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Last Updated on 23 Mar 2017

Author: Benedikt Eckhardt

CAPInv. 637: mrzḥ dy kmry bl


i. Geographical area The Near East and Beyond
ii. Region Syria
iii. Site Palmyra


i. Full name (original language) מרזח די כמרי בל (PAT 0265, l. 4)
ii. Full name (transliterated) mrzḥ dy kmry bl


i. Date(s) 44 BC - 273 AD


i. Name in other forms τὸ συμπόσιον ἱερέων μεγίστου θεοῦ Διὸς Βήλου, to symposion hiereon megistou theou Dios Belou (IGLS XVII.1 6)
ii. Name elements
Professional:kmry, hiereis: priests
Status-related:kmry, hiereis: priests
iii. Descriptive terms מרזחא, mrzḥ’
συμπόσιον, symposion


i. Source(s) PAT 1524 (44 BC)
PAT 0265 (AD 117)
Schmidt-Colinet 2013: 245-6 no. 3 (AD 130/31)
IGLS XVII.1 9 (AD 140/41)
IGLS XVII.1 14 (mid-2nd century AD)
IGLS XVII.1 67 (AD 262-268)
IGLS XVII.1 351 (AD 167)
IGLS XVII.1 434 (2nd half of the 2nd century AD)
IGLS XVII.1 6 (AD 193)
IGLS XVII.1 157 (AD 203)
PAT 2033
PAT 2036
PAT 2037
PAT 2038
PAT 2039
PAT 2040
PAT 2041
PAT 1128
PAT 2743 (AD 243)
PAT 1358 (AD 272)
PAT 2812 (AD 273)

!EDITOR! Please provide the date for all the sources.
Online Resources AGRW ID 9452 (PAT 0265)
Agora de Palmyre 253, Annexe 40 and AGRW ID 10319 (IGLS XVII.1 67)
i.a. Source type(s) Epigraphic source(s)
i.b. Document(s) typology & language/script Various typologies of texts (dedications, honorific inscriptions in honour of the leader of the group, tesserae etc) either written in Greek or in Aramaic.
ii. Source(s) provenance References to the priests of Bel or to their symposiarch were found in several places at Palmyra. A number of them comes from the temple of Bel, but other texts mentioned above come, e.g., from the temples of Baalshamin and of Allat.


ii. Leadership The leader of the group appears to be defined as רב מרזחא, rb mrzḥ’ in Aramaic and as ἀρχιερεύς καί συμποσιάρχης, archiereus kai symposiarches in Greek (passim in the various texts).
This was evidently the leading figure of this priestly college. A number of the sources cited above refer only to him, not to the group as such. In addition, not all of them contain the qualification "of the priests of Bel". I agree with Kaizer 2002: 230-1 (on PAT 1128, found in the temple of Allat) that we can generally assume that every rb mrzḥ’ mentioned in an inscription refers to the well-known leader of the priests of Bel. This also justifies the attribution of PAT 2036-2041 and Schmidt-Colinet 2013: 245-6 no. 13 (tesserae mentioning a rb mrzḥ’) to the priests of Bel (cf. Gawlikowski, who argues that these tesserae were issued by them). Milik 1972: 110 argues from the frequent attestation of the rb mrzḥ’/symposiarchos that he had authority over all the symposia of Palmyra. This is not necessary (at times, it may be merely a way of dating texts).


i. Comments The priests of Bel are by far the most-attested organized group at Palmyra, and they are clearly not a private association. Their leader, the rb mrzḥ’, was one of the most important people in the city. In PAT 0265, the boule honours one of them with a statue, and IGLS XVII.1 351 shows that the position could be connected with the priesthood of the emperors.
ii. Poland concordance B *451G
iii. Bibliography Gawlikowski (forthcoming), 'The marzeḥa of the priests of Bel and other drinking societies in Palmyra', in A. Cazemier and S. Skaltsa (eds.), Proceedings of the International Symposium ‘Associations in context: rethinking associations and religion in the post-classical polis’.
Kaizer, T. (2002), The Religious Life of Palmyra. A Study of the Social Patterns of Worship in the Roman Period. Stuttgart.
Milik, J.T. (1972), Dédicaces faites par des dieux (Palmyre, Hatra, Tyr) et des thiases sémitiques à l’époque romaine. Paris.
Schmidt-Colinet, A. (2013), 'Tesserae', in: Schmidt-Colinet, A., and Al-As'ad., W. (eds.), Palmyras Reichtum durch weltweiten Handel. Archäologische Untersuchungen im Bereich der hellenistischen Stadt. Band 2: Kleinfunde, Wien: 243-7.


i. Private association Discarded
Note It would be of no help to try to understand this group in the terms of private associations. Of course, worship is attested (Bel, but also other gods). Of course, there were functionaries (PAT 1358 and 2812 mention "guards" - presumably of the temple). And there were obviously activities: the tesserae seem to show that the priests (who are sometimes represented in images on them) celebrated meals, and PAT 2743 honours a rb mrzḥ’ because he provided the priests with good wine for a whole year (on debate over what is meant with "wine in skins, undiluted/unmixed", see Milik 1972: 153; Kaizer 2002: 190; Gawlikowski forthcoming). But all this is to be expected from the main priesthood of the city.