Shahba' Things to Do Tips by MM212
Shahba' Things to Do: 30 reviews and 50 photos
Ruins of the palace, Dec 2010
Adjacent to the Kalybé on the north side are the remains of a Roman palace. It might have been the centre of the Roman government of the city or even the rulers residence. The ruins of the palace were incorporated into a residence constructed during the Ottoman period.
The Kalybé of Philippopolis, Dec 2010
One of the most prominent remains of Philippopolis, this stage-like structure is believed to be a Kalybé. Such a structure, found in many of the Roman cities of this region, is of Semitic/Nabataean origin and resembles a nymphaeum. In fact, the two types of structures are so similar that the earliest archaeologists mistakenly identified the Kalybé of Philippopolis as a nymphaeum. However, the lack of a water near it or transported to it was a clear indication that it was built as a Kalybé. Some historians believe that a Kalybé replicated the monumental façades of Nabataean tombs and was used to stage religious rituals in much the same way as they were in Petra. The façade of a kalybé thus contained statues of deities and was almost always facing a square to allow for an audience. In Shahba, it is facing the Philippeion Square, which is sometimes referred to as the Roman Forum.
Columns of the Hexastyle Temple, Dec 2010
Three and a half of the six original Corinthian columns of this temple are still standing along the Decumanus Maximus of Philippopolis (Shahba). In the modern era, these columns are now in the front porch of a house (how lucky the owners are!) but they once preceded a Roman temple. Although it was named by archaeologists as the Hexastyle Temple (hexastyle = six columns), some archaeologists believe it was another form of a Kalybé, a type of open Nabataean temple, similar to the larger structure in the Forum/Philippeion Square down the street.
Tell Shihan, Dec 2010
The modern town of Shahba was built around Tell Shihan. It is an extinct volcano that dominates the town. Otherwise, Shahba is a sleepy provincial town that stretches around the old city of Philippopolis on the north-western slopes of Jebel Druze (or Jebel al-Arab) of the Hauran region. See the attached photos.
Roman Baths of Philippopolis, Dec 2010
Designed in the Imperial Roman style, the Baths of Philippopolis were of impressive proportions. Although much has perished, the remaining walls and high arches demonstrate the original scale of the baths, which contained the same three halls seen in baths in Rome: frigidarium, tepidarium, and caldarium. They were clearly intended for a city larger than Philippopolis ever became, a city whose completion was abandoned upon the death of its founder, Emperor Philip the Arab. Exquisite mosaics covered the floors of the baths, but they were all transferred to the museum of nearby Suweida where they are currently display. Just outside the Roman Baths stand the remains of the aqueduct which once brought water right into the baths.
Decumanus Maximus of Philippopolis, Dec 2010
When the Roman Emperor, Philip the Arab, decided to transform his birthplace hamlet into a grand colonia Romana named Philippopolis, he designed the new city under a Hippodamian grid plan. It contained a cardo maximus and a decumanus maximus, the north-south and east-west axes, respectively. Eighteen centuries later, these two streets continue to be main thoroughfares in the modern town of Shahba, with some of the original paving still in place! The decumanus maximus leads from the Philippeion Square (or Forum) eastwards to an intersection with the cardo maximus marked by a tetrapylon. Although long gone, this monumental tetrapylon is marked by a roundabout.
Ottoman buildings, Roman stones - Dec 2010
When Shahba was repopulated by the Druze tribes fleeing Lebanon in the 19th century, they reconstructed the town using existing stones from the ruins of Philippopolis. Much of this Ottoman-period architecture is still extant and is recognisable by the black basalt stones and recycled Roman materials.
Temple of Julius Marinus, Dec 2010
Sometimes referred to as the Philippeion, this rectangular temple was erected by Emperor Philip the Arab in honour of his deified father Julius Marinus. In additional to being a temple, it was intended as a burial place for the family of the Emperor, but it is unclear whether or not any of them was actually laid to rest here. The Temple is situated on the south side of the Forum and has survived amazingly well. Its sparse decorations include ionic column capitals at the corners and some rosettes flanking the Greek inscription plaque above the entrance. The brackets on the façade and the niches in its interior must have once contained statues, but none has survived. It is possible to climb to the roof of the temple for great views over Shahba.
Mosaic of Dionysus, Dec 2010
Built over the ruins of a Roman villa, the Museum of Shahba (le Musée de Chahba) contains a small but exquisite collection of mosaics found in situ. It is one of the highlights of the visit to Shahba, but only takes a few minutes to see. Note that the museum is closed on Tuesdays, which happened to be the day I visited! Luckily, the caretaker was nice enough to allow us in nonetheless, and we of course matched his generosity with a baksheesh. The museum is located near the Roman Baths.
Southern gate of Philippopolis, Dec 2010
Roughly square in shape, Philippopolis was surrounded by a defensive wall. Each side measured around 900 metres in length and was pierced by four gates, one on each side. Parts of the wall are still visible to this day, along with the northern and southern gates. The attached photos are of the southern gate of the city.
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