|Greek: Ὀρόντης, Arabic: العاصي: ‘Āṣī, Turkish: Asi|
Orontes River in Hama, Syria
|Countries||Lebanon, Syria, Turkey|
|Cities||Homs, Hama, Jisr al-Shughur, Antakya|
|- location||Beqaa Valley, Lebanon|
|- elevation||910 m (2,986 ft)|
|- location||Hatay Province, Turkey|
|Length||571 km (355 mi)|
|Basin||23,000 km2 (8,880 sq mi)|
|- average||11 m3/s (388 cu ft/s)|
It was anciently the chief river of the Levant, also called Draco, Typhon and Axius. The last was a native form, from whose revival, or continuous employment in native speech, has preceded the modern name ‘Āṣī ("rebel"), because the river flows from the south to the north unlike the rest of the rivers in the region.
The Orontes rises in the springs near Labweh in Lebanon on the east side of the Beqaa Valley (in the Beqaa Governorate), very near the source of the southward-flowing Litani, and runs north, parallel with the coast, falling 600 metres (2,000 ft) through a gorge. Leaving this it expands into the Lake of Homs in Syria also known as Qattinah lake formed by a Roman-era dam and through the city of Homs (or Ḥimṣ). Below is the district of Hamah (Hamaih-Epiphaneia) and the meadows of Amykes, containing the sites of ancient Apamea and Larissa. This central section ends at the rocky barrier of Jisr al-Hadid, where the river turns west into the plain of Antioch in Turkey.
Two large tributaries from the north, the southward flowing Afrin on the west and Karasu on the east join it through the former Lake of Antioch, which is now drained through an artificial channel (Nahr al-Kowsit). Passing north of the modern Antakya (ancient Antioch) the Orontes plunges southwest into a gorge (compared by the ancients to Tempe), and falls 50 metres (160 ft) in 15 kilometres (9.3 mi) to the sea just south of the little port of Samandağı (former Suedia, in antiquity Seleucia Pieria), after a total course of 450 kilometres (280 mi).
The Orontes is not easily navigable and the valley derives its historical importance as a road for north/south traffic; from Antioch south to Homs and thence to Damascus. On the Orontes was fought the major 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 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 A.D. 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.
- Battle of Kadesh
- Water resources management in Syria
- Al-Rastan Dam - built 1960
- Mouhardeh Dam - built 1960
- Syria–Turkey Friendship Dam - incomplete
- Zeyzoun Dam - built 1996, failed 2002
- Lake Homs Dam - 284CE, expanded 1938
- This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.
Pop-up map of the Orontes River available at: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0168583X11005088