ABOUT SYRIA - LATTAKIA
Syria's main port, al-Ladhiqye --as Lattakia is known in Arabic --has the "Mediterranean"
look of a premier seaside resort.
Until the fall ofUgarit, the area was part of that kingdom. This was an important
ancient Canaanite urban center and its language has had a marked effect on our
knowledge of early religion and literature and Biblical studies. After the division
of Alexander's Empire it fell under the influence of the Seleucids and became
a major city and port. Seleucus I Nicator renamed the city Laodicea, in honor
ofhis mother, and today's name is a corruption of that Greek name. Laodicea had
an important early Christian community, a fact attested by being mentioned in
Revelations and Paul's letter to the Colossians. After the fall of Rome, possession
of the city see-sawed between the Byzantines, Arabs, Seljuk, the Crusaders, the
Mameluks and finally the Ottomans. Practically
nothing has survived from ancient Laodicea, with the exception of a tetrapylon
and architectural elements incorporated in later structures, but a visit to the
Ras Shamra (Ugarit) site, excavated almost continually since 1929, will give a
visitor a new perspective on one of the most important early civilizations.
The golden age ofUgarit came between the 16th and 13th centuries B.C. Gold and
ivory objects, bronze weapons, ceramic vases were discovered in addition to thousands
of engraved tablets concerning different fields: diplomatic, legal, economic,
literary and religious one. It was in Ugarit that the first consonantic alphabet
was invented. Carried by the Phoenicians, it was later adopted by the Greeks and
the Romans. This precious tablet of30 signs is exhibited in the National Museum
Another site should be mentioned at a distance of35 km north ofLattakia: Saladin
castle, one of the major crusaders castle in the region. Considered as impregnable,
it was taken, on 1188, by Saladin from the Hospitaller Knights in a time record.
The castle is famous for its man-made ditch entirely cut in the rock to isolate
it from the plateau. In the center, a needle 28m high was conserved to be a support
for a drawbridge.