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Sanctuaries and villages on Mt Hermon during the Roman period

Abstract : From the end of the first century AD, the civic territories of Sidon, Paneas, and Damascus experienced a frenzy of religious building on their mountainous confines. Considering its unity in time and space, and the links and hierarchy between its basic elements (high places, village sanctuaries, villages, hamlets, and farmsteads), the country showed a coherent organization that must be appreciated in the broader context of the regional civic network. After the fall of the client kings, who had been involved in the religious matters of their own principalities, Hellenized cliques rose in the villages. The area went through a regional restoration of order and a local scattering of power altogether. Under Roman rule and within the civic territories, local potentates managed to assert their authority over the ordinary man while giving him the benefit of their protection and generosity. In return, the sanctuaries and their cults offered the indigenous strongmen a theatre in which they could compete for prestige. There were hints of collective action, but they always concerned the communities' holy places. Consequently, the rural sanctuary may well represent the public place around which the social relations had formed in the countryside. The development of the Hermonian village institutions unfortunately remains in the dark until the Early Byzantine period, contrary to what is known for instance in the neighbouring Hauran. The evolution from the rural settlement up to the classical city was anything but unavoidable: while Paneas had been founded as a town as early as 2 BC, Rakhla-Zenopolis and Barkousa-Justinianopolis became cities only in the fifth and sixth centuries. In Late Antiquity, even if the weight of the wealthy landowners over the mountainous communities was as important as before, the competition in which the villages were involved to achieve a civic status added to personal rivalries. At that time, the whole Lebanon had been christianized long ago, and the pagan rural sanctuary had definitely lost its role of territory marker and place of mediation.
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Contributor : Julien Aliquot <>
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Julien Aliquot. Sanctuaries and villages on Mt Hermon during the Roman period. Ted Kaizer. The variety of local religious life in the Near East in the Hellenistic and Roman periods, 164, E. J. Brill, pp.73-96, 2008, Religions in the Graeco-Roman World, 9789004167353. ⟨10.1163/ej.9789004167353.i-396.21⟩. ⟨halshs-00306502⟩



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