The Syria of today offers tourists as much a cultural experience as a sightseeing one, where ancient history provides a fascinating backdrop to everyday life on the streets                          

 


Syria  

Temple of Bel
Bel is identified by the Greeks as Zeus and as Jupiter by the Romans, and is lord and master of the universe, creator of the world and leader of the gods. He was originally a Babylonian god, and was often mentioned in a triad with the inferior Yarhibol, god of Sun, and god of the moon Aglibol.

The temple is set on an artificial mound that dates back to the 2nd millennium BC and it is almost sure that this site has always been the site of a shrine. This sanctuary is walled and has a courtyard in the center of it, and in the center of the courtyard the cella, which is the original place of worship.

Inside the cella are the altar where sacrifices were made and a sacred pool. There are two chambers; North and South, both have carved monolithic ceilings. The Northern one is exceptionally known for the seven planets surrounded by the 12 signs of the Zodiac carving, and a procession of camels and veiled women, and the god of Fertility Makkabel. The walls of the courtyard are 205 meters in length and are surrounded by Corinthian headed columns on the outside and porticos with a double row of columns along the inside wall except on the west side where there is one row.

There are three monumental gateways, of which the entry is through the west gate. These were modified by the Arabs in 1132 when the Arabs erected a bastion, and the temple was converted into a mosque.

The base of a statue mentions the date 45 AD and the temple was originally dedicated during the reign of Tiberius in 32 AD. 

Colonnaded Street and Public Buildings
The colonnaded street, or the decumanus, which is the main axis of the city runs from northwest to southeast for 1.2 Km. Starting from the Temple of Bel which is on the southeast side towards the Arab castle on the northwest side. Nearly at the beginning of the colonnade is the monumental arch, which has been very well preserved and is almost always the vestige with which Palmyra is associated.

Further on, is the Temple of Nebo, which is much smaller than the Temple of Bel. Nebo is the Mesopotamian god of Wisdom and oracles, and often identified as the Greek God Apollo. This temple was built in the 1st century AD, and some work was later added in the 3rd century.

At a further point down the decumanus where there are four columns made out of Egyptian red granite on the right, are the Baths of Diocletian. On the left is the theater which is worthy of comparison to those at Bosra, and Cyrrhus. It was first built in the 2nd century AD and work continued into the 3rd century. Behind the theatre is the Senate which is a small peristyled court around which are rows of seating for the senators. South of the senate is the Tariff Court where a stone inscribed with the Palmyrene tariffs of 137 AD, and the Agora.

Also remaining around the colonnaded area are the tetrapylon (reconstructed in 1963), and the funerary temple (2nd century).

Diocletians Camp
This area was originally constructed in the 2nd century, and was built by Sosianus Hierocles, the Governor of Syria under the great emperor Diocletian. The main vestiges of interest are the tetapylon of which little remains, and the principia or the Temple of Standards.

Temple of Baal Shamin
The remains of the temple dedicated to Baal Shamin, the Semitic deity which resembles Bel is located to the northeast of the main Tetrapylon. It was first built in 17 AD but was further built and reconstructed in the 2nd and 3rd centuries. It has been very well renovated.

Valley of the Tombs
Out through the Damascus gate, which is located south of Diocletians camp, is the Valley of the Tombs. This is a large area with several tower and temple tombs and hypogeums. Of the most interesting are the Tower Tombs of Kithoth, Iamliku, Elahbel, Atenatan, and the Hypogeum of Yarhai. There are two other necropolises, the first is to the southwest of Palmyra and includes the Hypogea of the Three Brothers, Atenatan, Hairan and Dionysus. The other necropolis which is situated southeast of Palmyra includes the tombs of Artaban, Breiki, and Bolha.

Fakhredin Al Maany Castle
This intimidating castle which stands on top of a mountain to the west of Palmyra's vestiges was built in the 16th century. It was surrounded by a moat, leaving no access to it except by a narrow bridge.

Palmyra Museum
Most of the antiquities found in Palmyra are located in this museum. Collections from the Prehistoric age of Palmyra, inscriptions, religious and funerary art. The statues of Palmyreans is a good exhibition of what they used to wear and how they looked. 

 
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