Roman soldiers at the crucifixion of Christ

The Romans claimed: 1) North Africa after the Punic Wars (264 – 146 B.C.), 2) Greece, Macedonia, Syria and Asia Minor after the Macedonian Wars (214–148 B.C.); and 3) Egypt after the struggle between Octavian (Augustus) and Marc Antony and Cleopatra VII (Cleopatra) and the Battle of Actium (31 B.C.).

Asiatic Provinces of the Roman Empire
1) In Asia Minor (Anatolia, modern Turkey)
Asia proper (western Turkey133 B.C.).
Bithynia et Pontus (northern Turkey, south of the Black Sea, 74, 65 B.C.).
Cilicia (southeast coast of Turkey, 67 B.C.).
Galatia (central Turkey, 25 B.C.).
Pamphylia et Lycia (southwest Turkey, 25, A.D. 43).
Cappadocia (eastern Turkey, A.D. 17).
2) In Southwestern Asia.
Syria (64 B.C.).
Judea (Israel, 63 - A.D. 70).
Arabia Petraea (A.D. 105).
Armenia (A.D. 114).
Mesopotamia (A.D. 115).
Assyria (A.D. 115). \~\

The Roman province of Asia or Asiana, in Byzantine times called Phrygia, was a Senatorial province governed by a proconsul added to the late Republic. The word "Asia" comes from a Greek word. Originally it only applied to the eastern shore of the Aegean Sea. The Roman province of Asia occupied almost exactly the area of that Lydian kingdom.(the northwestern part of what is today Turkey). Later, the word was applied to a vague area in, finally becoming east of them, until it was used generically for the whole continent. [Source: Wikipedia +]

Antiochus III the Great had to give up Asia when the Romans crushed his army at the historic battle of Magnesia, in 190 B.C. After the Treaty of Apamea (188 B.C.) the entire territory was surrendered to Rome and placed under the control of a client king at Pergamum. With no apparent heir, Attalus III of Pergamum having been a close ally of Rome, chose to bequeath his kingdom to Rome.

Asia province originally consisted of Mysia, the Troad, Aeolis, Lydia, Ionia, Caria, and the land corridor through Pisidia to Pamphylia. Aegean islands except Crete, were part of the Insulae (province) of Asiana. Part of Phrygia was given to Mithridates V Euergetes before it was reclaimed as part of the province in 116 B.C. Lycaonia was added before 100 B.C. while the area around Cibyra was added in 82 B.C. The southeast region of Asia province was later reassigned to the province of Cilicia. During, the empire, Asia province was bounded by Bithynia to the north, Lycia to the south, and Galatia to the east. +

Bithynia was ancient district in northwestern Anatolia, adjoining the Sea of Marmara, the Bosporus, and the Black Sea, and thus was a strategically important and precarious place. position between East and West. Late in the 2nd millennium B.C., Bithynia was occupied by warlike tribes of Thracian origin who harried Greek settlers and Persian envoys alike. Their remarkable pugnacity kept them from complete Persian domination after the 6th century; in addition, they never submitted to Alexander the Great or his Seleucid successors. By the 3rd century B.C. the small but powerful state had evolved from tribal government to Hellenistic kingship and reached the height of its power early in the 2nd century B.C.. This was followed by a century of inept leadership and rapid decline. Bithynia’s last king, Nicomedes IV, little more than a Roman puppet, bequeathed his kingdom to the Romans in 74 B.C. [Source: Encyclopaedia Britannica]

Websites on Ancient Rome: Internet Ancient History Sourcebook: Rome sourcebooks.fordham.edu ; Internet Ancient History Sourcebook: Late Antiquity sourcebooks.fordham.edu ; Forum Romanum forumromanum.org ; “Outlines of Roman History” forumromanum.org; “The Private Life of the Romans” forumromanum.org|; BBC Ancient Rome bbc.co.uk/history; Perseus Project - Tufts University; perseus.tufts.edu ; Lacus Curtius penelope.uchicago.edu; Gutenberg.org gutenberg.org The Roman Empire in the 1st Century pbs.org/empires/romans; The Internet Classics Archive classics.mit.edu ; Bryn Mawr Classical Review bmcr.brynmawr.edu; De Imperatoribus Romanis: An Online Encyclopedia of Roman Emperors roman-emperors.org; British Museum ancientgreece.co.uk; Oxford Classical Art Research Center: The Beazley Archive beazley.ox.ac.uk ; Metropolitan Museum of Art metmuseum.org/about-the-met/curatorial-departments/greek-and-roman-art; The Internet Classics Archive kchanson.com ; Cambridge Classics External Gateway to Humanities Resources web.archive.org/web; Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy iep.utm.edu;
Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy plato.stanford.edu; Ancient Rome resources for students from the Courtenay Middle School Library web.archive.org ; History of ancient Rome OpenCourseWare from the University of Notre Dame /web.archive.org ; United Nations of Roma Victrix (UNRV) History unrv.com

Romans Take On Antiochus III, Ruler of Syria and the Seleucid Empire.

After the defeats of Carthage in the Punic Wars (264 – 146 B.C.) and Macedonia (one of heirs to Alexander the Great’s kingdom) in the Macedonian Wars (214–148 B.C.), there was only one great power in Mediterranean which could claim to be a rival of Rome. That power was Syria, under its ambitious ruler, Antiochus III, 6th ruler of the Seleucid Empire (another heir to Alexander the Great’s kingdom). David Silverman of Reed College wrote: “A number of things led to the conflict between Rome and this great power in Asia. Rome and Flamininus did not deal so well with Antiochus on the diplomatic plane; he wanted the Romans to define the limits of his sphere of influence in Thrace, but they were unwilling or unable to do so. The senatorial treaty of 196 B.C. (ratifying the decision of Flamininus) had carried a not-so-subtle warning to Antiochus: all the Greeks states were to be free, without tribute or garrison, both in Europe and in Asia. [Source: David Silverman, Classics 373 ~ History 393 Class, Reed College ^*^]

“Flamininus was probably sincere in wanting to free the Greeks. Certainly the annalists made the most of the occasion of his proclamation (Livy 33.32 and 34.49). But trouble arose over the Roman settlement of the division of Thessaly, which had not been as favorable to the Aetolian League as it might have been, and in the Peloponnesus Flamininus had to stamp out the Spartan king Nabis, who had taken Argos. Still, when Flamininus said no garrison he meant Roman ones too, and in 194 he got his wish; over the protests of the Philhellenic (?) Scipio Africanus, who was in favor of making Greece a consular province, all the Roman forces were withdrawn. ^*^

“In 193-194 B.C. the Romans continued to negotiate with Antiochus to no avail. The Romans were prepared to let Antiochus keep Egypt and the rest of his empire if he got out of Thrace, but this proved unacceptable. In 193 B.C. the Aetolians, who had been dissatisfied with the settlement of 196, invited Antiochus to come in and liberate Greece. Antiochus was willing. He and the Aetolians looked for aid from Philip and from Hannibal, but both were still licking their wounds; in fact Philip had decided that for the moment his interests lay in remaining friends with Rome, and he provided assistance to Rome in the war against Antiochus (short of supplying troops). In Sparta old King Nabis was as ready as ever, though, and he managed to destroy a few towns before Flamininus put him down again in 192. The Aetolians subsequently managed to foment a plot in Sparta to kill Nabis, and also took the stronghold of Demetrias (another of the fetters of Greece).” ^*^

War with Antiochus of Syria (192-189 B.C.)

Antiochos III

The direct cause of the War with Antiochus of Syria (192-189 B.C.) grew out of the intrigues of the Aetolians in Greece. This restless people stirred up a discord among the Greek cities, and finally called upon Antiochus to espouse their cause, and to aid them in driving the Romans out of the country. Antiochus accepted this invitation, crossed the Hellespont, and landed in Greece with an army of 10,000 men (192 B.C.). Rome now appeared as the protector of Europe against Asia. She was supported by her previous enemy, Philip of Macedonia; and she was also aided by the kingdom of Pergamum and the republic of Rhodes. [Source: “Outlines of Roman History” by William C. Morey, Ph.D., D.C.L. New York, American Book Company (1901), forumromanum.org \~]

David Silverman of Reed College wrote: “In the fall of 192 B.C. Antiochus was at Demetrias. Probably the most he hoped for was to make a quick show of force in Greece, then to retire on equal terms. But Rome responded with a declaration of war. Antiochus got no support in Greece except from the Aetolians, who had their eyes on Thessaly. In 191 B.C. a Roman army under M. Acilius Glabrio met Antiochus at Thermopylae, and repeated the tactic Xerxes had used in the late summer of 480; the key to the Roman victory was the weakness of the Aetolian contingent guarding the path against an encircling move. Antiochus' army was annihilated in the pass. Antiochus hastily retreated to Asia Minor, whither he was pursued by the Romans. The next few years in Greece saw the troublesome Aetolian League neutralized, bound by a treaty to preserve the empire and maiestas of the Roman people (189 B.C.). This treaty (Polybius 21.32 = SB 69) may be contrasted with the one made between Rome and the Aetolians in 201, when Rome required Aetolian help against Philip. Its relatively harsh terms are said to have been counter to the desires of Flamininus and reflective of the policies of Acilius Glabrio. [Source: David Silverman, Classics 373 ~ History 393 Class, Reed College]

The career of Antiochus in Greece was short. After he was defeated by Marcus Porcius Cato in the famous pass of Thermopylae (191 B.C.), and was driven back across the sea into Asia Minor. A Roman fleet chased Antiochus into his home waters, bolstered by alliance with the Rhodians, whose navy was the envy of the Aegean. Why did the Romans take the war with Antiochus into the area of Asia Minor, which had never before been the scene of non-diplomatic Roman intervention? Surely one reason was to gratify Eumenes of Pergamum, who had succeeded to the throne of a very proud tradition (the Attalids) but whose lands and influence had been severely curtailed by the growth of Seleucid power. The Rhodians, whose fleet protected their brisk commerce in the eastern Mediterranean, also advocated putting Antiochus down. Less plausible is the motive adduced by Scullard, that Antiochus was seen as another Hannibal, and the pursuit to Asia Minor was simply the flip side of Scipio Africanus' strategy of taking the war to Hannibal in Africa. I knew Hannibal, Hannibal was a friend of mine, and believe me Antiochus was no Hannibal (á la Lloyd Bentsen); Antiochus posed no direct threat to Rome. Least effective as a motive here is the prospect of economic gain; the Romans were still hesitant about reaping the fruits of their intervention in Greece, and no one in 191 can have been thinking yet in terms of a province of Asia.

Romans Defeat Antiochus of Syria and the Seleucid Empire

David Silverman of Reed College wrote: “A series of naval battles saw the Romans temporarily in command of the seas. Meanwhile a Roman army was marching across Thrace. Its commander was officially L. Scipio, but at his side was his elder brother P. Scipio Africanus, calling the shots. Antiochus tried to negotiate, but the price demanded by the Romans, that he give up most of the Seleucid empire, was too high. The next year the Romans followed him, and fought their first battle upon the continent of Asia. The Roman army was nominally under the command of the new consul, L. Cornelius Scipio, but really under the command of his famous brother, Scipio Africanus, who accompanied him. The decisive battle was fought at Magnesia (190 B.C.), not far from Sardis in western Asia Minor. Forty thousand of the enemy were slain, with a comparatively small loss to the Romans. [Source: David Silverman, Classics 373 ~ History 393 Class, Reed College]

At the battle at Magnesia in 190 B.C., the Roman forces were outnumbered over 2 to 1, but despite heavy losses on their left flank to the Persian cavalry the Roman legions made short work of the Syrians in the center and the affair ended in Rome's favor. Had the settlement rested with the Scipios, Antiochus would have been left as a major power in the region and, incidentally, a stabilizing force. But the absence of the Scipios from Rome had exposed them to political attack, and their replacements in Asia Minor imposed such harsh terms upon Antiochus that a power vacuum was created in the Middle East.

After the great victory of Magnesia, Rome turned her arms against the Aetolians, who were so foolish as to continue the struggle. Their chief city, Ambracia, was taken; and they were soon forced to submit. Macedonia and all Greece, with the exception of the Achaean league, were now brought into subjection to the Roman authority. \~\

Reduction of the Seleucid Empire and Outcome of the War with Antiochus


Scipio imposed the terms of peace, which required Antiochus: 1) to give up all his possessions in Asia Minor—the most of which were added to the kingdom of Pergamum, with some territory to the republic of Rhodes; 2) to give up his fleet and not to interfere in European affairs; 3) to pay the sum of 15,000 talents (nearly $20,000,000) within twelve years; and 4) to surrender Hannibal, who had taken an active part in the war. [Source: “Outlines of Roman History” by William C. Morey, Ph.D., D.C.L. New York, American Book Company (1901), forumromanum.org \~]

David Silverman of Reed College wrote: “The terms barred Antiochus from military activity west of the Taurus mountain range, effectively ejecting him from most of Turkey. Again, Gruen's method is to divine the original motive from the outcome; after Antiochus was defeated, the Romans parceled out his land between the Rhodians and Eumenes of Pergamum. Rhodes' tenure was destined to be short, however. In the years 169-167 a revolution at Rhodes brought an anti-Roman party to power, and even though the Rhodians tried to make amends after Roman supremacy was demonstrated yet again at Pydna, it was too late. [Source: David Silverman, Classics 373 ~ History 393 Class, Reed College ^*^]

“The Romans had demanded a huge indemnity from Antiochus (15,000 talents as against a mere 1000 from Philip in 196 B.C., 10,000 from Carthage in 202 B.C.). Bent on discrediting financial gain as a motive for Roman imperial conquests in this period, Gruen argues that such indemnities had two purposes: a) to reimburse Rome for the costs of the war, and b) to act as a punitive fine. Of course such sums could hardly be paid all at once, and installment schedules were devised. Perhaps it is a bit naive to insist that those who favored hunting Antiochus down so far from Italian soil had completely forgotten the lucrative legacy of the 2nd Punic War. But there is at least one seemingly telling point in Gruen's favor. In 191 B.C., the Carthaginians offered to pay off the balance of their ten thousand talent indemnity in a single lump sum (Livy 36.4); the Senate refused to allow this, which indicates that the symbolic importance of the annual monetary declaration of Carthaginian submission was paramount. Carthage is by any lights a special case, though, and humbling someone like Antiochus can not have been as crucial to Roman pride.

The Fate of Hannibal: To the Romans it seemed an act of treachery that Hannibal, who had been conquered in a fair field at Zama, should continue his hostility by fighting on the side of their enemies. But Hannibal never forgot the oath of eternal enmity to Rome, the oath which he had sworn at his father’s knee. When Antiochus agreed to surrender him, Hannibal fled to Crete, and afterward took refuge with the king of Bithynia. Here he continued his hostility to Rome by aiding this ruler in a war against Rome’s ally, the king of Pergamum. The Romans still pursued him, and sent Flamininus to demand his surrender. But Hannibal again fled, and, hunted from the face of the earth, this great soldier, who had been the most terrible foe that Rome had ever encountered, took his own life by drinking poison. It is said that the year of his death was the same year (183 B.C.) in which died his great and victorious antagonist, Scipio Africanus.” \~\

Silverman wrote: “In 146 B.C., Carthage and Corinth were both utterly destroyed. Macedonia and Africa were now provinces. In 133 Attalus III of Pergamum had died and tried to spare the Romans involvement in a war over his succession (there was no heir) by bequeathing his empire (in his will) to the Roman people. If so he failed, but a brief campaign in 131 and 130 was enough to settle the hash of Aristonicus, a pretender to his throne. The creation of a province of Asia followed in 130. Seleucid power was a thing of the past, and although two Ptolemies (VI and VII) were squabbling over Egypt and its vassals, the Romans simply left them to it. So the east was quiet. In the west, there was ongoing difficulty with the administration of Spain (Numantine War, 143-133), but no major threat prior to the war with Jugurtha (112-106). ^

Parthian Empire, Rome’s Great Rival in the East

The Parthian empire was the most enduring of the empires of the ancient Near East. It began as a small kingdom of tribal warriors in northeast Persia. After the Parthians defeated the Seleucids — a Macedonian dynasty that ruled in the Asian territories of the former Persian Empire — they controlled most of Persia, Mesopotamia and parts of eastern Arabia. At its height, the Parthian empire occupied all of modern Iran, Iraq and Armenia, parts of Turkey, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, Afghanistan and Tajikistan, and -for brief periods- territories in Pakistan, Syria, Lebanon, Israel and Palestine. The Parthians endured from 250 B.C. to A.D. 229 until they were replaced by the Sassanians, another Persian dynasty. The Parthians are often called the second Persian Empire and were one of the great rivals of Rome.

The Parthian Empire was a major Iranian political and cultural power in ancient Iran founded by Arsaces I, the leader of the Parni tribe of nomadic horsemen. Its name comes from Parthia, a region in northeast Iran conquered by Arsaces I in the mid-3rd century B.C. when it was a satrapy (province) in rebellion against the Seleucid Empire. After that Parni nomads settled in Parthia and built a small independent kingdom. They rose to power under king Mithradates I of Parthia (171-138 B.C.). Also known as Mithridates the Great, he greatly expanded the empire by seizing Media and Mesopotamia from the Seleucids. The empire, located on the Silk Road trade route between the Roman Empire in the Mediterranean Basin and the Han Empire of China, became a center of trade and commerce.

After the victories of Mithradates II, the Parthians began to claim descent from both the Greeks and the Achaemenids. They spoke a language similar to that of the Achaemenids, used the Pahlavi script, and established an administrative system based on Achaemenid precedents.

Parthians in chains

The Parthians largely adopted the art, architecture, religious beliefs, and royal insignia of their culturally heterogeneous empire, which encompassed Persian, Hellenistic, and regional cultures. For about the first half of its existence, the Arsacid court adopted elements of Greek culture, though it eventually saw a gradual revival of Iranian traditions. The Arsacid rulers were titled the "King of Kings", as a claim to be the heirs to the Achaemenid Empire; indeed, they accepted many local kings as vassals where the Achaemenids would have had centrally appointed, albeit largely autonomous, satraps. The court did appoint a small number of satraps, largely outside Iran, but these satrapies were smaller and less powerful than the Achaemenid potentates. With the expansion of Arsacid power, the seat of central government shifted from Nisa to Ctesiphon along the Tigris (south of modern Baghdad, Iraq), although several other sites also served as capitals. [Source: Library of Congress, Wikipedia +]

The Parthian empire was smaller than that of the Persian Achaemenid Empire and was far less centralized. It lacked a standing army. Instead it relied garrisons of towns and forts as well as armed retinues of tribal chiefs and feudal lords. Although they came under the command of the King of Kings their power was limited and disunited. Even so, the Parthian Empire dominated central Asia and formed a barrier to Roman expansion. At the same time it served as an important communications and trading centre, at the crossroads of north-south and east-west routes. [Source: Iran Chamber Society, UNESCO]

Native Parthian sources, written in Parthian, Greek and other languages, are scarce when compared to Sassanid and even earlier Achaemenid sources. Aside from scattered cuneiform tablets, fragmentary ostraca, rock inscriptions, drachma coins, and the chance survival of some parchment documents, much of Parthian history is only known through external sources. These include mainly Greek and Roman histories, but also Chinese histories, prompted by the market for Chinese goods in Parthia. Parthian artwork is viewed by historians as a valid source for understanding aspects of society and culture that are otherwise absent in textual sources. +

Parthians Verus the Romans

The earliest enemies of the Parthians were the Seleucids in the west and the Scythians in the east. However, as Parthia expanded westward, they came into conflict with the Kingdom of Armenia, and eventually the late Roman Republic. Rome and Parthia competed with each other to establish the kings of Armenia as their subordinate clients [Source: Wikipedia +]

The Parthian kingdom was Rome's biggest rival in the East. They defeated the Roman army near the Euphrates and kept the Romans from advancing any further into Asia. The Parthians defeated the Romans in 53 B.C. at the Battle of Carrhae, one of the Roman Empire's worst defeats. The Romans were led by Crassus, the richest man in Rome. He purchased an army and was sent to Syria by Caesar. During the battle Crassus was captured by the Parthians, who according to legend, poured molten gold down his throat when they realized he was the richest man in Rome. The reasoning of the act was that his lifelong thirst for gold should quenched in death. The Romans got their revenge against the Parthians under Caesar, who annihilated them in Zela in the Middle East in 47 B.C. After his victory he sent home the immortal message, " Veni, vidi, vici " ("I came, I saw, I conquered").

In 40–39 BC, Parthian forces captured the whole of the Levant except Tyre from the Romans. However, Mark Antony led a counterattack against Parthia, although his successes were generally achieved in his absence, under the leadership of his lieutenant Ventidius. Also, various Roman emperors or their appointed generals invaded Mesopotamia in the course of the several Roman-Parthian Wars, which ensued during the next few centuries. The Romans captured the cities of Seleucia and Ctesiphon on multiple occasions during these conflicts, but were never able to hold on to them. +

The Parthian armies consisted of two types of cavalry: the heavy-armed and armoured cataphracts and light brigades of mounted archers. To the Romans, who relied on heavy infantry, the Parthians were hard to defeat. On the other hand, the Parthians could never occupy conquered countries; they were unskilled in siege warfare. This explains why the Roman-Parthian wars lasted so long. [Source: Jona Lendering, Iran Chamber Society]

Caesar in Asia Minor

On his way back to Italy Caesar passed through Asia Minor. Here he found Pharnaces, the son of the great Mithridates, stirring up a revolt in Pontus. At the battle of Zela (47 B.C.) he destroyed the armies of this prince, and restored the Asiatic provinces, recording his speedy victory in the famous words,“Veni, vidi, vici” ( I came, I saw, I conquered). [Source: “Outlines of Roman History” by William C. Morey, Ph.D., D.C.L. New York, American Book Company (1901), forumromanum.org \~]

Caesar's route in the Middle East

Suetonius wrote: “ From Alexandria he crossed to Syria, and from there went to Pontus, spurred on by the news that Pharnaces, son of Mithridates the Great, had taken advantage of the situation to make war, and was already flushed with numerous successes; but Caesar vanquished him in a single battle within five days after his arrival and four hours after getting sight of him, often remarking on Pompeius' good luck in gaining his principal fame as a general by victories over such feeble foemen.”

Plutarch wrote in “Lives”: “Thence he passed to Asia, where he heard that Domitius was beaten by Pharnaces, son of Mithridates, and had fled out of Pontus with a handful of men; and that Pharnaces pursued the victory so eagerly, that though he was already master of Bithynia and Cappadocia, he had a further design of attempting the Lesser Armenia, and was inviting all the kings and tetrarchs there to rise. Cæsar immediately marched against him with three legions, fought him near Zela, drove him out of Pontus, and totally defeated his army. When he gave Amantius, a friend of his at Rome, an account of this action, to express the promptness and rapidity of it, he used three words, I came, saw, and conquered, which in Latin, having all the same cadence, carry with them a very suitable air of brevity. [Source: Plutarch (A.D. c.46-c.120), Life of Caesar (100-44 B.C.), written A.D. 75, translated by John Dryden, MIT]

“Hence he crossed into Italy, and came to Rome at the end of that year, for which he had been a second time chosen dictator, though that office had never before lasted a whole year, and was elected consul for the next. He was ill spoken of, because upon a mutiny of some soldiers, who killed Cosconius and Galba, who had been prætors, he gave them only the slight reprimand of calling them Citizens, instead of Fellow-Soldiers, and afterwards assigned to each man a thousand drachmas, besides a share of lands in Italy. He was also reflected on for Dolabella’s extravagance, Amantius’s covetousness, Antony’s debauchery, and Corfinius’s profuseness, who pulled down Pompey’s house, and rebuilt it, as not magnificent enough; for the Romans were much displeased with all these. But Cæsar, for the prosecution of his own scheme of government, though he knew their characters and disapproved them, was forced to make use of those who would serve him.”

Marc Antony’s Early Military Campaign in Syria

Plutarch wrote in “Lives”: “After some stay in Greece, he was invited by Gabinius, who had been consul, to make a campaign with him in Syria, which at first he refused, not being willing to serve in a private character, but receiving a commission to command the horse, he went along with him. His first-service was against Aristobulus, who had prevailed with the Jews to rebel. Here he was himself the first man to scale the largest of the works, and beat Aristobulus out of all of them; after which he routed in a pitched battle, an army many times over the number of his, killed almost all of them and took Aristobulus and his son prisoners. This war ended, Gabinius was solicited by Ptolemy to restore him to his kingdom of Egypt, and a promise made of ten thousand talents reward. Most of the officers were against this enterprise, and Gabinius himself did not much like it, though sorely tempted by the ten thousand talents. [Source: Plutarch (A.D. c.46-c.120): Life of Anthony (82-30 B.C.) For “Lives,” written A.D. 75, translated by John Dryden MIT]

“But Antony, desirous of brave actions and willing to please Ptolemy, joined in persuading Gabinius to go. And whereas all were of opinion that the most dangerous thing before them was the march to Pelusium, in which they would have to pass over a deep sand, where no fresh water was to be hoped for, along the Acregma and the Serbonian marsh (which the Egyptians call Typhon's breathing-hole, and which is, in probability, water left behind by, or making its way through from, the Red Sea, which is here divided from the Mediterranean by a narrow isthmus), Antony, being ordered thither with the horse, not only made himself master of the passes, but won Pelusium itself, a great city, took the garrison prisoners, and by this means rendered the march secure to the army, and the way to victory not difficult for the general to pursue.

The enemy also reaped some benefit of his eagerness for honour. For when Ptolemy, after he had entered Pelusium, in his rage and spite against the Egyptians, designed to put them to the sword, Antony withstood him, and hindered the execution. In all the great and frequent skirmishes and battles he gave continual proofs of his personal valour and military conduct; and once in particular, by wheeling about and attacking the rear of the enemy, he gave the victory to the assailants in the front, and received for this service signal marks of distinction. Nor was his humanity towards the deceased Archelaus less taken notice of. He had been formerly his guest and acquaintance, and, as he was now compelled, he fought him bravely while alive, but on his death, sought out his body and buried it with royal honours. The consequence was that he left behind him a great name among the Alexandrians, and all who were serving in the Roman army looked upon him as a most gallant soldier.”

Marc Antony’s Campaign Against the Parthians

Marc Antony

Plutarch wrote in “Lives”: “After the treaty was completed, Antony despatched Ventidius into Asia, to check the advance of the Parthians, while he, as a compliment to Caesar, accepted the office of priest to the deceased Caesar. And in any state affair and matter of consequence, they both behaved themselves with much consideration and friendliness for each other. But it annoyed Antony that in all their amusements, on any trial of skill or fortune, Caesar (Octavian) should be constantly victorious. He had with him an Egyptian diviner, one of those who calculate nativities, who, either to make his court to Cleopatra, or that by the rules of his art he found it to be so, openly declared to him that though the fortune that attended him was bright and glorious, yet it was overshadowed by Caesar's; and advised him to keep himself as far distant as he could from that young man; "for your Genius," said he, "dreads his; when absent from him yours is proud and brave, but in his presence unmanly and dejected;" and incidents that occurred appeared to show that the Egyptian spoke truth. For whenever they cast lots for any playful purpose, or threw dice, Antony was still the loser; and when they fought game-cocks or quails, Caesar's had the victory. This gave Antony a secret displeasure, and made him put the more confidence in the skill of his Egyptian. So, leaving the management of his home affairs to Caesar, he left Italy, and took Octavia, who had lately borne him a daughter, along with him into Greece.

“Here, whilst he wintered in Athens, he received the first news of Ventidius's successes over the Parthians, of his having defeated them in a battle, having slain Labienus and Pharnapates, the best general their king, Hyrodes, possessed. For the celebrating of which he made public feast through Greece, and for the prizes which were contested at Athens he himself acted as steward, and, leaving at home the ensigns that are carried before the general, he made his public appearance in a gown and white shoes, with the steward's wands marching before; and he performed his duty in taking the combatants by the neck, to part them, when they had fought enough.

“When the time came for him to set out for the war, he took a garland from the sacred olive, and, in obedience to some oracle, he filled a vessel with the water of the Clepsydra to carry along with him. In this interval, Pacorus, the Parthian king's son, who was marching into Syria with a large army, was met by Ventidius, who gave him battle in the country of Cyrrhestica, slew a large number of his men, and Pacorus among the first. This victory was one of the most renowned achievements of the Romans, and fully avenged their defeats under Crassus, the Parthians being obliged, after the loss of three battles successively, to keep themselves within the bounds of Media and Mesopotamia. Ventidius was not willing to push his good fortune further, for fear of raising some jealousy in Antony, but turning his aims against those that had quitted the Roman interest, he reduced them to their former obedience. Among the rest, he besieged Antiochus, King of Commagene, in the city of Samosata, who made an offer of a thousand talents for his pardon, and a promise of submission to Antony's commands.

Fighting Between Parthians and Romans Under Marc Antony

Plutarch wrote: “On the fifth day, however, Flavius Gallus, an efficient and able soldier in high command, came to Antony and asked him for more light-armed troops from the rear, and for some of the horsemen from the van, confident that he would achieve a great success. Antony gave him the troops, and when the enemy attacked, Gallus beat them back, not withdrawing and leading them on towards the legionaries, as before, but resisting and engaging them more hazardously. The leaders of the rear guard, seeing that he was being cut off from them, sent and called him back; but he would not listen to them. Then, they say, Titius the quaestor laid hold of his standards and tried to turn them back, abusing Gallus for throwing away the lives of so many brave men. But Gallus gave back the abuse and exhorted his men to stand firm, whereupon Titius withdrew. Then Gallus forced his way among the enemy in front of him, without noticing that great numbers of them were enveloping him in the rear. But when missiles began to fall upon him from all sides, he sent and asked for help. Then the leaders of the legionaries, among whom was Canidius, a man of the greatest influence with Antony, are thought to have made no slight mistake. For when they ought to have wheeled their entire line against the enemy, they sent only a few men at a time to help Gallus, and again, when one detachment had been overcome, sent out others, and so, before they were aware of it, they came near plunging the whole army into defeat and flight. But Antony himself speedily came with his legionaries from the van to confront the fugitives, and the third legion speedily pushed its way through them against the enemy and checked his further pursuit. [Source: Parallel Lives by Plutarch, published in Vol. IX, of the Loeb Classical Library edition, 1920, translated by Bernadotte Perrin]

“There fell no fewer than three thousand, and there were carried to their tents five thousand wounded men, among whom was Gallus, who was pierced in front by four arrows. Gallus, indeed, did not recover from his wounds, but Antony went to see all the others and tried to encourage them, with tears of sympathy in his eyes. The wounded men, however, with cheerful faces, seized his hand and exhorted him to go away and take care of himself, and not to be distressed. They called him Imperator, and said that they were safe if only he were unharmed. For, to put it briefly, no other imperator of that day appears to have assembled an army more conspicuous for prowess, endurance, or youthful vigour. Nay, the respect which his soldiers felt for him as their leader, their obedience and goodwill, and the degree to which all of them alike — men of good repute or men of no repute, commanders or private soldiers — preferred honour and favour from Antony to life and safety, left even the ancient Romans nothing to surpass. And the reasons for this were many, as I have said before: his high birth, his eloquence, his simplicity of manners, his love of giving and the largeness of his giving, his complaisance in affairs of pleasure or social intercourse. And so at this time, by sharing in the toils and distresses of the unfortunate and bestowing upon them whatever they wanted, he made the sick and wounded more eager in his service than the well and strong.

“The enemy, however, who had been already worn out and inclined to abandon their task, were so elated by their victory, and so despised the Romans, that they even bivouacked for the night near their camp, expecting very soon to be plundering the empty tents and the baggage of runaways. At daybreak, too, they gathered for attack in far greater numbers, and there are said to have been no fewer than forty thousand horsemen, since their king had sent even those who were always arrayed about his person, assured that it was to manifest and assured success; for the king himself was never present at a battle. Then Antony, wishing to harangue his soldiers, called for a dark robe, that he might be more pitiful in their eyes. But his friends opposed him in this, and he therefore came forward in the purple robe of a general and made his harangue, praising those who had been victorious, and reproaching those who had fled. The former exhorted him to be of good courage, offered themselves to him for decimation,0 if he wished, or for any other kind of punishment; only they begged him to cease being distressed and vexed. In reply, Antony lifted up his hands and prayed the gods that if, then, any retribution were to follow his former successes, it might fall upon him alone, and that the rest of the army might be granted victory and safety.

“On the following day they went forward under better protection; and the Parthians met with a great surprise when they attacked them. For they thought they were riding up for plunder and booty, not battle, and when they encountered many missiles and saw that the Romans were fresh and vigorous and eager for the fray, they were once more tired of the struggle. However, as the Romans were descending some steep hills, the Parthians attacked them and shot at them as they slowly moved along. Then the shield-bearers wheeled about, enclosing the lighter armed troops within their ranks, while they themselves dropped on one knee and held their shields out before them. The second rank held their shields out over the heads of the first, and the next rank likewise. The resulting appearance is very like that of a roof, affords a striking spectacle, and is the most effective of protections against arrows, which glide off from it. The Parthians, however, thinking that the Romans dropping on one knee was a sign of fatigue and exhaustion, laid aside their bows, grasped their spears by the middle and came to close quarters. But the Romans, with a full battle cry, suddenly sprang up, and thrusting with their javelins slew the foremost of the Parthians and put all the rest to rout. This happened also on the following days as the Romans, little by little, proceeded on their way.

Defeat of the Romans by Parthians

Parthian warrior

Plutarch wrote in “Lives”: “Famine also attacked the army, which could provide itself with little grain even by fighting, and was not well furnished with implements for grinding. These had been abandoned, for the most part, since some of the beasts of burden died, and the others had to carry the sick and wounded. It is said that one Atticº choenix of wheat brought fifty drachmas; and loaves of barley bread were sold for their weight in silver. Resorting, therefore, to vegetables and roots, they could find few to which they were accustomed, and were compelled to make trial of some never tasted before. Thus it was that they partook of an herb which produced madness, and then death. He who ate of it had no memory, and no thought of anything else than the one task of moving or turning every stone, as if he were accomplishing something of great importance. The plain was full of men stooping to the ground and digging around the stones or removing them; and finally they would vomit bile and die, since the only remedy, wine, was not to be had. Many perished thus, and the Parthians would not desist, and Antony, as we are told, would often cry: "O the Ten Thousand!" thereby expressing his admiration of Xenophon's army, which made an even longer march to the sea from Babylon, and fought with many times as many enemies, and yet came off safe. [Source: Parallel Lives by Plutarch, published in Vol. IX, of the Loeb Classical Library edition, 1920, translated by Bernadotte Perrin]

“And now the Parthians, unable to throw the army into confusion or break up its array, but many times already defeated and put to flight, began once more to mingle peaceably with the men who went out in search of fodder or grain, and pointing to their unstrung bows would say that they themselves were going back, and that this was the end of their retaliation, although a few Medes would still follow the Romans one or two days' march, not molesting them at all, but merely protecting the more outlying villages. To these words they added greetings and acts of friendliness, so that once more the Romans became full of courage, and Antony, when he heard about it,

“But word was at once brought to the Parthians that Antony was advancing, and contrary to their custom they set out in pursuit while it was yet night. Just as the sun was rising they came up with the rear-guard of the Romans, which was foredone with sleeplessness and toil; for they had accomplished two hundred and forty furlongs in the night. Moreover, they did not expect that the enemy would come upon them so quickly, and were therefore disheartened. Besides, their contest intensified their thirst; for they had to ward off the enemy and make their way forward at the same time. Those who marched in the van came to a river, the water of which was clear and cold, but had a salty taste and was poisonous. This water, as soon as one drank it, caused pains, accompanied by cramping of the bowels and an inflammation of one's thirst. Of this too the Mardian had warned them, but none the less the soldiers forced aside those who tried to turn them back, and drank. Antony went round and begged the men to hold out a little while; for not far ahead, he said, there was another river which was potable, and then the rest of the way was too rough for cavalry, so that the enemy must certainly turn back. At the same time, too, he called his men back from fighting and gave the signal for pitching the tents, that the soldiers might at least enjoy the shade a little.

“Accordingly, the Romans went to pitching their tents, and the Parthians, as their custom was, at once began to withdraw. At this point Mithridates came again, and after Alexander had joined him he advised Antony to let the army rest only a little while, and then to get it under way and hasten to the river, assuring him that the Parthians would not cross it, but would continue the pursuit until they reached it. This message was carried to Antony by Alexander, who then brought out from Antony golden drinking-cups in great numbers, as well as bowls. Mithridates took as many of these as he could hide in his garments and rode off. Then, while it was still day, they broke camp and proceeded on their march. The enemy did not molest them, but they themselves made that night of all other nights the most grievous and fearful for themselves. For those who had gold or silver were slain and robbed of it, and the goods were plundered from the beasts of burden; and finally the baggage-carriers of Antony were attacked, and beakers and costly tables were cut to pieces or distributed about.

“And now, since there was great confusion and straggling throughout the whole army (for they thought that the enemy had fallen upon them and routed and dispersed them), Antony called one of the freedmen in his body-guard, Rhamnus by name, and made him take oath that, at the word of command, he would thrust his sword through him and cut off his head, that he might neither be taken alive by the enemy nor recognized when he was dead. Antony's friends burst into tears, but the Mardian tried to encourage him, declaring that the river was near: for a breeze blowing from it was moist, and a cooler air in their faces made their breathing pleasanter. He said also that the time during which they had been marching made his estimate of the distance conclusive; for little of the night was now left. At the same time, too, others brought word that the tumult was a result of their own iniquitous and rapacious treatment of one another. Therefore, wishing to bring the throng into order after their wandering and distraction, Antony ordered the signal to be given for encampment.

“Day was already dawning, and the army was beginning to assume a certain order and tranquillity, when the arrows of the Parthians fell upon the rear ranks, and the light-armed troops were ordered by signal to engage. The men-at arms, too, again covered each other over with their shields, as they had done before, and so withstood their assailants, who did not venture to come to close quarters. The front ranks advanced little by little in this manner, and the river came in sight. On its bank Antony drew up his sick and disabled soldiers across first. And presently even those who were fighting had a chance to drink at their ease; for when the Parthians saw the river, they unstrung their bows and bade the Romans cross over with good courage, bestowing much praise also upon their valour. So they crossed without being disturbed and recruited themselves, and then resumed their march, putting no confidence at all in the Parthians. And on the sixth day after their last battle with them they came to the river Araxes, which forms the boundary between Media and Armenia. Its depth and violence made it seem difficult of passage; and a report was rife that the enemy were lying in ambush there and would attack them as they tried to cross. But after they were safely on the other side and had set foot in Armenia, as if they had just caught sight of that land from the sea, they saluted it and fell to weeping and embracing one another for joy. But as they advanced through the country, which was prosperous, and enjoyed all things in abundance after great scarcity, they fell sick with dropsies and dysenteries.

“There Antony held a review of his troops and found that twenty thousand of the infantry and four thousand of the cavalry had perished, not all at the hands of the enemy, but more than half by disease. They had, indeed, marched twenty-seven days from Phraata, and had defeated the Parthians in eighteen battles, but their victories were not complete or lasting because the pursuits which they made were short and ineffectual. And this more than all else made it plain that it was Artavasdes the Armenian who had robbed Antony of the power to bring that war to an end. For if the sixteen thousand horsemen who were led back from Media by him had been on hand, equipped as they were like the Parthians and accustomed to fighting with them, and if they, when the Romans routed the fighting enemy, had taken off the fugitives, it would not have been in the enemy's power to recover themselves from defeat and to venture again so often. Accordingly, all the army, in their anger, tried to incite Antony to take vengeance on the Armenian. But Antony, as a measure of prudence, neither reproached him with his treachery nor abated the friendliness and respect usually shown to him, being now weak in numbers and in want of supplies.”

Roman Legionnaires Reach China During the 1st Century B.C.

Romans are believed by some to have made it as far east as the Gobi Desert around 2,000 years ago. The people in Liqian, a village in Gansu Province in western China on the fringes of the Gobi Desert, near the Qilian mountains, insist they are descendants of Romans and say the curly hair, straight noes, and light-colored eyes that some of them have proves it.

The Romans that made it to China are said to have been soldiers under Crassus—a Roman leader who formed the First Triumvirate with Julius Caesar and Pompey—who survived a battle against the Parthians in Syria and Iran and then made their way east, working as mercenaries for the Huns, until they were captured by Chinese troops during a Chinese attack on the Hun ruler Zhizhi in present-day Uzbekistan.

According to this theory Roman legionaries settled in the Liqian area in the first century B.C. after fleeing the disastrous battle in 53 B.C. in which Crassus's army was pitted against a larger force of Parthians, from what is now Iran, bringing to an abrupt halt the Roman Empire's eastwards expansion. Thousands of Romans were slaughtered and Crassus himself was beheaded, but some legionaries were said to have escaped the fighting and marched east to elude the enemy. They supposedly fought as mercenaries in a war between the Huns and the Chinese of the Han Dynasty in 36 B.C. Some stories say that 145 Romans were taken captive and wandered the region for years.

Evidence for this claim, first proffered by Oxford historian Homer Dubbs in the 1950s, includes: 1) the mention of “fish scale formations”—a formation of overlapping shields — believed to be a reference to "tortoise" phalanx formations made only by Roman soldiers”— by Zhizhi's army; 2) Roman-style palisades found in the wall in the town where Zhizhi lived; and 3) a city called Liqian in a historical record dated to A.D. 5. At that time Liqian was also the name used by Chinese for Rome. Only two other Chinese cities mentioned had the names of foreign places—Kucha and Wen-suit—and both were given the name of the foreigners that lived there.

Among the biggest promoters of the Roman connection are tourist officials in Liqian who have erected a statue of Roman next to ones of a Han Chinese and a Muslim Hui Chinese, and built a new museum with a skeleton said to be of a Roman, found in a 2000-year-old tomb, and charts that show Roman physiological features found among the local people. As of the mid-2000s the town boasted a luxury hotel for tourists, an “Imperial City Entertainment Street” and a Caesar Karaoke bar. A statue at the entrance of the nearby town of Yongchang, shows a Roman legionary standing next to a Confucian scholar and a Muslim woman, as a symbol of racial harmony.

Caucasian DNA Found in Remote Chinese Villagers: Evidence of Romans in China?

Caucasian-originating DNA has been found among villagers in remote parts of China. While some see this as evidence of Roman ancestry; others point they could be other sources of the Caucasian DNA could be Sogdians from Central Asia; Eastern Iranians: Bactrians, Saka Scythians or Tocharians or other peoples that spoke Indo-European language (which gave birth to English an many other European languages) or have some roots in Europe and the West.

In 2010, Nick Spence, wrote in The Telegraph: “Genetic testing of villagers in a remote part of China has shown that nearly two thirds of their DNA is of Caucasian origin, lending support to the theory that they may be descended from a ‘lost legion’ of Roman soldiers. Tests found that the DNA of some villagers in Liqian... was 56 per cent Caucasian in origin. [Source: Nick Spence, The Telegraph, November 23, 2010]

“Many of the villagers have blue or green eyes, long noses and even fair hair, prompting speculation that they have European blood. A local man, Cai Junnian, is nicknamed by his friends and relatives Cai Luoma, or Cai the Roman, and is one of many villagers convinced that he is descended from the lost legion. Archeologists plan to conduct digs in the region, along the ancient Silk Route, to search for remains of forts or other structures built by the fabled army. “We hope to prove the legend by digging and discovering more evidence of China's early contacts with the Roman Empire," Yuan Honggeng, the head of a newly-established Italian Studies Centre at Lanzhou University in Gansu province, told the China Daily newspaper. Maurizio Bettini, a classicist and anthropologist from Siena University, dismissed the theory as “a fairy tale”. “For it to be indisputable, one would need to find items such as Roman money or weapons that were typical of Roman legionaries," he told La Repubblica. “Without proof of this kind, the story of the lost legions is just a legend."

In 2007, Richard Spencer wrote in The Telegraph, “Scientists have taken blood samples from 93 people living in and around Liqian...more than 200 miles from the nearest city. “I really think we are descended from the Romans," said Song Guorong, 48, who with his wavy hair, six-foot frame and strikingly long, hooked nose stands out from his short, round-faced office colleagues. “There are the residents with these special features, and then there are also historical records about the existence of these people long ago," Gu Jianming, who lives near Liqian, said it had come as a surprise to be told he might be descended from a European imperial army. But then the birth of his daughter was also a surprise. Gu Meina, now six, was born with a shock of blonde hair. “We shaved it off a month after she was born but it just grew back the same colour," he said. “At school they call her ‘yellow hair’. Before we were told about the Romans, we had no idea about this. We are poor and have no family temple, so we don't know about our ancestors." [Source: Richard Spencer, The Telegraph, February 2, 2007 ^]

Cai Junnian “said his great-grandfather told him that there were Roman tombs in the Qilian mountains a day and a half's walk away, but he had never connected them to the unusual appearance he inherited from his father. Prof Xie Xiaodong, a geneticist from Lanzhou University, cautioned against over enthusiasm. “Even if they are descendants of the Roman empire, it doesn't mean they are necessarily from the Roman army," he said. “The empire covered a large area. Many soldiers were recruited locally, so anything is possible." The issue has split the university's history department, with some scholars supporting the claim, some rejecting it. Prof Wang Shaokuan poured scorn on Prof Dubs's thesis, saying the Huns themselves included Caucasians, Asians and Mongols." ^

Corbulo and the Parthian War 58-66 A.D.

Inscriptiones Latinae Selectae #9108 [Smallwood #51a]: "Legio VI Ferrata, which has its winter quarters in Armenia Major, under Gnaeus Domitius Corbulo, Legatus Augusti pro praetore of Nero Caesar Augustus [ - - - - ] (erected this) for [ - - ] Asper, son of Publius, Tribe Scaptia, as an honor." [Source: Corbulo and the Parthian War 58-66 A.D.California State University, Northridge (CSUN)]

“Inscriptiones Latinae Selectae #232 [Smallwood #51b] (A.D. 64/5): "Nero Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus, Imperator, Pontifex Maximus, in his 11th year of Tribunician Power, Consul four times, Imperator nine times, Father of His Country. By Cnaeus Domitius Corbulo, Legatus Augusti pro praetore and Titus Aurelius Fulvus, Legate of Augustus of Legio III Gallica."

Tacitus Annales 13. 8 (A.D. 54/55): "The armies in the East were so divided up that half of the auxiliaries and two legions were to remain in the Province of Syria under its governor Ummidius Quadratus, while Corbulo was to have an equal number of citizens and allies [par civium sociorumque numerus], to which were attached the cohorts and alae which were wintering in Cappadocia. The allied kings were instructed to obey orders, as the circumstances of the war might require; but they had a rather strong liking for Corbulo anyway....Ummidius: Legio IV Scythica, Legio XII Fulminata Corbulo: Legio III Gallica, Legio V Macedonica, Legio VI Ferrata, Legio XV Apollinaris

Tacitus Annales 15. 26 (A.D. 63): "Corbulo meanwhile transferred to Syria the Fourth Legion and the Twelfth Legion, which, from the loss of their bravest men and the panic of the remainder, seemed quite unfit for battle, and led from there into Armenia the Third Legion and the Sixth Legion, troops in thorough efficiency and trained by frequent and successful service. And he added to his army the Fifth Legion, which (having been quartered in Pontus) had known nothing of disaster; and at the same time the Fifteenth, recently moved up; and detachments of picked troops from Illyricum and from Egypt; and all the alae and cohorts he had; and the auxilia of the kings assembled together at Melitene, which was the point at which he intended to cross the Euphrates."

“Legio III Gallica
Legio IV Scythica
Legio V Macedonica
Legio VI Ferrata
Legio XII Fulminata
Legio XV Apollinaris
Frontinus, Strategemata 4. 2.3:

"Having restored their discipline, Domitius Corbulo held back the Parthians with two legions and a very few auxilia."

Trajan’s Conquests in the Middle East


Since the death of Augustus there had been made no important additions to the Roman territory, except Britain. But under Trajan (r. A.D. 98–117) the Romans became once more a conquering people. The new emperor carried his conquests across the Danube and acquired the province of Dacia. He then extended his arms into Asia, and brought into subjection Armenia, Mesopotamia, and Assyria, as the result of a short war with the Parthians. Under Trajan the boundaries of the empire reached their greatest extent. \~\

Trajan's armies extended the Roman Empire to the Persian Gulf by capturing Armenia in A.D. 114 and defeating several Middle eastern kingdoms, including the arch rivals of the Romans, the Parthians. Trajan died in 117 without yet receiving the news of these conquests. Qasr Bashir was a Roman fort on the eastern fringes of Roman Empire in present-day Jordan. Covering three quarters of an acre, it embraced stone walls and three-story-high towers and was situated on a low hill surrounded by rocks and sand.

In 113, Trajan launched a war against the Parthian Empire. In A.D. 114, he conquered Armenia, which was made into a province, and by the end of 115, he had conquered northern Mesopotamia. This too was organized as a province in early 116, when coins were minted to celebrate the fact. Later in the same year, Trajan marched into central and southern Mesopotamia (enlarging and completing the province of Mesopotamia) and across the river Tigris to Adiabene, which he annexed into another Roman province, Assyria. But he did not stop there. In the last months of 116, he captured the great Persian city of Susa. He deposed the Parthian king Osroes I and put his own puppet ruler Parthamaspates on the Parthian throne. Never again would the Roman Empire advance so far to the east. Ss soon as Trajan died, however, his successor Hadrian (r. 117–138) relinquished his conquests east of the Euphrates river, which became again the Roman Empire's eastern. [Source: Wikipedia]

Attacks of the Persians in Asia

All the threats to Rome did not come from the north. The new Persian monarchy, the Sassanids, under its second great king, Shapur I (died A.D. 272), was attempting to expel the Romans from their Asiatic provinces. After Shapur brought under his control Armenia, which had remained an independent kingdom since the time of Hadrian, he overran the Roman provinces of Syria, Cilicia, and Cappadocia; Antioch and other cities of the coast were destroyed and pillaged.. [Source: “Outlines of Roman History” by William C. Morey, Ph.D., D.C.L. New York, American Book Company (1901), forumromanum.org \~]

The Sassanids battled with Romans, Huns, Turks and Byzantines. Shapur I captured the Roman emperor Valerian in Edessa in A.D. 260 and made him a slave and held him prisoner until his death. The story of Sapor’s pride and of Valerian’s disgrace has passed into history; to humiliate his captive, it is said, whenever the Persian monarch mounted his horse, he placed his foot on the neck of the Roman emperor. The Sassanids were successful defending their homeland but lost most of their campaigns outside of Persia and were able only to hold on to Babylon and the lower Tigris-Euphrates Valley.

Pat Southern wrote for the BBC: “The east was also restless, but for different reasons. The Parthian empire, bordering on the eastern edges of the Roman world, had been weakened by civil war, but this changed in the first years of the third century when the Sassanid Persians expelled the Parthian rulers. By 226 AD, Ardashir, an Iranian prince descended from Sasan (from whom the Sassanids take their name) had established himself as Shahanshah, 'king of kings'. “His declared intention was to restore the ancient Persian empire to its former glory, pushing his borders westwards into Roman-controlled territories. [Source: Pat Southern, BBC, February 17, 2011 |::|]

“His son and successor, Shapur, followed these aggressive expansionist policies, which meant trouble for Rome. The search for a stable frontier between these two rival empires had been a continual problem. (It must be acknowledged that the aggressors were nearly always the Romans, in response to perceived threats.) The Persians were determined to deal with Rome more firmly, and by the middle of the third century they had defeated the armies of three Roman emperors. |::|

Conquest of Palmyra, 273 A.D.

William Stearns Davis wrote: “During the disasters of the middle of the third century A.D. the Asiatic provinces of the Empire were nearly torn away, first by the Persians, then by the rulers of Palmyra, a thriving and powerful city situated upon an oasis in the Syrian desert. From 266 to 273 CE. the sovereign of this city and the "Queen of the East" was Zenobia, a woman of courage and energy, who almost founded an Oriental empire to the detriment of Rome. From this dismemberment the Roman world was saved by the Emperor Aurelian, who among his other conquests overcame Zenobia and destroyed Palmyra (273 A.D.), after no puny struggle.”

Temple of Bel in Palmyra

Vopiscus wrote in the “Life of Aurelian (b.215-r.270-d.275 A.D.): “After taking Tyana and winning a small battle near Daphne, Aurelian took possession of Antioch, having promised to grant pardon to all the inhabitants, and — acting on the counsel of the venerable Apollonius — he showed himself most humane and merciful. Next, close by Emesa [Davis: a very sacred city, and the great seat of the worship of the Syrian sun god Elagabalus], he gave battle to Zenobia and to her ally Zaba — a great battle in which the very fate of the Empire hung in the issue. Already the cavalry of Aurelian were weary, wavering, and about to take flight, when, by divine assistance, a kind of celestial apparition renewed their courage, and the infantry coming to the aid of the cavalry, they rallied stoutly. Zenobia and Zaba were defeated, and the victory was complete. Aurelian, thus made master of the East, entered Emesa as conqueror. First of all he presented himself in the temple of Elagabalus, as if to discharge himself of an ordinary vow — but there he beheld the same divine figure which he had seen come to succor him during the battle. Therefore in that same place he consecrated some temples, with splendid presents; he also erected in Rome a temple to the Sun, and consecrated it with great pomp. [Source: Vopiscus, “Aurelian's Conquest of Palmyra,” A.D. 273, William Stearns Davis, ed., “Readings in Ancient History: Illustrative Extracts from the Sources,” 2 Vols. (Boston: Allyn and Bacon, 1912-13), Vol. II: Rome and the West]

“Afterward he marched on Palmyra, to end his labors by the taking of that city. The robber bands of Syria, however, made constant attacks while his army was on the march; aud during the siege he was in great danger by being wounded by an arrow. Finally, wearied and discouraged by his losses, Aurelian undertook to write to Zenobia, pledging her — if she would surrender, to preserve her life — in the following letter: "Aurelian, Emperor of Rome and Restorer of the Orient to Zenobia and those waging war on her side. You should have done what I commanded you in my [former] letter. I promise you life if you surrender. You, O Zenobia, can live with your family in the place which I will assign you upon the advice of the venerable Senate. You must deliver to the treasury of Rome your jewels, your silver, your gold, your robes of silk, your horses and your camels. The Palmyrenes, however, shall preserve their local rights."

“Zenobia replied to this letter with a pride and boldness, not at all in accord with her fortune. For she imagined that she could intimidate him. "Zenobia, Queen of the East, to Aurelian Augustus. No one, saving you, has ever required of me what you have in your letter. One ought in war to harken only to the voice of courage. You demand that I surrender myself, as if you did not know that the Queen Cleopatra preferred to die rather than to live in any other save her station. The Persians do not abandon us, and we will wait their succors. The Saracens and the Armenians are on our side. The brigands of Syria have defeated your army, O Aurelian; what will it be when we have received the reinforcements which come to us from all sides? You will lower then that tone with which you — as if already full conqueror — now bid me to surrender."

“On the reading of this letter the Emperor did not blush, yet he was angered, and at once assembling his army with his generals, and surrounding Palmyra on all sides, the great Emperor devoted his attention to everything; for he cut off the succors from the Persians, and corrupted the hordes of Saracens and Armenians, winning them over sometimes by his severity, sometimes by his adroitness; in brief, after many attacks, the valiant Queen was vanquished. Although she fled on camels by which she strove to reach the Persians, the cavalrymen sent in pursuit captured her, and brought her to Aurelian.

“The tumult of the soldiers — requiring that Zenobia be given up for punishment — was very violent; but Aurelian conceived that it would be shameful to put to death a woman, so he contented himself with executing most of those men who had fomented, prepared, and conducted this war, reserving Zenobia to adorn his triumph and to feast the eye of the Roman People. It is grievous that he must need place in the number of those massacred the philosopher Longinus, who was — it is said — the master of Zenobia in the Greek tongue. It is alleged that Aurelian consented to his death because there was attributed to him that aforenamed letter so full of offensive pride.

“It is seldom and even difficult that Syrians remain faithful. The Palmyrenes, who had been defeated and conquered, seeing that Aurelian had gone away and was busy with the affairs of Europe, wished to give the power to one Achilleus, a kinsman of Zenobia, and stirred up a great revolt. They slew six hundred archers and Sandrion, whom Aurelian had left as governor in their region; but the Emperor, ever in arms, hastened back from Europe, and destroyed Palmyra, even as it deserved.

“In his magnificent triumph, celebrated in Rome after Aurelian had conquered Tetricius, the usurping "Emperor of Gaul," and other enemies, Zenobia was led in procession exposed to public view, adorned with jewels, and loaded with chains of gold so heavy that some of her guards had to hold them up for her. Later, however, she was treated with great humanity, granted a palace near Rome, and spent her last days in peace and luxury.”

Pliny the Younger as an Administrator for Trajan in Asia Minor

Bithynia was Roman province in the northwest of Asia Minor (present-day Turkey). William Stearns Davis wrote: “About 112 CE. Trajan appointed Pliny the Younger, a distinguished Senator and literary man, as governor of Bithynia — a province suffering from previous maladministration. The nature of the governor's problems and the obligation he was under of referring very petty matters to the Emperor appears clearly in the following letters. This correspondence of Trajan and Pliny (given here only in small part) is among the most valuable bits of historical data we have for the whole Imperial Age.

Pliny the Younger: Letters, X.25 ff: The Correspondence of a Provincial Governor and the Emperor Trajan: Pliny to Trajan: “The people of Prusa, Sire, have a public bath in a neglected and dilapidated state. They wish - with your kind permission — to restore it; but I think a new one ought to be built, and I reckon you can safely comply with their wishes. [Then the governor names various ways to find the money, especially cutting down the free distribution of oil.]” [Source: Pliny the Younger (61/62-113 A.D.) and Trajan (r.98-117 A.D.): Letters, Book X. 25ff : The Correspondence of a Provincial Governor and the Emperor Trajan, c. 112 A.D. William Stearns Davis, ed., “Readings in Ancient History: Illustrative Extracts from the Sources,” 2 Vols. (Boston: Allyn and Bacon, 1912-13), Vol. II: Rome and the West, 196-210, 215-222, 250-251, 289-290, 295-296, 298-300]

Pliny the Younger

Trajan to Pliny: “If the building of a new bath will not cripple the finances of Prusa, we can indulge their wishes; only it must be understood that no new taxes are to be raised to meet the cost, and that their contributions for necessary expenses shall not show any falling off.”

Pliny to Trajan: “A desolating fire broke out in Nicomedia, and destroyed a number of private houses, and two public buildings — the almshouse and the temple of Isis — although a road ran between them. The fire was allowed to spread farther than it need, first owing to the violent wind; second, to the laziness of the citizens, it being generally agreed they stood idly by without moving, and simply watched the conflagration. Besides there was not a single public fire engine or bucket in the place, and not one solitary appliance for mastering a fire. However, these will be provided upon orders I have already given. But, Sire, I would have you consider whether you think a fire company of about 150 men ought not to be formed? I will take care that no one not a genuine fireman shall be admitted, and that the guild should not misapply the charter granted it. Again there would be no trouble in keeping an eye on so small a body.”

Trajan to Pliny: “You have formed the idea of a possible fire company at Nicomedia on the model of various others already existing; but remember that the province of Bithynia, and especially city-states like Nicomedia, are the prey of factions. Give them the name we may, and however good be the reasons for organization, such associations will soon degenerate into dangerous secret societies. It is better policy to provide fire apparatus, and to encourage property holders to make use of them, and if need comes, press the crowd which collects into the same service.”

Pliny to Trajan: “Sire, a person named Julius Largus of Pontus, whom I have never seen or heard of before, has intrusted me with the management of his property with which he seeks to prove his loyalty to you. For he has asked me in his will to undertake as heir the division of his property, and after keeping 50,000 sesterces, hand over all the remainder to the free cities of Heraclea and Teos. He leaves it to my discretion whether I think it better to erect public works and dedicate them to your glory, or to start an athletic festival, to be held every five years, and to be called the "Trajan Games." I have decided to lay the facts before you and ask your decision.”

Trajan to Pliny: “Julius Largus, in picking you out for your trustworthiness, has acted as though he knew you intimately. So do you consider the circumstances of each place, and the best means of perpetuating his memory, and follow the course you think best.”

Pliny the Younger and Trajan Communicate About Public Works in Asia Minor

Pliny the Younger: Letters, X.25 ff: The Correspondence of a Provincial Governor and the Emperor Trajan: Pliny to Trajan: “Sire, the people of Nicomedia spent 3,229,000 sesterces [Arkenberg: about $1,857,000 in 1998 dollars] upon an aqueduct, which was left in an unfinished state, and I may say in ruin, and they also levied taxes to the extent of 2,000,000 sesterces [Arkenberg: about $1,543,000 in 1998 dollars] for a second one. This, too, has been abandoned, and to get a water supply those who have wasted these vast sums must go to a new expense. I have visited a splendid clear spring, from which it seems to me the supply ought to be brought to the town [and have formed a scheme that seems practicable].” [Source: Pliny the Younger (61/62-113 A.D.) and Trajan (r.98-117 A.D.): Letters, Book X. 25ff : The Correspondence of a Provincial Governor and the Emperor Trajan, c. 112 A.D. William Stearns Davis, ed., “Readings in Ancient History: Illustrative Extracts from the Sources,” 2 Vols. (Boston: Allyn and Bacon, 1912-13), Vol. II: Rome and the West, 196-210, 215-222, 250-251, 289-290, 295-296, 298-300]

Trajan to Pliny: “Steps must certainly be taken to provide Nicomedia with a water supply; and I have full confidence you will undertake the duty with all due care. But I profess it is also part of your diligent duty to find out who is to blame for the waste of such sums of money by the people of Nicomedia on their aqueducts, and whether or no there has been any serving of private interests in this beginning and then abandoning of [public] works. See that you bring to my knowledge whatever you find out.”

Pliny to Trajan: “The theater at Nicaea, Sire, the greater part of which has already been constructed — though it is still unfinished — has already cost over 10,000,000 sesterces [Arkenberg: about $7,500,000 in 1998 dollars] — at least so I am told, for the accounts have not been made out; and I am fearful lest the money has been thrown away. For the building has sunk and there are great gaping crevices to be seen, either because the ground is damp, or owing to the [bad quality] of the stone. [It is doubtful if the affair is worth completing.] Just before I came the Nicaeans also began to restore the public gymnasium, which had been destroyed by fire, on a larger scale than the old building, and they have already disbursed a considerable sum thereon, and I fear to little purpose [for it is very ill constructed]. Moreover the architect — the rival, to be sure, of the man who began the work — asserts that the walls, although twenty-two feet thick, cannot bear the weight placed upon them, because they have not been put together with cement in the middle and have not been strengthened with brickwork.”

Trajan to Pliny: “You are the best judge of what to do at Nicaea. It will be enough for me to be informed of the plan you adopt. All Greek peoples have a passion for gymnasia, so perhaps the people of Nicaea have set about building one on a rather lavish scale, but they must be content to cut their coat according to their cloth. You again must decide what advice to give the people of Claudiopolis.”

Pliny to Trajan: “When I asked for a statement of the expenditures of the city of Byzantium — which are abnormally high — it was pointed out to me, Sire, that a delegate was sent every year with a complimentary decree to pay his respects to you, and that he received 12,000 sesterces for so doing. Remembering your instructions I ordered him to stay at home and to forward the decree by me in order to lighten the expenses. I beg you to tell whether I have done right.”

Trajan to Pliny: “You have done quite right, my dear Pliny, in canceling the expenditure of the Byzantines. . . for that delegate. They will in the future do their duty well enough, even though the decree alone is sent me through you.”

Letters Between Trajan and Pliny the Younger on Christians in Asia Minor

Pliny to Trajan: “It is my custom, Sire, to refer to you in all cases where I am in doubt, for who can better clear up difficulties and inform me? I have never been present at any legal examination of the Christians, and I do not know, therefore, what are the usual penalties passed upon them, or the limits of those penalties, or how searching an inquiry should be made. I have hesitated a great deal in considering whether any distinctions should be drawn according to the ages of the accused; whether the weak should be punished as severely as the more robust, or whether the man who has once been a Christian gained anything by recanting? Again, whether the name of being a Christian, even though otherwise innocent of crime, should be punished, or only the crimes that gather around it?

“In the meantime, this is the plan which I have adopted in the case of those Christians who have been brought before me. I ask them whether they are Christians, if they say "Yes," then I repeat the question the second time, and also a third — warning them of the penalties involved; and if they persist, I order them away to prison. For I do not doubt that — be their admitted crime what it may — their pertinacity and inflexible obstinacy surely ought to be punished.

Pliny the Younger

“There were others who showed similar mad folly, whom I reserved to be sent to Rome, as they were Roman citizens. Later, as is commonly the case, the mere fact of my entertaining the question led to a multiplying of accusations and a variety of cases were brought before me. An anonymous pamphlet was issued, containing a number of names of alleged Christians. Those who denied that they were or had been Christians and called upon the gods with the usual formula, reciting the words after me, and those who offered incense and wine before your image — which I had ordered to be brought forward for this purpose, along with the regular statues of the gods — all such I considered acquitted — especially as they cursed the name of Christ, which it is said bona fide Christians cannot be induced to do.

“Still others there were, whose names were supplied by an informer. These first said they were Christians, then denied it, insisting they had been, "but were so no longer"; some of them having "recanted many years ago," and more than one "full twenty years back." These all worshiped your image and the god's statues and cursed the name of Christ.

“But they declared their guilt or error was simply this — on a fixed day they used to meet before dawn and recite a hymn among themselves to Christ, as though he were a god. So far from binding themselves by oath to commit any crime, they swore to keep from theft, robbery, adultery, breach of faith, and not to deny any trust money deposited with them when called upon to deliver it. This ceremony over, they used to depart and meet again to take food — but it was of no special character, and entirely harmless. They also had ceased from this practice after the edict I issued — by which, in accord with your orders, I forbade all secret societies.

“I then thought it the more needful to get at the facts behind their statements. Therefore I placed two women, called "deaconesses," under torture, but I found only a debased superstition carried to great lengths, so I postponed my examination, and immediately consulted you. This seems a matter worthy of your prompt consideration, especially as so many people are endangered. Many of all ages and both sexes are put in peril of their lives by their accusers; and the process will go on, for the contagion of this superstition has spread not merely through the free towns, but into the villages and farms. Still I think it can be halted and things set right. Beyond any doubt, the temples — which were nigh deserted — are beginning again to be thronged with worshipers; the sacred rites, which long have lapsed, are now being renewed, and the food for the sacrificial victims is again finding a sale — though up to recently it had almost no market. So one can safely infer how vast numbers could be reclaimed, if only there were a chance given for repentance.

Trajan to Pliny: “You have adopted the right course, my dear Pliny, in examining the cases of those cited before you as Christians; for no hard and fast rule can be laid down covering such a wide question. The Christians are not to be hunted out. If brought before you, and the offense is proved, they are to be punished, but with this reservation — if any one denies he is a Christian, and makes it clear he is not, by offering prayer to our gods, then he is to be pardoned on his recantation, no matter how suspicious his past. As for anonymous pamphlets, they are to be discarded absolutely, whatever crime they may charge, for they are not only a precedent of a very bad type, but they do not accord with the spirit of our age.”


Ephesus was arguably most important Roman city in Asia Minor before the rise of Constantinople. The Greeks founded the city but it was the Romans who made it the capital of their Asian province and turned it into one of the wealthiest cities of their empire. Described as the best-preserved classical city in the Mediterranean and called "the first and greatest metropolis in Asia" it was the home of as many as 250,000 people and is located today about 100 kilometers south of Izmir, Turkey. Even though it is situated about eight miles inland today, Ephesus was once a great port and in its time the commercial hub of the Mediterranean. It was also one of the first cities in the world to embrace Christianity and was the place where St. Paul sent his letter to the Ephesians.

According to UNESCO: Located within what was once the estuary of the River Kaystros, Ephesus comprises successive Hellenistic and Roman settlements founded on new locations, which followed the coastline as it retreated westward. Excavations have revealed grand monuments of the Roman Imperial period including the Library of Celsus and the Great Theatre. Little remains of the famous Temple of Artemis, one of the “Seven Wonders of the World,” which drew pilgrims from all around the Mediterranean. Since the 5th century, the House of the Virgin Mary, a domed cruciform chapel seven kilometres from Ephesus, became a major place of Christian pilgrimage. The Ancient City of Ephesus is an outstanding example of a Roman port city, with sea channel and harbour basin. [Source: UNESCO World Heritage Site website =]

“Within what was once the estuary of the river Kaystros, a continuous and complex settlement history can be traced in Ephesus beginning from the seventh millennium BCE at Cukurici Mound until the present at Selçuk. Favourably located geographically, it was subject to continuous shifting of the shore line from east to west due to sedimentation, which led to several relocations of the city site and its harbours. The Neolithic settlement of Cukurici Mound marking the southern edge of the former estuary is now well inland, and was abandoned prior to settlement on the Ayasuluk Hill from the Middle Bronze Age. Founded by the 2nd millennium BCE, the sanctuary of the Ephesian Artemis, originally an Anatolian mother goddess, became one of the largest and most powerful sanctuaries of the ancient world. The Ionian cities that grew up in the wake of the Ionian migrations joined in a confederacy under the leadership of Ephesus.

“In the fourth century BCE, Lysimachos, one of the twelve generals of Alexander the Great, founded the new city of Ephesus, while leaving the old city around the Artemision. When Asia Minor was incorporated into the Roman Empire in 133 BCE, Ephesus was designated as the capital of the new province Asia. Excavations and conservation over the past 150 years have revealed grand monuments of the Roman Imperial period lining the old processional way through the ancient city including the Library of Celsus and terrace houses. Little remains of the famous Temple of Artemis, one of the ‘seven wonders of the world’ which drew pilgrims from all around the Mediterranean until it was eclipsed by Christian pilgrimage to the Church of Mary and the Basilica of St. John in the 5th century CE. Pilgrimage to Ephesus outlasted the city and continues today. The Mosque of Isa Bey and the medieval settlement on Ayasuluk Hill mark the advent of the Selçuk and Ottoman Turks. =

Artemis from Ephesus

Ephesus is an important cultural site because: 1) It is an exceptional testimony to the cultural traditions of the Hellenistic, Roman Imperial and early Christian periods as reflected in the monuments in the centre of the Ancient City and Ayasuluk. The cultural traditions of the Roman Imperial period are reflected in the outstanding representative buildings of the city centre including the Celsus Library, Hadrian’s Temple, the Serapeion and Terrace House 2, with its wall paintings, mosaics and marble panelling showing the style of living of the upper levels of society at that time. 2) Ephesus as a whole is an outstanding example of a settlement landscape determined by environmental factors over time. The ancient city stands out as a Roman harbour city, with sea channel and harbour basin along the Kaystros River. Earlier and subsequent harbours demonstrate the changing river landscape from the Classical Greek to Medieval periods. =

3) Historical accounts and archaeological remains of significant traditional and religious Anatolian cultures beginning with the cult of Cybele/Meter until the modern revival of Christianity are visible and traceable in Ephesus, which played a decisive role in the spread of Christian faith throughout the Roman Empire. The extensive remains of the Basilica of St. John on Ayasuluk Hill and those of the Church of Mary in Ephesus are testament of the city’s importance to Christianity. Two important Councils of the early Church were held at Ephesus in 431 and 449 CE, initiating the veneration of Mary in Christianity, which can be seen as a reflection of the earlier veneration of Artemis and the Anatolian Cybele. Ephesus was also the leading political and intellectual centre, with the second school of philosophy in the Aegean, and Ephesus as a cultural and intellectual centre had great influence on philosophy and medicine. =

Sights in Ephesus

Ephesus has been restored by an Austrian archeological team that began work at the turn of the 2-th century. The ruins cover over 2000 acres. Outside the entrance gate is a completely restored gymnasium, the Roman equivalent of a secondary school. The first place you come to inside the gate is a huge a 24,000 seat amphitheater where St. Paul spoke during the first century after Christ's death and Joan Baez sang old Bob Dylan songs in the 1980s. After one of St. Paul's sermon's a riot broke out because the citizens of Ephesus feared that Christ would dethrone their popular pagan goddess Diana. From the hill in back of the amphitheater there is a panoramic view of the entire city. The Marble Way is road paved with flat stones. Heading up the Marble Way you pass the Library of Celsius, the most beautifully restored structure in Ephesus. The marble facade of the library is comprised of two tiers of Corinthian columns and niches with statues. If you are so inclined it is possible to crawl around in the ancient sewer system underneath the building.

Ascending from the library to the top of a hill is the Sacred Way, an ancient marble road lined with columns its entire length. Off to one side of the road is an ancient brothel, identified with a small inscribed foot and a woman with a mohawk haircut. As you climb up the hill you pass the sacred pump room which produced water that purportedly made sterile women fertile. Further up is the Fountain of the Trojans and the Temple of Hadrian. The later is adorned with friezes of elephants, warriors, kings and gods, and was used to worship the emperor.

The House of the Virgin (a few kilometers from Ephesus) is, according to legend, where the Apostle John and the Virgin Mary came here after Christ was crucified. Mary reportedly lived here until she died. She is not buried anywhere because, according to the Catholic scripture but not the Bible, when she died she rose into the sky “assumed body and soul into Heavenly glory.” The Vatican has sanctioned the site which is visited each year by thousands of pilgrims. Mary’s House is a tiny stone structure, dimly lit despite burning candles placed throughout it. Nuns who oversee the chapel sell rosary beads. Visitors can collect water from the chapel’s spring. The black handless statue of the virgin that once sat inside the house can now be seen in the museum in Selçuk.

Temple of Diana, One of the Seven Wonders of the World

The Temple of Diana in Ephesus, one of the Seven Wonders of the World, was ordered by King Croesus and completed around 550 B.C. after 120 years of labor. Described by Phion as the greatest of the seven wonders, the Temple of Diana was 225-feet-wide and 525-feet-long, with 127 sixty-foot-high marble columns. The largest and most complex temple in ancient times, it was made out of marble, wood and tile, and built on marshy soil so it would be immune to earthquakes. Even so the temple had to be rebuilt three times before Goths destroyed it in 262 A.D.

Temple of Diana built around 550 B.C. near the sea and destroyed by invading Goths around A.D. 262. Ertastratus ordered the Temple of Diana to be burned down he did so to ensure that it was remembered, English archeologist J. T. Wood rediscovered the temple in 1874 after 11 years of digging. Today the ruins are located a mile or so away from Ephesus, and unfortunately all that remains is a foundation.

Temple of Diana

Diana of Ephesus, also known as the virgin huntress of the moon, was worshipped throughout most of Europe and the Mediterranean during ancient times and she still has followers today. The Greeks knew her as Artemis, and her origins can be traced as far back as Babylon. She may even have evolved from Stone Age earth mothers goddesses that dominated primitive cultures before the Greeks popularized male gods.

Despite the fact she was a permanent virgin, she was the goddess of fertility, and the famous statue of her now in the Selçuk Museum has endowed her with 18 breasts. None of the breasts have nipples, however, which led one classical scholar to venture they were actually bull's testes or the ova on scared bees. Whatever they were Diana's image has fascinated artists for centuries. Other statues have placed bees on her knees and lions over her shoulders. A Raphael painting of her graces the Vatican. And recently a Brooklyn artist gave her four buttocks as well as a chestful of breasts.

What got St. Paul into trouble was his statement: "Diana should be despised and her magnificence should be destroyed" The Temple that honored her was a popular tourist attraction and silver souvenirs of Diana and her temple were sold on the streets of Ephesus like miniature Eiffel towers and Statues of Liberty are sold today. During the festival of Artemis images of Diana were placed on the steps of her temple for worshipers to kiss. [Source: Vicky Goldberg, New York Times, August 21, 1994]. Initiates to cult honoring Cybele in Asia Minor were baptized in bull blood, which some thought ensured eternal life. Once accepted into the cult devotees were supposed to castrate themselves as offering of their fertility in exchange for the fertility of the world.

Zeugma: A Border Town on the Eastern Roman Frontier

Zeugma is an ancient Roman border town being submerged by a dam and reservoir in southeast Turkey. On its history, Matthew Brunwasser wrote in Archaeology magazine: “In the third century B.C., Seleucus I Nicator (“the Victor”), one of Alexander the Great’s commanders, established a settlement he called Seleucia, probably a katoikia, or military colony, on the western side of the river. On its eastern bank, he founded another town he called Apamea after his Persian-born wife. The two cities were physically connected by a pontoon bridge, but it is not known whether they were administered by separate municipal governments, and nothing of ancient Apamea, nor the bridge, survives. In 64 B.C., the Romans conquered Seleucia, renaming the town Zeugma, which means “bridge” or “crossing” in ancient Greek. After the collapse of the Seleucid Empire, the Romans added Zeugma to the lands of Antiochus I Theos of Commagene as a reward for his support of General Pompey during the conquest. [Source: Matthew Brunwasser, Archaeology, October 14, 2012]

“Throughout the imperial period, two Roman legions were based at Zeugma, increasing its strategic value and adding to its cosmopolitan culture. Due to the high volume of road traffic and its geographic position, Zeugma became a collection point for road tolls. Political and trade routes converged here and the city was the last stop in the Greco-Roman world before crossing over to the Persian Empire. For hundreds of years Zeugma prospered as a major commercial city as well as a military and religious center, eventually reaching its peak population of about 20,000–30,000 inhabitants. During the imperial period, Zeugma became the empire’s largest, and most strategically and economically important, eastern border city.

“However, the good times in Zeugma declined along with the fortunes of the Roman Empire. After the Sassanids from Persia attacked the city in A.D. 253, its luxurious villas were reduced to ruins and used as shelters for animals. The city’s new inhabitants were mainly rural people who employed only simple building materials that did not survive.” Kutalmis Gorkay of Ankara University, has directed work at Zeugma, since 2005, “is now looking for more evidence of how this multicultural city functioned as the transition between east and west, and the Persian and Greco-Roman worlds. He is also seeking to understand how the shift from the Hellenistic Greek world to the domination of the Roman Empire affected the city. “We don’t know of any other big cities in this area that changed from a Hellenistic city into a Roman garrison city in such an important geopolitical location, making it an ideal place to study the cultural changes between the two,” says Gorkay.

Residents of a “once upscale neighborhood were likely high-ranking civil and military officials and merchants grown wealthy from trade. There is ample evidence of a sophisticated sewage and water supply system. Grooves cut into the stone streets once held pipes that delivered water from at least four reservoirs and cisterns on the Belkis Tepe, the city’s highest point, through spouts capped with bronze lion heads. Sunny courtyards in the center of the houses allowed fresh air to circulate inside. Some had shallow pools, called impluvia, to collect rainwater and cool the air before it entered the house. These courtyards also once contained some of Zeugma’s most famous mosaics, many of which have water themes: Eros riding a dolphin; Danae and Perseus being rescued by fishermen on the shores of Seriphos; Poseidon, the god of the sea; and other water deities and sea creatures.

“There is also much yet to learn about the practice of religion in Zeugma. Through further excavation, Gorkay wants to examine the place of politics and nationality in the practice of religion during the transformative periods in Zeugma’s history. In 2008, atop the Belkis Tepe, archaeologists excavated a temple and sanctuary where three colossal cult statues of Zeus, Athena, and probably Hera, were found, marking it as one of the city’s most important religious sites. But there are still many questions left to answer about the ways in which the traditional Greco-Roman gods were worshipped alongside the Persian deities who were also honored in the city. Similarly, says Gorkay, “In the time of the Commagene rulers, Antiochus I consecrated many sanctuaries and depicted himself in all of them,” including stelae on which the king is shown shaking hands with gods. But during the Roman period, these temples were stripped of their political character and the gods were portrayed alone, signifying a change in the cult dedicated to the worship of the ruler.”


Adonis synagogue at Dura Europos

Andrew Curry wrote in National Geographic: “Just as Hadrian’s Wall shows the Roman frontier at its strongest, an abandoned fortress on the Euphrates River vividly captures the moment the borders began to collapse. Dura-Europos was a fortified city on the frontier between Rome and Persia, its greatest rival. Today Dura sits about 25 miles from the Syrian border with Iraq, an eight-hour bus ride through the desert from Damascus. It first came to light in 1920, when British troops fighting Arab insurgents accidentally uncovered the painted wall of a Roman temple. A team from Yale University and the French Academy put hundreds of Bedouin tribesmen to work with shovels and picks, moving tens of thousands of tons of sand with the help of railcars and mine carts. “At times it was like the Well of Souls scene from Indiana Jones,” says University of Leicester archaeologist Simon James. [Source: Andrew Curry, National Geographic, September 2012 ]

“Ten years of frenzied digging uncovered a third-century Roman city frozen in time. Fragments of plaster still cling to mud-brick and stone walls, and the rooms of palaces and temples—including the world’s oldest known Christian church—are tall enough to walk through and imagine what they looked like when they had roofs.

“Founded by Greeks around 300 B.C., Dura was conquered by the Romans nearly 500 years later. Its tall, thick walls and perch above the Euphrates made it a perfect frontier outpost. The northern end was walled off and turned into a Roman-era “green zone” with barracks, an imposing headquarters for the garrison commander, a redbrick bathhouse big enough to wash the dust off a thousand soldiers, the empire’s easternmost known amphitheater, and a 60-room palace suitable for dignitaries “roughing it” in the hinterlands.

“Duty rosters show at least seven outposts reported to Dura. One of the outposts was staffed by just three soldiers; another lay nearly a hundred miles downstream. “This was not a city under constant threat,” James told me when I visited, before the political situation in Syria deteriorated and made excavation impossible. We sat amid the ruins and watched orange gas flares from Iraqi oil wells flicker on the horizon. “Soldiers here were probably busier policing the locals than defending against raids and attacks.”

“The quiet didn’t last. Persia emerged as a major threat along the empire’s eastern border a half century after the Romans seized Dura. Beginning in 230, war between the rivals raged across Mesopotamia. It was soon clear the frontier strategy that had served Rome for more than a century was no match for a determined, sizable foe.

“Dura’s turn came in 256. Working with a Franco-Syrian team of archaeologists interested in the site’s pre-Roman history, James has spent ten years unraveling the walled city’s final moments. He says the Romans must have known an attack was imminent. They had time to reinforce the massive western wall, burying part of the city—including the church and a magnificently decorated synagogue—to form a sloping rampart.

“The Persian army set up camp in the city cemetery, a few hundred yards from Dura’s main gate. As catapults lobbed stones at the Romans, the Persians built an assault ramp and dug beneath the city, hoping to collapse its defenses. Dura’s garrison struck back with tunnels of their own.

“As fighting raged on the surface, James says, a squad of 19 Romans broke through into a Persian tunnel. A cloud of poison gas, pumped into the underground chamber, suffocated them almost instantly. Their remains are some of the oldest archaeological evidence of chemical warfare. James believes the bodies, found 1,700 years later, stacked in a tight tunnel, were used to block the tunnel while the Persians set it on fire.

“The Persians failed to topple Dura’s wall but eventually succeeded in taking the city, which was later abandoned to the desert. Surviving defenders were slain or enslaved. Persian armies pushed deep into what had been Rome’s eastern provinces, sacked dozens of cities, and overpowered two emperors before capturing a third, the hapless Valerian, in 260. The Persian king, Shapur, reportedly used Valerian as a footstool for a while, then had him flayed and nailed his skin to a wall.

“The crisis was a turning point. Around the time Dura fell, the careful balance of offense, defense, and sheer intimidation along the frontier fell apart.For nearly 150 years the border had helped Rome ignore a painful reality: The world beyond the walls was catching up, in part thanks to the Romans themselves. Barbarians who served in the Roman army brought back Roman knowledge, weapons, and military strategy, says Michael Meyer, an archaeologist at Berlin’s Free University.”

Strabo on the Ancient Middle East

Strabo wrote in A.D. 22:“Book XVI.iv.1: Arabia commences on the side of Babylonia with Maecene [modern Kuwait]. In front of this district, on one side lies the desert of the Arabians, on the other are the marshes opposite to the Chaldeans, formed by the overflowing of the Euphrates, and in another direction is the Sea of Persia. This country has an unhealthy and cloudy atmosphere; it is subject to showers, and also to scorching heat; still its products are excellent. The vine grows in the marshes; as much earth as the plant may require is laid upon hurdles of reeds; the hurdle is frequently carried away by the water, and is then forced back again by poles to its proper situation. [Source: Strabo: Geography, Book XVI, Chap. iv, 1-4, 18-19, 21-26, c. A.D. 22, Strabo, The Geography of Strabo: Literally Translated, with Notes, trans. by H. C. Hamilton & W. Falconer (London: H. G. Bohn, 1854-1857), pp. 185-215]

“XVI.iv.2. From Heroöpolis [modern Abu-Keyschid, near modern Suez City], situated in that recess of the Arabian Gulf which is on the side of the Nile, to Babylon, towards Petra of the Nabataei, are 5600 stadia. The whole tract lies in the direction of the summer solstice (i.e., east and west), and passes through the adjacent Arabian tribes, namely Nabataei, Chaulotaei, and Agraei [in the modern An-Nafud desert, along on the borders of present Jordan, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia]. Above these people is Arabia Felix, stretching out 12,000 stadia towards the south to the Atlantic Sea.

“The first people, next after the Syrians and Jews, who occupy this country are husbandmen. These people are succeeded by a barren and sandy tract, producing a few palms, the acanthus, and tamarisk; water is obtained by digging [wells] as in Gedrosia. It is inhabited by Arabian Scenitae, who breed camels [in the area just to the west of the Euphrates]. The extreme parts towards the south, and opposite to Ethiopia, are watered by summer showers, and are sowed twice, like the land in India. Its rivers are exhausted in watering plains, and by running into lakes. The general fertility of the country is very great; among other products, there is in particular an abundant supply of honey; except horses, there are numerous herds of animals, mules, and swine; birds also of every kind, except geese and the gallinaceous tribe. Four of the most populous nations inhabit the extremity of the above-mentioned country [i.e., modern Yemen]; namely, the Minaei the part towards the Red Sea, whose largest city is Carna or Carnana. Next to these are the Sabaeans, whose chief city is Mariaba [Yemen proper, about the capital San'a]. The third nation are the Cattabaneis, extending to the straits and the passage across the Arabian Gulf [the area about modern Aden]. Their royal seat is called Tamna. The Chatramotitae are the furthest of these nations towards the east [in modern Hadramawt]. Their city is Sabata.

Petra, home of the Nabataeans

“XVI.iv.3. All these cities are governed by one monarch, and are flourishing. They are adorned with beautiful temples and palaces. Their houses, in the mode of binding the timbers together, are like those in Egypt. The four countries comprise a greater territory than the Delta of Egypt. The son does not succeed the father in the throne, but the son who is born in a family of the nobles first after the accession of the king. As soon as any one is invested with the government, the pregnant wives of the nobles are registered, and guardians are appointed to watch which of them is first delivered of a son. The custom is to adopt and educate the child in a princely manner as the future successor to the throne.

“XVI.iv.4. Cattabania produces frankincense, and Chatramotitis myrrh; these and other aromatics are the medium of exchange with the merchants. Merchants arrive in seventy days at Minaea from Aelana [i.e., modern Aqaba]. Aelana is a city on the other recess of the Arabian Gulf, which is called Aelanites, opposite to Gaza, as we have before described it. The Gerrhaei [who dwelt along the Arabian side of the Persian Gulf, between what is now Kuwait and Qatar] arrive in Chatramotitis in forty days. The part of the Arabian Gulf along the side of Arabia, if we reckon from the recess of the Aelanitic bay, is, according to the accounts of Alexander and Anaxicrates, 14,000 stadia in extent; but this computation is too great. The part opposite to Troglodyticae [The Troglodyticae extended along the western side of the Red Sea, from about the 26th degree of latitude to the 19th degree, near modern Tawkar], which is on the right hand of those who are sailing from Heroöpolis to Ptolemaïs, to the country where elephants are taken, extends 9000 stadia to the south, and inclines a little towards the east. Thence to the straits are about 4500 stadia, in a direction more towards the east. The straits at Ethiopia are formed by a promontory called Deire [i.e., modern Bab-el-Mandeb]. There is a small town upon it of the same name. The Ichthyophagi inhabit this country. Here it is said is a pillar of Sesostris the Egyptian, on which is inscribed, in hieroglyphics, an account of his passage (across the Arabian Gulf). For he appears to have subdued first Ethiopia and Troglodytica, and afterwards to have passed over into Arabia. He then overran the whole of Asia. Hence in many places there are dykes called the dykes of Sesostris, and temples built in honor of Egyptian deities.”

Strabo on the Nabataeans

Strabo wrote in A.D. 22:“XVI.iv.21. The Nabataeans and Sabaeans, situated above Syria, are the first people who occupy Arabia Felix. They were frequently in the habit of overrunning this country before the Romans became masters of it, but at present both they and the Syrians are subject to the Romans. [Source: Strabo: Geography, Book XVI, Chap. iv, 1-4, 18-19, 21-26, c. A.D. 22, Strabo, The Geography of Strabo: Literally Translated, with Notes, trans. by H. C. Hamilton & W. Falconer (London: H. G. Bohn, 1854-1857), pp. 185-215]

“The capital of the Nabataeans is called Petra. It is situated on a spot which is surrounded and fortified by a smooth and level rock (petra), which externally is abrupt and precipitous, but within there are abundant springs of water both for domestic purposes and for watering gardens. Beyond the enclosure the country is for the most part a desert, particularly towards Judaea. Through this is the shortest road to Jericho, a journey of three or four days, and five days to the Phoinicon (or palm plantation). It is always governed by a king of the royal race. The king has a minister who is one of the Companions, and is called Brother. It has excellent laws for the administration of public affairs.

“Athenodorus, a philosopher, and my friend, who had been to Petra, used to relate with surprise that he found many Romans and also many other strangers residing there. He observed the strangers frequently engaged in litigation, both with one another and with the natives; but the natives had never any dispute amongst themselves, and lived together in perfect harmony.

“XVI.iv.26. The Nabataeans are prudent, and fond of accumulating property. The community fine a person who has diminished his substance, and confer honors on him who has increased it. They have few slaves, and are served for the most part by their relations, or by one another, or each person is his own servant; and this custom extends even to their kings. They eat their meals in companies consisting of thirteen persons. Each party is attended by two musicians. But the king gives many entertainments in great buildings. No one drinks more than eleven cupfuls, from separate cups, each of gold. The king courts popular favor so much, that he is not only his own servant, but sometimes he himself ministers to others. He frequently renders an account before the people, and sometimes an inquiry is made into his mode of life.

“The houses are sumptuous, and of stone. The cities are without walls, on account of the peace which prevails among them. A great part of the country is fertile, and produces everything except oil of olives; the oil of sesame is used instead. The sheep have white fleeces, their oxen are large; but the country produces no horses. Camels are the substitute for horses, and perform the labor. They wear no tunics, but have a girdle about their loins, and walk abroad in sandals. The dress of the kings is the same, but the color is purple.”

Strabo on the Land Frankincense


Strabo wrote in A.D. 22: “XVI.iv.25. The aromatic country, as I have before said, is divided into four parts. Of aromatics, the frankincense and myrrh are said to be the produce of trees, but cassia the growth of bushes; yet some writers say, that the greater part (of the cassia) is brought from India, and that the best frankincense is that from Persia. According to another partition of the country, the whole of Arabia Felix is divided into five kingdoms (or portions), one of which comprises the fighting men, who fight for all the rest; another contains the husbandmen, by whom the rest are supplied with food; another includes those who work at mechanical trades. One division comprises the myrrh region; another the frankincense region, although the same tracts produce cassia, cinnamon, and nard. Trades are not changed from one family to another, but each workman continues to exercise that of his father. The greater part of their wine is made from the palm. [Source: Strabo: Geography, Book XVI, Chap. iv, 1-4, 18-19, 21-26, c. A.D. 22, Strabo, The Geography of Strabo: Literally Translated, with Notes, trans. by H. C. Hamilton & W. Falconer (London: H. G. Bohn, 1854-1857), pp. 185-215]

“A man's brothers are held in more respect than his children. The descendants of the royal family succeed as kings, and are invested with other governments, according to primogeniture. Property is common among all the relations. The eldest is the chief. There is one wife among them all. He who enters the house before any of the rest, has intercourse with her having placed his staff at the door; for it is a necessary custom which every one is compelled to observe, to carry a staff. The woman, however, passes the night with the eldest. Hence the male children are all brothers. They have sexual intercourse also with their mothers. Adultery is punished with death, but an adulterer must belong to another family.

“A daughter of one of the kings was of extraordinary beauty, and had fifteen brothers, who were all in love with her, and were her unceasing and successive visitors; she, being at last weary of their importunity, is said to have employed the following device. She procured staves to be made similar to those of her brothers; when one left the house she placed before the door a staff similar to the first, and a little time afterwards another, and so on in succession, but making her calculation so that the person who intended to visit her might not have one similar to that at her door. On an occasion when the brothers were all of them together at the market-place, one left it, and came to the door of the house seeing the staff there, and conjecturing some one to be in his apartment, and having left all the other brothers at the marketplace, he suspected the person to be an adulterer; running therefore in haste to his father, he brought him with him to the house, but it was proved that he had falsely accused his sister.

“Merchandise is conveyed from Leuce-Come-to Petra, thence to Rhinocolura [modern Al-Arish] in Phoenicia, near Egypt, and thence to other nations. But at present the greater part is transported by the Nile to Alexandria. It is brought down from Arabia and India to Myus Hormus [modern Bãr Safajah],, it is then conveyed on camels to Coptus of the Thebaïs, situated on a canal of the Nile, and Alexandria.

“Some merchandise is altogether imported into the country, others are not altogether imports, especially as some articles are native products, as gold and silver, and many of the aromatics; but brass and iron, purple garments, styrax, saffron, and costus (or white cinnamon), pieces of sculpture, paintings, pieces of statues, are not to be procured in the country. They look upon the bodies of the dead as no better than dung, according to the words of Heracleitus, "dead bodies more fit to be cast out than dung;" wherefore they bury even their kings beside dung-heaps. They worship the sun, and construct the altar on the top of a house, pouring out libations and burning frankincense upon it every day.”

Strabo on Roman Incursions in Arabia

Roman Gate at Petra

Strabo wrote in A.D. 22: “XVI.iv.22. The late expedition of the Romans against the Arabians, under the command of Aelius Gallus, has made us acquainted with many peculiarities of the country. Augustus Caesar despatched this general to explore the nature of these places and their inhabitants, as well as those of Ethiopia, for he observed that Troglodytica, which is contiguous to Egypt, bordered upon Ethiopia; and that the Arabian Gulf was extremely narrow where it separates the Arabians from the Troglodytae. It was his intention either to conciliate or subdue the Arabians. He was also influenced by the report which had prevailed from all time, that this people were very wealthy, and exchanged their aromatics and precious stones for silver and gold, but never expended with foreigners any part of what they received in exchange. He hoped to acquire either opulent friends, or to overcome opulent enemies. He was, moreover, encouraged to undertake this enterprise by the expectation of assistance from the Nabataeans, who promised to cooperate with him in everything. [Source: Strabo: Geography, Book XVI, Chap. iv, 1-4, 18-19, 21-26, c. A.D. 22, Strabo, The Geography of Strabo: Literally Translated, with Notes, trans. by H. C. Hamilton & W. Falconer (London: H. G. Bohn, 1854-1857), pp. 185-215]

“XVI.iv.23. Upon these inducements Gallus set out on the expedition. But he was deceived by Syllaeus, the king's minister of the Nabataeans, who had promised to be his guide on march, and to assist him in the execution of his design. Syllaeus was, however, treacherous throughout; for he neither guided them by a safe course by sea along the coast, nor by a safe road for the army as he promised, but exposed both fleet and the army to danger by directing them where there was no road, or the road was impracticable, where they were obliged to make long circuits, or to pass through tracts of country destitute of everything; he led the fleet along a rocky coast without harbors, or to places abounding with rocks concealed under water, or with shallows. In places of this description particularly, the flowing and ebbing of the tide did them the most harm.

“The first mistake consisted in building long vessels of war at a time when there was no war, nor any likely to occur at sea. For the Arabians, being mostly engaged in traffic and commerce, are not a very warlike people even on land, much less so at sea. Gallus, notwithstanding, built not less than eighty biremes and triremes and galleys at Cleopatris [also called Arsinoë, and near Heroöpolis] near the old canal which leads from the Nile. When he discovered his mistake, he constructed a hundred and thirty vessels of burden, in which he embarked with about ten thousand infantry, collected from Egypt, consisting of Romans and allies, among whom were five hundred Jews and a thousand Nabataeans, under the command of Syllaeus. After enduring great hardships and distress, he arrived on the fifteenth day at Leuce-Come [modern Hanak], a large mart in the territory of the Nabataeans, with the loss of many of his vessels, some with all their crews, in consequence of the difficulty of the navigation, but by no opposition from an enemy. These misfortunes were occasioned by the perfidy of Syllaeus, who insisted that there was no road for an army by land to Leuce-Come, to which and from which place the camel traders travel with ease and in safety from Petra, and back to Petra, with so large a body of men and camels as to differ in no respect from an army. “XVI.iv.24. Another cause of the failure of the expedition was the fact of king Obodas not paying much attention to public affairs, and especially to those relative to war (as is the custom with all Arabian kings), but placed everything in the power of Syllaeus the minister. His whole conduct in command of the army was perfidious, and his object was, as I suppose, to examine as a spy the state of the country and to destroy, in concert with the Romans, certain cities and tribes; and when the Romans should be consumed by famine, fatigue, and disease, and by all the evils which he had treacherously contrived, to declare himself master of the whole country. Gallus, however, arrived at Leuce-Come, with the army laboring under stomacacce and scelotyrbe, diseases of the country, the former affecting the mouth, the other the legs, with a kind of paralysis, caused by the water and the plants (which the soldiers had used in their food). He was therefore compelled to pass the summer and the winter there, for the recovery of the sick.

Gallus, setting out again from Leuce-Come on his return with his army, and through the treachery of his guide, traversed such tracts of country, that the army was obliged to carry water with them upon camels. After a march of many days, therefore, he came to the territory of Aretas [modern Medina?], who was related to Obodas. Aretas received him in a friendly manner, and offered presents. But by the treachery of Syllaeus, Gallus was conducted by a difficult road through the country; for he occupied thirty days in passing through it. It afforded barley, a few palm trees, and butter instead of oil.”

“The next country to which he came belonged to the nomads, and was in great part a complete desert [the Debae]. It was called Ararene. The king of the country was Sabos. Gallus spent fifty days in passing through this territory, for want of roads, and came to a city of the Negrani [probably Mecca], and to a fertile country peacefully disposed. The king had fled, and the city was taken at the first onset. After a march of six days from thence, he came to the river [in the land of the Minae]. Here the barbarians attacked the Romans, and lost about ten thousand men; the Romans lost only two men. For the barbarians were entirely inexperienced in war, and used their weapons unskillfully, which were bows, spears, swords, and slings; but the greater part of them wielded a double-edged axe. Immediately afterwards he took the city called Asca [probably modern Al-Lith], which had been abandoned by the king. He thence came to a city Athrula [modern Abha?], and took it without resistance; having placed a garrison there, and collected provisions for the march, consisting of grain and dates he proceeded to a city Marsiaba, belonging to the nation of the Rhammanitae, who were subjects of Ilasarus [in modern Yemen, east of modern San'a]. He assaulted and besieged it for six days, but raised the siege in consequence of a scarcity of water. He was two days' march from the aromatic regions, as he was informed by his prisoners.

“He occupied in his marches a period of six months, in consequence of the treachery of his guides. This he discovered when he was returning; and although he was late in discovering the design against him, he had time to take another route back; for he arrived in nine days at Negrana [near modern Sa'dah?], where the battle was fought, and thence in eleven days he came to the "Seven Wells" [modern Al-Qunfudhah], as the place is called from the fact of their existing there. Thence he marched through a desert country, and came to Chaalla a village, and then to another called Malothas [perhaps modern Jeddah], situated on a river. This road then lay through a desert country, which had only a few watering-places, as far as Egra [modern Yanbu] a village. It belongs to the territory of Obodus, and is situated upon the sea. He accomplished on his return the whole distance in sixty days, in which, on his first journey, he had consumed six months. From Negra he conducted his army in eleven days to Myus Hormus; thence across the country to Coptus, and arrived at Alexandria with so much of his army as could be saved. The remainder he lost, not by the enemy, but by disease, fatigue, famine, and marches through bad roads; for seven men only perished in battle. For these reasons this expedition contributed little in extending our knowledge of the country. It was however of some small service. Syllaeus, the author of these disasters, was punished for his treachery at Rome. He affected friendship, but he was convicted of other offences, besides perfidy in this instance and was beheaded.”

Roman Historians on the Middle East in the A.D. 3rd and 4th Centuries

Dio Cassius wrote in History of Rome (A.D. 220): “For 23 B.C.: While this was going on, another and a new campaign had at once its beginning and its end. It was conducted by Aelius Gallus, the governor of Egypt, against the country called Arabia Felix, of which Sabos was king. At first Aelius encountered no one, yet he did not proceed without difficulty; for the desert, the sun, and the water (which had some peculiar nature), all caused his men great distress, so that the larger part of the army perished. The malady proved to be unlike any of the common complaints, but attacked the head and caused it to become parched, killing forthwith most of those who were attacked, but in the case of those who survived this stage it descended to the legs, skipping all the intervening parts of the body, and caused dire injury to them. There was no remedy for it except a mixture of olive-oil and wine, both taken as a drink and used as an ointment; and this remedy naturally lay within reach of only a few of them, since the country produces neither of these articles and the men had not prepared an abundant supply of them beforehand. In the midst of this trouble the barbarians also fell upon them. For hitherto they had been defeated whenever they joined battle, and had even been losing some places;. but now, with the disease as their ally, they not only won back their own possessions, but also drove the survivors of the expedition out of the country. These were the first of the Romans, and, I believe, the only ones, to traverse so much of this part of Arabia for the purpose of making war.” New York Times- Dio Cassius: History of Rome, Book LIII.xxix.3-8., c. 220 CE, Dio Cassius, The Roman History, Vol. V, trans. Ernest Cary (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1917), pp. 269, 271]

Ammianus Marcellinus wrote in “The Roman History” (A.D. 380): “Book XIV.4: At this time also the Saracens, a race whom it is never desirable to have either for friends or enemies, ranging up and down the country, if ever they found anything, plundered it in a moment, like rapacious hawks who, if from on high they behold any prey, carry it off with a rapid swoop, or, if they fail in their attempt, do not tarry. And although, in recounting the career of the Prince Marcus, and once or twice subsequently, I remember having discussed the manners of this people, nevertheless I will now briefly enumerate a few more particulars concerning them. [Source: Ammianus Marcellinus: The Roman History, Book XIV.iv.1-7. , c. 380 CE, Ammianus Marcellinus, The Roman History of Ammianus Marcellinus During the Reigns of The Emperors Constantius, Julian, Jovianus, Valentinian, and Valens, trans. C. D. Yonge (London: G. Bell & Sons, 1911), pp. 11-12]

“Among these tribes, whose primary origin is derived from the cataracts of the Nile and the borders of the Blemmyae, all the men are warriors of equal rank; half naked, clad in colored cloaks down to the waist, overrunning different countries, with the aid of swift and active horses and speedy camels, alike in times of peace and war. Nor does any member of their tribe ever take plow in hand or cultivate a tree, or seek food by the tillage of the land; but they are perpetually wandering over various and extensive districts, having no home, no fixed abode or laws; nor can they endure to remain long in the same climate, no one district or country pleasing them for a continuance.

“Their life is one continued wandering; their wives are hired, on special covenant, for a fixed time; and that there may be some appearance of marriage in the business, the intended wife, under the name of a dowry, offers a spear and a tent to her husband, with a right to quit him after a fixed day, if she should choose to do so. And it is inconceivable with what eagerness the individuals of both sexes give themselves up to matrimonial pleasures.

“But as long as they live they wander about with such extensive and perpetual migrations, that the woman is married in one place, brings forth her children in another, and rears them at a distance from either place, no opportunity of remaining quiet being ever granted to her. They all live on venison, and are further supported on a great abundance of milk, and on many kinds of herbs, and on whatever birds they can catch by fowling. And we have seen a great many of them wholly ignorant of the use of either corn or wine.”

Notitia Dignitatum (Register of Dignitaries), A.D. 400

The Notitia Dignitatum (Register of Dignitaries, c. A.D. 400) is an official listing of all civil and military posts in the Roman Empire, East and West. It survives as a 1551 copy of the now-missing original and is the major source of information on the administrative organization of the late Roman Empire. William Fairley wrote: “The Notitia Dignitatum is an official register of all the offices, other than municipal, which existed in the Roman Empire.... Gibbon gave to this document a date between 395 and 407 when the Vandals disturbed the Roman regime in Gaul. [Source: Notitia Dignitatum (Register of Dignitaries), William Fairley, in Translations and Reprints from Original Sources of European History, Vol. VI:4 (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press), 1899].

“The Notitia Dignitatum has preserved for us, as no other document has done, a complete outline view of the Roman administrative system in early fifth century. The hierarchic arrangement is displayed perfectly. The division of prefectures, dioceses and provinces, and the rank of their respective governors is set forth at length. The military origin of the whole system appears in the titles of the staff officers, even in those departments whose heads had, since the time of Constantine, been deprived of all military command.”

Roman Empire in the East Under Trajan in AD 117

Register of Dignitaries in the East

Register of the Dignitaries Both Civil and Military, in the Districts of the East: The pretorian prefect of the East.
The pretorian prefect of Illyricum.
The prefect of the city of Constantinople.
Two masters of horse and foot in the presence.
[The master] of horse and foot in the East.
[The master] of horse and foot in Thrace.
[The master] of horse and foot in Illyricum.
The provost of the sacred bedchamber.
The master of the offices.
The quaestor.
The count of the sacred bounties.
The count of the private domains.
Two counts of the household troops:
of horse,
of foot.
The superintendent of the sacred bedchamber.
The chief of the notaries.
The castellan of the sacred palace.
The masters of bureaus:
of memorials,
of correspondence,
of requests,
of Greek [versions].
[Source: Notitia Dignitatum (Register of Dignitaries), William Fairley, in Translations and Reprints from Original Sources of European History, Vol. VI:4 (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press), 1899].

Two proconsuls:
of Asia; of Achaia.
The count of the East.
The Augustal prefect.
Four vicars:
of [the diocese of] Asia; of [the diocese of] Pontus; of [the diocese of] the Thraces; of [the diocese of] Macedonia.
Two military counts:
of Egypt; of Isauria.
Thirteen dukes:
in [the diocese of] Egypt two:
of the Libyas; of Thebais.
in [the diocese of] the East six:
of Phoenice; of Euphratensis and Syria; of Palestine; of Osroena; of Mesopotamia; of Arabia.
in [the diocese of] Pontus one:
of Armenia.
in [the diocese of] Thrace two:
of Moesia secunda; of Scythia.
in [the diocese of] Illyricum two:
of ripuarian Dacia; of Moesia prima.

Fifteen consulars:
in [the diocese of] the East five:
of Palestine; of Phoenice; of Syria; of Cilicia; of Cyprus
in [the diocese of] Asia three:
of Pamphylia; of Hellespontus; of Lydia.
in [the diocese of] Pontus two:
of Galatia; of Bithynia.
in [the diocese of] Thrace two:
of Europe; of Thrace.
in [the diocese of] Ilyricum three:
of Crete; of.Macedonia; of Mediterranean Dacia.
Egypt, however, does not possess the consular dignity.

Forty presidents: in [the diocese of) Egypt five: of upper Lybia; of lower Lybia; of Thebais; of Egypt; of Arcadia. in [the diocese of] the East eight: of Palaestina salutaris; of Palaestina secunda; of Phoenice Libani; of Euphratensis; of Syria salutaris; of Osroena; of Mesopotamia; of Cilicia secunda. in [the diocese of] Asia seven: of Pisidia; of Lycaonia; of Phrygia Pacatiana; of Phrygia salutaris; of Lycia; of Caria; of the Islands. in [the diocese of] Pontus eight: of Honorias; of Cappadocia prima; of Cappadocia secunda; of Helenopontus; of Poutus Polemoniacus; of Armenia prima; of Armenia secunda; of Galatia salutaris. in [the diocese of] Thrace four: of Haemimontus; of Rhodope; of Moesia secunda; of Scythia. in [the diocese of] Illyricum eight: of Thessalia; of ancient Epirus; of new Epirus; of ripuarian Dacia; of Moesia prima; of Praevalitana; of Dardania; of Macedonia salutaris. Two correctors: of Augustamnica; of Paphlagonia.

Diocletian Tetrarchy in the late AD 3rd century

Pretorian Prefect of the East

Under the control of the illustrious* pretorian prefect of the East are the dioceses below mentioned (*Each of the great officials of the empire at this time was dignified and graded by one of three titles: illustris, illustrious; speciabilis, worshipful; clarissimus, right honorable. The first of these titles is the highest. In general, it may be said that the illustrious correspond in rank to our cabinet officers, the worshipful to our State governors and highest military officers, and the right honorable to our brigadier-generals and colonels):
of the East; of Egypt; of Asia; of Pontus; of Thrace.
Provinces:of [the diocese of] the East fifteen:Palestine; Phoenice; Syria; Cilicia; Cyprus; Arabia (also a duke and a military count); Isauria; Palaestina salutaris; Palaestina secunda; Phoenice Libani; Euphratensis; Syria salutaris; Osroena; Mesopotamia; Cilicia secunda.
of [the diocese of] Egypt five:upper Libya; lower Libya; Thebais; Egypt; Arcadia.
of (the diocese of] Asia ten:Pamphylia; Hellespontus; Lydia; Pisidia; Lycaonia; Phrygia Pacatiana; Phrygia salutaris; Lycia; Caria; the Islands.
of [the diocese of] Pontus ten:Galatia; Bithynia; Honorias; Cappadocia prima; Cappadocia secunda; Pontus Polemoniacus; Helenopontus; Armenia prima; Armenia securida; Galatia)' salutaris.
of [the diocese of] Thrace six. Europa; Thracia; Heemimontus; Rhodopa; Moesia secunda-, Scythia.
[Source: Notitia Dignitatum (Register of Dignitaries), William Fairley, in Translations and Reprints from Original Sources of European History, Vol. VI:4 (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press), 1899].

The staff *1 of the illustrious pretorian prefect of the East: chief of staff, (princeps) chief deputy, (cornicularius) chief assistant, (adiutor) custodian, (commentariensis) keeper of the records, (ab actis) Receivers of taxes, (numerarii) Assistants, (subadiuuae) A curator of correspondence, (cura epistolarum) A registrar, (regerendarius) Secretaries, (exceptores) Aids, (adiutores) Notaries. (singularii)

*1 The dozen officers or types of officers here indicated were the heads of departments under the pretorian prefect. All the other officia or staffs were on a similar model. These officials belonged to the political aristocracy. The whole number of officers might run into the hundreds, besides numbers of slaves who did the drudgery. The count of the officials; the proconsul of Africa, 400; the vicar of Africa, 300; the sacred bounties, 224 regular assistants and 610 supernumeraries. The beginning of a civil service career under the pretorian prefect for a Roman gentleman, after a training in the law, was the post of treasury advocate of whom we are told that there were at one time 150 under a single prefect.

The officials named in the text received high salaries. After working through to the highest staff position, which was commonly held for either one or two years, they were eligible for the lower governorships, as presidents or correctors. and so on till the highest stations were reached. The Latin titles have been given to make it clear that the translation cannot be an exact equivalent for the terms in use under a system so different from anything now in existence.

The pretorian prefect of the East does not receive post-warrants for each year, but himself issues them. The cursus publicus was the post-service for the conveyance of government dispatches and of government officials. It was elaborately organized and very effective. Its control was in the bands of the pretorian prefects. Its control was in the hands of the pretorian prefects and and the master's of the offices. Other officers were limited in their use of this service, as the last paragraph of each chapter in the Notitia shows. There is no reference to this service in the Notitia of the West, though there is no reason to doubt that the regulations there were similar.

20120227-Temple -Baalbek.jpg
Baalbek Temple in Lebanon

Administrative Positions in Asia

Proconsul of Asia
Under the control of the worshipful proconsul of Asia are the provinces mentioned below:
Asia, The Islands, Hellespontus.
His staff is as follows:
A chief of the same staff,
A chief deputy,
A chief assistant,
A custodian,
A keeper of the records.
Receivers of taxes,
A receiver of requests,
Secretaries and other officials.
The proconsul of Asia is entitled to ___
[Source: Notitia Dignitatum (Register of Dignitaries), William Fairley, in Translations and Reprints from Original Sources of European History, Vol. VI:4 (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press), 1899].

Augustal Prefect
Under the control of the worshipful Augustal prefect are the provinces mentioned below:
Lybia superior, Lybia inferior, Thebais, Egypt, Arcadia, Augustamnica.
His staff is as follows:
A chief of staff from the school of confidential agents of the first class, who at the close of two years' service, after adoring the imperial clemency, goes forth with insignia.*
A chief deputy,
A custodian,
A quaestor,
An assistant,
A keeper of the records,
Receivers of taxes,
A curator of correspondence, Secretaries and other attendants.

The Augustal prefect is entitled to____
* That is, advanced to such rank, consular or proconsular, as carries with it the privilege of insignia of office. Consular rank was attainable by those who did not become actual consuls.

Vicar of the Diocese of Asia
Under the control of the worshipful vicar of the diocese of Asia are the provinces mentioned below: Pamphylia, Lydia, Caria, Lycia. Lycaonia, Pisidia, Phrygia Pacatiana, Phrygia salutaris.
The staff of the worshipful vicar of the diocese of Asia is as follows:
A chief of staff from the school of confidential agents of the first class, who at the close of two years' service, after adoring the imperial clemency, goes forth with insignia.
A chief deputy,
A custodian,
An assistant,
A keeper of the records,
Receivers of taxes,
A curator of correspondence,
Secretaries and other officials.
The vicar of the diocese of Asia is entitled to____

Duke of Scythia
Under the control of the worshipful duke of Scythia:
Seven squadrons of cavalry
Auxiliaries: Eight organizations.
Legions of borderers: Seven organizations.
His staff is as follows:
A chief of staff, who at the end of his term of service pays adoration as a protector,*
Accountants and their assistants,
A custodian,
An assistant,
A receiver of requests, or under-secretary,
Secretaries and other officials.
The duke of Scythia is entitled to five post-warrants in the year.
*This adoration was equivalent to a modern presentation at court. A protector was a highly-privileged member of the imperial body-guard. To adore as protector was to be admitted either to this body-guard or to a rank equivalent to it in the nicely graded scale of precedence.

Consular of Palestine Under the control of the right honorable* consular of Palestine: (* Consulars, correctors, and most presidents were clarissimi, right honorable) His staff is as follows: A chief of staff, A chief deputy, A custodian, A chief assistant, A receiver of taxes, A keeper of the records, A receiver of requests, Secretaries and other cohortalini,* who are not allowed to pass to another service without a warrant from the imperial clemency. All the other consulars have a staff similar to that of the consular of Palestine. (* The lower members of staffs of officials of lesser dignity were called cohortalini; those attached to the higher staffs apparitores; these in the.staff; of the great palace functionaries, palatini. The cohortalini formed an hereditary caste from which escape was very difficult.)

President OF Thebais.
Under the control of the right honorable president of Thebais.
The province of Thebais.
The staff is as follows: [Precisely as in preceding section.]
All the other presidents have a staff similar to that of the president of Thebais.

Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons

Text Sources: Internet Ancient History Sourcebook: Rome sourcebooks.fordham.edu ; Internet Ancient History Sourcebook: Late Antiquity sourcebooks.fordham.edu ; Forum Romanum forumromanum.org ; “Outlines of Roman History” by William C. Morey, Ph.D., D.C.L. New York, American Book Company (1901), forumromanum.org \~\; “The Private Life of the Romans” by Harold Whetstone Johnston, Revised by Mary Johnston, Scott, Foresman and Company (1903, 1932) forumromanum.org |+|; BBC Ancient Rome bbc.co.uk/history/ ; Perseus Project - Tufts University; perseus.tufts.edu ; MIT, Online Library of Liberty, oll.libertyfund.org ; Gutenberg.org gutenberg.org Metropolitan Museum of Art, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Live Science, Discover magazine, Times of London, Natural History magazine, Archaeology magazine, The New Yorker, Encyclopædia Britannica, "The Discoverers" [∞] and "The Creators" [μ]" by Daniel Boorstin. "Greek and Roman Life" by Ian Jenkins from the British Museum.Time, Newsweek, Wikipedia, Reuters, Associated Press, The Guardian, AFP and various books and other publications.

Last updated October 2018

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