Doura Europos or Dura Europos or Dura Europus




Location: village of Salhiyé Map

Used: 300 BC- 257 AD


Doura Europos, Dura Europos or Dura Europus is an ancient archeological site near a village of Salhiye. Dura Europos was occupied between 300 BC- 257 AD.



The city was founded by King Seleucus I Nikator around 300 BC. e. among many others, and lasted more than 550 years. Around 100 BC e. came under the rule of the Parthian kingdom, and since 165 - the Roman Empire. In Roman times, Dura Europos was a major trading center, and most archaeological finds date back to this time period. In 256, it was captured by the Sassanids and abandoned.

Seleucus, the dialect of Alexander of Macedon, chose an abandoned Assyrian fortress on the road from Damascus to Mezhdurechye to settle his soldiers and gave her the name "Fool". The Romans called the city “Dura-Europos”, because the local aristocracy consisted of descendants of the Macedonians, that is, they emphasized that the city was ruled by “Europeans” from Macedonia. The fortress stood on the high bank of the middle Euphrates, protected on three sides by steep cliffs, and the fourth side, opposite the river and adjacent to the desert, was surrounded by a long straight wall with towers. The size of the city is approximately 700 per 1000 m.

The city is regularly planned (directly intersecting streets) in Seleucid time, which includes the agora, the remains of temples, and the citadel. Over time, the civilian population began to prevail, and the fortress turned into a provincial town, which grew around the market square. However, the population can be called civilian only conditionally. In wartime, farmers stood up, forming the estate of the so-called Klerukhs. In social terms, residents were divided by birth, as in Macedonia. The land was given to the cleruks for life for their service or the service of their children, while remaining royal property.

The city had an ethnically mixed population: the top or nobility had Greek-Macedonian roots, the majority of the population were Syrians, Arabs, Jews, representatives of Iranian tribes. The city was governed by Greek customs, a council of the most influential citizens, Greeks by nationality. The rest in everyday worldly life obeyed Greek laws, but dominated the laws of the decrees of the king, who held the strategist in the city - the representative of the executive branch.

After the Dura-Europos was captured by the Parthians, little changed in the everyday life of the city, except that Eastern influence increased in the Greco-Macedonian families, and marriage between close relatives began to be practiced there. From Parthian time, the palace, the ruins of numerous temples (Baal, Artemis-Nanaya, Atargatis, Zeus Curios, Zeus Theos, "Palmyra Gods") with frescoes and reliefs have been preserved.

Roman times include fortifications, baths, temples, including the Christian church, the synagogue and the temple of Mithras - all three with unique murals. The Dura Europos synagogue was built in 244, just 10 years before the capture of the city by the Sassanids. The Christian church and the synagogue were located near the city wall, during the construction of the fortifications they were covered with sand inside (as part of the fortification), which is why rare biblical frescoes have survived to this day, while the abandoned city itself disappeared under the pressure of time .

A fierce siege left traces in the city. The Persians (Sassanids) erected a large earthen ramp embankment, along which they stormed the wall. At the same time, the attackers were digging an underground passage under the walls. The Romans, in turn, dug their turn, and as a result of an underground battle, many corpses of Roman soldiers remained in the passages. The city wall sank into a dig, but generally stood. One of the towers collapsed, burying beneath it, and thereby preserving Roman armaments for archaeologists.

According to archaeologists, when taking the city, the Persians could use primitive chemical weapons against sulfur - sulfur and bitumen. According to the analysis of the contents of the vessel, found near one skeleton in a tunnel near the 19th tower of the city, resins and sulfur were in the vessel.

Researchers suggest that the tactics of the Persian undermining, which led to the fall of Dura Europos, consisted in the fact that in the main directions of the tunnels the Persians started a fire and in the case of a breakthrough of the Roman counter-mine - poisonous substances were thrown into the fire. The evidence of the success of this tactic is considered to be the large number of bones of Roman soldiers in countermines. Previously, it was usually thought that these were people killed during battles in underground passages, although it was surprising that the remains of Persians are found in tunnels much less often.



For a long time, the existence of Dura Europos was known only from written sources. On March 31, 1920, Hindu soldiers under the command of Captain M.S. Murphy from the British troops stationed in the Middle East dug a trench near unknown ruins at the height of Salihiye. The Arab tribes in those parts shortly before that raised an armed uprising, hoping to achieve independence on the ruins of the Ottoman Empire.

By chance, under the sand, a beautifully preserved painting on the wall, depicting a Syrian priest, suddenly opened. So was found Dura-Europos, or, as journalists call it - Pompeii of the Syrian desert.

Excavations by the American (James Brasted) and French (Franz Cumont) archaeologists began immediately, but they were soon curtailed due to the turbulent situation in connection with the national liberation struggle unfolding in the region. The first archaeological finds were in the Museum of the Louvre. From the late 1920s until the outbreak of World War II, the city was explored by an expedition funded by Yale University (USA). The most important finds were made under the leadership of the Russian historian M.I. Rostovtsev, who emigrated to America immediately after the revolution. Excavations resumed in 1986.

In addition to the numerous remains of architectural monuments, murals on the walls of the most ancient synagogue, unique items of ancient weapons (for example, scaly horse armor), documents were found in Greek, Latin, Aramaic and other languages. The ruins of a rather modest in size, but the oldest of the famous Christian churches, have also been preserved.

The walls of the synagogue with frescoes were reconstructed in the National Museum of Damascus, only ruins of walls, temples and fortresses remained in place. Written documents are kept at Yale University's Art Gallery.