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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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Why Was the Base Where It Was, and As It Was?

Why Was the Base Where It Was, and As It Was?

(p.270) 12 Why Was the Base Where It Was, and As It Was?
The Roman Military Base at Dura-Europos, Syria

Simon James

Oxford University Press

In the foregoing, it was argued that the unitary base area seen in the third century, encompassing the entire N part of the city from the W defences almost to the River Gate, resulted from expansion and coalescence of two later-second-century nuclei, one near the Temple of Bêl, the other focused on the Citadel. Subsequently, presumably increasing Roman troop numbers at Dura led to takeover of the far N part of the intramural area, linking up the military holdings. But why did it start as two nuclei? When Roman power became permanently established over Dura c.165, and a decision was made to station Palmyrene symmachiarii there, while the Realpolitik may have been that these were proxy forces holding the city for Rome, the option of sending in troops from a long-standing friend of Dura may have been chosen as a face-saving measure for the Durene elite. The Palmyrenes were likely presented as defending the newly ‘liberated’ city from Arsacid interference. Under such circumstances, a less obtrusive, peripheral location would have been appropriate. The zone around the Temple of Bêl appears at the time to have comprised only partially built-up city blocks offering open ground, with more free space along the city wall to accommodate the Palmyrene force with minimal disruption to civic life. The temple plaza also offered a ready-made military assembly space. It is further possible that the Palmyrenes attested in Arsacid Dura—visiting traders and soldiers, and resident expatriates—already tended to congregate in or use this zone, around the temple which, at least later, would become especially associated with Palmyrene Bêl. With subsequent arrival of regular Roman troops, and the proposed enrolling of the Palmyrene archers as the nucleus of the nascent cohors XX, the NW cantonment was then probably expanded as it was developed into a Roman auxiliary base. With regard to the inner wadi/Citadel zone, it was suggested above that the incoming Romans would have taken over the great inner stronghold by default, as part of the defensive circuit. They also used the flat wadi floor in its shadow as a campus.

Keywords:   Bostra, Diocletian, Qreiye Roman fort, castrametation rules, military dependants

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