Syria was an early Roman province, annexed to the Roman Republic in 64 BC by Pompey in the Third Mithridatic War, following the defeat of Armenian King Tigranes the Great. Following the partition of the Herodian Kingdom into tetrarchies in 6 AD, it was gradually absorbed into Roman provinces, with Roman Syria annexing Iturea and Trachonitis.
|Province of the Roman Empire|
Roman Syria highlighted in 125 AD
|•||Conquest of Syria-Coele by Pompey||64 BC|
|•||Incorporation of Syria Palaestina||135 AD|
|Today part of|
During the early empire, the Roman army in Syria accounted for three legions with auxiliaries, they defended the border with Parthia.
Syrian province forces were directly engaged in the Great Jewish Revolt of 66–70 AD. In 66 AD, Cestius Gallus, the legate of Syria, brought the Syrian army, based on XII Fulminata, reinforced by auxiliary troops, to restore order in Judaea and quell the revolt. The legion, however, was ambushed and destroyed by Jewish rebels at the Battle of Beth Horon, a result that shocked the Roman leadership. The future emperor Vespasian was then put in charge of subduing the Jewish revolt. In the summer of 69, Vespasian, with the Syrian units supporting him, launched his bid to become Roman emperor. He defeated his rival Vitellius and ruled as emperor for ten years when he was succeeded by his son Titus.
Based on an inscription recovered from Dor in 1948, Gargilius Antiquus was known to have been the governor of a province in the eastern part of the Empire, possibly Syria, between his consulate and governing Asia. In November 2016, an inscription in Greek was recovered off the coast of Dor by Haifa University underwater archaeologists, which attests that Antiquus was governor of the province of Judea between 120 and 130, possibly prior to the Bar Kokhba revolt.
Syria Palæstina was established by the merger of Roman Syria and Roman Jud(a)ea, following the defeat of the Bar Kokhba Revolt in 135. The Syria-based legion took part in the quelling of the revolt in 132–136, and in the aftermath, the emperor Hadrian added the greatly depopulated province of Judea to the province of Syria thus forming Syria-Palaestina.
|Provincia Syria Coele|
ἐπαρχία Κοίλης Συρίας
|Province of the Roman Empire|
Roman Empire in 210
|Today part of|
The governor of Syria retained the civil administration of the whole large province undiminished, and held for long alone in all Asia a command of the first rank. It was only in the course of the second century that a diminution of his prerogatives occurred, when Hadrian took one of the four legions from the governor of Syria and handed it over to the governor of Palestine. It was Severus who at length withdrew the first place in the Roman military hierarchy from the Syrian governor. After having subdued the province (which had wished at that time to make Niger emperor, as it had formerly done with its governor Vespasian) amidst resistance from the capital Antioch in particular, he ordained its partition into a northern and a southern half, and gave to the governor of the former, which was called Coele-Syria, two legions, to the governor of the latter, the province of Syro-Phoenicia, one legion.
|The 'Orient' in the time of Septimius Severus c.200 AD|
|Syria||Provincia Syria Coele|
|Phoenicia||Provincia Syria Phoenice|
|Palaestina||Provincia Syria Palaestina|
|Arabia||Provincia Arabia Petraea|
The emperor Septimius Severus divided up Roman Syria in the fashion it would remain until the rule of the Tetrarchs. Under his reign it was divided into three parts, Coele Syria in the north with Antioch as its provincial capital, Syria Phoenice with Tyre as the provincial capital and in the south Syria Palestina with Caesarea Maritima as the provincial capital. From the later 2nd century, the Roman Senate included several notable Syrians, including Claudius Pompeianus and Avidius Cassius.
Syria was of crucial strategic importance during the Crisis of the Third Century.
In 244 AD, Rome was ruled by a native Syrian from Philippopolis (modern day Shahba) in the province of Arabia Petraea. The emperor was Marcus Iulius Philippus, more commonly known as Philip the Arab. Philip became the 33rd emperor of Rome upon its millennial celebration.
Roman Syria was invaded in 252/253 (the date is disputed) after a Roman field army was destroyed in the battle of Barbalissos by the King of Persia Shapur I which left the Euphrates river unguarded and the region was pillaged by the Persians.
In 259/260 a similar event happened when Shapur I again defeated a Roman field army and captured the Roman emperor, Valerian, alive at the battle of Edessa. Again Roman Syria suffered as cities were captured, sacked and pillaged.
From 268 to 273, Syria was part of the breakaway Palmyrene Empire.
Following the reforms of Diocletian, Syria Coele became part of the Diocese of Oriens. Sometime between 330 and 350 (likely c. 341), the province of Euphratensis was created out of the territory of Syria Coele along the western bank of the Euphrates and the former realm of Commagene, with Hierapolis as its capital.
After c. 415 Syria Coele was further subdivided into Syria I (or Syria Prima), with the capital remaining at Antioch, and Syria II (Syria Secunda) or Syria Salutaris, with capital at Apamea on the Orontes. In 528, Justinian I carved out the small coastal province Theodorias out of territory from both provinces.
The region remained one of the most important provinces of the Byzantine Empire. It was occupied by the Sassanids between 609 and 628, then recovered by the emperor Heraclius, but lost again to the advancing Muslims after the battle of Yarmouk and the fall of Antioch. The city of Antioch was recovered by Nikephorus Phocas in 963 AD, along with other parts of the country, at that time under the Hamdanids, although still under the official suzerainty of the Abbasid caliphs and also claimed by the Fatimid caliphs. After emperor John Kurkuas's failed to recover Syria up to Jerusalem a Muslim "reconquest" of Syria followed in the late 970s undertaken by the Fatimid caliphate which resulted in the ouster of the Byzantines from most parts of Syria. However, Antioch and other northern parts of Syria remained in the empire and other parts were under the protection of the emperors through their Hamdanid, Mirdasid, and Marwanid proxies, until the Seljuk arrival, who after three decades of incursions, capture Antioch in 1084. Antioch is recovered again during the 12th century by the revived armies of the Comnenii. However, by that time the city will be regarded as part of Asia Minor and not of Syria.
The governor of Syria retained the civil administration of the whole large province undiminished, and held for long alone in all Asia a command of the first rank. [...] It was only in the course of the second century that a diminution of his prerogatives occurred, when Hadrian took one of the four legions from the governor of Syria and handed it over to the governor of Palestine. It was Severus who at length withdrew the first place in the Roman military hierarchy from the Syrian governor. After having subdued the province —which had wished at that time to make Niger emperor, as it had formerly done with its governor Vespasian— amidst resistance from the capital Antioch in particular, he ordained its partition into a northern and a southern half, and gave to the governor of the former, which was called Coele-Syria, two legions, to the governor of the latter, the province of Syro-Phoenicia, one [legion]. (Image of p. 117 and p. 118 at Google Books)
In 194 A.D. The emperor Septimus Severus divided the province of Syria and made the northern part into a separate province called Coele Syria.
The 115 Antioch earthquake occurred on 13 December 115 AD. It had an estimated magnitude of 7.5 on the surface wave magnitude scale and an estimated maximum intensity of XI (Extreme) on the Mercalli intensity scale. Antioch and surrounding areas were devastated with a great loss of life and property. It triggered a local tsunami that badly damaged the harbour at Caesarea Maritima. The Roman Emperor Trajan was caught in the earthquake, as was his successor Hadrian. Although the consul Marcus Pedo Vergilianus was killed, they escaped with only slight injuries and later began a program to rebuild the city.526 Antioch earthquake
The 526 Antioch earthquake hit Syria (region) and Antioch in the Byzantine Empire in 526. It struck during late May, probably between 20–29 May, at mid-morning, killing approximately 250,000 people. The earthquake was followed by a fire that destroyed most of the buildings left standing by the earthquake. The maximum intensity in Antioch is estimated to be between VIII (Severe) and IX (Violent) on the Mercalli intensity scale.Anatolius of Laodicea
Anatolius of Laodicea (early 3rd century – July 3, 283), also known as Anatolius of Alexandria, was Bishop of Laodicea on the Mediterranean coast of Roman Syria, and was one of the foremost scholars of his day in the physical sciences as well as in Aristotelean philosophy. He was also a great computist. The seventeen centuries old enigma of his famous 19-year Paschal cycle has recently been completely resolved by the Irish scholars Daniel P. Mc Carthy and Aidan Breen. He is considered a saint by the Eastern Orthodox and the Roman Catholic ChurchesDiocese of the East
The Diocese of the East or Diocese of Oriens (Latin: Dioecesis Orientis; Greek: Διοίκηση Ανατολής) was a diocese of the later Roman Empire, incorporating the provinces of the western Middle East, between the Mediterranean Sea and Mesopotamia. During late Antiquity, it was one of the major commercial, agricultural, religious and intellectual areas of the empire, and its strategic location facing the Sassanid Empire and the unruly desert tribes gave it exceptional military importance.Edessa
Edessa (Ancient Greek: Ἔδεσσα; Arabic: الرها ar-Ruhā; Turkish: Şanlıurfa; Kurdish: Riha) was a city in Upper Mesopotamia, founded on an earlier site by Seleucus I Nicator ca. 302 BC. It was also known as Antiochia on the Callirhoe from the 2nd century BC. It was the capital of the semi-independent kingdom of Osroene from c. 132 BC and fell under direct Roman rule in ca. 242. It became an important early centre of Syriac Christianity.
It fell to the Muslim conquest in 638, was briefly retaken by Byzantium in 1031 and became the center of the Crusader state of the County of Edessa from 1098–1144. It fell to the Turkic Zengid dynasty in 1144 and was eventually absorbed by the Ottoman Empire in 1517. The modern name of the city is Urfa and it is located in Şanlıurfa Province in the Southeast Anatolia Region of Turkey.Euphratensis
Euphratensis (Latin for "Euphratean"; Greek: Εὑφρατησία, Euphratēsía), fully Augusta Euphratensis, was a late Roman and then Byzantine province in Syrian region, part of the Byzantine Diocese of the East.Legio XVI Flavia Firma
Legio sexta decima Flavia firma ("Steadfast Flavian Sixteenth Legion") was a legion of the Imperial Roman army. The legion was created by Emperor Vespasian in 70 from the remains of the XVI Gallica (which had surrendered in the Batavian rebellion). The unit still existed in the 4th century, when it guarded the Euphrates border and camped in Sura (Syria). The emblem of the legion was a Pegasus, although earlier studies assumed it to have been a lion.Limes Arabicus
The Limes Arabicus was a desert frontier of the Roman Empire, mostly in the province of Arabia Petraea. It ran northeast from the Gulf of Aqaba for about 1,500 kilometers (930 mi) at its greatest extent, reaching northern Syria and forming part of the wider Roman limes system. It had several forts and watchtowers.
The reason of this defensive limes was to protect the Roman province of Arabia from attacks of the barbarian tribes of the Arabian desert. The main purpose of the Limes Arabicus is disputed; it may have been used both to defend from Arab raids and to protect the commercial lines from robbers.
Next to the Limes Arabicus Emperor Trajan built a major road, the Via Nova Traiana, from Bosra to Aila on the Red Sea, a distance of 430 km (270 mi). Built between 111 and 114 AD, its primary purpose may have been to provide efficient transportation for troop movements and government officials as well as facilitating and protecting trade caravans emerging from the Arabian Peninsula. It was completed under Emperor Hadrian.Manahen
Manahen (also Manaen or Menachem) was a teacher in the first century Christian Church at Antioch who had been 'brought up' (Greek: συντροφος, syntrophos, Vulgate: collactaneus) with Herod Antipas.Palmyrene Empire
The Palmyrene Empire was a splinter state centered at Palmyra which broke away from the Roman Empire during the Crisis of the Third Century. It encompassed the Roman provinces of Syria Palaestina, Arabia Petraea, Egypt and large parts of Asia Minor.
Zenobia ruled the Palmyrene Empire as regent for her son Vaballathus, who had become King of Palmyra in 267. In 270 Zenobia managed to conquer most of the Roman east in a relatively short period, and tried to maintain relations with Rome. In 271 she claimed the imperial title for herself and for her son and fought a short war with the Roman emperor Aurelian, who conquered Palmyra and captured the self-proclaimed Empress. A year later the Palmyrenes rebelled, which led Aurelian to destroy Palmyra. The Palmyrene Empire is hailed in Syria and plays an important role as an icon in Syrian nationalism.Philip II Philoromaeus
Philip II Philoromaeus (Greek: Φίλιππος ὁ Φιλορωμαῖος, "Friend of the Romans") or Barypous (Βαρύπους, "Heavy-foot"), a ruler of the Hellenistic Seleucid kingdom, was the son of the Seleucid king Philip I Philadelphus.Phoenice (Roman province)
Phoenice was a province of the Roman Empire (called in latin Provincia Syria Phoenice), encompassing the historical region of Phoenicia. It was officially created in 194 AD and after c. 400 it was divided into Phoenice proper or Phoenice Paralia, and Phoenice Libanensis, a division that persisted until the region was conquered by the Muslim Arabs in the 630s.Phoenicia under Roman rule
The Phoenicia under Roman rule relates to the Roman control of Syro-Phoenician city states (in the area of modern Lebanon), that lasted from 64 BC to the Muslim conquests of the 7th century.Pope Anicetus
Pope Anicetus (died c. 20 April 168) was the Bishop of Rome from c. 157 to his death in 168. According to the Annuario Pontificio, the start of his papacy may have been 153. Anicetus actively opposed Gnosticism and Marcionism. He welcomed Polycarp of Smyrna to Rome, to discuss the controversy over the date for the celebration of Easter.Sohaemus of Armenia
Sohaemus of Armenia (Armenian: Սոհեմոս), also known as Sohaemo and Gaius Julius Sohaemus (Greek: Γάϊος Ἰούλιος Σόαιμος), was a Roman Client King of Armenia.
Sohaemus was a prominent person in the Roman Empire in the 2nd century from the Orontid dynasty of Commagene and the Emesene dynasty from Syria. The novelist of the 2nd century, his contemporary Iamblichus claims Sohaemus as his fellow-countryman. Iamblichus calls Sohaemus as an Arsacid and Achaemenid, in his lineage and was a descendant of the Median Princess Iotapa, who was once betrothed to the Ptolemaic Prince Alexander Helios. Little is known about Sohaemus’ family and early life prior to becoming King of Armenia. Before becoming King, Sohaemus had been a Roman Senator and served as a Consul in Rome at an unknown date.In 144, Sohaemus received the Armenian throne from the Roman emperor Antoninus Pius after the overthrow of Vologases I. In honor of his first ascent to the throne of Armenia, a copper medal with images of Sohaemus and Antoninus Pius was issued in Rome with the inscription "King of Armenians granted by decision of the Senate". Sohaemus was a contemporary to the rule of the Roman emperors: Antoninus Pius, Marcus Aurelius, Lucius Verus and Commodus of the Nerva–Antonine dynasty. In the first reign, he ruled from the year 144 until 161. Not much is known about his first reign. The novelist Iamblichus living in Armenia at the time of his rule describes his reign as ‘in succession to his ancestors’. This statement can also refer to his former ancestor Sohaemus of Emesa who lived in the 1st century.In 161 Vologases IV of Parthia, son of the legitimate King Mithridates IV of Parthia, dispatched his troops to seize Armenia and eradicated the Roman legions stationed in the country under the legatus Marcus Sedatius Severianus. Encouraged by the Spahbod Osroes, Parthian troops marched further West into Roman Syria. After Armenia was seized by the Parthians, Sohaemus went into political exile, living in Rome where he became a senator. Sohaemus was well known in Rome and there were rumors in some quarters that he was not the right man in the right place.These events provoked a new Roman-Parthian war and peace was made on Roman terms, with Sohaemus installed as King of Armenia by Lucius Verus in either 163 or 164. The ceremony for Sohaemus in becoming Armenian King for the second time, may have taken place in Antioch or Ephesus. This war cost Rome dearly, because the victorious army brought with it from the east a plague that spread very quickly throughout the empire. Emperor Marcus Aurelius tried to declare Armenia as a province of Rome, but the uprising of Armenians led by Prince Tiridates forced the Romans to abandon their plans. In 164, Latin coinage were struck in Armenia with the inscription L. Verus. Aug. Armeniacus and on the reverse Rex Armen(ii)s datus.The time of his second reign is unknown. Sohaemus reigned from 163 perhaps up to 186. Under Sohaemus, construction work continued in the capital Vagharshapat. A citadel, defensive fortifications, a palace complex, and several pagan temples were built in the city. Sometime during his reign, Sohaemus was expelled by elements favorable to Parthia. Sohaemus was expelled because a man called Tiridates stirred up trouble in Armenia who had murdered the King of the Osroenes and had thrust his sword in the face of Publius Martius Verus, the governor of Cappadocia when rebuked for it. Tiridates only punishment for his crimes was to be exiled to Roman Britain, by Marcus Aurelius.As a result of Sohaemus’ second expulsion from Armenia; Roman forces went to war with Parthian soldiers. Parthia retook most of their lost territory in 166, as Sohaemus from his expulsion retreated to Syria. After Marcus Aurelius, Lucius Verus and the Parthian rulers intervened in the conflict, the son of Vologases IV of Parthia, Vologases II assumed the Armenian throne in 186.
It has been suggested that the Garni Temple in Armenia, may have been the tomb probably belonging to Sohaemus, based on the construction date as the temple was probably built in 175. The Emesene prince, Julius Alexander may have been the possible son of Sohaemus. Sohaemus is played by Omar Sharif in the 1964 film The Fall of the Roman Empire.Strata Diocletiana
The Strata Diocletiana (Latin for "Road of Diocletian") was a fortified road that ran along the eastern desert border, the limes Arabicus, of the Roman Empire. As its name suggests, it was constructed under Emperor Diocletian (r. 284–305) as part of a wide-ranging fortification drive in the later Roman Empire. The strata was lined with a series of similarly-built rectangular forts (quadriburgia) situated at one day's march (ca. 20 Roman miles) from each other. It began at the southern bank of the river Euphrates and stretched south and west, passing east of Palmyra and Damascus down to northeast Arabia.Tanukhids
The Tanûkhids (Arabic: التنوخيون) or Tanukh (Arabic: تنوخ) were a confederation of Arab tribes, sometimes characterized as Saracens. They first rose to prominence in northern Arabia and south of Syria in the 3rd century BC. Both Lakhmid and Tanukhid inscriptions have been found at Umm al-Jimal in Jordan and Namara in Syria.The ancient Tanukhi tribal confederation was largely taken over by several branches of the large Azd and Quda'a tribe.Thaddeus of Edessa
According to some Eastern Christian traditions, Thaddeus, (Syriac: Addai or Aday (ܐܕܝ) (sometimes Latinized as Addeus)), was one of the seventy disciples of Christ, possibly identical with Thaddeus (Jude the Apostle) of the Twelve Apostles.Theodorias (province)
Theodorias (Greek: Θεοδωριάς) was a Byzantine province created in 528 by Emperor Justinian I and named in honour of his wife, the Empress Theodora.
† Italy was never constituted as a province, instead retaining a special juridical status until Diocletian's reforms.