View of Damascus, 17th century © Bridgeman Images

In the Arabian peninsula, non-Muslim groups were converted, driven out or killed by Islamic armies. In Syria, they were not.

The slave-warriors of medieval Islam overthrew their masters, defeated the Mongols and the Crusaders and established a dynasty that lasted 300 years.

The Temple of Bel, 2001

The destruction of Palmyra robbed us of one of antiquity’s great trading cities.

The Temple of Bel, 2001

The desert city of Palmyra, ravaged recently by ISIS, held a key position on the Silk Route, connecting the Chinese, Persian and Roman Empires. Raoul McLaughlin describes how a remote caravan settlement assumed a leading role in international affairs, generating enormous wealth. 

Worlds apart: women window-shop in Aleppo, Syria, 2008.

Arriving in Syria, three London schoolgirls will find themselves in a ‘medieval’ world where the teenager is an unknown concept.

Findings at a desert site in eastern Syria shed light on pagan, Jewish and early Christian religions.

During the Mamluk Sultanate, writes P.M. Holt, men imported as slaves and trained as warriors became rulers of a great Islamic state.

Christopher Lloyd describes how, trying to fight his way from Egypt to Constantinople, Bonaparte was checked by Sidney Smith’s defence.

Sarah Searight introduces the fifth century ascetic whose long life on top of a pillar attracted thousands of worshippers.

Neil Ritchie traces the career of a Norman Crusader in Italy, in Syria and in wars with the Byzantine Emperor.