HAMAH, the Hamath of the Bible, a Hittite royal city, situated in the narrow valley of the Orontes, 110 English miles N. (by E.) of Damascus. It finds a place in the northern boundaries of Israel under David, Solomon and Jeroboam II. (2 Sam. viii. 9; 1 Kings viii. 65; 2 Kings xiv. 25). The Orontes flows winding past the city and is spanned by four bridges. On the south-east the houses rise 150 ft. above the river, and there are four other hills, that of the Kalah or castle being to the north 100 ft. high. Twenty-four minarets rise from the various mosques. The houses are principally of mud, and the town stands amid poplar gardens with a fertile plain to the west. The castle is ruined, the streets are narrow and dirty, but the bazaars are good, and the trade with the Bedouins considerable. The numerous water-wheels (naūrah,) of enormous dimension, raising water from the Orontes are the most remarkable features of the view. Silk, woollen and cotton goods are manufactured. The population is about 40,000.
In the year 854 B.C. Hamath was taken by Shalmaneser II., king of Assyria, who defeated a large army of allied Hamathites, Syrians and Israelites at Karkor and slew 14,000 of them. In 738 B.C. Tiglath Pileser III. reduced the city to tribute, and another rebellion was crushed by Sargon in 720 B.C. The downfall of so ancient a state made a great impression at Jerusalem (Isa. x. 9). According to 2 Kings xvii. 24, 30, some of its people were transported to the land of N. Israel, where they made images of Ashima or Eshmun (probably Ishtar). After the Macedonian conquest of Syria Hamath was called Epiphania by the Greeks in honour of Antiochus IV., Epiphanes, and in the early Byzantine period it was known by both its Hebrew and its Greek name. In A.D. 639 the town surrendered to Abu ’Obeida, one of Omar’s generals, and the church was turned into a mosque. In A.D. 1108 Tancred captured the city and massacred the Ism’aileh defenders. In 1115 it was retaken by the Moslems, and in 1178 was occupied by Saladin. Abulfeda, prince of Hamah in the early part of the 14th century, is well known as an authority on Arab geography.