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Philipapolis, Syria

In Jabal Al-Arab region 87 km south of Damascus, Philipapolis stands in an oasis of orchards and vineyards. Renowned as the birthplace of the Arab Emperor Phillip, who ruled the Roman Empire between 244 and 249 AD to honor him, the city bore the name Phillipopolis during the Roman period.

He took a personal interest in the city, planned it after the Roman style, built numerous palaces and temples in it, erected triumphal arches and public baths, a theater and a great wall surrounding it. He is said to have wanted to turn Philipapolis into a replica of Rome itself.

Remains of the city temple (Philipon), some public baths, parts of the old wall and its four gates, as well as the two intersecting thoroughfares and the Roman Canal can still be seen in the town.

Visitors to the Shahba museum can see the immense mosaic panels representing ancient Greek myths found in the remains of a private house and date from the Constantinian renaissance of the second quarter of the 4th century, such as:

Orpheus Surrounded by Animals Mosaic, Shahba Museum

Orpheus "the legendary poet and musician" surrounded by animals (3.1 x 3.1 m) second quarter of 4th century - Orpheus, dressed in a Phrygian cap and oriental attire, is sitting on a rock, playing the lyre. He is surrounded by animals entranced by his music. The importance of the mosaic is described by Balty: a major resource in the history of pagan religiosity of the first decades of the 4th century, this mosaic, at the level of art history, impresses as one of the most powerful and sensitive in the whole history of late Roman mosaic work.

The Wedding of Ariadne and Bacchus (3.14 x 3.14 m) second quarter of 4th century - Bacchus and Ariadne are seated on a rock (both provided with halos) in a scene typical of the "love conversation" tradition.

Aphrodite and Ares (3.04 x 3.04 m) second quarter of 4th century - the scene is from the Odyssey VIII. 266-270. Aphrodite and Ares in their love tryst before Hephaistos takes his revenge, ridiculing them before the gods of Olympos. Aphrodite, barely covered but richly bejewelled, stands opposite Ares attended by a rather severe-looking woman, labelled as Charis. Cupids divest Ares of his arms and armour and dispute possession. Balty sees this depiction (particularly the presence of Charis and two other women attendants) as a more prudish interpretation of the "erotic-idyllic" theme of adultery.

Tethys (Goddess of the Sea) Mosaic, Shahba Museum

Tethys "Goddess of the Sea" (2.66 x 2.65 m) second quarter of 4th century - The Goddess bears in her thick tresses various manifestations of sea life. A favourite theme of Antiochan artists, the Goddess is often depicted as the consort of Oceanos. Not a major deity, she was used as a vehicle for depicting the rich variety of fish life of the region. This mosaic work is of unaccustomed vigour and richness.

The God of Wine and Fertility Dionysus.

The Three Graces - the Goddesses Aglaia, Euphrosyne, and Thalia, givers of charm and beauty.

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