Map: Syria in c. AD 1648

Syria 1453AD – 1648AD


Syria was conquered by the Ottomans in 1516, and has been a province of their empire since then. This has for the most part been a period of peace. Agriculture has flourished under official protection by Ottoman governors. Commerce has expanded, especially with European traders, with English and French merchants replacing the earlier Italians as the dominant partners. Syrian merchants, both Muslims and Jews, have actively developed their own commercial networks in southern Europe.

Local religious communities – Jews, Alawites, Maronites and Druze – enjoy a great deal of self-government under the Ottomans, able to live according to their own laws and customs so long as they pay their taxes. Indeed, the Mount Lebanon region enjoys a semi-autonomous status, under its own line of hereditary princes. The two religious communities of the area, the Druze and Maronites, live side by side in comparative peace. The Maronites have come under the wing of the Roman Catholic Church, although they keep their own organization and ceremonies.

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