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The Roman Military Base at Dura-Europos, SyriaAn Archaeological Visualization$
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Simon James

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780198743569

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2020

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198743569.001.0001

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Zooming In Rome, the Middle Euphrates, and Dura

Zooming In Rome, the Middle Euphrates, and Dura

4 Zooming In Rome, the Middle Euphrates, and Dura
The Roman Military Base at Dura-Europos, Syria

Simon James

Oxford University Press

Dura-Europos was a product and ultimately a victim of the interaction of Mediterranean- and Iranian-centred imperial powers in the Middle East which began with Alexander the Great’s conquest of the Achaemenid Persian empire in the later fourth century BC. Its nucleus was established as part of the military infrastructure and communications network of the Seleucid successor-state. It was expanding into a Greekstyle polis during the second century BC, as Seleucid control was being eroded from the east by expanding Arsacid Parthian power, and threatened from the west by the emergent imperial Roman republic. From the early first century BC, the Roman and Parthian empires formally established the Upper Euphrates as the boundary between their spheres of influence, and the last remnants of the Seleucid regime in Syria were soon eliminated. Crassus’ attempt to conquer Parthia ended in disaster at Carrhae in 53 BC, halting Roman ambitions to imitate Alexander for generations. The nominal boundary on the Upper Euphrates remained, although the political situation in the Middle East remained fluid. Rome long controlled the Levant largely indirectly, through client rulers of small states, only slowly establishing directly ruled provinces with Roman governors, a process mostly following establishment of the imperial regime around the turn of the millennia. However, some client states like Nabataea still existed in AD 100 (for overviews see Millar 1993; Ball 2000; Butcher 2003; Sartre 2005). The Middle Euphrates, in what is now eastern Syria, lay outside Roman control, although it is unclear to what extent Dura and its region—part of Mesopotamia, and Parapotamia on the west bank of the river—were effectively under Arsacid control before the later first century AD. For some decades, Armenia may have been the dominant regional power (Edwell 2013, 192–5; Kaizer 2017, 70). As the Roman empire increasingly crystallized into clearly defined, directly ruled provinces, the contrast with the very different Arsacid system became starker. The ‘Parthian empire’, the core of which comprised Iran and Mesopotamia with a western royal capital at Ctesiphon on the Tigris, was a much looser entity (Hauser 2012).

Keywords:   Europaioi, Ammianus, Hatra, Lucian, Middle Euphrates, Osrhoene, Palmyrene Gate, River Gate, Severus Alexander

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