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Syria: Doura Europos

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Doura Europos | Syria | Asia

[Visited: June 2006]

Originally a Babylonian town called Doura, or fortress in the Semantic language, Europos was added by the Seleucids after the town that Seleucus was born in. During the Seleucid times, around 300 BCE, Doura Europos was a defensive town guarding the route between Apamea and Seleucia. For some time, Doura Europos was under influence of Palmyra, until the Romans took it in 165CE, as the easternmost fortification against the Sassanians, who took and destroyed the city in 256. The fortified city was well known for its religious tolerance, as shown by the fact that you could find a church, a synagogue, as well as several Greek, Roman, and Mesopotamian temples.

Picture of Doura Europos (Syria): Doura Europos: road towards the gate

Coming from Mari, a little further south-east, we waited for a bus, and after a while started trying to hitch-hike. The first car passed at high speed, but after a while came back to the crossroads. They appeared to be Kuwaitis who quickly took us to Doura Europos, even though they had to go somewhere else. As we did not see anyone at the entrance, we entered the main Palmyra Gate in the defensive wall covering the entire site, and found ourselves on the seemingly empty plains of this old city. We walked along the wall, trying to discover the various remains of buildings among the ruins of Doura Europos. We walked until we reached a small canyon on the south-eastern side of the old fortifications. Here, it was easy to see how the location of Doura Europos was perfect as a fortification, helped by the natural setting of canyons and the Euphrates river on two sides, and the defensive wall on the others.

Picture of Doura Europos (Syria): Palmyra Gate: impressive gate in the defensive walls of Doura Europos

We walked towards the Euphrates, enjoyed some great views over the river and the agriculture on the banks of the river, saw the inevitable New Citadel, and enjoyed the sun going down over this ancient landscape of Doura Europos. As we walked back towards the city wall, we tried to imagine the temples that had once stood here, the underground battle fought by the Romans and Sassanians, until we realized that the gate was closed. When we arrived at the gate, the caretaker of the ruins came off his motorbike, opened the gate for us, and made us pay the entrance fee. He sped off on his bike, as we walked towards the road, always looking back to see the sun set over the defensive walls of the ancient city of Doura Europos.

Picture of Doura Europos (Syria): Remains of Doura Europos
Picture of Doura Europos (Syria): Doura Europos: walled fortifications and the canyon as natural protector
Picture of Doura Europos (Syria): Canyon and fortifications at Doura Europos
Picture of Doura Europos (Syria): Defensive wall of Doura Europos from inside
Picture of Doura Europos (Syria): Defensive city wall of Doura Europos and empty landscape
Picture of Doura Europos (Syria): Arch in the ruins of Doura Europos
Picture of Doura Europos (Syria): Doura Europos ruins
Picture of Doura Europos (Syria): Landscape and defensive wall of Doura Europos
Picture of Doura Europos (Syria): Defensive wall and Palmyra Gate: Doura Europos from a distance
Picture of Doura Europos (Syria): Euphrates river and New Citadel of Doura Europos
Picture of Doura Europos (Syria): Entrance of Doura Europos

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