Map: Syria in c. 500 BC

Syria 1000BC – 500BC


For a couple of centuries after 1000 BC[1] the Phoenician city-states, particularly Tyre and Sidon, flourished as the leading trading powers of the Mediterranean Sea. To the south, the people of Israel inhabited a kingdom which, under kings David (c. 1006-965) and Solomon (c.965-928) became a leading regional power. After Solomon’s death, however, the kingdom divided into two, the southern part centred on Jerusalem, the northern part on Samaria.

In both kingdoms, the Israelites continued to worship their one God, Yahweh, and their faith developed as a succession of prophets taught that it was not just a matter of belief and worship, but of ethical behaviour as well.

From the mid-8th century onwards, the small kingdoms of Syria and Palestine fell one by one under the power of Assyria. The Assyrians destroyed the kingdom of Israel in 722 BC, many of its people deported to other parts of the empire; and the kingdom of Judah became a vassal state.

With the fall of Assyria in 612 BC, Syria and Palestine came under Babylonian control. The kingdom of Judah, having unsuccessfully rebelled against Babylon, was destroyed in 586 BC. Thousands of Jews were sent into exile. Then Syria and Palestine, like most of the Middle East,[2] passed into the hands of the Persians in 539 BC, who shortly restored the Jewish people to their homeland.

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