views updated May 29 2018


Syrian city and religious center.

Homs, strategically situated on the Orontes River at the eastern gateway of a pass connecting Syria's central plains to the Mediterranean coast, traces its history back to at least GrecoRoman times. Along with Baʿalbak, it was a center of sun worship from the first to the third century c.e. Arab Muslim armies led by Khalid ibn al-Walid captured the city in 637 and converted its massive church of St. John into a mosque. Homs was designated headquarters of one of five Syrian military districts under Muʿawiya. Its inhabitants repeatedly rebelled against the Abbasids before falling under the control of the Tulunids of Egypt (878944) and Hamdanids of Aleppo (9441016). Byzantine commanders raided the city throughout the tenth and eleventh centuries, but by the late eleventh century rivalry among competing Saljuq client states shaped politics in the region. Duqaq ibn Tutush turned Homs into a major base of operations against the Crusaders at the beginning of the twelfth century, bringing the city under the direct control of Damascus for the first time. It suffered a series of ferocious attacks from the Zangids of Aleppo in the early twelfth century and provided the linchpin for Nur al-Din Mahmud's defense of Damascus against the Second Crusade.

Salah al-Din ibn Ayyubi captured Homs in 1175, retaining the local Asadi dynasty to block incursions into central Syria from the Crusader strongholds of Tripoli and Krak de Chevaliers (Qalʿat al-Husn). After siding with the Mongols at Ayn Jalut, the Asadi ruler al-Ashraf Musa was pardoned by Qutuz, the Mamluk sultan whose successor, Baybars, rebuilt the city's citadel. In 1260, al-Ashraf Musa joined the rulers of Aleppo and Hama to defeat a second Mongol invasion force on the outskirts of the city. With the death of al-Ashraf Musa two years later, Homs vanished under the shadow of the rulers of Hamah and Damascus and continued to be dominated by the Mamluks of Egypt, by Timur, and by a succession of bedouin chieftains before becoming a subdivision (pashalik) of the Ottoman governorate of Damascus. The city's inhabitants revolted against the 1831 Egyptian occupation of Syria, prompting Ibrahim Pasha to raze the citadel.

Contemporary Homs is known for being the site of Syria's main oil refinery, as well as of the country's military academy. Several important public sector industrial enterprises, including a massive sugar factory, are located in and around the city. Syria's newest university, al-Baʿth, opened in the southern suburbs in 1979.

See also baʿalbak; ibrahim ibn muhammad ali.

fred h. lawson