From my diary

I’ve been looking at some of the entries for Syria in the CIMRM, the collection of all Mithraic monuments and inscriptions.  In particular the two altars at Sia have drawn my attention.  One is easy enough to deal with — I have a photo from the original publication, plus another from the web.

But the other one is hard to deal with.  It hadn’t been published when the CIMRM came out in 1955.  All that existed was a note in Syria journal in 1952 (thankfully online at Persee.fr), promising publication together with other monuments from the Hauran by a certain Mr.  Sabeh, who was an official at the Damascus Museum at the time.  It’s really pretty hard to find a publication from that!

Google searching suggests that possibly any publication was in “Annales Archéologiques de Syrie”, whatever that is, and that the person was a Joseph Sabeh.

But of course in 1956 the Suez incident took place, at which the USA attacked its own allies, Britain and France, and gave support to its enemy Nasser.  The collapse of British and French power left a vaccuum in the region which has never been filled, and caused 50 years of constant violence and tyranny, so that was a very strange policy for the US government of the time to pursue.  But it also meant the collapse of westernising initiatives in all these countries, and it may be that Mr Sabeh ended up hanging from a lamppost, as savagery returned to the region, rather than publishing anything.

It is annoying to be unable to find material of this kind.  Interestingly all the later references to these altars suggest to me that nobody else has ever seen the publication either!

Worse yet, I have found a photograph of a smashed and reassembled tauroctony, apparently held in the Damascus Museum.  There is no indication anywhere as to its origins, and I do not find it in CIMRM.

It’s all a sobering reminder that, while the web has made much information more accessible, it has largely done so within the region of Christendom, of western Europe and the US.  Outside that pale, little is available.

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