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Syria: Apamea

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Apamea | Syria | Asia

[Visited: December 2005]

Apamea, or Afamia as the Syrians call it, was founded in the 3rd century BCE, by Seleucus I, former general in the army of Alexander the Great. Named after his Persian wife Afamia, Apamea achieved importance as a trading post and was famous for its many horses, stables, and even elephants who were used in warfare. Even now, the area around Apamea is clearly fertile and pleasant to live in. Whatever can be seen now are the remains of the rebuilt city that reached its best days in the 2nd century CE. It continued to be prosperous until the 6th century, and after it fell to the Mamluks, the city declined further.

Picture of Apamea (Syria): Apamea: agricultural land leading up to the columns of the main street

As I got off the microbus, I immediately saw the imposing citadel, rising high above the surroundings. Almost automatically, I started walking up, past the citadel, and further up. This was Qala'at al Mudiq, one of the many castles used in medieval times, and apparently the only one still inhabited today. But I was on my way to Apamea, of which I soon spotted the first columns standing out of the landscape. Although not one column was standing on this highland in the 1930s, serious archeological work has resulted in one of the most impressive restored Roman streets in the Middle East.

Picture of Apamea (Syria): Apamea columns casting their shadows

I had not realized before visiting that it would be so extensive. The cardo seemed to become always more endless, but I finally reached the end at Antioch Gate. I then had some great views from the many standing columns, looking over the barren agricultural lands that were scattered with remains of Roman houses. I visited the Roman villa and the remains of the cathedral, before meeting a very curious and affectionate Syrian man who started to hug me and babbled away in Arabic, which I unfortunately could not understand. Hours after I had planned to leave Apamea, I started walking down, saw some of the mosaics that had been recovered at Apamea, before heading to Hama.

Picture of Apamea (Syria): Cardo or main street of Apamea, seen from south to north
Picture of Apamea (Syria): Fluted columns at Apamea
Picture of Apamea (Syria): Detail of the entrance of a Roman villa at Apamea
Picture of Apamea (Syria): Votive column in cardo of Apamea
Picture of Apamea (Syria): Apamea: portico and votive column on the cardo of this ancient city
Picture of Apamea (Syria): Standing columns of Apamea blending in with the landscape
Picture of Apamea (Syria): Apamea columns with remains of wall behind
Picture of Apamea (Syria): Apamea: line of columns on the cardo
Picture of Apamea (Syria): Mosaic of Adam on display in museum
Picture of Apamea (Syria): Antioch or northern gate of Apamea, end of the cardo
Picture of Apamea (Syria): Apamea: detail of remains of house at the cardo
Picture of Apamea (Syria): Qala'at al Mudiq near Apamea seen from a distance
Picture of Apamea (Syria): Remains of cathedral of Apamea

Around the World in 80 Clicks

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