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SELAEMA (Slem, es-Soulem, or Soueilim) Syria.

Site in the NW Hauran, N of Athil, which belonged first to the Nabataean kingdom, then to the Roman province of Syria, and finally, from the end of the 2d c. A.D. on, to the Roman province of Arabia.

The modern village has ruins of many ancient buildings (some still used as dwellings), as well as many Greek inscriptions. The most important monument, to the NE, is a temple unprecedented in character. Although it is in ruins, an almost certain reconstruction has been possible.

The massive cella, open to the E, was more than 18 m long. Its walls were flanked on the outside by rectangular pilasters which served as buttresses. The cella was built on a high podium, very well preserved and decorated with a molding at its base. The stairways, more than 5 m wide, were built within the podium itself, under a porch formed by two columns set on high pedestals between two narrow projecting wings (like thick antae), reinforced by corner pilasters. The S wing still stands 3 m high. It contained a very small chamber with a stone ceiling and a stairway to the upper parts of the building. The same arrangement must have existed in the N wing. The NE corner, over 12 m of which is intact, had an extraordinary entablature. Columns and pilasters with composite capitals carried an architrave adorned with sculptured maeanders, roses, masks, and kanthari. This is topped by a frieze with garlands and bucrania and a pediment adorned with palmettes and underlined by a Greek key pattern. On the sides, above each corner pilaster, the cornice carried a small triangular pediment, whose pitched roof reached the roof of the cella. Two giant Corinthian capitals, one on each side, emerged from the roof at the corners of the facade; they probably served as bases for statues or equestrian groups. No similar arrangement has been found elsewhere in Syria. Acroteria shaped like large palmettes adorned the tops of the pediments and the corners of the cornice.

The inside of the cella is divided longitudinally by an arch supported on each side by a square pilaster jutting out from the side wall. At the W end of the cella is a small chamber flanked by two rectangular cubicles. Four small columns in front of these three niches probably supported a sort of canopy.

The sculptured decoration of the entrance to the cella was delicate and vigorous, testifying, like the unusual plan and architectural features, to an art released from traditional influences and formulas and thus difficult to date.


H. C. Butler, PAES Pt. II, Architecture, Sec. A, Southern Syria (1916)PI; R. Amy, “Temples à escaliers,” Syria 27 (1950).


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