For military actions near the city, see Battle of Homs.
Homs (حمص, , anciently called Emesa (ἡ Ἔμεσα), or "La Chamelle" during the Crusades, Humus) is a city in western Syria, the capital of the Homs Governorate. It is 450 m above sea level, and is located 160 km away from Damascus and 190 km away from Aleppo. It is located on the Orontes river. It is also the central link between the interior cities and the Mediterranean Sea coast. In Roman times it was known as Emesa. The famous Crac des Chevaliers is built on the mountain overlooking the Homs Gap. Sites of cultural significance include the tomb of Khalid bin Walid, celebrated Arab Muslim general, Krak des Chevaliers, a Crusader fortress, and Al Fadael Mosque, the city's oldest surviving structure. The 2007 population estimate of the city is 1,647,000.
Excavations at Homs citadel by a joint Syrian-British team have revealed ceramic vessels retrieved from just above bed-rock at the base of the south-east side of the tell (hill), which indicate that the earliest settlement at the site dates back to around 2300 BC.
However, the narrowness of the archaeological areas that are safe to excavate preclude any chance of reaching these lower levels by coming down from the top of the tell, given its height of 30 m.
The history of the Homs as a metropolis (city) remains obscure until the times of the Seleucid Empire, when it was founded after the death of Alexander the Great.
Ancient Hemesa, in the Seleucid district of Apamea, was devoted to the worship of El-Gabal (also known as Baal), the sun god, of whose great temple the emperor Elagabalus was originally a priest (218 AD). As a center of native influences it was overawed by the Seleucid foundation of Apamea.
During this period Sampsiceramus or Shams'alkeram, an Aramaic chieftain, reigned over Hemesa (Emesa) and Rasten (Arethusa). In 64 BC Sampsiceramus killed Antiochus XIII, the last Seleucid king, at the behest of Pompey the Great.
During this period the Hellenistic culture flourished, however the Aramaic language prevailed throughout the eastern regions as it was the language of the natives.
Emesa had a temple to the Syrian sun god El-Gabal (Aramaic), also called Elagabalus (Latin) and Heliogabalus (Greek Ἡλιογάβαλος). During Roman times Emesa was ruled by its local dynasty of priest-kings (see Royal Family of Emesa).
It was the birthplace of the Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius Antoninus, better known as Elagabalus, who was a hereditary priest of his namesake deity and succeeded his cousin Caracalla in 218.
In 261, inhabitants of the city killed the usurper Quietus, who tried to find refuge there after failing to defeat the armies of Emperor Gallienus.
Emesa was also Roman Emperor Aurelian's headquarter during his campaign against Queen Zenobia of Palmyra. Caracalla made it a Roman colony (the colonia status being the highest urban status in the Roman Empire), and later it became the capital of a small province, Phoenicia Libanesia or ad Libanum.
After the division of the Roman empire in 395 AD, Emesa remained part of the Byzantine Christian empire until the forces of Rashidun Caliphate captured Emesa in March 636 AD, and they renamed it Homs.
Homs became an administrative/military center (jund) under the first under Rashiduns and then under Ummayads. With the fall of the Ummayads the city gradually lost its importance. It also suffered two destructive earthquakes in the 12th century.
After the Ummayads it passed to the hands of the Abbasides, Hamadanites, Fatimid, Seljuks, Ayoubids, and Mamluks. It also fell briefly to the Crusaders and the Mongols.
In 1516 it passed into Ottoman hands, where it remained as a capital of a sanjak in the wilayah of Damascus until the creation of the modern state of Syria after World War I.
The city flourished under the newly formed Syrian state due to its central location and partial destruction of its rival city Hama in 1982 when Hafez al-Assad ordered the Syrian army to quell the Muslim Brotherhood rebellion.
Israel bombed the Homs oil refinery during the Yom Kippur war in 1973.
In 1982 the security services sieged the industrial zone to capture renegade Muslim brotherhood members, and there is a report of full scale beatings and strip-searching of citizens present at that location.
Homs' population reflects Syria's general religious diversity, made up primarily of Sunnis
, and Alawites
. Homs is also home to smaller communities of Armenians
and Palestinian refugees
. In 2007, the estimated population of the city was 1,647,000.
Homs is home to the Al-Baath University
. The University houses several faculties including medicine, engineering, liberal arts, and sciences and a number of 2-year career (vocational) institutions. The German Syrian University at Wadi al-Nasarah opened in 2004 and is located 30 km west of the city.Also, the International School of Choueifat
recently opened up a branch just outside the city.
Homs is an agricultural center serving the farmers of the surrounding country side. Homs is also home to several large public heavy industries like the oil refinery west of the city. A growing private industrial sector has flourished in the past decade and many small to medium sized enterprises occupy the industrial zones northwest and south of the city. A new Sugar refinery is being built by a Brazilian company, and an automobile plant is under construction by Iran Khodro
. Also a new phosphate plant and oil refinery are being built east of the city. The service sector is small but growing.
Homs boasts two big stadiums west of the city and is home to Al-Karamah
Sports Club. Al-Karamah soccer team won several national and regional championships. It was runner-up in the 2006 Asian Champions League. Homs is also home to Al-Wathba
The cuisine of Homs is well celebrated in Syria. Famous dishes include: The Homsi kibbeh
, Beitenjan mehshi
(stuffed eggplant), shakriah, and halawet al-jubn.
- Hashim Atassi, Former President of Syria
- Nureddin al-Atassi, Former President of Syria.
- Luai al-Atassi, Former President of Syria.
- Muhammad Tulaimat, Painter.
- George Wassouf, Pop singer.
- Elagabalus, Emperor of the Roman Empire.
- Asma Assad, the wife of the Syria president Bashar al-Assad.
- Anicetus, Pope, 154-167.
- Heliodorus of Emesa, Hellenistic author of Aethiopica