The Role of Palmyrene Temples in Long-Distance Trade in the Roman Near East

John Grout

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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This thesis is a study of the archaeology, epigraphy and historiography of Palmyrene temples and long-distance trade in early Roman Syria, Jordan, Lebanon and western Iraq. Forty-two temples are examined, both Palmyrene and comparanda, in both urban and rural settings.

New models are proposed which characterise the roles which these temples are shown to have played in long-distance trade. These models include: ‘networking’ temples acting as foci for the network of trust upon which long-distance trade relied; ‘hosting’ temples acting as foci of trade itself, hosting fairs and exhibiting wealth from long-distance trade; and ‘supporting’ temples directly supporting trade via infrastructure such as waystations or caravanserais. New insight is thus provided into the role of temple institutions in the broader economy, in urban and rural life, and in the fabric of society as a whole.

In the first part, fundamentals are established, terms defined and academic and historical background set, including the historiographical context of the thesis. The new models for the role of temples in long-distance trade are proposed in light of the evidence examined. A case study is made of Hatra as a comparandum to Palmyra, particularly with regard to the dominance of its temples.

In the second part, the nature of long-distance trade in the Roman Near East is explored. The archaeology, epigraphy, literature and practicalities of ancient long-distance trade are examined, and a case study is made of Petra as a comparandum to Palmyra, particularly with regard to the incense trade which was crucial for ancient religion.

In the third part, the temples of Palmyra and of Palmyrenes elsewhere, are examined, including in Dura-Europos and the Red Sea littoral. The evidence is interrogated in detail and in the context of previous research, and candidates for temples involved in or related to long-distance trade are identified.
In the conclusion, the thesis is considered in the round, the consequences of the proposed models are explored, and areas for further research are identified.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Royal Holloway, University of London
  • Alston, Richard, Supervisor
Award date1 Dec 2016
Publication statusUnpublished - 16 Nov 2016


  • Trade
  • Commerce
  • Syria
  • Networks
  • Aramaic
  • caravans
  • Religion
  • Roman Syria
  • Palmyra
  • Temples
  • Hellenistic period
  • Roman Empire
  • Silk Road
  • Spice Route
  • Incense Road
  • Nabataea
  • Petra
  • camels

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