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Dura Europos

Dura Europos (Tell al-Salihiye):

It's on the right bank of the Euphrates about 90 km south east of Deir Ezzor (about 40 km north west of Abu Kemal). When the first paintings at Dura were uncovered by accident by a British expeditionary force in April 1920, few could have expected that the incident was about to provide a new perspective on early Christian and Judaic art. Dura's remains would not only illustrate the part it played in the drawn out struggle between cultural, political and military influences between east and west but shed an unexpected new light on early representational art of the Christian and Jewish traditions.


Dura Europos was established at the beginning of the Hellenistic period when the empire of Alexander was divided among his heirs and northern Syria/Mesopotamia was apportioned to Seleucos I Nicator. It was not established as a planned city until the mid second century BC. Dura was the focal point of a network of military colonies implanted to secure Seleucid control of the Mid Euphrates. Dura formed a defensive strongpoint on the access route between the two major military centers, Apamea and Seleucia on the Tigris. The typical grid plan city was established and the name chosen, Europos, referred to the birthplace of Seleucos I Nicator in Macedonia. Even under the Romans, the replacement of the mud-brick upper courses of the walls with stone was not fully realized and the Seleucid citadel was left unfinished long before it was abandoned.


After the Parthians pushed their frontier westwards to the Euphrates in 141 BC, Seleucid control was constricted. The town was dominated by Parthia from 113 BC and the townspeople made the necessary concessions to both sides to avoid a show-down over the issue. Dura remained Parthian to the end of the 1st century AD. A "live and let live" policy along the Euphrates was recognized by a treaty between Romans and Parthians signed under Augustus in 20 BC.


Trajan occupied the city in AD 115 as part of his ill-advised attempt to take control of Parthia and push the frontier across the Euphrates into Mesopotamia. Trajan had left his nephew and adopted heir, Hadrian, as Governor of Syria. On succeeding his uncle, Hadrian reverted to a softer policy on the frontier and gave Dura back to the Parthians.


Three years after an earthquake severely damaged the city (161); Rome again took direct control under Lucius Verus, stationing its own troops there and for the first time incorporating Dura into the province of Syria. It was declared a Roman colony in 211. The Sassanians, after 227, took over the city and comforted themselves with new constructions; the theater, the barracks and the baths.


The period of full Roman control saw a remarkable flourishing of religious architecture in pagan, Jewish and Christian styles, with some notable similarities between the three. The town remained dominated by its Greek cultural origins and the language of civic life, as in most of Syria, was Greek. The Roman military camp preserved its separate identity based on its imperial connections.


Shapur I decided to destroy the town and banish its people rather than make it a Sassanian fortress. Then the Euphrates was left for centuries without strong points to stabilize the shifting frontier between east and west.


The Gates:

- The Triumphal Gate

built in honor of the III Cyrenaica legion during Trajan's brief imposition of Roman direct rule (115 - 7).


- The Great Gate

also named "Palmyra Gate" on the west side. It comprised two bastions each with two guard rooms, the top rooms being linked by a passageway over the inner archway. It dates from the 2nd century BC.


The Temples:

The colonnaded street leads to three Roman bath sites, the Christian chapel (232 AD), the temple of Zeus Kyriosand, temple of Gadde (Baal family), Temple of Zeus Theos (AD 114) and temple of Zeus Megistos (AD 169).


Temple of Artemis:

Dates from the Parthian rebuilding in 40 - 33 BC. This served as the center of the city's principal official cult throughout the Greek, Parthian and Roman times.


Temple of Atargatis:

East of Artemis Temple is this 31 - 2 AD temple that was built in honor of the Syrian goddess Atragatis.