The Orontes (/əˈrɒntiːz/; Ancient Greek: Ὀρόντης) or Asi
(Arabic: العاصي, ‘Āṣī; Turkish: Asi) is a
northward-flowing river which begins in
Lebanon and flows through
Turkey before entering the Mediterranean Sea.
In ancient times, it was the chief river of the
Levant region and the
site of several major battles. On it was the classical city of Antioch
on the Orontes (Syrian Antioch) near modern day Antakya.
4 See also
4.1 History and archaeology
4.2 Dams and water management
7 External Sources
In the 9th century BCE, the ancient Assyrians referred to the river as
Arantu, and the nearby Egyptians called it Araunti. The etymology
of the name is unknown, yet some sources indicate that it might be
derived from "Arnt" which means "lioness" in Syriac languages;[note 1]
others called it "Alimas", a "water goddess" in Aramaic. However,
Arantu gradually became "Orontes" in Greek.
In contrast, Macedonian settlers in Apamea named it the Axius, after a
Macedonian river god. The modern name ‘Āṣī (or Asi) is derived
from the ancient Axius. The word coincidentally means "rebel" in
Arabic, which folk etymology ascribes to the fact that the river flows
from the south to the north unlike the rest of the rivers in the
The Greek geographer
Strabo refers to the river in the Geographica
(circa 20 CE). According to Strabo, the river was originally named
Typhon, because it was said that
Zeus had struck the dragon Typhon
down from the sky with thunder, and the river had formed where
Typhon's body had fallen. He writes that the river was later
renamed Orontes when a man named Orontes built a bridge on it.
In the Greek epic poem
Dionysiaca (circa 400 CE), the river is named
after Orontes, an Indian military leader who killed himself and fell
into the river after losing to Dionysus in single combat. 
River in Hama, Syria, 1914
The Orontes rises in the springs near
Lebanon on the east
side of the
Beqaa Valley (in the Beqaa Governorate) between Mount
Lebanon on the west and the Anti-
Lebanon Mountains on the east, very
near the source of the southward-flowing Litani, and runs north,
falling 600 metres (2,000 ft) through a gorge to leave the
Ain ez Zarqa is one such major spring. Other major
springs are Al Ghab, Al Rouj, and Al-Azraq.
Leaving this gorge, it expands into the Lake of
artificial lake created by a Roman-era dam, also known as Qattinah
lake) and through the city of
Homs (or Ḥimṣ). Below is the
Hamah (Hamaih-Epiphaneia), and the ancient site of Larissa
(Shaizar). This is where the river enters the Ghab plain.
The Norias of Hama, dating from the 14th century
Further downstream, on the eastern edge of the Ghab, is located the
ancient city of Apamea. To the west is the Coastal Mountain Range.
This section ends at the rocky barrier of Jisr al-Hadid, where the
river turns west into the plain of
Antioch (Amik Valley) in Turkey.
Two major tributaries are the southward flowing Afrin on the west and
Karasu on the east join it through the former Lake of
Antioch now via
an artificial channel (Nahr al-Kowsit). Passing north of the modern
Antakya (ancient Antioch) the Orontes dives southwest into a gorge
(compared by the ancients to Tempe), and falls 50 metres (160 ft)
in 16 kilometres (9.9 mi) to the sea just south of Samandağ
(former Suedia, in antiquity Seleucia Pieria), after a total course of
450 kilometres (280 mi).
Major dams on the river
Capacity (million m3)
originally built 284 CE
Map of the Orontes river. White lines are country borders, river names
are italic on a blue background, current cities or major towns have
white backgrounds, orange background for other places of significance.
The Orontes is not easily navigable and the valley derives its
historical importance as a road for north/south traffic; from Antioch
Homs and thence to
Al-Nabek (An-Nabk). On the
Orontes was fought the major
Battle of Kadesh
Battle of Kadesh (circa 1274 BCE)
between the Egyptian army of
Ramesses II from the south and the
Hittite army of
Muwatalli II from the north. The river was also the
site of the
Battle of Qarqar
Battle of Qarqar fought in 853 BCE, when the army of
Assyria, led by king Shalmaneser III, encountered an allied army of 12
kings led by
Hadadezer of Damascus. In 637 CE the Battle of Iron
bridge was fought between the forces of the
Rashidun Caliphate and the
Byzantine Empire near the Iron bridge on the river made by Romans.
The Orontes has long been a boundary marker. For the Egyptians it
marked the northern extremity of Amurru, east of Phoenicia. For the
Crusaders in the 12th century, the Orontes
River became the permanent
boundary between the Principality of
Antioch and that of Aleppo.
The French writer
Maurice Barrès (1862–1923) wrote about the river
in his Un Jardin sur l'Oronte.
History and archaeology
Battle of Kadesh
Al-Mina - archaeological site at the mouth of the Orontes
Tell Tayinat and
Tell Atchana - archaeological sites near each other
Qatna - ancient city near Homs
Kadesh (Syria) - ancient city
Baalbek - a town and archaeological site just to the south of the
source of the Orontes.
Antioch - a crusader state (1098–1268) centered on
Seleucia ad Belum, Antigonia,
Antioch - ancient cities on the Orontes
founded during the Seleucid Empire
Dams and water management
Water resources management in Syria
Turkey Friendship Dam - incomplete
^ The source of the river Orontes is the village, Labweh, which also
means a "lioness".
^ a b c d e f g h i "Asi-Orontes Basin". Food and Agriculture
Organization of the United Names. 2016. Retrieved 18 March 2018.
^ a b Gaston Maspero. History of Egypt, Chaldæa, Syria, Babylonia and
Assyria (Complete). p. 1348.
^ Ballabio, R.; Comair, F.G.; Scalet, M.; Scoullos, M. (2015). Science
diplomacy and transboundary water management: the Orontes
UNESCO Publishing. p. 89. ISBN 9789230000172.
^ Fitchett, Joseph; Deford, McAdams (1973). "A
River Called Rebel".
Aramco World (May/June): 12–21. Retrieved 15 February 2015.
^ Getzel M. Cohen. The Hellenistic Settlements in Syria, the Red Sea
Basin, and North Africa. p. 100.
^ a b "LacusCurtius • Strabo's Geography —
Book XVI Chapter 2".
penelope.uchicago.edu. Retrieved 2017-02-03.
^ Nonnos of Panopolis (20 July 2015). Delphi Complete
Nonnus (Illustrated). Delphi Classics. pp. book 17.
^ Scheffel, Richard L.; Wernet, Susan J., eds. (1980). Natural Wonders
of the World. United States of America: Reader's Digest Association,
Inc. p. 34. ISBN 0-89577-087-3.
^ Barrès, Maurice (1922). Un jardin sur l'Oronte. Paris.
This article incorporates text from a publication now in
the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Orontes".
Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.
Pop-up map of the Orontes
River available at: "Trace elements
concentration in sediments of Orontes
River using PIXE technique".
Nuclear Instruments and Methods in Physics Research Section B: Beam
Interactions with Materials and Atoms. 269: 1818–1821.
Map of the Orontes
River Basin: "Inventory of Shared Water Resources
in Western Asia: Orontes Basin" (PDF). United Nations. 2012. Retrieved
21 March 2018.
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