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Urban Development of Damascus


This Neatline exhibit focuses on the urban development of Damascus from its foundation as a set of Aramaean villages ca. 1000 B.C. to the Roman period, terminating around A.D. 400. While the initial goal of the project was trace the evolution of the urban fabric of the city leading up to Ibn Jubayr's arrival in the 1180s, the amount of content virtually overwhelmed the exhibit.

Damascus is among the oldest continuously-inhabited cities in the world, with earliest traces of habitation dating to the prehistoric era, ca. 9000 B.C. By 1000 B.C., villages built upon tells around an oasis were consolidated under Aramaean leadership. The city became a cult center for the worshp of the Semitic thunder god, Hadad. Later Greeks and Romans continued this religious tradition, assimilating Hadad into cults of Zeus and Jupiter. After the Aramaean period, the Assyrians and Persians gained control of Damascus until the campaign of Alexander the Great toppled the Achaemenid Empire, bringing the East under the dominion of new Hellenistic dynasties. As the Seleucid Kingdom waned by the first century B.C., the Roman triumvir, Pompey the Great, conquered the eastern Mediterranean, bringing Syria and Damascus under Roman control. Numerous empires ruled over Damascus over a period of 1,400 years, each one leaving its mark in the urban fabric of the city.

View Interactive Exhibit Here!

Exhibit Notes and Instructions

The exhibit spans 1,400 years, and there appears, at the moment, no way to save the zoom level for the timeline. Before engaging in the exhibit, I recommend zooming out on the timeline with the minus (-) button as far as the software allows so that multiple centuries are visible at once. The list to the right of the map includes the three main chronological periods of focus: Aramaean, Assyrian, and Persian (ca. 1000 B.C. - 324 B.C.), Hellenistic (324 B.C. - 64 B.C.), and Roman (64 B.C. - ca. A.D. 400). Click on one of these periods will shift the map and timeline to the appropriate geographic or temporal center. By dragging the timeline forward or backward, features will appear and disappear on the map, based on the date range of the structure or architectural space's dates of existence.

Polygons represent spaces or buildings in the city, and are color-coded based on function.


The bibliography for this project has been recorded in Zotero. It is available at https://www.zotero.org/ewg118/items/collectionKey/JK2JAX5H.