ISIS Destroys Ancient Syrian Temple


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.

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

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