The modern state of Syria was not established until 1946, after the Second World War, but it is a land that has been inhabited since ancient times. Archaeologists have unearthed evidence of habitation dating back to about 5000 BC and Damascus is probably the world's oldest continuously inhabited city. In 1800 BC the Assyrian King Shamshi-Adad I established his capital at Shubat Enlil, known today as Tell Leilan, in north-east Syria.
Greater Syria, a land area incorporating Lebanon, Israel, Jordan and present-day Syria, was the site of much conflict and conquest throughout the days of the Ancient World. This conflict has continued throughout the Middle Ages and into modern times.
The Egyptians, Babylonians, Hittites, Chaldeans and Persians have successively ruled ancient Syria. It became part of Alexander the Great's empire in 333 BC, when one Alexander's generals founded the city of Antioch as its capital. Struggles between the Seleucids and the Ptolemies of Egypt followed, until 64 BC, when Syria became a province of the Roman Empire.
Following the decline and collapse of the Romans and the division of the empire in the 4th century AD, Syria became a Byzantine province and remained so for almost two and a half centuries.