Among famous Syrians of an earlier period are Queen Zenobia of Palmyra (3d century AD ), who led a series of military campaigns against the Romans in order to reopen trade routes; the philosopher Al-Farabi (Muhammad bin Muhammad bin Tarkhan abu Nasr al-Farabi, 872–950), considered by the Arab world as second only to Aristotle; the poet Al-Mutanabbi (Abu at-Tayyib Ahmad bin al-Husayn al-Mutanabbi, 915–65); the mystic-philosopher Shihab ad-Din as-Suhrawardi (d.1191); and the theologian-philosopher Taqi ad-Din Ahmad bin Taymiyah (1263–1328).
Of the Umayyad caliphs, Umar bin 'Abd-al-'Aziz (r.717–20) is still revered as a restorer of true Islam. In a later era, Nureddin (Nur ad-Din, 1118–74), ruler of Aleppo, annexed Damascus and brought Egypt under his control. By unifying Muslim forces against the Crusaders, he made possible the victories of the renowned Saladin (Salah ad-Din, 1138–93), sultan of both Syria and Egypt, whose tomb is in Damascus. Hafez al-Assad (Hafiz al-Asad, 1928–2000) ruled Syria from 1970–2000.