Tripoli, Syria - Encyclopedia




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TRIPOLI, or TARABULUS (anc. Tripolis), the chief town of a sanjak of the same name in the Beirut vilayet of Syria, situated about 2 m. inland from its port, al-Mina. The ancient Phoenician city, which we know only by its Greek name of Tripolis, was the seat in Persian times of the federal council of Sidon, Tyre and Aradus, each of which cities had its separate quarter in the "triple town." In the 2nd and 1st centuries B.C., under Seleucid and Roman influences successively, it struck autonomous coins. These are succeeded by imperial coins ranging from 32 B.C. to A.D. 221. About 450, and again in 550, it was destroyed by earthquake. The Arabs took it in 638 after a prolonged siege, the inhabitants withdrawing by sea. Moawiya recruited the population by a colony of Jews and gave it fortifications and a garrison against the naval attacks of the Greeks, who, notwithstanding, retook it for a brief space in the time of Abdalmalik. It was again taken by the Greeks in the war of 966-69 and was besieged by Basil II. in 995, after which date it was held by a garrison in the pay of the Fatimite caliphs of Egypt, who treated the city with favour and maintained in it a trading fleet. At this time, according to the description of Nasir Khosrau, who visited it in 1047, it lay on the peninsula of Al-Mind, bathed on three sides by the sea, and had about 20,000 inhabitants and important industries of sugar and paper-making. Of the great sea-walls and towers there are still imposing remains. From this date till it was taken by the crusaders, after a five years' siege, in 1109, the ruling family was that of 'Ammar, which founded a library of over Ioo,000 volumes. Under the crusaders Tripoli continued to flourish, exported glass to Venice, and had 4000 looms. In 1289 it was taken and destroyed by the sultan Kola`un of Egypt, and a new city was begun on the present site, which rapidly rose to importance. Its medieval prosperity has obliterated most relics of remoter antiquity. Tripoli had a troubled existence during the period of Ottoman weakness (the 18th and early 19th centuries), being frequently in dispute between the pasha of Aleppo and the rebel pashas of Acre. After the Egyptian conquest of Syria it was made the capital of a province in 1834; but in 1840 it reverted to the minor position which it now holds. It is connected by a carriage road with Horns and by a steam tramway with Beirut, and is the natural outlet of the upper Orontes valley; but its inland trade has been greatly damaged by the Homs-Aleppo railway. From its own district, however, it exports silk, tobacco, oil, soap, sponges, eggs and fruit, and is a prosperous and growing place with a large Christian element in its population (about 30,000, the port-town included). It is served regularly by the Levantine lines of steamers. (D. G. H.)

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