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Abu 'alaa' al-Ma'arri
A blind Syrian poet and writer, Abul-'Ala lost his sight at the age of five. His collections of poetry are The Tinder Spark and Unnecessary Necessity, also called the Luzumiyat. He hailed from the city of Ma'arra in Syria, from which his name derives. He was notable for his atheist views, which were extremely rare in the 11th century. Abul-'Ala is also well known also for his famous book Resalatu Alghufran which is one of the most effective books in the Arabic heritage and which left a notable influence on the next generations of writers. It is a book of divine comedy that concentrates on the Arabic poetical civilization but in a way the touches all aspects of life. The most interesting characteristics of Resalat Alghufran are its genius digression, deep philosophy, and brilliant language. Alighieri Dante's Divine Comedy is clearly influenced (or even inspired) by Abul-'Ala's Resalatu Alghufran.
Abu'l Hasan Ahmad ibn Ibrahim Al-Uqlidisi
A Syrian mathematician, possibly from Damascus He wrote the earliest surviving book on the Hindu place-value system, known in the west as Arabic numerals, around 952. It is especially notable for its treatment of decimal fractions, and that it showed how to carry out calculations without deletions.
Accacius of Beroea
A Syrian by birth, lived in a monastery near Antioch, and, for his active defence of the Church against Arianism, was made Bishop of Berrhoea, A.D. 378, by St. Eusebius of Samosata. While a priest, he (with Paul, another priest) wrote to St. Epiphanius of Salamis a letter, in consequence of which the latter composed his Panariom (A.D. 374-6). This letter is prefixed to the work. In A.D. 377-8, he was sent to Rome to confute Apollinaris before Pope St. Damasus. He was present at the Ecumenical Council of Constantinople A.D. 381, and on the death of St. Meletius took part in Flavian's ordination to the See of Antioch, by whom he was afterwards sent to the Pope in order to heal the schism between the churches of the West and Antioch. Afterwards, he took part in the persecution against St. Chrysostom (Socrates, Hist. Eccl. 6.18), and again compromised himself by ordaining as successor to Flavian, Porphyrius, a man unworthy of the episcopate. He defended the heretic Nestorius against St. Cyril, though not himself present at the Council of Ephesus. At a great age, he laboured to reconcile St. Cyril of Alexandria and the Eastern Bishops at a Synod held at Berrhoea, A.D. 432. He died A.D. 437, at the age of 116 years. Three of his letters remain in the original Greek, one to St. Cyril, (extant in the Collection of Councils by Mansi, vol. iv. p. 1056,) and two to Alexander, Bishop of Hierapolis. (Ibid, pp. 819, 830, c.41.55. §129, 143.)
Adonis (b. 1930 - pseudonym of 'Ali Ahmad Sa'id)
Poet, literary critic, translator, and editor, a highly influential figure in Arabic poetry and literature today. Adonis combines in his work a deep knowledge classical Arabic poetry and revolutionary, modernist expression. Like a number of Middle Eastern writers, Adonis has explored the pain of exile - "I write in a language that exiles me," he once said. "Being a poet means that I have already written but that I have actually written nothing. Poetry is an act without a beginning or an end. It is really a promise of a beginning, a perpetual beginning." Adonis was born 'Ali Ahmad Sa'id in Al Qassabin, near the city of Latakia, in Syria. His father was a farmer and imam; he died in 1952. The village teacher taught Adonis to read and write, but he did not attend school, or saw a car or listen to a radio until he turned twelve. From his father, an influential figure in his life, he received a traditional Islamic education. In 1944 Adonis entered the French Lycée at Tartus, graduating in 1950. In the same year Adonis published his first collection of verse, Dalila. Adonis studied law and philosophy at the Syrian University in Damascus, and served two years in the army. Harassed for his political views, Adonis spent part of his service in jail. He was a member of the Syrian Social Nationalist Party and a great admirer of its founder Antun Sa’adeh. [Read on]
Alexander II Zabinas
Alexander II Zabinas was a counter-king who emerged in the chaos following the Seleucidian loss of Mesopotamia to the Parthians. Zabinas was a false Seleucid who claimed to be an adoptive son of Antiochus VII, but in fact seems to have been the son of an Egyptian merchant; he was used as a pawn by the Egyptian king Ptolemay VIII Tryphon. Ptolemy VIII introduced Balas as a means of getting to the legitimate Seleucid king Demetrius II, who supported his sister Cleopatra III against him in the complicated dynastic feuds of the latter hellenistic dynasties. Zabinas managed to defeat Demetrius II and thereafter ruled parts of Syria (128 BC-123 BC), but soon ran out of Egyptian support and was in his turn was defeated by Demetrius' son Antiochus VIII Grypus. As a last resort, Zabinas plundered the temples of the Seleucid capital Antiochia. He is said to have joked about melting down a statuette of the goddess of victory Nike which was held in the hand of a Zeus statue, saying "Zeus has given me Victory". Enraged by his impiety (not to mention his bad jokes) the Antiochenes expelled Zabinas, who was captured and executed shortly thereafter. "Zabinas" is a derogative name meaning "the bought one".
A Syrian author and Pan-Islamic Arab solidarity supporter from Aleppo. He was one of the most prominent intellectuals of his time; however, his thoughts and writings continue to be relevant to the issues of Islamic identity and Pan-Arabism. His criticisms of the Ottoman Empire eventually led to Syrians and Arabs calling for the sovereignty of the Arab Nations, setting the basis for Pan-Arab nationalism. Al-Kawakibi articulated his ideas in two influential books, Tabai al-Istibdad wa-Masari al-Isti’bad (The Nature of Despotism) and Umm Al-Qura (Mother of the Cities). He was a pioneer of Arab secular thought, as well. Al-Kawakibi died in 1902 of “mysterious” causes. His family alleged that he was poisoned by Turkish agents.
See: The Ideas of al-Kawakibi
Early Advocate of Separation between Religion and State
Religion and state
A major figure in the mahjar literary movement developed by Arab emigrants in North America, an early theorist of Arab nationalism and an active supporter of the Arab Palestinian cause. Rihani is generally regarded as the most prominent member of the ‘Syrian-American’ or al-Mahjar school of modern literature and thought, which includes Kahlil Gibran and Mikhail Naimy. He was one of the pioneers in writing about the Arab Renaissance, and the subjects he covered range from modern American painting to Russian ballet. He also demonstrated great foresight in his choice of political and social issues upon which to concentrate, for these same issues were destined to have a continuing relevance in world affairs right up to the present day. He was a true champion of Arab interests both economic and political, recording his experiences in three books which became the most authoritative account of the Arabian peninsula to date, and which have never been surpassed in accuracy of interpretive vision. As the first modern traveler in Arabic literature, he revived a venerable tradition of travel works established by Ibn Jubayr, Ibn Battuta and others, and in English he proved a worthy successor to men like TE Lawrence, Burton, Doughty and Thesiger. [Read on]
See also: The Limits of Reconciliation: Rihani's View of State-Zionism
Founder of Mahjari Literature
Antiochus I Soter
Antiochus I Soter (i.e. "Saviour") (324/?323-?262/?261 BC was an emperor of the Seleucid dynasty. He reigned from 281 BC - 261 BC. He was half Persian, his mother Apame being one of those eastern princesses whom Alexander the Great had given as wives to his generals in 324 BC. On the assassination of his father Seleucus I in 281 BC, the task of holding together the empire was a formidable one, and a revolt in Syria broke out almost immediately. With his father's murderer, Ptolemy, Antiochus was soon compelled to make peace, abandoning apparently Macedonia and Thrace. In Asia Minor he was unable to reduce Bithynia or the Persian dynasties that ruled in Cappadocia. In 278 BC the Gauls broke into Asia Minor, and a victory that Antiochus won over these hordes is said to have been the origin of his title of Soter (Gr. for "saviour"). At the end of 275 BC the question of Coele-Syria, which had been open between the houses of Seleucus and Ptolemy since the partition of 301 BC, led to hostilities (the "First Syrian War"). It had been continuously in Ptolemaic occupation, but the house of Seleucus maintained its claim. War did not materially change the outlines of the two kingdoms, though frontier cities like Damascus and the coast districts of Asia Minor might change hands. About 262 BC Antiochus tried to break the growing power of Pergamum by force of arms, but suffered defeat near Sardis and died soon afterwards (262 BC). His eldest son Seleucus, who had ruled in the east as viceroy from 275 BC(?) till 268/267 BC, was put to death in that year by his father on the charge of rebellion. He was succeeded (261 BC) by his second son Antiochus II Theos.
Antiochus II Theos
Antiochus II Theos (286–246 BC; reigned 261–246 BC) succeeded his father Antiochus I Soter as head of the Seleucid dynasty on 261 BC. He was the son of Antiochus I and princess Stratonice, the daughter of Demetrius Poliorcetes. He inherited a state of war with Egypt, which was fought along the coasts of Asia Minor (the "Second Syrian War"). Antiochus also made some attempt to get a footing in Thrace. During the war he was given the title "Theos" which means "God" in Greek, being such to the Milesians in slaying the tyrant Timarchus. In Bactria, his satrap Diodotus revolted in 255 BC, and founded the Greco-Bactrian kingdom, which further expanded in India in 180 BC to form the Greco-Indian kingdom (180–1 BC). Then about 250 BC, Arsaces led a revolt of the Parthians, which deprived him of those territories. About this time, Antiochus made peace with Ptolemy II, ending the Second Syrian War. Antiochus repudiated his wife Laodice and married Ptolemy's daughter Berenice to seal their treaty, but by 246 BC Antiochus had left Berenice and her infant son in Antioch to live again with Laodice in Asia Minor. Laodice poisoned him and proclaimed her son Seleucus II Callinicus king.
Antiochus III the Great
Antiochus III the Great, (c. 241–187 BC, ruled 223–187 BC), younger son of Seleucus II Callinicus, became ruler of the Seleucid kingdom as a youth of about eighteen in 223 BC. His traditional designation, the Great, stems from a misconception of Megas Basileus (Great king), the traditional title of the Persian kings, which he adopted. Antiochus III inherited a disorganized state. Not only had Asia Minor become detached, but the further eastern provinces had broken away, Bactria under the Greek Diodotus of Bactria, and Parthia under the nomad chieftain Arsaces. Soon after Antiochus's accession, Media and Persis revolted under their governors, the brothers Molon and Alexander.
Antiochus IV Epiphanes
Antiochus IV Epiphanes, originally named Mithradates, but renamed Antiochus either upon his ascension or after the death of his elder brother Antiochus (c. 215–163 BC, reigned 175–163 BC), was one of the Seleucid emperors, son of Antiochus III the Great and brother of Seleucus IV Philopator. Antiochus took power after the death of Seleucus Philopator. He had been hostage in Rome following the peace of Apamea in 188 BC but had recently been exchanged for the son and rightful heir of Seleucus IV, the later Demetrius I Soter. Taking advantage of this situation, Antiochus was able to proclaim himself as co-regent with another of Seleucus' sons, the infant Antiochus, whose murder he orchestrated a few years later. Notable events during his reign include the near-conquest of Egypt, which was halted by the threat of Roman intervention, and the beginning of the Jewish revolt of the Maccabees. He was succeeded by his infant son, Antiochus V Eupator.
Antiochus V Eupator
Antiochus V Eupator (c. 173 BC - 162 BC, reigned 164-162 BC), was only nine when he succeeded as head of the Seleucid dynasty, following the death in Persia of his father Antiochus IV Epiphanes. Regent for the boy was the general Lysias who had been left in charge of Syria by Epiphanes. Lysias was however seriously challenged by other generals and was therefore in a precarious situation. To make matters worse, the Roman senate kept Demetrius, the son of Seleucus IV and the righteous heir to the throne, as a hostage. By threatening to release him, the senate could easily control the Seleucid government. The attempt to check the Jewish rebellion ended in a weak compromise despite a military victory for the still very fearsome Seleucid army. A Roman embassy now travelled along the cities of Syria and crippled the Seleucid military power. Warships were sunk and elephants hamstrung in accordance with the peace treaty of Apamea made in 188 BCE. Lysias dared do nothing to oppose the Romans, but his subservience so enraged his Syrian subjects that the Roman envoy Gnaeus Octavius (consul of 165 BC) was assassinated in Laodicea (162 BC). At this juncture Demetrius escaped from Rome and was received in Syria as the true king. Antiochus Eupator (whose epithet means "of a good father") was soon put to death together with his protector.
Antiochus VI Dionysus
Antiochus VI Dionysus (c. 148–138 BC) was king of Syria. He was the son of Alexander Balas and Cleopatra Thea, daughter of Ptolemy VI of Egypt. Antiochus VI did not actually reign. He was nominated in 145 BC by the general Diodotus Tryphon as heir to the throne in opposition to Demetrius II. In 142 BC,Diodotus deposed and succeeded him and in 138 BC killed him.
Aetius, d. 367, Syrian theologian. He became prominent (c.350) as an exponent of the extreme Arianism developed mainly by his secretary Eunomius. Members of his party were called Aetians and Anomoeans.
There is no doubt that Apollonius grew up speaking Aramaic, and certainly he also studied Greek. Was he a "Syrian" or a "Greek"? In The Life of Apollonius of Tyana by Flavius Philostratus, we are told only the following: "Apollonius' home, then, was Tyana, a Greek city amidst a population of Cappadocians. His father was of the same name, and the family was ancient and directly descended from the first settlers." Beyond that, it is impossible to know if Apollonius was Syrian or Greek. However, since "Assyrian" Jabir Ibn Hayyan wrote around 800 CE that "Balinas The Wise" was a Syrian, and since the Arabic name "Balinas" is linguistically identical with "Apollonius" (consonant sequences BLNS = PLLNS), perhaps Apollonius was by birth an Aramaean Syrian living in a predominantly Greek city of Cappadocia. Then as today, this part of the world is a "melting pot" between East and West; and it could be that I am making a mountain out of a molehill here, that there was little distinction between Greeks and Syrians in Cappadocia, especially as late as the time of Apollonius.
Severus Alexander born at Arca Caesarea [Syria Phoenicia Province (Arqa in modern Akkar, Lebanon)] (1 October 208 - 18 or 19 March 235) was Roman Emperor from 222 to 235. Alexander was the last emperor of the Severan dynasty. He succeeded his cousin Elagabalus upon the latter's assassination in 222, and was ultimately assassinated himself, marking the epoch event for the Crisis of the Third Century - nearly fifty years of civil wars, foreign invasion, and collapse of the monetary economy. Alexander was the heir apparent to his cousin, the eighteen-year-old Emperor who had been murdered along with his mother by his own guards, who, as a mark of contempt, had their remains cast into the Tiber river. He and his cousin were both grandsons of the influential and powerful Julia Maesa, who had arranged for Elagabalus' acclamation as emperor by the famed Third Gallic Legion. It was the rumor of Alexander's death that triggered the assassination of Elagabalus and his mother.As emperor, Alexander's peace time reign was prosperous. In military conflict against the rising Sassanid Empire there are mixed accounts, though the Sassanid threat was checked. However, when campaigning against Germanic tribes of Germania, Alexander attempted to bring peace by engaging in diplomacy and bribery. This apparently alienated many in the legions and led to a conspiracy to assassinate and replace him.
Adherbal or Ad Herbal (died 230 BC) was Commander (Admiral) of the Carthaginian fleet who battled for domination of the Mediterranean Sea for Carthage in the First Punic War against Rome, 264 BC-241 BC. It is known that he was in command until at least 249 BC, during the Battle of Drepana, which was a major victory for Carthage.
Aulus Licinius Archias
Aulus Licinius Archias (fl. ca. 120 BC-61 BC) was a poet born in Antioch in Syria. In 102 BC, his reputation having been already established, especially as an improvisatore, he went to Rome, where he was well received amongst the highest and most influential families. His chief patron was Lucullus, whose gentile name he assumed. In 93 BC he visited Sicily with his patron, on which occasion he received the citizenship of Lucanian Heraclea, one of the federate towns, and indirectly, by the provisions of the Lex Plautia Papiria, that of Rome. In 62 BC he was accused by a certain Gratius of having assumed the citizenship illegally; and Cicero successfully defended him in his speech Pro Archia. This speech, which furnishes nearly all the information concerning Archias, states that he had celebrated the deeds of Gaius Marius and Lucullus in the Cimbrian and Mithridatic Wars, and that he was engaged upon a poem of which the events of Cicero's consulship formed the subject. The Greek Anthology contains thirty-five epigrams under the name of Archias.
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Bay, also known as Irsu, an official of the 19th dynasty serving both Siptah and Queen-Pharaoh Twosre. He was supposedly of Syrian descent, this irritated many nobles of the era.
Bar-Hebraeus or Abulfaragus, (1226- 1286) was a maphrian or catholicos of the Jacobite (Monophysite) Church in the 13th century, and (in Dr. W. Wright 's words) one of the most learned and versatile men that Syria ever produced. Perhaps no more industrious compiler of knowledge ever lived. Simple and uncritical in his modes of thought, and apparently devoid of any striking originality, he collected in his numerous and elaborate treatises the results of such research in theology, philosophy, science and history as was in his time possible in Syria. Most of his works were written in Syriac , which had long before his time supplanted Syriac as a living speech.
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Damascius the Syrian
Damascius the Syrian was head of the Academy in Athens during at least part of the reign of Emperor Justinian. Damascius had ambitious plans for reinvigorating the Academy in Athens, plans which he was well on his way to implementing by 529. He wanted to model the Academy in Athens after the school of Aphrodisias which he had visited as a young man. Damascius envisioned the Academy in Athens as an educational and cultic center.(9) Agathias does not state that Damascius and Priscianus and the other philosophers were from Athens. He enumerates several persons including Damascius known to have been associated with the Academy at the time.
A Syrian, called Soter (*swth/r), or “the Preserver,” the son of Seleucus Philopator, and sent by his father, at the age of twenty-three, as a hostage to Rome. He was living there in this condition when his father died of poison, B.C. 176. His uncle Antiochus Epiphanes thereupon usurped the throne, and was succeeded by Antiochus Eupator. Demetrius, meanwhile, having in vain endeavoured to interest the Senate in his behalf, secretly escaped from Rome, through the advice of Polybius the historian, and, finding a party in Syria ready to support his claims, defeated and put to death Eupator, and ascended the throne. He was subsequently acknowledged as king by the Romans. After this, he freed the Babylonians from the tyranny of Timarchus and Heraclides, and was honoured for this service with the title of Soter. At a subsequent period he sent his generals Nicanor and Bacchides into Iudaea, at the solicitation of Alcimus, the high-priest, who had usurped that office with the aid of Eupator. These two commanders ravaged the country, and Bacchides defeated and slew the celebrated Judas Maccabaeus. Demetrius at last became so hated by his own subjects, and an object of so much dislike, if not of fear, to the neighbouring princes, that they advocated the claims of Alexander Balas, and he fell in battle against this competitor for the crown after having reigned twelve years (from B.C. 162 to B.C. 150). His death was avenged, however, by his son and successor Demetrius Nicator.
Domninus was a Syrian, and by religion a Jew, who was born in the town of Larissa (often identified with Laodicea but probably a separate town) on the Orontes River. He went to Athens where he became a pupil of Syrianus who was the head of Plato's Academy there. Proclus, although slightly older than Domninus, was also a pupil of Syrianus at the Academy at the same time. Marinus, who was later a pupil of Proclus and eventually took over as head of the Academy following Proclus, writes about a rivalry between Domninus and Proclus:- [Syrianus] offered to discourse to them on either the Orphic theories or the oracles; but Domninus wanted Orphism, Proclus the oracles, and they had not agreed when Syrianus died.
Born 1934 in Damascus, Duraid Lahham, better known as Ghawwar, grew up in relative poverty, and studied chemistry at Damascus University, which qualified him for a well-paying job as an instructor at the Chemistry Department. Lahham was always enchanted by the theatre, participating in several plays during high school and college, while playing the clarinet in the high school band.
While teaching at university, he started to give dance lessons and befriended the artistic community in Syria. When Syrian Television was inaugurated in 1960, its director Sabah Qabbani hired Lahham to star in a mini-series called Sahret Dimashq (Damascus Evening) with the already established stage actor Nihad Qali. The two men created a duo called "Duraid & Nihad" and achieved dramatic success in the Arab World from 1960 until Qali retired from acting due to illness in 1976.
Duraid is well known for his acts under the nickname Ghawar Al-Toushe. This nick has a funny story: he used to act under other nicknames until he met a person with the name Ghawar. He then added Al-Toushi (from tousheh - quarrel in Syrian) to the end of the name to form Ghawar Al-Tousheh. He starred in many movies, TV series, plays, etc. He's a legendary person because he was contemporary to two generations: the old generation who found the basis of the Syrian Film and TV industry like Nihad Qala'i, and the new generation like Yasser Azma and many others.
Initially, he was featured in Hammam Al-Hana and Sah Al-noom, two of the funniest Arabic TV series. Since then, he co-starred many movies in Syria and Egypt before he moved to act on stage. He cooperated with Mohammed Maghout to produce some of the most popular plays in the Arab world. Such plays include: Kasak Ya Watan, Shaqae'k Al-No'man, Ghorbeh, and Daye't Teshreen, all of which were played in major Arab capitals and, in some cases, some international cities like London.
Ghawar played many, many roles in different movies, and shows. However, most of his shows (if not all of them) represent the social situation of the typical Middle-Eastern person, deal with undergo political crisis in the area and address the general public in the community. These become obvious when we look at one of his plays, or one of his movies. It's even seldom to see him acting without referring to such things.
Since 1990, Duraid's ability to act started to shrink, mainly because of his advanced age (in his 60s). He, however, made a couple of TV series like Al-Doghri (1990), Abo Al-hana (1996), and the most recent one, Awdat Ghawar (return of Ghawar). These shows weren't the best, but they generated a lot of money from broadcasting on different TV channels.
UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador
Lahham was appointed UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador to the Middle East and North Africa region in 1999. In 2004, he visited districts of Southern Lebanon which had been liberated from Israeli occupation, and gave a speech at a press conference criticizing George W. Bush and Ariel Sharon, comparing them to Hitler. This caused Tel Aviv to protest Lahham's "undiplomatic language" to the UNICEF, which resulted in the UNICEF relieving him of his duties.
Lahham received several medals in recognition of his contributions:
In 1976, Hafez al-Assad, Syrian President at the time, awarded Lahham with the Medal of the Syrian Republic, Excellence Class.
In 1979, Tunisian President Habib Bourguiba awarded him with a medal in recognition of his work
In 1991, Libyan President Muammar al-Gaddafi awarded him a medal
In 2000, Lahham received The Order of Merit of the Lebanese Republic, awarded to him by Lebanese President Émile Lahoud
Ghriam Fee Istanbul
Imber Atwareaya Ghawwar
'aqed Al-lu' lu'
Mesek wa 'ember (Meratee Melyouneara)
Samak Bala Hasak
Imra'ah Taskoun Wahdaha
Laqa' Fee Tahmer
Zogatee Min Al-Habiz
'indama Ta'gheeb Al-Zowagat
Wahid + Wahid
Ghawwar Jemis bounid
Muqalib Fee Al-Mekseek
Ramal Min Dheheb
Ahlam Abu Al hana
My family and I
We will be back soon
See: My friend the donkey
Damascius, born in Damascus c. AD 458, died after AD 538), known as "the last of the Neoplatonists," was the last scholarch of the School of Athens. He was one of the pagan philosophers persecuted by Justinian in the early 6th century, and was forced for a time to seek refuge in the Persian court, before being allowed back into the empire. His surviving works consist of three commentaries on the works of Plato, and a metaphysical text entitled Difficulties and Solutions of First Principles. In his early youth Damascius went to Alexandria where he spent twelve years partly as a pupil of Theon, a rhetorician, and partly as a professor of rhetoric. He then turned to philosophy and science, and studied under Hermeias and his sons, Ammonius and Heliodorus. Later on in life he migrated to Athens, and continued his studies under Marinus, the mathematician, Zenodotus, and Isidore, the dialectician. He became a close friend of Isidore, succeeded him as head of the school in Athens, and wrote his biography, part of which is preserved in the Bibliotheca of Photius. In 529 Justinian closed the school, and Damascius with six of his colleagues sought an asylum, probably in 532, at the court of Khosrau I of Persia. They found the conditions intolerable, and when the following year Justinian and Khosrau concluded a peace treaty, it was provided that the philosophers should be allowed to return. It is believed that Damascius returned to Alexandria and there devoted himself to the writing of his works. The date of his death is not known. His chief treatise is entitled Difficulties and Solutions of First Principles. It examines the nature and attributes of God and the human soul.
Who's Who of Natural Syria
This section contains a list of individual Syrian Greats whose action or literary works have made a definite stamp on history. There are many other Syrian Greats who deserve to be on this list and will be added to it in due time. Contributors are welcome to nominate other "Greats" and to offer literary material in support of their nomination.
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