Shahba, known in Late Antiquity as Philippopolis, is an ancient city (with a modern district) located 87 km south of Damascus, but formerly in the Roman province of Arabia Petraea.
Shahba was founded by the Emperor Philip the Arab, who dedicated himself to rebuilding his small native hamlet as a proper colonia between 244 and 249 AD. The existing community was so small that the city was considered to have been built on virgin soil- possibly the only Roman city to have been built from scratch and not on an existing Arab or Hellenistic settlement. The building of the city, however, was stopped abruptly at Philip the Arab’s death in 249 AD and never finished. It was left abandoned for several centuries until the Druze reoccupied the area after emigrating from Lebanon. The town’s walls, which follow a typical Roman grid layout, are still recognisable with the four gateways leading into the city. The main cluster of ruins lies near the centre of the square city and include a forum, a palace, a temple, a medium size theatre, triumphal arch, baths, and a kalybe. This kalybe, an open-air place of worship, is a 30 metre niche as part of the façade of the palace, and it is thought that Philip might have sat here on his throne. The on-site museum, an original villa, houses some of the most beautiful classic mosaics in the world. Tragically, the area has been a site of conflict in recent years. On October 2014, the Shahba Mall, located in the modern part of the city and one of the largest commercial shopping centres in Syria, was bombed in an airstrike.