The Roman Near East, 31 B.C.-A.D. 337

By Fergus Millar | Go to book overview
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That the dedication should have been in Greek is no surprise. But for that very reason we may fail to underline its significance, from two different but related aspects. If we think of the cultural and social history of the Near East, Greek had been in wide[spread and fully established use there since the conquests by Alexander, the setting-up of the Seleucid dynasty there at the end of the fourth century BC and the extensive foundation, especially under Seleucus I, of Greek cities and settlements.2 Dura-Europos itself, situated on a promontory overlooking the middle Euphrates from the west, had been one of these settlements.

Aurelius Diphilianus, however, does not identify himself as a citizen of Dura, but as a soldier in a Roman legion, the IV Scythica, which had been stationed in Syria since the middle of the first century AD. His presence thus reflects the long and gradual step-by-step extension of Roman direct rule in the Near East, which had begun with the arrival of Pompey's forces in the 60s BC, and was to reach its greatest extension at the end of the third century AD; for two-thirds of a century, until the defeat of Julian in 3 63, it was to cover not only all of northern Mesopotamia but some territory east of the Tigris.

Dura itself, after three centuries of Parthian rule, had been captured and garrisoned by the Romans in the 160s. Diphilianus will he made his dedication at some point between then and the destruction of the town by the forces of the new Persian Empire in the 250s. Most probably he did so in the last decades of the town's life, when his legion had earned the extra name 'Antoniniana' from one of the Emperors, perhaps M. Aurelius Antoninus (AD 211217), for whom we tend to use the contemporary nickname 'Caracalla'.

Diphilianus may have owed the fact that he was a Roman citizen to Caracalla's grant of Roman citizenship to all the free inhabitants of the Empire. At all events his typical Romano-Greek name, ' Aurelius Diphilianus', shows that the citizenship will not have been acquired by him, or perhaps by a previous generation of his family, earlier than the reign of Marcus Aurelius (AD 161-180). The form of his name is only one small sign of a complex range of Roman influences which profoundly affected the social structure, culture and economy of the Near East in the first four centuries of Roman rule. Looked at from Rome, the Near East gained an ever-increasing significance in terms of the extension of territory, the acquisition of tribute revenue and the deployment of military force. At the time when Aurelius Diphilianus made his dedication, his legion, the IV Scythica, was one of two stationed in this province, now called Syria Coele (northern Syria); there was also one in southern Syria, for which the Romans had revived the name ' Syria Phoenice', as well as two in ' Syria Palaestina' (Judaea), one in the province of ' Arabia' and two in the

See now J. D. Grainger, The Cities of Seleukid Syria ( 1990).


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