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ISIS Destroys Ancient Syrian Temple

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

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One of the most significant First Century religious structures is no longer standing due to bombing in Palmyra, Syria.

The main building of the Temple of Bel was destroyed when an ISIS bombing damaged the 2,200-year-old temple on Sunday (Aug. 30), according to the Associated Press.

Although members of the United Nations could not physically reach the site, a satellite analysis known as UNOSAT confirmed the building was destroyed.

By Bernard Gagnon / CC BY-SA 3.0 Wikimedia Commons

The Temple of Bel was one of the most important religious buildings in the First Century, and was in a major Roman Empire trading market. It was destroyed Sunday (Aug. 30) by ISIS militants.

Maamoun Abdul Karim, the head of the Syrian Department of Antiquities and Museums, also confirmed the destruction.

“This is the most devastating act yet, in my opinion," said Amr Al-Azm, a professor of history and anthropology at Shawnee State University in Ohio.

“It truly demonstrates ISIS’ ability to act with impunity and the impotence of the international community to stop them,” he said.

History of the Temple

The Temple of Bel was built about 32 A.D. and demonstrates the merger of Near Eastern and Greco-Roman architecture, the AP reported.

It had been situated in an important market during the Roman Empire, with access to India, China and Persia. Some of its location explains its style, reports said.

The Temple of Bel is dedicated to the Semitic god Bel and is considered one of the most important religious buildings of the early days of Anno Domini.

According to several sources, the structure pre-dates Christianity and the death of Jesus Christ.

More Damage to Come?

Satellite images show extensive damage to the monument, reports relate.

“Unfortunately, the images we acquired do show that the main building of the temple has been destroyed,” said Einar Bjorgo, UNOSTAT manager, in a recent interview with the BBC.

Residents who live near the temple said that the extremist group destroyed large parts of the temple and “booby trapped” the rest of it.

The residents also told the AP that they are concerned the group plans to destroy the remaining ruins soon.

Initial Reports

Before UN officials confirmed the destruction, the head of the Antiquities and Museums Department in Damascus said despite attacks over the weekend the structure was only partially destroyed, according to the BBC.

“I feel very sad and I am very pessimistic... for the future of Palmyra,” he told BBC via a radio broadcast. “I am sure we will have more bad images [in the future] because these people... are ignorant, they are very criminal."

"They don't respect any image, any identity of the people,” Abdul Karim said.

The Temple of Bel was not ISIS’s first hit on a religious structure. The group posted pictures of the destruction of the smaller Temple of Baalshamin just last week. That temple also was in the same complex in Palmyra, an UNESCO World Heritage Site.


Tagged categories: Architectural history; Architecture; Building Envelope; Government; Historic Structures; Middle East

Comment from Deborah Roos, (9/2/2015, 10:17 AM)

So very sad. The UN needs to come together and stop them!!

Comment from Gail Alario, (9/2/2015, 11:59 AM)

Why all the countries do not band together to stop them in their tracks is simply beyond me! They need to be stopped now by what ever means and methods it takes to do so!

Comment from peter gibson, (9/2/2015, 12:47 PM)

This is the final straw. Only America can take the lead on this. But that........ in the WH is playing golf while this sinful destruction takes place. To hell with the UN.

Comment from M. Halliwell, (9/3/2015, 11:04 AM)

While I agree that ISIS / ISIL is a blight on humanity and they are doing untold damage to the cultural treasures of the planet and humanity, I don't see them being stopped anytime soon. The US cannot act alone...they have done too many unilateral actions which have blown up in their face and they have no credibility internationally anymore. Trying to get the UN to take action is like herding cats who hate each other...I have very little hope there. If, by some miracle, there is motivation to take ISIS on, part of the difficulty will be finding them....they are not a uniformed army and they can disappear into the general populace in the areas they fight in. It's not a very good situation right now and I don't see it changing anytime soon.

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