The Roman Military Base at Dura-Europos, Syria: An Archaeological Visualization

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Dura-Europos, a Parthian-ruled Greco-Syrian city, was captured by Rome c.AD165. It then accommodated a Roman garrison until its destruction by Sasanian siege c.AD256. Excavations of the site between the World Wars made sensational discoveries, and with renewed exploration from 1986 to 2011, Dura remains the best-explored city of the Roman East.

A critical revelation was a sprawling Roman military base occupying a quarter of the city's interior. This included swathes of civilian housing converted to soldiers' accommodation and several existing sanctuaries, as well as baths, an amphitheatre, headquarters, and more temples added by the garrison. Base and garrison were clearly fundamental factors in the history of Roman Dura, but what impact did they have on the civil population? Original excavators gloomily portrayed Durenes evicted from their homes and holy places, and subjected to extortion and impoverishment by brutal soldiers, while recent commentators have envisaged military-civilian concordia, with shared prosperity and integration. Detailed examination of the evidence presents a new picture.

Through the use of GPS, satellite, geophysical and archival evidence, this volume shows that the Roman military base and resident community were even bigger than previously understood, with both military and civil communities appearing much more internally complex than has been allowed until now. The result is a fascinating social dynamic which we can partly reconstruct, giving us a nuanced picture of life in a city near the eastern frontier of the Roman world.

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Oxford University Press
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