Dura Europos (now Tel al-Salhiyeh) is located near the village of Salhiye, roughly 90m above the Euphrates river, in modern day Syria. The city was placed on the ‘tentative’ UNESCO World Heritage List in 2011.
Dura was founded in 303 BCE by the Seleucids. The city was rebuilt on the Hippodamian model (rectangular blocks and cross streets) in the 2nd century BCE. Lying on important east-west trade routes, as well as overseeing trade on the Euphrates, the city became powerful and wealthy. Archaeological evidence shows that it was not only a trading city, but a manufacturing centre as well. Dura-Europos also established close ties with Palmyra.
The city fell to the Parthians in 113 BCE but retained considerable autonomy. Eventually coming under Roman control, the city served the Romans as a fortified defense against the Persian empire. The Romans gave the city it’s name of Dura Europos.
The city fell during a siege by the Sassanids in 256 CE, but the site of Dura Europos remained relatively well preserved. Some astonishing archaeological finds have come from the site, including evidence of the use of poisonous gas in warfare during the Roman – Persian conflict. The site also contained incredibly well-preserved armour and weaponry from the final Roman outpost before the Sassanid siege. The fall of the city was so sudden and so complete that many of the materials in the city were left in situ, creating a Pompeii like effect in which archaeologists have been afforded a view of everyday life in Dura Europos at the time of the siege.
After being subjected to intense looting during the Syrian Civil War, the site of Dura Europos was demolished by ISIS.