Shahba (شهبا‎) aka Philippopolis

Shahba aka Philippopolis is situated 87 km South of Damascus, As-Suwayda Governorate in Syria. Shahba became known as a home town for future Roman emperor who became known as Phillip the Arab.



Location: 87 km South of Damascus, As-Suwayda Governorate Map

Known for: home town of Roman emperor Phillip the Arab


History of Shahba

Shahba was first settled during the Stone Age. Archaeological digs in Shahba and its vicinity yielded many Neolithic tools, pottery, burials and other artefacts from the time period. The settlement turned into a small town during Persian rule. In 333 BC it became part of the empire established by Alexander the Great and later Shahba was captured by the ancient Romans. The last incorporated the city into a Roman province of Arabia Petraea.

Shahba is particularly famous for being a home of the Ancient Roman Emperor Philip the Arab, Syrian native who ruled the entire Empire since 244 AD. Upon ascension to the throne he ordered a massive construction in his home town. Shahba was renamed Philippopolis (city of Philipp in Greek) and dedicated to the emperor. Many of the buildings in Shahba date to this period. In fact the whole layout gets a Roman feel with perfect precision and order of streets and buildings. City blocks were named insulae, while two main colonnaded streets cardus maximus and decumanus maximus created near perfect axis of the city. Some even believe that Philip wanted to turn his native city into a copy of Rome. Whatever might be the case Philip the Arab was killed in a palace coup five years later and majestic project ceased due to lack of funds.

Shahba was situated fairly far from the other populated cities of the empire. This explains why it eventually went into decline as also explains why it is so well preserved despite centuries of abandonment. Roman theatre, basilica, forum and other private, religious and civil buildings were preserved in near mint condition. During archaeological digs in 1952 scientists discovered The Glory of the Earth mosaic in "Maison Aoua". Today it is kept on exposition in Damascus.


Presence of Christianity and Christians in Shahba


An early Christian symbol of a fish or "iχθύς" in Greek is an acronym for Χριστός, Θεοu Υiός, Σωτήρ (Jesus Christ Son of God, Savior). In time of pagan persecutions this was the only to evade capture and certain death.