A kalybe was a style of open-air temple found only in Roman Syria and Palestine. All known kalybes were built in the "Basalt Land" of Hauran, Golan, and Trachonitis in the late second or third centuries CE; this region fell within the borders of the former Nabataean kingdom. Kalybes are distinguished by their open structure, by their placement on public squares or fora, and by their focus on a large central niche or apse containing a monumental statue. Kalybes were centers for the Roman imperial cult. They were a radical departure from traditional Greco-Roman temple design and are considered architecturally unique.
Kalybes take their name from a single inscription found in the Syrian village of Umm Iz-Zetun.
Kalybes may have been inspired by more common Roman structures such as the nymphaeum or the Scaenae frons from the Roman theater, both of which feature elaborately carved facades filled with niches supporting staturary. The Septizodium, a decorated facade built in the city of Rome in 203 CE, may have also have influenced or inspired the kalybes' design. More locally, the kalybes may have imitated rock cut shrines in the former Nabataean capital of Petra.
Known kalybe sites
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