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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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Who Lived and Worked in the Base?

Who Lived and Worked in the Base?

(p.241) 9 Who Lived and Worked in the Base?
The Roman Military Base at Dura-Europos, Syria

Simon James

Oxford University Press

Information about the specific imperial military contingents resident in the city, and their composition, comes from formal inscriptions, dipinti, graffiti, and Dura’s famous papyri, including part of the archive of cohors XX Palmyrenorum. The case of Dura’s garrison illustrates the validity of Millar’s call for a general review of evidence and interpretations regarding Dura-Europos (Millar 1998, 474). While the inscriptions still remain to be definitively published, it is sixty years since Final Report 5.1 on Dura’s papyri appeared, during which there have been a further two generations of general scholarship on the Roman military. These have seen fundamental changes in understandings of the subject, while several publications on specific aspects of Dura’s Roman military presence are also yet to be integrated into any wider reconsideration of garrison and city. Notably, Kennedy’s work has substantially revised understandings of the chronology and development of one of the major garrison elements, cohors XX Palmyrenorum (Kennedy 1983; 1994), while Edwell has effectively demolished the long-established wisdom that the garrison was, in its later decades, under an officer called the dux ripae, supposedly a regional commander foreshadowing the territorial duces of the Dominate (Edwell 2008, 129–35). Dura’s military presence also needs to be reconsidered against the background of broader recent developments in Roman military studies. Key is growing awareness of the importance of the ‘extended military community’, encompassing both soldiers and the many dependants who, it is now clear, routinely accompanied them. We will return to this aspect later. A fundamental restudy of the textual evidence for Dura’s Roman garrison is, then, overdue and needs to be undertaken by those with proper epigraphic expertise, but in its absence an interim review here is a necessary companion to the archaeological research on the base. Despite major subsequent discoveries such as the Vindolanda tablets (Bowman and Thomas 1983; 1994; 2003), the textual record for the Roman garrison at Dura remains unsurpassed by any other site, in its combination of scale, diversity of media, and detail. Some 60 per cent of Fink’s Roman Military Records on Papyrus comprised Durene documents (Fink 1971).

Keywords:   Antonius Valentinus, Bostra, Clodius Albinus, Heliodorus, Severus Alexander, brothel, dipinti, garrison chronology, inscriptions, jewellery

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