Syrian people
الشعب السوري‎
Syrian people
Regions with significant populations
Syria Syria 22,530,746 [1]
Argentina Argentina unknown
United States United States 154,560 [2]
Mexico Mexico unknown

Arabic (Syrian Arabic, North Syrian Arabic), Kurdish, Western Neo-Aramaic, Assyrian Neo-Aramaic, South Azeri and Armenian


Islam: mostly Sunni, and a minority of Shi'as, Alawites and Druze
Christianity: mostly Greek Orthodox and Greek Catholic
other religions such as Yazidis

The Syrian people (Arabic: الشعب السوري al-sha‘ab al-Sūrī) are the inhabitants and citizens of the Syrian Arab Republic. Most modern-day Syrians are commonly described as Arabs by virtue of their descent, language and bonds to Arab culture and history. However, there are Kurdish, Turks, Syriac, Circassian, Aramean and other minorities, who also reside in Syria and express the Syrian National identity. Many Syrians live outside of Syria, and they stay connected to their cultural roots by visiting their homeland, forming and participating in Arab and Syrian communities in their new countries, listening to Syrian music, watching Syrian Television, and preparing Syrian cuisine.


The name Syria is derived from the ancient Greek name for Syrians: Σύριοι, Sýrioi, or Σύροι, Sýroi, which the Greeks applied without distinction to the Assyrians.[3][4] The area designated by the word has changed over time. Classically, Syria lies at the eastern end of the Mediterranean, between Arabia to the south and Asia Minor to the north, stretching inland to include parts of Iraq, and having an uncertain border to the northeast that Pliny the Elder describes as including, from west to east, Commagene, Sophene, and Adiabene.[5]


Main Article: History of Syria 

Early History

Archaeologists have demonstrated that civilization in Syria was one of the most ancient on earth. Syria is part of the Fertile Crescent, and since approximately 10,000 BCE it was one of centers of Neolithic culture (PPNA) where agriculture and cattle breeding appeared for the first time in the world. The Neolithic period (PPNB) is represented by rectangular houses of the Mureybet culture. In the early Neolithic period, people used vessels made of stone, gyps and burnt lime. Finds of obsidian tools from Anatolia are evidence of early trade relations. The cities of Hamoukar and Emar flourished during the late Neolithic and Bronze Age.

Ancient Syrians

The ruins of Ebla, near Idlib in northern Syria, were discovered and excavated in 1975. Ebla appears to have been
Female figurine

Female figurine, Syria, 5000 BC. Ancient Orient Museum

an East Semitic speaking city-state founded around 3000 BCE. At its zenith, from about 2500 to 2400 BCE, it may have controlled an empire reaching north to Anatolia, east to Mesopotamia and south to the Red Sea. Ebla traded with the Mesopotamian states of Sumer Akkad and Assyria, as well as with peoples to the northwest.[2] Gifts from Pharaohs, found during excavations, confirm Ebla's contact with Egypt. Scholars believe the language of Ebla was closely related to the fellow East Semitic Akkadian language of Mesopotamia[6] and to be among the oldest known written languages.[7]

From the third millennium BCE, Syria was occupied successively by Sumerians, Egyptians, Hittites, Assyrians and Babylonians.[8] The region was fought over by the rival empires of the Hittites, Egyptians, Assyrians and Mitanni between the 15th and 13th centuries BCE, with the Middle Assyrian Empire eventually left controlling Syria.

When the Middle Assyrian Empire began to deteriorate in the late 11th century BC, Canaanites and Phoenicians,
Clay tablets

Clay tablet from Ebla's archive

came to the fore and occupied the coast, and Arameans supplanted the Amorites in the interior, as part of the general disruptions and exchanges associated with the Bronze Age Collapse and the Sea Peoples.

The city of Antioch was the third largest city in the Roman Empire, after Rome and Alexandria. With an estimated population of 500,000 at its peak, Antioch was one of the major centers of trade and industry in the ancient world. The largely Aramaic speaking population of Syria during the heyday of the empire was probably not exceeded again until the 19th century. Syria's large and prosperous population made it one of the most important Roman provinces, particularly during the 2nd and 3rd centuries C.E.[9]

Palmyra, a wealthy and powerful indigenous Aramean state arose in the 2nd and 3rd centuries AD, and for a short time it was the center of the Palmyrene Empire, which briefly rivalled Rome.

With the decline of the empire in the west, Syria became part of the East Roman, or Byzantine, Empire in 395.

Palmyrene Empire

In 260 A.D., a queen from Syria known as Zenobia led a revolt against the Roman rulers of Syria. Zenobia successfuly freed Syria of Roman rule and expanded her kingdom to Asia Minor, Palestine and Egypt, which historians refer to as the Palmyrene Empire, after its capital Palmyra.[22] Zenobia was also successful in pursuing her father's assassin and leading his execution, impacting the role of women as powerul rulers. Zenobia's Arab ancestry is in some debate among historians, she did name her son Wahb Allat which means "gift of the goddess" in Arabic and is commonly translated as Vaballathus in Latin. She did come from a family of Aramaic-naming customs, which was a common practice among many Arab communities at the time. She is known as Bat-Zabbai ('בת זבי‎) in Aramaic and Al-Zabba (الزباء) in Arabic. Al-Tabari, a Persian historian, claims that Zenobia came from a tribe known as the Amlaqi, where her father was its sheikh (Arab clan leader). Her father's Latin name was Julius Aurelius Zenobius, and 'Amr ibn al-Zarib in Arabic, according to Al-Tabari.

Islamic Era

Main articles: Umayyad Caliphate, Abbasid Caliphate, Ayyubid dynasty, Zengid dynasty, and Hamdanid dynasty 

In 634-640, Syria was conquered by the Muslim Arabs in the form of the Rashidun army led by Khalid ibn al-Walid, resulting in the region becoming part of the Islamic empire. In the mid-7th century, the Umayyad dynasty, then
Umayyad Mosque

The Umayyad Mosque, Damascus

rulers of the empire, placed the capital of the empire in Damascus. Syria was divided into four districts: Damascus, Homs, Palestine and Jordan. The Islamic empire expanded rapidly and at its height stretched from Spain to India and parts of Central Asia; thus Syria prospered economically, being the centre of the empire. Early Umayyad rulers such as Abd al-Malik and Al-Walid I constructed several splendid palaces and mosques throughout Syria, particularly in Damascus, Aleppo and Homs.

There was complete toleration of Christians (mostly ethnic Arameans and in the north east, Assyrians) in this era and several held governmental posts. In the mid-8th century, the Caliphate collapsed amid dynastic struggles, regional revolts and religious disputes. The Umayyad dynasty was overthrown by the Abbasid dynasty in 750, who moved the capital of empire to Baghdad. Arabic — made official under Umayyad rule — became the dominant language, replacing Greek and Aramaic in the Abbasid era. For periods, Syria was ruled from Egypt, under the Tulunids (887-905), and then, after a period of anarchy, the Ikhshidids (941-969). Northern Syria came under the Hamdanids of Aleppo.[10]

Ottoman Era

Main article: Ottoman Syria

Ottoman Sultan Selim I conquered Syria in 1516 after defeating the Mamlukes at the Battle of Marj Dabiq near Aleppo. Syria was part of the Ottoman Empire from 1516 to 1918. Ottoman rule was not burdensome to the Syrians because the Turks, as Muslims, respected Arabic as the language of the Koran, and accepted the mantle
Citadel of aleppo

Citadel of Aleppo is considered to be one of the oldest and largest castles in the world.

of defenders of the faith. Damascus became the major entrepot for Mecca, and as such it acquired a holy character to Muslims, because of the barakah (spiritual force or blessing) of the countless pilgrims who passed through on the hajj, the pilgrimage to Mecca.[11] The Ottoman Turks reorganized Syria into one large province or eyalet. The eyalet was subdivided into several districts or sanjaks. In 1549, Syria was reorganized into two eyalets; the Eyalet of Damascus and the new Eyalet of Aleppo. In 1579, the Eyalet of Tripoli which included Latakia, Hama and Homs was established. In 1586, the Eyalet of Raqqa was established in eastern Syria. Ottoman administration was such that it fostered a peaceful coexistence amongst the different sections of Syrian society for over four hundred years. Each religious minority — Shia Muslim, Greek Orthodox, Maronite, Armenian, and Jewish — constituted a millet. The religious heads of each
Ottoman syrian dress

Ottoman-Syrian dress in the 19th century.

community administered all personal status law and performed certain civil functions as well.[12]

As part of the Tanzimat reforms, an Ottoman law passed in 1864 provided for a standard provincial administration throughout the empire with the Eyalets becoming smaller Vilayets governed by a Wali, or governor, still appointed by the Sultan but with new provincial assemblies participating in administration. The territory of Greater Syria in the final period of Ottoman rule included modern Syria, Lebanon, Israel, Jordan, Palestinian Authority, Gaza Strip and parts of Turkey and Iraq.

During World War I, French diplomat François Georges-Picot and British diplomat Mark Sykes) secretly agreed on the post war division of the Ottoman Empire into respective zones of influence in the Sykes-Picot Agreement of 1916. In October 1918, Arab and British troops advanced into Syria and captured Damascus and Aleppo. In line with the Sykes-Picot agreement, Syria became a League of Nations mandate under French control in 1920.[13]

French Mandate

Main article: French Mandate for Syria and Lebanon

In 1920, a short-lived independent Kingdom of Syria was established under Emir Faisal I of the Hashemite dynasty, who later became the king of Iraq. In March 1920, the Syrian National Congress proclaimed Faisal as king of Syria
French mandate

The States of the French Mandate

"in its natural boundaries" from the Taurus mountains in Turkey to the Sinai desert in Egypt. However, his rule in Syria ended after only a few months, following a clash between his Syrian Arab forces and French forces at the Battle of Maysalun. French troops took control of Syria and forced Faisal to flee. Later that year the San Remo conference split up Faisal's kingdom by placing Syria-Lebanon under a French mandate, and Palestine under British control. Syria was divided into three autonomous regions by the French, with separate areas for the Alawis on the coast and the Druze in the south.[14]

Nationalist agitation against French rule led to Sultan al-Atrash leading a revolt that broke out in the Druze Mountain in 1925 and spread across the whole of Syria and parts of Lebanon. The revolt saw fierce battles between rebel and French forces in Damascus, Homs and Hama before it was suppressed in 1926. The French sentenced Sultan al-Atrash to death, but he had escaped with the rebels to Transjordan and was eventually pardoned. He returned to Syria in 1937 and was met with a huge public reception. Elections were held in 1928 for a constituent assembly, which drafted a constitution for Syria. However, the French High Commissioner rejected the proposals, sparking nationalist protests.

Syria and France negotiated a treaty of independence in September 1936. France agreed to Syrian independence in principle although maintained French military and economic dominance. Hashim al-Atassi, who had been Prime Minister under King Faisal's brief reign, was the first president to be elected under a new constitution, effectively the first incarnation of the modern republic of Syria. However, the treaty never came into force because the French Legislature refused to ratify it. With the fall of France in 1940 during World War II, Syria came under the control of Vichy France until the British and Free French occupied the country in the Syria-Lebanon campaign in July 1941. Syria proclaimed its independence again in 1941, but it was not until 1 January 1944 that it was recognised as an independent republic. There were protests in 1945 over the slow pace of French withdrawal. Continuing pressure from Syrian nationalist groups forced the French to evacuate the last of their troops in April 1946, leaving the country in the hands of a republican government that had been formed during the mandate.[15]

Syrian Civil War

Main article: Syrian civil war

The Syrian Uprising against president Bashar al-Assad (later known as the Syrian civil war) is an ongoing internal conflict between the Syrian army and the rebel Free Syrian Army. Encouraged by the Arab Spring, there were pro-reform protests in Damascus and the southern city of Deraa in March 2011. Protestors demanded political freedom and the release of political prisoners. This was immediately followed by a government crackdown whereby the Syrian Army was deployed to quell unrest.[16][17] This civil war is still on-going at the great cost of innocent Syrian lives.


Arabic is the official language. Several modern Arabic dialects are used in everyday life, most notably Levantine in the west and Mesopotamian in the northeast. Kurdish is widely spoken in the Kurdish regions of Syria. Armenian and Turkish (South Azeri dialect) are spoken among the Armenian and Turkmen minorities.

Before the advent of Arabic, Aramaic was the lingua franca of the region and is still spoken among Assyrians, and Classical Syriac is still used as the liturgical language of various Syriac Christian denominations. Most remarkably, Western Neo-Aramaic is still spoken in the village of Ma`loula as well as two neighboring villages, 35 miles (56 km) northeast of Damascus. Many educated Syrians also speak English and French.


Main article: Religion in Syria

Grat Mosque of Aleppo

Great Mosque of Aleppo, Aleppo

Sunni account for 59-60% of the population, while 13% are Shia (Alawite, Twelvers, and Ismailis combined) 10% Christian[18] (the majority Antiochian Orthodox, the rest include Greek Catholic, Assyrian Church of the East, Armenian Orthodox, Protestants and other denominations), and 3% Druze[19] Druze number around 500,000, and concentrate mainly in the southern area of Jabal al-Druze.[20]

President Bashar al-Assad's family is Alawite and Alawites dominate the government of Syria and hold key military positions.[21]

Christians (2.5 million), a sizable number of which are found among Syria's population of Palestinian refugees, are
Saint Simeon

Church of Saint Simeon Stylites near Aleppo is considered to be one of the oldest surviving churches in the world

divided into several groups. Chalcedonian Antiochian Orthodox make up 35,7% of the Christian population; the Catholics (Melkite, Armenian Catholic, Syriac Catholic, Maronite, Chaldean Catholic and Latin) make up 26,2%; the Armenian Apostolic Church 10,9%, the Syrian Orthodox make up 22,4%; Assyrian Church of the East and several smaller Christian denominations account the remainder. Many Christian monasteries also exist. Many Christian Syrians belong to a high socio-economic class.[22]

Jewish people had once made a large community in Syria, but have long-emigrated to the State of Israel.


Main article: Culture of Syria 

Kunstgalerie in Damaskus, Syrien

Art gallery in Damascus

Syria is a traditional society with a long cultural history.[23]  Importance is placed on family, religion, education, self-discipline and respect. The Syrians' taste for the traditional arts is expressed in dances such as the al-Samah, the Dabkeh in all their variations, and the sword dance. Marriage ceremonies and the birth of children are occasions for the lively demonstration of folk customs.[24]


The Literature of Syria has contributed to Arabic literature and has a proud tradition of oral and written poetry. Syrian writers, many of whom immigrated to Egypt, played a crucial role in the nahda or Arab literary and cultural revival of the 19th century. Prominent contemporary Syrian writers include, among others, Adonis, Muhammad Maghout, Haidar Haidar, Ghada al-Samman, Nizar Qabbani and Zakariyya Tamer.

Ba'ath Party rule, since the 1966 coup, has brought about renewed censorship. In this context, the genre of the historical novel, spearheaded by Nabil Sulayman, Fawwaz Haddad, Khyri al-Dhahabi and Nihad Siris, is sometimes used as a means of expressing dissent, critiquing the present through a depiction of the past. Syrian folk narrative, as a subgenre of historical fiction, is imbued with magical realism, and is also used as a means of veiled criticism of the present. Salim Barakat, a Syrian émigré living in Sweden, is one of the leading figures of the genre. Contemporary Syrian literature also encompasses science fiction and futuristic utopiae (Nuhad Sharif, Talib Umran), which may also serve as media of dissent.


Main article: Syrian cuisine 

Linked to the region of Syria where a specific dish has originated, Syrian cuisine is rich and varied in its ingredients. Syrian food mostly consists of Southern Mediterranean, Greek, and Southwest Asian dishes. Some Syrian dishes also evolved from Turkish and French cooking. Dishes like shish kebab, stuffed zucchini, yabra' (stuffed grape leaves, the word yapra' derıves from the Turkish word 'yaprak' meaning leaf).
Fattooush salad

Fattoush, an example of Syrian cuisine

The main dishes that form Syrian cuisine are kibbeh, hummus, tabbouleh, fattoush, labneh, shawarma, mujaddara, shanklish, pastırma, sujuk and baklava. Baklava is made of filo pastry filled with chopped nuts and soaked in honey. Syrians often serve selections of appetizers, known as meze, before the main course. za'atar, minced beef, and cheese manakish are popular hors d'œuvres. The Arabic flatbread khubz is always eaten together with meze.

Drinks in Syria vary depending on the time of the day and the occasion. Arabic coffee, also known as Turkish coffee is the most well-known hot drink usually prepared in the morning at breakfast or in the evening. It is usually served for guests or after food. Arak, an alcoholic drink, is also a well-known beverage served mostly on special occasions. More examples of Syrian beverages include Ayran, Jallab, White coffee, and a locally manufactured beer called Al Shark.[25]

Notable Syrians or People of Syrian Origin

Philip the Arab

Philip the Arab



John of Damascus




Hashim al-Atassi

Hasim Atassi2

Faris al-Khoury

Faris Khoury

Michel Aflaq


Yusuf al-Azma

Hasim Atassi

Sultan Pasha al-Atrash

Sultan Al-Atrash


St. Maron

Zaki al-Arsuzi


Akram el-Hourani


Asmahan al-Atrash


Ephrem the Syrian

Ephrem the Syrian1

Abdallah Dardari


George Mourad

George Mourad

George Wassouf

George Wassouf

Ghassan Massoud

Ghassan Massoud



Carlos Menem

Carlos Menem

Paula Abdul

Puala Abdul

Queen Noor

Queen Noor

Danny Thomas


Yasser Seirawan

Yasser Seira

Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs


  2. U.S. Census Bureau: Population by Selected Ancestry Group and Region: 2005
  3. Herodotus, The Histories, VII.63, s:History of Herodotus/Book 7.
  4. Joseph, John (2008). "Assyria and Syria: Synonyms?" (PDF).
  5. Pliny (77). "Book 5 Section 66". Natural History. University of Chicago. ISBN 84-249-1901-7.
  6. "The Aramaic Language and Its Classification". Journal of Assyrian Academic Studies 14 (1).
  7. "Syria: A country Study – Ancient Syria". Library of Congress. Data as of April 1987. Retrieved 5 September 2007.
  8. "Syria: A country Study – Ancient Syria". Library of Congress. Data as of April 1987. Retrieved 5 September 2007
  9. Cavendish Corporation, Marshall (2006). World and Its Peoples. Marshall Cavendish. p. 183. ISBN 0-7614-7571-0.
  10. Syria: History Encyclopædia Britannica. 2008. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. 22 October 2008.
  11. "Syria – Ottoman Empire". Library of Congress Country Studies.
  12. "Syria – Ottoman Empire". Library of Congress Country Studies.
  13. Mandat Syrie-Liban. Retrieved 1 February 2010
  14. Peter N. Stearns, William Leonard Langer (2001). "The Middle East, p. 761". The Encyclopedia of World History. Houghton Mifflin Books. ISBN 978-0-395-65237-4.
  15. "Background Note: Syria". United States Department of State, Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs, May 2007.
  16. "Syrian army tanks 'moving towards Hama'". BBC News. 5 May 2011. Retrieved 20 January 2012.
  17. "'Dozens killed' in Syrian border town". Al Jazeera. 17 May 2011. Retrieved 12 June 2011.
  18. "Syria – International Religious Freedom Report 2006". U.S. Department of State. 2006. Retrieved 28 June 2009.
  19. "Syria – International Religious Freedom Report 2006". U.S. Department of State. 2006. Retrieved 28 June 2009.
  20. Danna, Nissim (December 2003). The Druze in the Middle East: Their Faith, Leadership, Identity and Status. Brighton: Sussex Academic Press. p. 227. ISBN 978-1-903900-36-9.
  21. The Alawi capture of power in Syria, Middle Eastern Studies, 1989
  22. Tomader Fateh (2008-10-25). "Patriarch of Antioch: I will be judged if I do not carry the Church and each one of you in my heart". Forward Magazine. Archived from the original on 2010-03-02. Retrieved 2013-01-30.
  23. Hopwood, Derek (1988). Syria 1945–1986: Politics and Society. Routledge. ISBN 0-04-445039-7.
  24. Salamandra, Christa (2004). A New Old Damascus: Authenticity and Distinction in Urban Syria. Indiana University Press. p. 103. ISBN 0-253-21722-9.
  25. "Damascus". RTÉ. 15 October 2009. Retrieved 26 November 2009