07 June 2008

More Roman Ruins

On my third attempt, I finally got to the National Museum in Damascus when it was open. More Roman antiquities, and Byzantine, and Bronze Age...it's overwhelming.

The museum is chock-full of sculptures, friezes, mosaics, manuscripts, textiles, tombs, etc. My favorite piece was a curved bas relief, apparently once part of a massive column, that depicted the Roman Emperor Trajan speaking to his troops. There were over 30 separate human figures in the piece, and each wholly distinct, with its own facial expression. Unusually, several figures in the foreground were depicted from behind, bringing the viewer into the image as yet another listener standing behind them. One figure had his eyes away from the emporer, trying to calm his horse. The quality of the work, the sculptor's skill, is incredible.

The tapestries room has some silk pieces that were imported to Syria from China in the 3rd century--and we talk about globablization as though it's something new in human history.

A security guard took me to a couple of locked rooms, one a synagogue discovered in the 1920s and transported to Damascus, and the other a tomb, with the most incredible sculptures, that had also been brought from somewhere else. When you go, be sure they open up the synagogue and tomb for you, they seem happy to do it, and you won't regret asking.

Outside, in a sort of plaza with a winding path, are hundreds of stone tombs, statues, large vessels, mosaics, and capitals of Corinthian columns--hundreds! I'm sure I was walking around with my mouth wide open, and several times I just burst out with, "My god!" because it was all so unbelievable. Dumbfounded. Just absolutely dumbfounded.

And to think I began the day upset because my plan to go to Bosra didn't work out.

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