Syria Palaestina

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Provincia Syria Palæstina
Province of the Roman Empire

 

135–390
 

 

 

 

Capital Antioch
Historical era Classical antiquity
 -  End of the Bar Kokhba revolt 135
 -  Disestablished 390
Today part of

Syria Palæstina was a Roman province between 135 and about 390.[1] It was established by the merge of Roman Syria and Roman Judaea, following the defeat of the Bar Kokhba Revolt in 135. Shortly after 193, the Syrian regions were split off as Syria Coele in the north and Phoenice in the south, and the province was reduced to Judea.

Background[edit]

Name origins[edit]

The earliest numismatic evidence for the name Syria Palæstina comes from the period of emperor Marcus Aurelius Antoninus.

Herodotus wrote in c. 450 BC in The Histories of a 'district of Syria, called Palaistinê" (whence Palaestina, from which Palestine is derived).[2] And in c. 40 BC, the Roman-Jewish writer Philo of Alexandria wrote of the Jews in Palestine: "Moreover Palestine and Syria too are not barren of exemplary wisdom and virtue, which countries no slight portion of that most populous nation of the Jews inhabits. There is a portion of those people called Essenes"[3]

History[edit]

In 63 BC, Syria was incorporated into the Roman Republic as a province, following the successful campaign of Pompeius the Great against the Parthians.

During the 2nd and 1st centuries BC, the independent Hasmonean state of Judea expanded in territories of the collapsing Seleucid Empire, but from the Roman Siege of Jerusalem in 63 BC onwards, it increasingly fell under foreign influence. Judaea at first retained its independence, but an internal struggle between pro-Roman and pro-Persian heirs of the Hasmonean dynasty, eventually led Herod the Great to assume power in 37 BC, making Judaea a client Kingdom of Rome. Following Herod's death the Herodian Kingdom became a Tetrarchy, partitioned among Herod's sons, but in 6 AD Roman intervention made Judaea a Roman Province.

The capital of Roman Syria was established in Antioch from the very beginning of Roman rule, while the capital of the Judaea province was shifted to Caesarea Maritima, which, according to historian H. H. Ben-Sasson, had been the "administrative capital" of the region beginning in 6 AD.[4]

The Provinces of Judaea and Syria were key scenes of an increasing conflict between Judaean and Hellenistic population, which exploded into full scale Jewish-Roman Wars, beginning with the Great Jewish Revolt of 66–70. Disturbances followed throughout the region during the Kitos War in 117–118. Between 132–135, Simon Bar Kokhba led a revolt against the Roman Empire, controlling Jerusalem and the surrounding areas for three years. He was proclaimed the Messiah by Rabbi Akiva ben Joseph. As a result, Hadrian sent Sextus Julius Severus to the region, who brutally crushed the revolt and retook the city.

Consolidation[edit]

After crushing the Bar Kokhba revolt, the Roman Emperor Hadrian applied the name Syria Palestina to the entire region, that had formerly included Iudaea Province. Hadrian probably chose a name that revived the ancient name of Philistia (Palestine), combining it with that of the neighboring province of Syria, in an attempt to suppress Jewish connection to the land.[5][6][7] However Cassius Dio, the Roman historian from whom we have the bulk of our understanding of the revolt, does not mention the change of name nor the reason behind it in his "Roman History".[8] The city of Aelia Capitolina was built by the emperor Hadrian on the ruins of Jerusalem. The capital of the enlarged province remained in Antiochia.

Roman mosaic from Antiochia (detail) 2nd century, Musée du Louvre

In 193, the province of Syria-Coele was split from Syria Palaestina. In the 3rd century, Syrians even reached for imperial power, with the Severan dynasty. Syria was of crucial strategic importance during the Crisis of the Third Century.

Conflict with Sassanids and emergence of the Palmyrene Empire[edit]

Beginning in 212, Palmyra's trade diminished as the Sassanids occupied the mouth of the Tigris and the Euphrates. In 232, the Syrian Legion rebelled against the Roman Empire, but the uprising went unsuccessful.

Septimius Odaenathus, a Prince of Palmyra, was appointed by Valerian as the governor of the province of Syria Palaestina. After Valerian was captured by the Sassanids in 260, and died in captivity in Bishapur, Odaenathus campaigned as far as Ctesiphon (near modern-day Baghdad) for revenge, invading the city twice. When Odaenathus was assassinated by his nephew Maconius, his wife Septimia Zenobia took power, ruling Palmyra on behalf of her son, Vabalathus.

Inscription honouring Julius Aurelius Zenobius, the father of Queen Zenobia, at Palmyra.

Zenobia rebelled against Roman authority with the help of Cassius Longinus and took over Bosra and lands as far to the west as Egypt, establishing the short-lived Palmyrene Empire. Next, she took Antioch and large sections of Asia Minor to the north. In 272, the Roman Emperor Aurelian finally restored Roman control and Palmyra was besieged and sacked, never to recover her former glory. Aurelian captured Zenobia, bringing her back to Rome. He paraded her in golden chains in the presence of the senator Marcellus Petrus Nutenus, but allowed her to retire to a villa in Tibur, where she took an active part in society for years. A legionary fortress was established in Palmyra and although no longer an important trade center, it nevertheless remained an important junction of Roman roads in the Syrian desert.[9]

Diocletian built the Camp of Diocletian in the city of Palmyra to harbor even more legions and walled it in to try and save it from the Sassanid threat. The Byzantine period following the Roman Empire only resulted in the building of a few churches; much of the city went to ruin.

Reorganization[edit]

In c.390, Syria Palaestina was reorganised into the several administrative units: Palaestina Prima, Palaestina Secunda, and Palaestina Tertia (in the 6th century),[10] Syria Prima and Phoenice and Phoenice Lebanensis. All were included within the larger Byzantine Diocese of the East, together with the provinces of Isauria, Cilicia, Cyprus (until 536), Euphratensis, Mesopotamia, Osroene and Arabia Petraea.

Palaestina Prima consisted of Judea, Samaria, the coast, and Peraea with the governor residing in Caesarea. Palaestina Secunda consisted of the Galilee, the lower Jezreel Valley, the regions east of Galilee, and the western part of the former Decapolis with the seat of government at Scythopolis. Palaestina Tertia included the Negev, southern Transjordan part of Arabia — and most of Sinai with Petra, as the usual residence of the governor. Palestina Tertia was also known as Palaestina Salutaris.[11]

Religion[edit]

A number of events with far-reaching consequences took place, including religious schisms, such as Christianity branching off from Judaism.

Second Temple Judaism[edit]

The practicing population of the Mosaic faith at the time included the Jews, Samaritans, Nabateans and Edomeans. Among the Jews and Edomeans, the Jewish–Roman Wars created a crisis of religion, out of which the Rabbinic Judaism emerged.

Following the Jewish–Roman Wars, many Jews left the country altogether for the Diaspora communities, and large numbers of prisoners of war were sold as slaves throughout the Empire. This changed the perception of Jerusalem as the center of faith and autonomous Jewish communities shifted from centralized religious authority into more dispersed one.

Roman cult[edit]

After the Jewish–Roman wars (66–135), which Epiphanius believed the Cenacle survived,[12] the significance of Jerusalem to Christians entered a period of decline, Jerusalem having been temporarily converted to the pagan Aelia Capitolina, but interest resumed again with the pilgrimage of Helena (the mother of Constantine the Great) to the Holy Land c. 326–28.

New pagan cities were founded in Judea at Eleutheropolis (Bayt Jibrin), Diopolis (Lydd), and Nicopolis (Emmaus).[13][14]

Early Christianity[edit]

The Romans destroyed the Jewish community of the Mother Church in Jerusalem, which had existed since the time of Jesus.[15][verification needed] Traditionally it is believed the Jerusalem Christians waited out the Jewish–Roman wars in Pella in the Decapolis.

The line of Jewish bishops in Jerusalem, which is claimed to have started with Jesus's brother James the Righteous as its first bishop, ceased to exist, within the Empire. Hans Kung in "Islam :Past Present and Future", suggests that the Jewish Christians sought refuge in Arabia and he quotes with approval Clemen et al.:[16]

"This produces the paradox of truly historic significance that while Jewish Christianity was swallowed up in the Christian church, it preserved itself in Islam".

Christianity was practiced in secret and the Hellenization of Palaestina continued under Septimius Severus (193–211 AD).[13]

Demographics[edit]

As a large province, the territory of Syria-Palaestina comprised the Levant and the western part of Mesopotamia. In Northern Levant, the mixed pagan population of Phoenicians, Greeks and Romans formed the majority, along Ismaelite Arab societies of Itureans and later also Qahtanite Ghassanids (Arab Christians), who migrated to the area of Golantis in 4th century from Yemen.

A mix of Arameans and Assyrians were populating the western Mesopotamia, and nomad Arabs, like the Nabateans, were thriving in the Syrian Desert and south.[citation needed] In Southern Levant, until about 200 and despite the genocide of Jewish-Roman Wars, Jews had formed a majority of the population.[17] Due to the decline of Jewish population, Samaritans and Greco-Romans became the dominant societies in this region by the end of the 2nd century.

By the beginning of the Byzantine period (disestablishment of Syria-Palaestina), the Jews had become a minority and were living alongside Samaritans, pagan Greco-Syrians and a large Christian community."[18] Other opinions however, put the majority population of southern Levant on Samaritans or Christian Byzantines.

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Lehmann, Clayton Miles (Summer 1998). "Palestine: History: 135–337: Syria Palaestina and the Tetrarchy". The On-line Encyclopedia of the Roman Provinces. University of South Dakota. Archived from the original on 2009-08-11. Retrieved 2014-08-24. 
  2. ^ "Palestine and Israel", David M. Jacobson, Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research, No. 313 (February 1999), pp. 65–74; "The Southern and Eastern Borders of Abar-Nahara," Steven S. Tuell, Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research, No. 284 (November 1991), pp. 51–57; "Herodotus' Description of the East Mediterranean Coast", Anson F. Rainey, Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research, No. 321 (February 2001), pp. 57–63; Herodotus, Histories
  3. ^ Early Christian Writings
  4. ^ A History of the Jewish People, H. H. Ben-Sasson editor, 1976, page 247: "When Judea was converted into a Roman province [in 6 AD, page 246], Jerusalem ceased to be the administrative capital of the country. The Romans moved the governmental residence and military headquarters to Caesarea. The centre of government was thus removed from Jerusalem, and the administration became increasingly based on inhabitants of the hellenistic cities (Sebaste, Caesarea and others)."
  5. ^ H.H. Ben-Sasson, A History of the Jewish People, Harvard University Press, 1976, ISBN 0-674-39731-2, page 334: "In an effort to wipe out all memory of the bond between the Jews and the land, Hadrian changed the name of the province from Iudaea to Syria-Palestina, a name that became common in non-Jewish literature."
  6. ^ Ariel Lewin. The archaeology of Ancient Judea and Palestine. Getty Publications, 2005 p. 33. "It seems clear that by choosing a seemingly neutral name - one juxtaposing that of a neighboring province with the revived name of an ancient geographical entity (Palestine), already known from the writings of Herodotus - Hadrian was intending to suppress any connection between the Jewish people and that land." ISBN 0-89236-800-4
  7. ^ 'The Bar Kokhba War Reconsidered' By Peter Schäfer, ISBN 3-16-148076-7
  8. ^ [1] Roman History, Cassius Dio, book 69 parts 12-15
  9. ^ Isaac (2000), p. 165
  10. ^ Thomas A. Idniopulos (1998). "Weathered by Miracles: A History of Palestine From Bonaparte and Muhammad Ali to Ben-Gurion and the Mufti". The New York Times. Retrieved 2007-08-11. 
  11. ^ "Roman Arabia". Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved 2007-08-11. 
  12. ^ Catholic Encyclopedia: Jerusalem (A.D. 71-1099): "Epiphanius (died 403) says..."
  13. ^ a b Shahin, Mariam (2005) Palestine: a Guide. Interlink Books ISBN 1-56656-557-X, p. 7
  14. ^ Palestine. (2007). In Encyclopædia Britannic. Retrieved August 12, 2007, from Encyclopædia Britannica Online.
  15. ^ Whealey, J (2008) "Eusebius and the Jewish Authors: His Citation Technique in an Apologetic Context" (Journal of Theological Studies; Vol 59: 359-362)
  16. ^ C. Clemen, T. Andrae and H.H. Schraeder, p. 342
  17. ^ Scholastic Library Publishing (May 2006). Encyclopedia Americana. Scholastic Library Pub. p. 305. ISBN 978-0-7172-0139-6. Retrieved 28 June 2011. 
  18. ^ Élie Barnavi; Miriam Eliav-Feldon; Denis Charbit (2002). A historical atlas of the Jewish people: from the time of the patriarchs to the present. Schocken Books. p. 68. ISBN 978-0-8052-4226-3. Retrieved 28 June 2011. 

Bibliography[edit]

  • Nicole Belayche, "Foundation myths in Roman Palestine. Traditions and reworking", in Ton Derks, Nico Roymans (ed.), Ethnic Constructs in Antiquity: The Role of Power and Tradition (Amsterdam, Amsterdam University Press, 2009) (Amsterdam Archaeological Studies, 13), 167-188.

External links[edit]