Aleppo (əlĕpˈō) [key] or Alep əlĕpˈ, Arabic Haleb, city (1993 est. pop. 1,500,000), capital of Aleppo governorate, NW Syria. It is a commercial and industrial center located in a semidesert region where irrigation is used to grow grains, cotton, and fruit. The city is also a market for wool and hides. Manufactures include silk, printed cotton textiles, dried fruits and nuts (especially pistachios), and cement. Aleppo is a transportation hub; it has an international airport and is connected by rail with Damascus and the Mediterranean port of Latakia, as well as with Turkey and Iraq.
The city was inhabited perhaps as early as the 6th millenium B.C. In the 14th–13th cent. B.C. it was controlled by the Hittites. Later, Aleppo was a key point on the major caravan route across Syria to Baghdad. From the 9th to the 7th cent. B.C. it was mostly ruled by Assyria and was known as Halman. It was later (6th cent. B.C.) held by the Persians and Seleucids. Seleucus I (d. 280 B.C.) rebuilt much of the city, renaming it Berea.
The city's commercial importance was enhanced by the fall of Palmyra in A.D. 272, and by the 4th cent. Aleppo was a major center of Christianity. A flourishing city of the Byzantine Empire, it was taken without a struggle by the Arabs in 638; subsequently, in the late 11th cent., it was captured by the Seljuk Turks. Crusaders besieged Aleppo without success in 1118 and 1124, and Saladin captured it in 1183, making it his stronghold. The city was held briefly by the Mongols under Hulagu Khan (1260) and by Timur (1401); in 1517 the Ottoman Empire annexed Aleppo, which then became a great commercial city. From 1832 to 1840 it was held by Muhammad Ali of Egypt.
In the late 19th cent., Aleppo's importance declined as Damascus grew and the Suez Canal and other trade routes were developed. The city revived under French control after World War I and continued to prosper after Syrian independence (1941). The Univ. of Aleppo (1960), Aleppo Institute of Music (1955), and Muslim theological schools are in the city. Points of interest include the Byzantine citadel (12th cent.) and the Great Mosque (715). The old section of the city was severely damaged by fighting in 2012 during Syria's civil war.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
More on Aleppo from Infoplease:
See more Encyclopedia articles on: Syrian Political Geography