Damascus is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world. It is the capital of Syria and is located in th southwestern parts of the country.
Damascus features in Wolfram von Eschenbach’s Parzival as a location where Perceval’s father Gahmuret traveled, and in Wirnt von Grafenberg’s Wigalois as a location of a battle fought by several of Wigalois’s companions.
In the Alliterative Morte Arthure and Malory, the city is allied to Lucius the Roman.
Damascus | 1st century BC to the 9th century AD
The exact founding of Damascus is not precisely known. Archaeological evidence suggests that the area around Damascus has been inhabited since at least the third millennium BC.
The Roman Period | 1st century BC – 1st century AD
In the first century BC, Damascus was part of the Roman Empire. It became an important regional center with a thriving economy, thanks to its strategic location on the trade routes connecting the Mediterranean Sea with the Arabian Peninsula.
During the first century AD, Damascus played a role in the early spread of Christianity, which was a dominant religion in the region. Damascus was an important center for Christian communities, and the city had several churches.
Byzantine Period | 2nd – 6th centuries
Damascus continued to flourish under Roman rule and later Byzantine rule. It served as the capital of the Roman province of Syria. In 635, during the early years of the Islamic conquests, Damascus was captured by the Muslim armies led by Caliph Umar ibn al-Khattab. The city became the capital of the Umayyad Caliphate under the Umayyad dynasty.
During the fifth and sixth centuries, Damascus experienced significant growth and expansion. It became an increasingly important urban and commercial center, connecting various trade routes and playing a key role in the trade between the Mediterranean and Arabia.
The Byzantine-Persian Wars, a series of conflicts between the Byzantine Empire and the Sassanian Persian Empire, had a significant impact on Damascus during this period. In 611 AD, the Sassanians, led by their king Khosrow II, invaded and captured the city, holding it until 628 AD when it was retaken by the Byzantines under Emperor Heraclius.
Towards the end of the sixth century, Islam began to emerge in the Arabian Peninsula, bringing significant changes to the region’s religious landscape. However, it’s important to note that the Muslim conquest of Damascus occured after the period in question, in 635 AD.
Umayyad Caliphate | 7th century
The Umayyad Caliphate, established in Damascus in 661, marked a golden age for the city. Under the Umayyads, Damascus became a center of Islamic culture, architecture, and administration. The Umayyad Mosque, also known as the Great Mosque of Damascus, was built during this period and remains one of the oldest and holiest mosques in Islam.
Abbasid Period | 8th century
In 750, the Umayyad Caliphate was overthrown, and the Abbasid Caliphate was established with its capital in Baghdad. Damascus, although losing its political significance, continued to be a cultural and economic center.
Parzival | Wolfram von Eschenbach, 1200–1210
Wigalois | Wirnt von Grafenberg, early 13th century
Alliterative Morte Arthure | c. 1400
Le Morte Darthur | Sir Thomas Malory, 1469-1470