Research Notes – Syria – Geography & connections w/ Rome, Greece, & Delphi

“By the third century, countless members of the indigenous population who had acquired some of the distinctive features of the Greeks were considered Greek. Inhabitants of Tyre, Sdion, and Byblos, for example, were accepted as competitors at the great Panhellenic games at Olympia and Delphi, there is hardly a better way to demonstrate that Syria was now part of the Greek world. From then on, when the Syrian Greeks are mentioned, the term applies not only to the descendents of the former Greek and Macedonian coloizers, but especially to the numerous indigenous Phoenician, Aramaean, Jewish, and Arab families who spoke Greek and who had espoused some features of Greek culture and the Greek way of life.” – The Middle East Under Rome By Maurice Sartre, Catherine Porter, Elizabeth Rawlings

“In 174 B.C. King Antiochus Epiphanes of Syria visited the Oracle at Delphi.”. . .because he had some religious scruples on hismind, he crossed the range of Mount Oeta and went up to Delphi to visit the oracle. By this sudden appearence in the centre of Greece he not only inspired great terror in the neighboring cities; he even occasioned the dispatch of a flurry of mesages to King Eumenes in Asia. After staying not more than thre days at Delphi, he returned to . . .” p. 389 (next page not previewed) – Rome and the Mediterranean: Books Xxxi-Xlv of the History of Rome from Its Foundation By Livy, Henry Bettenson

“The name of Syria was loosely given by the Greeks, as that of A’ram was by the Hebrews, not only to the country now called by that name, but also to Mesopotamia and part of Asia Minor; but it is properly restricted to the region between Mount Am’anus on the north, the Euphrates on the east, Arabia on the south, and Phoenicia on the west. It has been variously divided, but the most convenient division is into three unequal portions – Syria Proper, which includes the provinces of Commagene, Seleucis, and Cole-Syria; Phoenicia and the country of the Philistines; and Palestine . . . The principal city of Commagene was Samosata on the Euphartes; there were several trading towns of minor importance, all in the vicinity. Seleucis was adorned with many splendid cities during the reigns of the successors of Alexander, of which the most remarkable were Anioch and Seleucia. It contained also Hierap’olis, dedicated to the Syrian goddess Bercea, the modern Aleppo, and Heliop’olis (Baal’bec) whose magnificent ruins still attract admiration. Coele-Syria, or Hollow Syria, was so called because it lies between two parallel chains of mountains, Lib’anus and Antilib’anus: it contained Damascus. . .” A Manual of Ancient and Modern History By William Cooke Taylor, Caleb Sprague Henry, L. L.. Smith

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Sacred Sites of Syria
1. Damascus; Ummayyad mosque of Jaami al-Amawi (built upon foundations of a Roman
temple), Shrine of Ibn Arabi, Tomb of Lady Zaynab,
Cave of Ashab al-Kahf (Salera hill)
2. Homs; Tomb of Khalid ibn al-Walid
3. Ma’arrat al Nu’man; shrine of Joshua/Yusha

Mehmed IV (Ottoman Turkish: محمد رابع Meḥmed-i rābi‘; also known as Avcı, “hunter”) (January 2, 1642–January 6, 1693) was the Sultan of the Ottoman Empire from 1648 to 1687. Taking the throne at age seven, his reign was significant as he changed the nature of the Sultan’s position forever by giving up most of his executive power to his Grand Vizier.

“At the conclusion of the First Macedonian War, Attalus, like rome, had reason to rebuild connections and reestablish credentials. He gained inclusion as an adscriptus to the Peace of Phoenice in 205, on the side of Rome. Drawing closer to Rome might have potential benefits. The outcome of Attalus’ war with Bithynia remains uncertain. And the king had other rivals in western Asia Minor as well, including the formidable Antiochus III of Syria who, as we know, replaced Attalus’ influence with his own on Teos in this year or the next. It was an appropriate time to reconfirm prestige in Greece. The affair of the Great Mother provided an ideal vehicle for collaboration. The interests of Rome and Attalus converged on Delphi. The Pergamene’s association with that sacred shrine was of long standing. His treasury financed the building of a terrace, with a small portico, adjoining the temple of Apollo and dedicated tot he god. . . ” Studies in Greek Culture and Roman Policy By Erich S. Gruen, p. 30

Pergamum was a major city in western Asia Minor in New Testament times. It lies in a spacious valley, sixteen miles from the Aegean Sea in what is today the country of Turkey. In the centuries before Christ, Pergamum was the capital of an independent kingdom. Its impressive temples, library, and medical facilities made Pergamum a renowned cultural and political center. By the time Revelation was written, Pergamum had become part of the Roman Empire, but because of its location and importance, the Romans used it as an administrative center for the province of Asia.

During the second millennium BC, Syria was occupied successively by Canaanites, Phoenicians, and Arameans as part of the general disruptions and exchanges associated with the Sea Peoples. The Hebrews eventually settled south of Damascus, in the areas later known as Israel and Judah; the Phoenicians settled along the coast of Palestine, as well as in the west (Lebanon), which was already known for its towering cedars. Egyptians, Sumerians, Assyrians, Babylonians and Hittites variously occupied the strategic ground of Syria during this period; the land between their various empires being marsh. Eventually, the Persians took Syria as part of their hegemony of Southwest Asia; this dominion was transferred to the Ancient Macedonians after Alexander the Great’s conquests and, thence, to the Romans and the Byzantines.[11]

In the Roman Empire period, the city of Antioch was capital of Syria and was the third largest city in the empire after Rome and Alexandria. With estimated population of 500,000 at its peak, Antioch was one of the major centres of trade and industry in the ancient world. The population of Syria during the heyday of the empire was probably not exceeded again until the 19th century. Syria’s large and prosperous population made Syria one of the most important of the Roman provinces, particularly during the 2nd and 3rd centuries (A.D.). The Roman Emperor Alexander Severus, who was emperor from 222 to 235, was Syrian. His cousin Elagabalus, who was emperor from 218 to 222, was also Syrian and his family held hereditary rights to the high priesthood of the sun god El-Gabal at Emesa (modern Homs) in Syria. Another Roman emperor who was a Syrian was Marcus Julius Philippus, emperor from 244 to 249.

The famous desert city of Palmyra, whose ruins are now a United Nations World Heritage site, grew large in the Syrian desert in the 1st and 2nd centuries (A.D.).

The famous desert city of Palmyra, whose ruins are now a United Nations World Heritage site, grew large in the Syrian desert in the 1st and 2nd centuries (A.D.).

In other early legends, all primordial serpents are derived from the Sumerian Arch-Serpent which dwelt in the subterranean waters, or chaos. In Greek legend, Apollo took over the Delphic oracle by killing a serpent already there, at the earth’s navel.

It is not unusual for us to find that in later ages, especially among Semitic and Indo-European peoples, the dragon [ Greek drakon = serpent] or cosmic serpent is seen as a symbol of chaos.

It is this chaos, or serpent which must be overcome to create order and maintain life in any meaningful way. We will see this in our discussion of Biblical texts.

In that land we now call Turkey, Iraq and Syria we find peoples sometimes referred to a Hurrians . These people set up a short-lived but powerful kingdom called the kingdom of the Mitanni. It is known that Egyptian pharaohs of the eighteenth dynasty married Mitanni princesses. These people were Aryan peoples, and they brought many of the Indian gods and goddesses to the area. One main god was the serpent god Indra, who became very popular. The Hurrians were related to and supplanted by, the Hittites, who adopted the Hurrian gods.

We find, for example, Illuyankas, the serpent god and Hedammu, the serpent who loved Ishtar and was her divine servant. These were powerful and popular Hittite gods. We cannot help but wonder what influence these people had on the Egyptian and Israelite peoples with whom they came in contact, and what influence the serpent gods of India, transferred and transformed here would have later.

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Published in: on August 20, 2008 at 4:14 am  Leave a Comment  
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