1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Orontes

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ORONTES, the ancient name of the chief Syrian river, also called Draco, Typhon and Axius, the last a native form, from whose revival, or continuous employment in native speech, has proceeded the modern name ‛Āsī (“rebel”), which is variously interpreted by Arabs as referring to the stream's impetuosity, to its unproductive channel, or to the fact that it flows away from Mecca. The Orontes rises in the great springs of Labweh on the east side of the Buka‛a, or inter-Lebanon district, very near the fountains of the southward-flowing Litani, and it runs due north, parallel with the coast, falling 2000 ft. through a rocky gorge. Leaving this it expands into the Lake of Homs, having been dammed back in antiquity. The valley now widens out into the rich district of Hamah (Hamath-Epiphancia), below which lie the broad meadow-lands of Ghāb, containing the sites of ancient Apamea and Larissa. This central Orontes valley ends at the rocky barrier of Jisr al-Hadid, where the river is diverted to the west, and the plain of Antioch opens. Two large tributaries from the N., the Afrīn and Kara Su, here reach it through the former Lake of Antioch, which is now drained through an artificial channel (Nahr al-Kowsit). Passing N. of the modern Antakia (Antioch) the Orontes plunges S.W. into a gorge (compared by the ancients to Tempe), and falls 150 ft. in 10 m. to the sea just south of the little port of Suedia (anc. Seleucia Pieriae), after a total course of 170 m. Mainly unnavigable and of little use for irrigation, the Orontes derives its historical importance solely from the convenience of its valley for traffic from N. to S. Roads from N. and N.E., converging at Antioch, follow the course of the stream up to Homs, where they fork to Damascus and to Coele-Syria and the S.; and along its valley have passed the armies and traffic bound to and from Egypt in all ages. (See Antioch and Homs.)  (D. G. H.)