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Manbij or Hierapolis Bambyce (Arabic: منبج‎, is an ancient city in the Aleppo Governorate, Syria.



In 1879, after the Russo-Turkish War, a colony of Circassians from Vidin (Widdin) was planted in the ruins, and the result has been the constant discovery of antiquities, which find their way into the bazaars of Aleppo ( in modern Syria) and Aintab (now Gaziantep, in modern Turkey).

The place first appears in Greek as Bambyce, but Pliny (v. 23) tells us its Syrian name was Mabog (also Mabbog, Mabbogh). It was doubtless an ancient Commagenian sanctuary; but history records it first under the Seleucids, who made it the chief station on their main road between Antioch and Seleucia on the Tigris; and as a centre of the worship of the Syrian Nature Goddess, Atargatis, it became known to the Greeks as the city of the sanctuary Ἱερόπολις (Hieropolis), and finally as the Holy City Ἱεράπολις (Hierapolis).

The temple was sacked by Crassus on his way to meet the Parthians (53 BC).

De Dea Syria

This worship was immortalized in the tract De Dea Syria which has traditionally been attributed to Lucian of Samosata, a native of Commagene, who gave a full description of the religious cult of the shrine and the tank of sacred fish of Atargatis, of which Aelian also relates marvels. According to the De Dea Syria, the worship was of a phallic character, votaries offering little male figures of wood and bronze. There were also huge phalli set up like obelisks before the temple, which were ceremoniously climbed once a year and decorated.

The temple contained a holy chamber into which only priests were allowed to enter. A great bronze altar stood in front, set about with statues, and in the forecourt lived numerous sacred animals and birds (but not swine) used for sacrifice.

Some three hundred priests served the shrine and there were numerous minor ministrants. The lake was the centre of sacred festivities and it was customary for votaries to swim out and decorate an altar standing in the middle of the water. Self-mutilation and other orgies went on in the temple precinct, and there was an elaborate ritual on entering the city and first visiting the shrine. The Shawaya now dominates the area.

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