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Rusafa  

Thilo Ulbert

[al-Ruṣāfa; Assyrian Rasappa; Bibl. Rezeph; Gr. Rhesafa; Lat. Risafa, Rosafa; Byz. Sergiopolis; Arab. Ruṣāfat Hišham; Resafa]

Site of an ancient city in northern Syria c. 200 km east of Aleppo and 30 km south of the River Euphrates, with both Byzantine and Islamic remains. Although it was known from earlier travellers’ reports, full descriptions of the monuments were not published until the early 20th century. Excavations were undertaken by the Deutsches Archäologisches Institut from 1952, directed first by Kollwitz and from 1976 by Ulbert.

Although the city is attested in both Assyrian and biblical sources (2 Kings 19:12; Isaiah 37:12), the earliest known architectural information is from the 3rd century ad, when Diocletian (reg 283–305) established it as a frontier fortress. Around ad 300 a high-ranking officer in the eastern Roman army, Sergius, was executed there. The martyr’s remains were originally buried outside the walls and became the focus of a cult. From the late 5th century onwards Rusafa was one of the most important pilgrimage centres in the eastern Mediterranean and was already an episcopal see. By the late ...