Ba’al

13 July 2010

Baal (Louvre, Paris)

After several postings on updated old webpages, I am happy to be able to announce a completely new page: Ba’al, the name or title of one of the main deities of the ancient Near East. He is of course notorious as one of the favorite targets of the Jewish prophets of the Old Testament, but gods named Ba’al are known from Syria and Phoenicia as well.

Ba’al is especially well-known from a series of tablets from Ugarit, which tell the story about his fight against the sea god, his palace, and his temporary defeat in a conflict with the god of death. The god was also venerated in Carthage, had a twin named Bel in Babylonia, is mentioned on the Mesha stela, and is known from countless personal names.

The most famous story is, of course, that about the prophet Eliah, challenging the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel. When I was preparing my article, I received a message from a friend who has been there several times, and remarked that the ancient altars, which were apparently still there, had been removed, because conservative Jews might take umbrage over those pagan objects.

The new page is here.

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Fort Zenobia

7 February 2009
The southern wall and the citadel

The southern wall and the citadel

The big wars between the Roman Empire and the Sasanian king Shapur in the mid-third century proved that Rome’s defenses on the Euphrates were insufficient. The Palmyrene rulers therefore built Fort Zenobia, named after their queen/empress, and now better known as Halebiye. It was rebuilt several times, a/o by the Byzantine emperor Justinian. This reconstruction is described in some detail by Procopius (Buildings, 2.8.8-25).

On the opposite bank is a similar fort, poorly preserved, now called Zalebiye. This gained some fame as the place of an Israeli air strike in September 2007.

A view from the citadel.

A view from the citadel.

Zenobia, which covers about twelve hectares, remains impressive: the fifteen massive towers and the praetorium are almost intact, just like Justinian’s fantastic walls. The southern wall is about 550 meters long and connects the citadel on the hill to the river; the northern wall is 350 meters long. The praetorium is adjacent to the northern wall, halfway up the hill: a multi-storeyed building with a very large hall that would have been called a knight room in more recent fortifications.

Less well preserved are the 385‑meter-long wall along the river, which had to contain the Euphrates, the bathhouse, the palaestra, the governor’s house, and the two basilicas. The East Basilica probably dates to the fifth century, the West Basilica was built by Justinian.

My new webpage is here. And it is little bit special, because it is the 3333rd page on the site.