Ḥimṣ Ḥomṣ, Emesa

City in Syria. Ḥimṣ, known in Syriac as Ḥemṣ, Ḥmeṣ, and Puniqi, and located on a fertile plain just east of the Orontes (ʿĀṣī) river, was in the 1st cent. BC the seat of a local Arab principality, which became a vassal of Rome in 64 BC. Ḥimṣ rose to political prominence in the 3rd cent. when Julia Domna, a daughter of the Emesan princely-priestly family, married Emperor Septimius Severus (193–211) and two sons of the same family, Elagabalus (218–22) and Alexander Severus (222–35), ascended the imperial throne. Ḥimṣ fell to the Arabs in 637. In the latter part of the 10th cent., Ḥimṣ was occupied on several occasions by the Byzantines. Ḥimṣ was attacked, but not taken, by the Crusaders in 1098 and 1126. Under Ottoman rule (1516–1918), Ḥimṣ was the administrative center of a district within the province of Damascus. Ḥimṣ is today a provincial capital with a population of just under 1 million, making it the third largest city in Syria after Aleppo and Damascus.

Ḥimṣ, the birthplace of Pope Anicetus (ca. 154–66), was no doubt evangelised at an early date. The Passion of the local martyr Julian (Elian) has two of its inhabitants healed by Jesus and has the apostles Peter and John pass through Ḥimṣ on their way to Antioch, while the Chronicle of Michael Rabo has Malyo, one of the seventy, preach the Gospel in Ḥimṣ. Historically more certain is Bp. Silvanus, who was martyred under Diocletian. Among his successors in the 4th cent. were Eusebius of Emesa and Nemesius, the author of the treatise ‘On the nature of man’. Ḥimṣ, originally suffragan to Damascus, became a metropolitan see after the head of St. John the Baptist was discovered in the nearby Monastery of Spelaeon in 452. Romanos the Melodist was a native of Ḥimṣ. Bp. Julian of Ḥimṣ was among the Miaphysite bishops banished with Severus of Antioch in 519. A noteworthy Syr. Orth. scholar from Ḥimṣ is ʿAbd al-Masīḥ b. Nāʿima al-Ḥimṣī (fl. ca. 830), who translated the so-called ‘Theology of Aristotle’ into Arabic. In later times, together with Dayr Mār Mūsā al-Ḥabashī some 70 km. to the south, the area around Ḥimṣ remained a center of Syr. Orth. activities, which gained in importance especially around the time of Dawid Puniqoyo (i.e., Dawid of Ḥimṣ) and Nuḥ the Lebanese ( patr. 1493–1509), who was bp. of Ḥimṣ in 1480–90 and who spent the latter part of his patriarchate (1493–1509) in the area of Ḥimṣ and Ḥama, consecrating the myron once in the Monastery of al-Zunnār in Ḥimṣ and once in the Church of the Forty Martyrs there. Ḥimṣ became the seat of the Syr. Orth. patriarchate again when Severos Afram Barsoum, metr. of Syria and resident in Ḥimṣ, was elected patr. in 1933 and remained so until 1959 when the patriarchate was transferred to Damascus.

At the beginning of the 20th cent., Ḥimṣ is reported to have had a population of around 50,000, including 33,000 Muslims, 14,500 Melk. Orth., 1,000 Syr. Orth., 500 Melk. Catholics, and 350 Maron. Ḥimṣ is today the seat of four bishoprics: Syr. Orth. (united with Ḥama, with ca. 50,000 faithful), Syr. Catholic (united with Ḥama and Nabk, ca. 10,000), Melk. Orth. and Melk. Catholic (united with Ḥama and Yabrud). The Syr. Orth. cathedral of St. Mary (Umm al-Zunnār) in the eastern part of the old city houses the girdle (zunoro) of Our Lady which was rediscovered under the altar of the church by Patr. Ignatius Aphram Barsoum in 1953.

In the environs of Ḥimṣ are two other old centers of W.-Syr. Christianity: Ṣadad (ca. 50 km. south-southeast of Ḥimṣ), whose bishops are attested sporadically from the 11th cent. onwards and which was the birthplace of Syr. Orth. Patr. Ignatius ʿAbdullāh Saṭṭūf (1906–15); and Qaryatayn (75 km. southeast), with the Monastery of St. Julian/Mar Elian (now Syr. Cath.) just to the west of the village. Several other villages in the area also have (or had) Syr. populations: Zaydal (5 km. east of center of Ḥimṣ), Fayrūza (5 km. southeast), Maskana (7 km. south; birthplace of Syr. Catholic Patr. Ignatius Mūsā Dāʾūd, patr. 1998–2001), al-Fuḥīla (20 km. southeast), Furqlus (35 km. east-southeast) and al-Ḥafar (7  km. south of Ṣadad).


  • N.  Elisséeff, in EI 2, vol. 3, 397–402 with map facing 402. (s.v. ‘Ḥimṣ’)
  • Fiey, Pour un Oriens christianus novus, 211–214 (s.v. ‘Hims’), 261–262 (s.v. ‘Sadad’).
  • H.  Kaufhold, ‘Notizen über das Moseskloster und das Julianskloster bei Qaryatain in Syrien’, OC 79 (1995), 48–119.
  • H.  Kaufhold, ‘Homs’, KLCO , 199.
  • J.  Nasrallah, ‘Saints et évêques d’Emèse (Homs)’, POC 21 (1971), 213–34.

| Ḥimṣ |


Front Matter A (73) B (53) C (26) D (36) E (27) F (5) G (30) H (22) I (31) J (15) K (11) L (12) M (56) N (19) O (3) P (28) Q (11) R (8) S (71) T (39) U (1) V (5) W (3) X (1) Y (41) Z (4) Back Matter
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