Alexandria's founded by Alexander

Alexandria's founded by Alexander the Great (by year BC): 334 Alexandria in Troia (Turkey) - 333 Alexandria at Issus/Alexandrette (Iskenderun, Turkey) - 332 Alexandria of Caria/by the Latmos (Alinda, Turkey) - 331 Alexandria Mygdoniae - 331 Alexandria (Egypt) - 330 Alexandria in Areia (Herat, Afghanistan) - 330 Alexandria of the Prophthasia/in Dragiana/Phrada (Farah, Afghanistan) - 330 Alexandria in Arachosia (Kandahar, Afghanistan) - 330 Alexandria in Caucasus (Begram, Afghanistan) - 329 Alexandria of the Paropanisades (Ghazni, Afghanistan) - 329 Alexandria Eschate or Ultima (Khodjend, Tajikistan) - 329 Alexandria on the Oxus (Ai-Khanoum OR Termez, Afghanistan) - 328 Alexandria in Margiana (Merv, Turkmenistan) - 326 Alexandria Nicaea (on the Hydaspes, India) - 326 Alexandria Bucephala (on the Hydaspes, India) - 325 Alexandria Sogdia - 325 Alexandria Rambacia (Bela, Pakistan) - 325 Alexandria Oreitide - 325 Alexandria in Opiene (confluence of Indus & Acesines, India) - 325 Alexandria on the Indus - 325 Alexandria Xylinepolis (Patala, India) - 325 Alexandria in Carminia (Gulashkird, Iran) - 324 Alexandria-on-the-Tigris/Antiochia-in-Susiana/Charax (Spasinou Charax on the Tigris, Iraq) - ?Alexandria of Carmahle? (Kahnu)

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Another wave of destruction hitting Palmyra

Well, by now we all have read the headlines "Isis destroyed a tetrapylon and part of a Roman theater in ancient Palmyra”. The words by themselves strike like a bomb for we thought we had had it.

Palmyra has been hit on several occasions before (see: The glorious days of Palmyra).

The first victim of this senseless destruction was the little Temple of Baal-Shamin, the god of rain and fertility on 23 August 2015. It was built around 150 AD and very well preserved because the Byzantines converted it into a church. It was a lovely spot, in the shade of a young tree that grows within its sheltering walls – all relinquished to memory.

Next, on 30 August 2015, Isis aimed at the great Temple of Bell or Baal built in the year 32 AD and the surrounding portico with 18-meters-high columns that were originally covered with gold and silver plates (see: The Temple of Bell at Palmyra – in memoriam).
Unique to this temple was its most sacred part, the naps or adyton. Following Semitic traditions, there were two such shrines one on each side. The roof of the left wing showed the seven gods and seven planets surrounded by the twelve signs of the zodiac and the niche underneath once housed the statue of the main god. A smaller statue apparently stood in the opposite southern shrine and could be carried around during the processions on heydays. Amazingly, this ceiling was cut from one single monolith stone. The entire sanctuary is now reduced to dust, including the fresco on the wall facing the entrance in between the two altars. (See also: Good news from Palmyra?)

Isis continued its demolition by blowing up seven tomb towers and on 2 September 2015, the most beautiful one and best preserved Tower Tomb of Elahbel fell.

The world was relieved to hear that Isis was retreating from Palmyra but they went in style, as a matter of speaking, blowing up Palmyra Castle on 20 March 2016. After that, it was quiet till the Arch of Septimus Severus was destroyed in October of that same year.

After all these saddening events of barbaric destruction, we thought and hoped peace was restored. Isis had left and archaeologists worldwide came to assess the damage. The only buildings standing were the Roman Theater, the wall of the Agora and the Great Colonnade Street with its elegant Tetrapylon. We counted our blessings but apparently, nobody saw yesterday’s destruction coming.

We write 20 January 2017 and the magnificent Tetrapylon, a group of four times four columns at one of the Decumanus’ crossroads has been blown to pieces. Only one of the sixteen pink granite columns was original, imported all the way from Aswan in Egypt, and the other columns were meticulously reconstructed. This Tetrapylon sadly no longer highlights its key position at the bend in the Great Colonnade Street.

At the same time, the magnificently preserved stage wall of the 2,000 years old Roman Theatre has been blown up.

This latest war crime and loss for the Syrian people and humanity seems to have taken place ten days before the news was released as authorities wanted to verify the information through satellite images provided by the researchers from Boston University. Well, we have the pictures to prove it.

I fear that much of the 1200-meters-long Great Colonnade Street or Decumanus has been heavily hit by the repeated explosions. With its porticoes and sidewalks, this Decumanus was exceptionally wide and measured nothing less than 23 meters!

It is terrible to be so helpless in trying to protect and save a civilization. Khaled al-Asaad, Syria’s leading archaeologist paid for it with his life. The director general of UNESCO has summarized this situation very well “This new blow against cultural heritage … shows that cultural cleansing led by violent extremists is seeking to destroy both human lives and historical monuments in order to deprive the Syrian people of its past and its future”. (Text quoted by The Guardian).

For those who want to have an idea of what Palmyra looked like before Isis murdered the city, please visit this link or my album on Pinterest.

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