Bosra, Syria.

Ancient Theatre of Dreams.

In the south-east of Syria, the ancient Roman city of Bosra was briefly a Nabatean capital before becoming the prosperous and powerful capital of the Roman province of Syria.

Their black basalt usage, which is found throughout the area known as the Horan region of Syria, distinguishes the masonry of the buildings and ruins.

Several delightful Roman ruins are found within the old city, including the monumental ancient Roman theatre which is one of the largest and best preserved in the Mediterranean. The famous theatre was built in the second century AD during the reign of Roman Emperor Trajan who was emperor from 98 to 117 AD.

North-south cardo- Bosra. Syria.
Bosra. Syria. View along the north-south cardo with its cobblestone surface and parallel row of columns lining the ancient street.

The colossal scaenae frons or stage backdrop of the theatre was three stories high and adorned with ornate fine Corinthian columns, statues, and sculptured friezes. Unfortunately, only the lower level survives today. Its cavea, which is virtually intact, comprises 37 tiers of seating that could accommodate an audience of 15,000 spectators.

The Ancient city of Bosra is a UNESCO World Heritage listed site. I have also included a few images of the Roman theatre found in the ancient city of Philippopolis- Modern Shahba. The ancient theatre is small, however it is one of the best preserved in Syria. Shahba is about 90 kilometres southeast of Damascus.

Click to view the complete Bosra image gallery.

All images, text and content are copyright Steven Sklifas.

Krak des Chevaliers, Syria.

 Outstanding Crusader castle

Krak des Chevaliers (Crac des Chevaliers) was largely built by the Christian Knights Hospitaller (Hospitaller Order of Saint John of Jerusalem) who occupied it around the 12th century.

The strategically positioned crusader castle lies on a volcanic crater with a view of Homs gap which gave access to the Mediterranean coast and interior of Syria. 

The castle eventually fell to the armies of Islam, who occupied the building for hundreds of years and strengthened the defences further.

Gothic, Romanesque and Arabic architectural elements and legacies are found throughout the well-preserved castle, which is one of the greatest masterpieces of military architecture found anywhere in the world.

Crusader castle. Krak des Chevaliers. Syria.
Krak des Chevaliers. Syria. View of an Inner vaulted passageway set-up with souvenir and handicraft stalls at the crusader castle.

Krak des Chevaliers is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site. 

Click to view the complete image gallery

All images, text and content are copyright Steven Sklifas.

Palmyra, Syria.

Bride of the desert

An oasis in the Syrian desert, Palmyra was one of the most important cultural centres of the ancient world. 

From the 1st to the 2nd century AD, the art and architecture of Palmyra, standing at the crossroads of several civilisations, married Greek-Roman techniques with local traditions and Persian influences. 

Palmyra prospered in ancient times as a caravan staging post, primarily because of its location on one of the main ancient routes from the Mediterranean Sea to the Euphrates and to markets further east, including those on the Silk Route. 

Palmyra reached its zenith of prosperity (earning it the nickname ‘bride of the desert’) around the 2nd century AD, when it was under the mighty rule of Queen Zenobia, who challenged the powerful Roman Empire and nearly bringing the Romans to their knees. 

Tetrapylon. Palmyra. Syria.
Palmyra. Syria. The towering Tetrapylon, with its Corinthian columns, dominates the central section of the Great Colonnade Street. In the background is the hilltop 17th century Arab castle or citadel of Qala’at lbn Maan. The Tetrapylon, which marks and masks the change of direction of the great colonnade, has four independent pylons, each comprising four columns and stands on a moulded square plinth at the four corners of a stepped platform.

Palmyra has many outstanding remnants of its past, including the following;

 The 2nd century theatre which laid buried under sand until the 1950s has largely been excavated and restored back to its former glory. The magnificently adorned stage has a large central door known as the Royal Gate, which is flanked by two smaller ones. Facing the stage is the semi-circle orchestra; 20 metre is diameter and beyond it rises the cavea with its nine rows of seats.

The Monumental Arch which was erected in the early 3rd century AD under Septimius Severus in order to disguise the thirty degrees change of direction of the first and second sections of the Great Colonnade.

 The Temple of Bel which is the most impressive remnant of Palmyra. Dedicated to Bel who is thought to be the supreme God of the Palmyrene pantheon, the Temple is an enormous complex and its major construction was performed over several stages from the Hellenistic through to the Roman periods. 

Unfortunately, several of the ancient monuments that I photographed at Palmyra have been severely damaged or destroyed, one consequence of the devastating civil war.

A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Palmyra, is, without question, one of the world’s great archaeological sites. 

Click this link to view the complete Palmyra

All images, text and content are copyright Steven Sklifas.

Apamea Syria.

The majestic Hellenistic ancient city of Apamea is in the Orontes Valley, west-central Syria.

Apamea was founded by Alexander the Great, who had named it Pella after his own hometown and birthplace in the ancient Greek kingdom of Macedon.

After the death of Alexander (323 BCE), his vast empire was divided amongst his Generals and officers. Seleucus I Nicator -an army officer of Alexander the Great, founded the Seleucid kingdom, which was an empire which included modern day Syria and Iran.

Around 300 BCE, the city that Alexander founded (Pella) was renamed to Apamea by Seleucus I Nicator. Apame was the name of his Persian Wife. As part of the powerful Seleucid kingdom, Apamea flourished and became an important military base and Hellenistic provincial centre. It was part of the Syrian Tetrapolis (Antioch, Seleucia, Laodicea, Apamea) which comprised the four largest cities founded by Seleucus I Nicator.

The city eventually fell to the Roman Empire around 64 BCE, taken by the great Roman military and political leader Pompey. Apamea suffered serious damage after a severe earthquake in AD 115 and was largely rebuilt after this period. All the archaeological remains seen today are from the second century AD.

The former splendour of the ancient city is showcased by the Grand colonnaded avenue or cardo maximus, which is one of the longest and widest in the ancient world, running nearly two kilometres long and was lined with tall columns capped with decorative entablature.

The celebrated ancient city was notable enough to be visited by Cleopatra and Mark Anthony and Hannibal and, at its height, had a population of 500,000. The past splendours of vast windswept, lonely archaeological site of Apamea cover over two hundred and fifty acres, with a considerable amount yet to be excavated.

Apamea is on the UNESCO Tentative List, which is a list of properties considered being cultural and/or natural heritage of outstanding universal value and therefore suitable for inscription on the World Heritage List.

The site of Apamea was heavily looted at an industrial level during the Syrian War.

The complete Apamea image gallery.

All images, text and content are copyright Steven Sklifas.