streets. The Friday mosque stands out for its perfect beauty and includes a basin of water in the center.
The inhabitants, of Bedouin origin, are courteous and generous. Outside the city there is the tomb of Khalid ibn al Walid, “the sword of God” and of His Envoy, on which a zawiya and a mosque all covered by a black cloth stand.
“Emesa”, Homs between the Greeks and Romans
The area around Homs was occupied since 2300 BC, so much so that in Kadesh, near it, the famous battle between Egyptians and Hittites was fought, considered to be the one with the largest number of wagons used, about 5500. However, the first hints of this city date back only to Strabo, a Greek historian at the turn of the first century BC. and the first after Christ. There are numerous theories that have followed one another, the most likely, however, is that the inhabited center (then called Emesa) was identified with the name of the place Arab tribe of the Emesenoi; this would be supported by the numerous pre-Roman remains present in the area, as well as a local stia which had its base in Arethusa, near it.
This dynasty will play a fundamental role in safeguarding the region from Roman domination, showing itself immediately as a great ally of the Latins and thus guaranteeing its own house to continue to dominate the area, which, thanks to the new protectors, will expand up to Baalbek. With the death of the last king, Soaemo, the kingdom was definitively incorporated by the Romans, under whom it became one of the most important cities of Syria. Under the emperor Antoninus Pius began to mint money, but greatness will come with the rise to the throne of Septimio Severus, whose wife was descended from Soaemo. Thanks to this dynasty, the religious value of El-Gabal also grew, a local deity associated with the extremely dear Sun Heliogabalus, descendant of Septimio. Due to the very strong ancient beliefs, the city struggled more than others to convert to Christianity, however in the 5th century there was already a large community, so much so that the place became one of the centers of Eastern Christianity.
The city of Khalid ibn al Walid
Near Homs, the legendary Battle of Yarmouk was fought, a key moment in the history of Arab expansion in the Middle East, in which a small army of 27,000 Muslims, commanded by Khalid ibn al Walid, defeated the impressive Byzantine army, made up of over 100,000 men, losing just 3,000. After the latter, the citizens peacefully agreed with the new conquerors, transforming their settlement into the most important center of Syria, long second only to Damascus. For this very reason, many of the Prophet‘s companions, including Khalid, chose to stop right here.
Homs, however, under the Arab empire will experience many tensions, due above all to her great support for Ali and in general for the Shiite world, which never attracted her the likes of the caliphs; instead transforming it into a place of continuous rebellions and political tensions, so much so that for a lasting peace, the arrival of the Ottomans. Under the crusades it became the Muslim defensive bastion and for this reason it was long defended by Saladin and his descendants, precisely because of his defensive role, however, once the latter were finished, his decline began.
Ottomans and modern times
Under the Ottomans the city will continue its decline, developing as a refining center for raw materials, but looking with sadness at the vestiges of its past. With the arrival of the French, it became the seat of the only military academy until 1967, contributing to the formation of a large part of the war intelligentsia until the arrival of Hafez al Assad, the moment in which things will change forever.
From that moment on, it will continue to be one of the most beautiful and largest cities in Syria, while remaining in the memory above all for the deeds of Khalid ibn al Walid, still one of the most important symbols of Homs.
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