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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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Impact of Garrison and Base on the City

Impact of Garrison and Base on the City

(p.286) 14 Impact of Garrison and Base on the City
The Roman Military Base at Dura-Europos, Syria

Simon James

Oxford University Press

What effect did the military base and the people who occupied it have on Dura-Europos, as both civil community and urban landscape? It was clearly profound, seen in the military transfiguration of so much of the city’s fabric. But was it as traumatic and negative as Rostovtzeff and his colleagues envisaged, with a once-proud Greek polis reduced to a diminished, cowed, and brutalized satellite village of a Roman military camp? Or was it indeed more benign or even positive, seeing cordial shared urban prosperity based on a military-pay-induced economic boom, as more recent commentators like Stoll, Reeve, Sommer, and Ruffing have variously sketched? What does the new study of the archaeological evidence indicate? In some ways, it is now clear that impact of the military was even greater than the Yale expedition realized. As we have seen, the base area included the Citadel and most or even all of the N branch of the inner wadi, and so was significantly larger than hitherto thought. On the other hand, far from being the result of a sudden, short, massively disruptive episode of appropriation, conversion, demolition, and building c.210 as envisaged by Rostovtzeff, the base evolved incrementally over half a century, apparently beginning with the Palmyrene archers’ cantonment of the later 160s. This reflected a history of residence of substantial Roman regular forces in the city starting considerably earlier than previously envisaged, correspondingly characterized by incremental change. On present evidence, instead of massively expanding c.210, resident troop numbers may have peaked c.190, with little or no increase when the garrison was reshaped c.210, which episode saw qualitative change (replacement of some auxilia by legionaries), rather than quantitative. We have no clear evidence of significant subsequent variation in troop levels between the 210s and 250, although these cannot be ruled out. There was, then, a large presence of Roman troops inside the walls during the last decades of the second century, as well as the first half of the third. This has significant implications for wider political history, as well as local affairs.

Keywords:   Europaioi, Antonine plague, Bostra, Cassius Dio, Hatra, Jewish community, Laronius Secundianus, Otarnaeus, Severus Alexander

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