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BOOKS: Extract by Freya Stark on Syria

In its urban life, Syria was probably the most civilised of the Roman provinces.
There were schools everywhere and Syrian doctors were invited by Shapur to his medical school in Susiana.  The great jurists, Ulpian and Papinian, were Syrians, and the law-school of Berytus (Beirut) drew scholars from all over the East.  Antioch was renowned for philosophy and poetry, Emesa, Damascus and Chalcis for rhetoric, Apamea and Laodiceia (Latakia) for medicine, Palmyra for art, Sidon for astronomy; the list could be enriched and prolonged.  The best workers in bronze were in Sidon; a guild of gold-and silversmiths in Palmyra; and Diocletian's armament factories in Antioch even in Caesar's day, and Ascalon and Gaza wines continued to reach Gaul under the Merovingians: the international span of Syrian commerce was very long indeed.
The spread of philosophy too was largely Syrian at this time. The greatness of Plotinus (A.D. 205-262) was preceded by the Posidonius of Apamea, and followed by Porphyry of Tyre and Iamblichus of Chalcis; and after Origen---an Alexandrian settled in Acre---and the Greek fathers, and the School of Cappadocia, Syrian theology reached the farthest west with a Syrian first archbishop of Canterbury, and produced a series of Syrian popes for Rome.

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