Adjacent to the Kalybé on the north side are the remains of a Roman palace. It might have been the centre of the Roman government of the city or even the rulers residence. The ruins of the palace were incorporated into a residence constructed during the Ottoman period.
One of the most prominent remains of Philippopolis, this stage-like structure is believed to be a Kalybé. Such a structure, found in many of the Roman cities of this region, is of Semitic/Nabataean origin and resembles a nymphaeum. In fact, the two types of structures are so similar that the earliest archaeologists mistakenly identified the Kalybé of Philippopolis as a nymphaeum. However, the lack of a water near it or transported to it was a clear indication that it was built as a Kalybé. Some historians believe that a Kalybé replicated the monumental façades of Nabataean tombs and was used to stage religious rituals in much the same way as they were in Petra. The façade of a kalybé thus contained statues of deities and was almost always facing a square to allow for an audience. In Shahba, it is facing the Philippeion Square, which is sometimes referred to as the Roman Forum.
Three and a half of the six original Corinthian columns of this temple are still standing along the Decumanus Maximus of Philippopolis (Shahba). In the modern era, these columns are now in the front porch of a house (how lucky the owners are!) but they once preceded a Roman temple. Although it was named by archaeologists as the Hexastyle Temple (hexastyle = six columns), some archaeologists believe it was another form of a Kalybé, a type of open Nabataean temple, similar to the larger structure in the Forum/Philippeion Square down the street.
The modern town of Shahba was built around Tell Shihan. It is an extinct volcano that dominates the town. Otherwise, Shahba is a sleepy provincial town that stretches around the old city of Philippopolis on the north-western slopes of Jebel Druze (or Jebel al-Arab) of the Hauran region. See the attached photos.
Designed in the Imperial Roman style, the Baths of Philippopolis were of impressive proportions. Although much has perished, the remaining walls and high arches demonstrate the original scale of the baths, which contained the same three halls seen in baths in Rome: frigidarium, tepidarium, and caldarium. They were clearly intended for a city larger than Philippopolis ever became, a city whose completion was abandoned upon the death of its founder, Emperor Philip the Arab. Exquisite mosaics covered the floors of the baths, but they were all transferred to the museum of nearby Suweida where they are currently display. Just outside the Roman Baths stand the remains of the aqueduct which once brought water right into the baths.
When the Roman Emperor, Philip the Arab, decided to transform his birthplace hamlet into a grand colonia Romana named Philippopolis, he designed the new city under a Hippodamian grid plan. It contained a cardo maximus and a decumanus maximus, the north-south and east-west axes, respectively. Eighteen centuries later, these two streets continue to be main thoroughfares in the modern town of Shahba, with some of the original paving still in place! The decumanus maximus leads from the Philippeion Square (or Forum) eastwards to an intersection with the cardo maximus marked by a tetrapylon. Although long gone, this monumental tetrapylon is marked by a roundabout.
When Shahba was repopulated by the Druze tribes fleeing Lebanon in the 19th century, they reconstructed the town using existing stones from the ruins of Philippopolis. Much of this Ottoman-period architecture is still extant and is recognisable by the black basalt stones and recycled Roman materials.
Sometimes referred to as the Philippeion, this rectangular temple was erected by Emperor Philip the Arab in honour of his deified father Julius Marinus. In additional to being a temple, it was intended as a burial place for the family of the Emperor, but it is unclear whether or not any of them was actually laid to rest here. The Temple is situated on the south side of the Forum and has survived amazingly well. Its sparse decorations include ionic column capitals at the corners and some rosettes flanking the Greek inscription plaque above the entrance. The brackets on the façade and the niches in its interior must have once contained statues, but none has survived. It is possible to climb to the roof of the temple for great views over Shahba.
Built over the ruins of a Roman villa, the Museum of Shahba (le Musée de Chahba) contains a small but exquisite collection of mosaics found in situ. It is one of the highlights of the visit to Shahba, but only takes a few minutes to see. Note that the museum is closed on Tuesdays, which happened to be the day I visited! Luckily, the caretaker was nice enough to allow us in nonetheless, and we of course matched his generosity with a baksheesh. The museum is located near the Roman Baths.
Roughly square in shape, Philippopolis was surrounded by a defensive wall. Each side measured around 900 metres in length and was pierced by four gates, one on each side. Parts of the wall are still visible to this day, along with the northern and southern gates. The attached photos are of the southern gate of the city.
Located south of the Philippeion Square (Forum), the Theatre of Philippopolis was the last constructed in Syria. With a diameter of 40 metres, it is quite small, but has survived rather well over the centuries.
Between the upright columns of the Hexastyle Temple is a pillar with a Latin inscription and a sculpture, possibly of a Semitic deity. It is likely that the pillar was placed here from elsewhere around Shahba, rather than belonging to the Hexastyle Temple. I was unable to find any information about it, so if you know anything, please drop me a line.
The sole remnant of the aqueduct of Philippopolis is this shapeless tower. It is located on the other side of the modern street, across from the entrance into the Roman Baths. It once brought water from the nearby hills into the city and particularly into the baths.
You shouldn't have high anxiety when you walk down the steep steps of the famous Roman amphitheatre, one of the best preserved in the Middle East.The steps are quite steep and fallling down would cause you a lot of harm.
Could you be believe we were there all by ourselves in this wonderful place? Well, I couldn't. How come not more people come to visit this wonderful site?
I don't know but on the other hand I'm glad to have been there all alone.