Having claimed hundreds of thousands of lives and displaced millions already, the devastating Syrian Civil War has also seen the wanton destruction of many priceless relics of the ancient world. In addition to the collateral damage inevitable in times of war, the events of the last few years have seen the growth of ISIS, which seems hell-bent on destroying many ancient sites and artifacts, deeming them un-Islamic. Following are just some of the historical landmarks that have been forever lost to the barbarism so far.
1. The Citadel of Palmyra
Located in the Homs region of Syria, the ancient ruined city of Palmyra boasts almost 4,000 years of history. Rising to fame and prominence around 2,000 years ago, the city’s wealth enabled the construction of various monumental buildings, such as the Temple of Baalshamin and the theater. In the most high-profile case of ISIS’s lust for destruction, the site’s two major temples were blown up along with the Lion of Al-lat statue and numerous other priceless artifacts.
2. The Great Mosque of Aleppo
One of the oldest mosques in the Syrian city of Aleppo, dating as far back as the 11th century, the Great Mosque of Aleppo was severely damaged during the siege of the city in 2013. The Great Mosque is built around a huge courtyard, famous for its extravagant patterned stone floors. The grand minaret was also destroyed by heavy weapons fire, in what the Syrian National Coalition described as a “crime against human civilization”.
3. Norias of Hama
A noria is an ancient machine designed to use the natural flow of a river to lift water into an aqueduct. The Norias of Hama are among the most famous and, until a few years ago, some of the best preserved in the world. In 2014, it was revealed that the norias had been willfully destroyed by mortar rounds, reportedly by pro-Assad forces. Additionally, much of the surrounding historic city of Hama was extensively damaged during various skirmishes.
4. Aleppo Market
Aleppo’s historic Al-Madina Souk was a covered marketplace in downtown Aleppo, partially surrounded by the ancient walls of the city. Once known for its vast selection of spices, dyes, wool products and various other arts and crafts, the market, along with many other medieval buildings, were destroyed during the fighting. Today, the market is barely recognizable, lying beneath mountains of rubble.
King Shalmaneser I built the city of Nimrud between 1274 and 1245 BC in what is now northern Iraq. Known for its spectacular monumental palaces, temples and statues, Nimrud is one of the most important archeological relics in Iraq. However, due to its supposedly ‘un-Islamic’ nature, ISIS bulldozed and blew up much of the historic ruins in 2015, leaving little more than rubble behind.
6. Krak des Chevaliers
One of the world’s most important medieval castles, the Krak des Chevaliers dates back almost a thousand years. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the castle is among the best preserved of all of the classic crusader castles of the time. Sadly, the castle fell to the horrors of war in 2012, when the Syrian Arab Army was extensively shelled. The true extent of the damage remains unknown.
7. Khaled Ibn Walid Mosque
The Khaled Ibn Walid Mosque is an important religious building in the city of Homs, dedicated to a seventh-century Muslim military commander of the same name. It features his mausoleum and two minarets reflecting the traditional Islamic architectural style of the region. In 2011, at the start of the civil war, the mosque became a symbol of rebellion against the Syrian government and, over the following years, extensive shelling by government forces has left much of the place in shambles.
8. Armenian Genocide Memorial Church
Known for its Armenian history, the city of Deir ez-Zor in eastern Syria was home to the Armenian Genocide Memorial Church. For Armenians the world over, it was an important place of pilgrimage marking the mass killing of Armenians at the hands of the Ottoman Empire in 1915. In September, 2014, ISIS rigged the entire church with explosives and reduced it to rubble.
9. Palace of Sargon
The Palace of Sargon and the surrounding village of Khorsabad, in modern-day Iraq, was built by Sargon II in the eight century BC. Although the palatial city was never completed, largely due to the untimely death of its king, the site was home to many archeological and historic relics, including a statue of Lamassu, the protective deity of the Assyrian people. In March, 2015, Khorsabad fell to ISIS, who plundered and demolished the site.
10. Mosul Museum
The second largest museum in Iraq, Mosul Museum has had a troubling history in recent years, starting from the 2003 Iraq War when it suffered extensive looting and destruction. In 2014, the museum was preparing to reopen after extensive reconstruction. In yet another eye-watering act of barbarity, ISIS got hold of the venue in 2015, burning priceless books and destroying ancient statues and other works of art with sledgehammers. The world has lost a precious legacy of its cultural heritage through this deliberately destructive war.