Tracing the Roman Military Sites
Roman Emperor Diocletian and the Byzantine ruler Justinian
I strengthened the eastern border of the Roman Empire,
also known as the Eastern Limes. The western piedmont of Jebel
Bishri is partly limited by Strata Diocletiana, i.e., the Diocletian Road, a
defensive line with milestones, castra and castella.
Strata Diocletiana defended the desert-steppe border of Rome against nomadic tribes
and the Parthians, later the Persians.
A Syrian Antiquities Department excavation house, which
served as the base camp for the Finnish team in 2000, is situated next
to Qasr al-Hair, possibly site of the ancient Adada. A line of fortresses
and military posts associated with Strata Diocletiana guard the
western plateau: from Sukhna through Taiba (ancient Oriza?) and El-Kowm
to Resafa/Sergiopolis and Sura. On the northern edge along the Euphrates
there exists the line of forts between Sura and Halabiya, the Castle of
Zenobia, through Tibne to Tabus and Qreiye before Deir ez-Zor.
The Roman forts that are present in the Euphrates
side of Jebel Bishri have apparently been planned and organised in a way
that they functioned together as a defensive system against the Parthians
and later against the Persians. The visibility between the forts was much
better than that between the military posts in the Strata Diocletiana
on the western piedmont of Jebel Bishri. The edge of the mountain
especially at Tabus with a small fort was a prominent point to survey
and guard the traffic in the river valley.
The Finnish project has delineated ancient road lines
with bridges along the Euphrates, of
which some offer links between the Roman forts. A. Poidebard assumed the
lining of the ancient Roman road, but did not provide any evidence. One
of the roads discovered by the Finnish project is cut into marble and
the other paved with marble or gypsum. The rock-cut road has horizontal
grooves and wheel marks, and extends several kilometres inward to the
desert-steppe environment on the mountain. The alignment of the paved
ancient road which in its eastern end has altering layers of MacAdam and
asphalt, can be detected in the CORONA
satellite photographs. Roman pottery has been found in association with
both roads, but it is possible that the road climbing to the mountain
was already used by Assyrians.
A road beneath the Roman-Byzantine fort of Tabus.
Photo: Eivind Seland 2004 © SYGIS – Jebel Bishri, the Finnish Project
A ruined Roman bridge between the villages of Ayyash
and Ain Abu Jima in the northern ridges of Jebel Bishri along the Euphrates.
Photo: Minna Lönnqvist 2005 © SYGIS – Jebel Bishri, the Finnish Project