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SEIA (Sî) Syria.

On an escarpment 3 km SE of Qanawat (ancient Canatha), Seia had a sanctuary dedicated to the god Baalshamin, built in several stages between the 1st c. B.C. and the 2d c. A.D. The architecture and the sculptured decoration reveal local traditions increasingly marked by Roman influence.

The sanctuary had three successive enclosures running from E to W. The first two were flanked by terraces cut into the rock, higher to the S and lower to the N.

A paved road about 300 m long came from the E, passed S of the public baths and under a monumental arch, and ended 150 m farther on at the entrance to the sanctuary. A Roman gate with three bays, erected in the 2d c. A.D., opened onto the first courtyard, rectangular and paved. A stairway went up to the S terrace, where the high podium of a small temple of Classical plan still stands. The details of its construction are purely Nabataean, dating the first building period to 33 B.C-A.D. 50. In the NW corner of the courtyard a monument of the Roman period, with good sculptures, sealed off two of the five bays of a Nabataean gate. The monument dates from the beginning of the 1st c. A.D. and was remodeled later. The gate opens onto a second flagged courtyard, longer and differently oriented. At the W end of the high terrace is the well-preserved podium of a temple of Iranian plan, probably dedicated to Dushara. An inscription dates it to the 33d year of the tetrarch Philip (A.D. 29-30). Above the central intercolumniation on the facade was a semicircular frontone siriaco under a triangular pediment.

A wall with fine basalt blocks separated the second from the third courtyard, which was reached by some steps and an elaborate gate (restored molding at Princeton University). The third courtyard is a long quadrangular enclosure with the temple of Baalshamin in the middle. In front of the temple facade a colonnade lines the three sides of the courtyard; it has two steps or levels, forming a theatron, as the Nabataean dedicatory inscription calls it. The walls of the enclosure extend to right and left of the temple, leaving a narrow passage on either side which leads to a paved area in the rear.

The temple was erected in 33-32 B.C. of magnificent masonry, which still stood 2 m high some time ago. It had an unusual square plan with the diagonals oriented on the points of the compass. The porch was supported by two columns between two pavilions adorned with corner pilasters, and a continuous frieze ran along the entire facade. The upper story of each pavilion formed a tower. The intercolumniation was topped by a triangular pediment with a sculptured tympanum. Beneath the portico four pedestals with Greek or Nabataean inscriptions carried statues, one of which was of Herod the Great. The frame of the main door had a magnificent decoration of vines, and the lintel was decorated with a bust of Baalshamin (all now in the Louvre). There was a wide corridor between the outer walls and the cella, which had a single door to the SE, and four columns in the middle. These formed an impluvium or, more likely, supported a lantern.

Two reliefs of Mithra slaughtering bulls, found at Seia, are now in the Damascus museum.


M. de Vogüé, Syrie centrale, Architecture civile et religieuse (1865-77)I; H. C. Butler, PAES Pt. II, Architecture, Sec. A, Southern Syria (1916)MPI; P. Collart, “Orientation et implantation de deux grands sanctuaires syriens,” Annales archéologiques arabes syriennes 21 (1971)


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