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Homs (hômz, hôms) [key] or Hims hĭms, city (1995 est. pop. 455,000), capital of Homs governorate, W central Syria, on the Orontes River. It is a commercial center located in a fertile plain where wheat, grapes, fruit, and vegetables are grown. Manufactures include refined petroleum, flour, fertilizer, processed foods, handicrafts, and silk, cotton, and woolen textiles. Homs also is a road and rail junction and has an oil refinery. The city has a university.

In ancient times Homs, then called Emesa, was the site of a great temple to Baal (or Helios-Baal), the sungod. Emesa came into startling prominence in the early 3d cent. A.D. when a priest of the temple became Roman emperor as Heliogabalus, or Elagabalus. Aurelian defeated the forces of Zenobia of Palmyra there in 272.

The Arabs took the town in 636, renaming it Homs. The Arab general Khalid died there in 642; a shrine and mosque in his honor were erected in 1908. Homs was part of the Ottoman Empire from the 16th cent. until after World War I, when it became part of the French League of Nations mandate. In 2010 Homs was a center of protest against President Bashar al-Assad's rule, which elicited violent government suppression.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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See more Encyclopedia articles on: Syrian Political Geography

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