Syria Monuments Their Survival and Destruction
Syria’s Monuments: Their Survival and Destruction by Michael Greenhalgh
SYRIA MONUMENTS THEIR SURVIVAL AND DESTRUCTION
For what was Syria so remarkable? The lustre of its early glories, the vicissitudes of its fortunes, and the blood that has drenched its soil. It was also noted for its admirable fertility, the variety of its climate, and the advantageous position which it occupied in the very heart of the ancient world, which rendered it the chosen abode of early commerce and civilization. 
The answers given above appear in a primer for students, Geography and sacred history of Syria, including Phoenicia, Palestine, or the Holy Land, with Idumea, made interesting, which is a mine of information and prejudgments, such as on the Arabs who live in Syria and Palestine: “little firmness and stability of char-acter . . . covetousness, ingratitude, jealousy, faithlessness, and indolence.” Or Casola’s 1494 (post-) judgment on the Muslims in Jerusalem: “I declare that they may be as great and as learned as you like, but in their ways, they are like dogs.”
Such texts provided ready-made opinions for armchair readers back home, but the majority of travellers who visited Syria (and there were hundreds of them) as well-educated pilgrims, traders, diplomats, scientists, soldiers, sailors and eventually archaeologists offered richer and more subtle assessments of the locals they met and the monuments they admired.
This book is based on their accounts, because these offer the only possible entrée for Westerners into what was for centuries a strange and alien world.
Literate and knowledgeable visitors write at length to explain many aspects of Syria, from the people (Arabs, Bedouin, Turks, Druze, Christians, Jews) and the physical environment (agriculture, drought, marshes) to the pressures on the built envi-ronment (earthquakes, dilapidation, taxation, communications).
All these ele-ments are essential to framing the context in which the ancient architecture of Syria survived, tottered or disappeared completely.
Some mediaeval sources in Arabic (translated into Western languages in the 19th century) write a little about local architecture, but none do so in detail, and our travellers’ accounts offer us the only comprehensive (and sometimes encyclopaedic) picture of what they saw.
Some of this is long gone; some is in danger (see the Epilogue for this century’s civil war), but plenty survives for us to echo their amazement at the huge quantities of ancient churches and housing that survived into the 19th century.
Today the “Dead Cities” near Aleppo survive to entrance us, each like a deserted Pompeii yet these are but a small fraction of the ancient