- Region between the Mediterranean and Mesopotamia (qq.v.). To the north is the Taurus (q.v.) mountain range, to the south Palestine (q.v.). Moving east beyond the Hellenized densely settled coastal plain of Syria the geography changes to fertile farmland, then to a desert that continues to the Euphrates River (q.v.), Syria's eastern border. Among its cities Antioch (q.v.) overshadowed the rest in size and sophistication. Other cities, e.g. Apamea, Berroia, Damascus, and Edessa (qq.v.) were considerably smaller by comparison. The region apparently continued to prosper, despite religious instability (notably Nestorianism and Monophysitism [qq.v.]), plague, and damaging Persian raids, both beginning in the 540s, and then by the Arab conquest of the region that followed the battle of the Yarmuk River (q.v.) in 636. Even after the Arab conquest, Syria's large Christian population looked to Byzantium (q.v.), whose armies reconquered the region beginning in 969. Nevertheless, Syria fell to the Seljuks (q.v.) in 1084. Thereafter, Byzantium attempted to retain a presence in Syria by its claim to overlordship of Crusader-dominated Antioch (q.v.). This claim was realized in 1108, but it was shattered after Manuel I's defeat at Myriokephalon (qq.v.) in 1176.
Historical Dictionary of Byzantium . John H. Rosser .
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