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

By Fergus Millar | Go to book overview

CHAPTER
4
ROME AND MESOPOTAMIA:
FROM PARTHIA TO PERSIA

4.1. THE SEVERAN NEAR EAST AS
A MILITARY STRUCTURE

The military history of the Near East, as of any other region, cannot be separated from its social history. For a start, the life of the units of the Roman army, distributed across the immensely varied landscapes of the Near East, is itself an aspect of social and economic history. It is also, in many important ways, an aspect of cultural and religious history. The soldiers, drawn from many different parts of the Empire, may often have brought their own cults with them. But what we actually see much more clearly, from Hatra in Iraq to Dura-Europos, or from Dumayr between Damascus and Palmyra to the great temple of Baetocaece high up in the mountain-range behind Arados, is how soldiers of the Roman army made dedications to local deities, and thus (as in so many other ways) integrated themselves into the life of the region. The approach to the Near East adopted here began with the dedication which a soldier of IV Scythica made at Dura-Europos in the first half of the third century, in honour of 'the ancestral god, Zeus Betylos, of those by the Orontes'. An even more complex example is provided by the dedication of a statue of Juppiter Optimus Maximus Heliopolitanus', made, probably in the second half of the second century, by Sextius Rasius Proculus, praefectus of the Cohors II Thracum Syriaca. It comes from a place of some significance, namely Suhneh (Suknah), on the road north from Palmyra to Sura on the Euphrates, and where a road may have diverged east to reach the river at Circesium. As it happens, this is one of only two explicitly labelled representations of the Iuppiter of Heliopolis. But it will not in fact help with the controversial ques-

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