Thursday, March 29, 2007

Back to our originally scheduled program – Palmyra

The Temple of Bel

Our friend Walter tells us that the Temple of Bel at Palmyra is one of the most interesting temples in antiquity for a few reasons: 1. It was built (32 CE) during the reign of Tiberius (14-37 CE) in the 1st century, most other temples of this type where built during the 2nd century and 2. the temple entrance is rotated 90 degrees so you enter from the side rather than the end (and the entry is asymmetrical) . This was done to accommodate the worship of two cults at either end of the temple, rather than the standard worship of just one cult. The temple complex is the most complete structure and one of the more impressive parts of the ruins at Palmyra. The temple proper (cella) was dedicated to the god Belis who was a Semitic god who may have been equated with the Ugaritic Baal and eventually Zeus. The complex consists of two parts: a huge walled courtyard and the temple proper.

There was an entrance for sacrificial animals, which A and Yo spent a lot of time checking out. In a later manifestation, the temple was used as a mosque for the local Palmyrenes who were living on the compound. This is an Arabic inscription on the inside wall of the cella. The next destination - Aleppo, with stops along the way at the Dead Cities and Ebla.

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