The Lady of Palmyra and her alter ego
Palmyra (or, Tadmur) , an oasis city in the Syrian desert that flourished due to the caravan trade extended from the coastline of Syria up to Yemen during the first three centuries A. D., was situated in the borderlands between the Roman Empire and the Parthian kingdom. Palmyra had several temples belonging to Bēl, Nabū, Bʿelšmēn (‘Lord of Heaven’), ʾAllāt, etc., and its pantheon had numerous gods or tutelary deities. In and around the temples a wide number of Aramaic texts –tesserae, dedicatory inscriptions, etc. – have been found – as well as many other texts in both Aramaic and Greek, or simply in Greek, or in Latin. The great god of the world is bl /Bēl/ represented in tesserae by a celestial globe. The lady of Palmyra is Bēltī (‘my lady’) consort of the lord Bēl . The third of the divine triad of Palmyra is called, in tesserae, tmwzʾ /Tammuzā/. He is portrayed as the dead god lying on a bed, wrapped in a shroud, and the goddess Bēltī mourns for him while wearing her hair dishevelled and clasping her breasts with her hands.
The Lady of Dura Europos and her alter ego
Dūrā, an ancient city located on the cliffs above the Euphrates, was captured by a certain Seleucid general, Nicanor, who made it a military settlement and gave it the Macedonian name Europos. It is also known as Dura-Europos. The city and its surroundings enjoyed prosperity during the Aškānian period –the Perso-Aryan control at the city was towards the end of the second century B.C. until the late first century A.D. Then it was occupied by Romans who made it a Roman garrison until the rise of the Sasanians and the second campaign of Šābuhr. The Aškānian period is characterised by the construction of a number of temples, the temples of Artemis, Zeus Megistos, Azzanathkona, Zeus Kyrios, Atargatis, Bēl, Zeus Theos, Mithras, etc.
The Lady of Ḥaṭrā and her alter-ego
Nanay of Ḥaṭrā
The divine triad of Ḥaṭrā, like that of Assur, consists of Māran ‘our lord’, Mārtan ‘our lady’, and Bar Mārēn ‘the son of our lord and lady’. The divine lord of Ḥaṭrā is called Šmeš ‘sun’. We find the legend “Ḥaṭrā da-Šmeš” and the image of the sun-god in some coins of this fortified settlement which became a small kingdom in the Parthian period. The Fortune (gaddā) in the shape of an eagle (nešrā) is possessed by the lord and, in some texts (H 79, H 88, H 155, and H 232) the lord is labelled “the eagle”: Māran Nešrā. These two aspects of the lord, Fortune (/ eagle) and Sun, are mentioned in the text H 74: Māran w-gaddeh wa-Šmeš. A Latin text from Ḥaṭrā describes the dedication of a statue by a Roman military tribune to Deo Soli Invicto ‘the god, the unconquered sun’, the (great) god of the religion of the city.
Texts from Ḥaṭrā
(Aramaic, Greek, and Latin)
The Lady of Assur and her alter-ego
In the old site of Assur aside from Assyrian remains, we find the ruins of a city from the Parthian period, situated on the western bank of the river Tigris, north of the confluence with the tributary Little Zāb river. The inscriptions and graffiti in Aramaic script and language from Assur come from the Assur-Serū temple built as a tripartite palace (OPers. apadāna), in this Parthian satrapy, on top of the Assyrian Aššur temple. They enable us to identify several deities of the pantheon of the kingdom.
From the Discourse of Meliton of Sardis
A Syriac text of the apologist Melito of Sardis exists in the manuscript Add. 14658 (London BL), f. 176-f. 181. It professes to be an apology for Christianity addressed to Marcus Aurelius Antoninus (161-180) about A.D. 170. It bears the title of
« The Discourse of Meliton the Philosopher »,
which was in the presence of Antoninus Cæsar
Here is the text and (Persian and English) translation of a fragment of this work concerning the origin of Polytheism and idolatry – «I will write and show how and for what reasons images were made to kings and tyrants, and they came to be regarded as gods. »
The Story of Me˓īn of Šiggar
آزند ِ معين
The story of Me˓īn is a good piece of propaganda for converting to Christianity the people of Mesopotamia.
The topics of the story are: Me˓īn, the general of the Persian Army; Benjamin, the messenger, who goes to Šiggar to convert Me˓īn; Me˓īn’s conversion and baptism, Christianism and the eulogy of death; Me˓īn, described as being previously a chief Magian; the pantheon of the Magi ; the missionary work of Me˓īn “the healer”; the Persecution of the pagans ; the festival of Nabû.