1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Aleppo

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ALEPPO (native Haleb). (1) A vilayet of Asiatic Turkey, comprising N. Syria and N.W. Mesopotamia, with an extension N. of Taurus to the neighbourhood of Gorun. It comprises three sanjaks, Aleppo, Marash and Urfa. About half is mountain, but there are fertile plains of great extent N. of Antakia, S. of Marash and around the city of Aleppo (see below). The only seaport of importance is Alexandretta (q.v.). The exports are, on the average, over one million sterling, and imports about double in value. The settled population is barely a million; but there is a considerable unsettled element in the S.E. which cannot well be estimated. The Christians, mainly Jacobite Syrian, but including also Armenians of several denominations (e.g. those of Marash and Zeitun), Maronites and Greeks, form about one-fifth. There are some 20,000 Jews, resident chiefly in the provincial capital; and of the Moslem majority the bulk is Arab, Turkoman and Ansarieh. In the N.W. and N. is a considerable Kurdish population.

(2) The provincial capital (anc. Khalep; Gr. Chalybon-Beroea), situated on a plateau in the valley of the Kuwaik (anc. Chalus) about 10 m. above its dissipation in the great salt-marsh of Matkh. Pop. about 130,000, three-quarters Moslem. Aleppo is about midway between the sea and the Euphrates, a little nearer the latter.

The modern city stands on both banks of the Kuwaik, and the older portions are contained within a Saracenic wall, 31/2 m. in circuit with seven gates. The European residents and Christians live outside in the Kitab and new Azizieh quarters, and the Jews in that of Bahsita. A modern citadel occupies the N.W., the medieval castle on its mound (partly artificial and not a strong position, according to Istakhri) being almost deserted but still forbidden to visitors. There are two mosques of special interest—the Umawi (or Zakaria) on the site of a church ascribed to the empress Helena and containing a tomb reputed to be that of the Baptist’s father, and the Kakun. Many minor ones serve the needs of a population traditionally fanatical. Gardens extend for miles along the river, and the bazaars and khans are unusually large. The climate is cold, dry and healthy, despite the prevalence of the famous “Aleppo button,” a swelling which appears either on the face or on the hands, and breaks into an ulcer which lasts a year and leaves a permanent scar. It has been ascribed to a fly, to the water and to other causes; but it is not peculiar to Aleppo, being rife also at Aintab, Bagdad, &c.

The attempt made by the British Euphrates expedition in 1841 to connect Aleppo with the sea by steamer through the nearest point on the Euphrates, Meskiné, failed owing to the obstructed state of the stream and the insecurity of the riparian districts. The latter drawback has been minimized by the continued success of the Aleppo administration in inducing the Anazeh Bedouins to become fellahin; but river traffic has not been resumed. A railway, however, connects southward with the Beirut-Damascus line at Rayak. Aleppo is an important consular station for all European powers, the residence of the Greek and Armenian Patriarchs of Antioch, and of Jacobite and Maronite bishops, and a station of Roman Catholic and Protestant missions. It is the emporium of N. Syria, and manufactures textiles in silk, cotton and wool, carpets and leather commodities, besides being the centre of a large district growing cereals, pistachios and fruit. The Turks regard it as one of the strongholds of their dominion and faith, and a future capital of their empire should they be forced into Asia. As a centre from which good natural roads lead N., N.E., W. and S., Aleppo would make a good capital.

History and Remains.—The site lies high (1400 ft.) on eight hillocks in a fertile oasis plain, beyond which stretch on the S. and S.E. grassy steppes merging ere long into desert, and on the other quarters rather sterile downs. It has superseded Antioch as the economic centre of N. Syria, and Palmyra as the great road-station for eastern caravans. But it is rather a revived than a new capital; Khalep was a very ancient Syrian and probably “Hittite” city of importance, known from Babylonian, Assyrian and Egyptian records. Seleucus Nicator gave it a Macedonian name, Beroea; but Chalcis, some distance S., was the capital of the province, Chalcidice (later, Kinnasrin), in which it lay, and the centre of that hellenized region, now a vast field of ruins, which stretches W. to the Orontes. Khalep-Beroea, we may infer, remained a native town and a focus of Aramaic influence, a fact which will explain the speedy oblivion of its Macedonian name and the permanent revival of its ancient title, even by Greeks.

As Beroea we hear of the place in Seleucid wars and dissensions. There Menelaus, the fomenter of war with the Asmoneans, was put to death by Lysias in 164 B.C., “as the manner is in that place” (Macc. ii. 13. 4), being thrown into a lofty tower full of cinders. There Heracleon, the court favourite and murderer of Antiochus Grypus, was born and made himself a principality (96 B.C.); and there the son of the latter king besieged his brother Philip in the last struggle for the heritage of Seleucus. As Chalybon, the town is called by Ptolemy head of a district, Chalybonitis; but we continue to hear of it as Beroea up to the Arab conquest, e.g. in the history of Julian’s eastward march in A.D. 363, and in that of the Persian raid of 540. It was occupied in 611 by Chosroes II. Overwhelmed by the Saracen flood in A.D. 638, Beroea disappears, and as Moslem society settles down Halep emerges again as the great gathering-place of caravans passing from Asia Minor and Syria to Mesopotamia, Bagdad and the Persian and Indian kingdoms. Like Antioch it suffered from earthquakes, and late in the 12th century, after a terrible shock, had to be rebuilt by Nur ed-Din. But neither earthquakes nor the plague, to which it was also peculiarly liable, could divert trade and prosperity from it. It belonged to the Eastern Caliphate (the Hamdanids) until temporarily reoccupied by John Zimisces, emperor of Byzantium and a native of neighbouring Hierapolis (q.v.), A.D. 974, after an abortive attempt by Nicephorus thirteen years earlier. Thirteen years later it recognized and received the Fatimites, and passed under various Moslem dynasties, forming part of the Seljuk dominion from 1090 to 1117. The crusading princes of Antioch never held the place, though they attacked it in 1124; and Saladin, who took it in 1183, made it a stronghold against them and the northern capital of himself and his successors until the Tatar invasion of 1260. Thereafter the Mamelukes took and kept possession, despite the renewed Tatar inroad of 1401, until the final conquest by the Ottomans in 1517. Under the strong hand of the latter the trade of Aleppo with the East revived. One of the first provincial factories and consulates of the British Turkey (Levant) Company was established there in the reign of James I.; and a British agent had been in residence there even in Elizabeth’s time. As the eastern outpost of the company’s operations, it was connected with the western outpost of the East India Company in Bagdad by a private postal service, and its name became very familiar in England from the part that its merchants (largely Jewish) bore in the transmission of Eastern products to Europe (cf., e.g. Shakespeare, Macb. i. 3. 7; Oth. v. 2. 352). Through it passed the silks of Bambyce, called bombazines, the light textiles of Mosul (mosulinesmuslins) and many other commodities for the wealthy and luxurious. The first blow was struck at this trade by the discovery of the Cape route to India; the second by the opening of a land route through Egypt to the Red Sea; the third and final one by the making of the Suez Canal. Long ere this last event, however, Aleppo had been declining from internal causes. In the latter part of the 18th century and the first years of the 19th it was constantly the scene of bloody dissensions between two rival parties, one led by the local janissaries, the other by the sherifs (religious); and the Ottoman governors took the side, now of one, now of the other, in order to plunder a distracted city, too far removed from the centre to be controlled by the sultans, and too near the rebellious pashalik of Acre and the unsettled district of Lebanon not to be affected by the disorders natural to a frontier province. This state of things led to the suspension of the British consulate by the Turkey Company in 1791; and it was not revived till 1800, after which date till 1825 it was maintained jointly by the East India Company. In 1803 Jezzar of Acre advanced as near as Hamah; but his death occurred in the following year; and after a sanguinary rising in 1805, Aleppo settled down, but was not at peace, even after a local janissary massacre in 1814, till Mahmud II. had dealt finally with the corps at headquarters (1826). Meanwhile there had been a frightful earthquake in 1822, and a visitation of cholera in the following year. More cholera in 1827 and 1832 and another earthquake in 1830 had left the place a wreck, with only half its former population, when Mehemet Ali of Cairo invaded and took Syria. Aleppo shared, and to some extent headed, the Syrian discontent with Egyptian rule, and was strongly held by troops whose huge barracks are still one of the sights of the city. Ready to rise behind Ibrahim Pasha in 1839, it was only prevented by the news of Nezib. Tumults and massacres of Christians occurred in 1850 and 1862, accompanied by great destruction of property; but on the whole, since the consolidation of Ottoman rule over Syria by Abdul Mejid’s ministers, Aleppo has been reviving, although its trade is more local than of old.

Bibliography.—F. R. Chesney, The Euphrates Expedition (1850); H. Guys, Statistique Pachalik d’Alep (1853), and Esquisse de l’état de la Syrie (1862); E. B. B. Barker, Syria and Egypt (1876); W. F. Ainsworth, Personal Narrative of the Euphrates Expedition (1888); E. R. Bevan, House of Seleucus (1902); G. le Strange, Palestine under the Moslems (1890).  (D. G. H.)