- This article is about the country "Syria" and the Assyrian people. For a list of Syrrian/Assyrian characters, see Syrians (category list).
The area of the modern country of Syria takes its name from the ancient empire of Assyria, which at its height in the eighth century B.C. dominated Asia Minor, Mesopotamia, and conquered Egypt. The homeland of the Assyrians, though, lies in modern northwestern Iraq. Most of the area of modern Syria was occupied at the time of the Third Servile War by the Aramaean peoples, Semitic tribes who maintained kingdoms which had paid tribute first to the Assyrians, then the Persians, and then the Greco-Macedonian empires of the Antigonids, the descendants of Alexander's general Antigonus, and the empire of the Seleucids, descendants of Alexander's general Seleucus. The Greeks and Romans tended to refer both to the Aramaeans and the Assyrians indifferently as "Syrians" in view of Assyria's historical dominance of the region.
The Seleucid Empire which ruled Syria at the time of the Third Servile War had originally been centered on the heartland of the Persian Empire, but was steadily diminished by the resurgence of Persian culture in the third and second centuries B.C. The Parthian Empire gradually reconquered the eastern Seleucid Empire, severing the Seleucid Empire's trade connections with the Far East. The Seleucid Empire consistently attempted to dominate Asia Minor, but was finally militarily defeated by the Romans after the Seleucid's attempt to capitalise on the defeat of Macedon after the Second Punic War. Rome forced the Seleucids out of Asia Minor, and began regularly meddling in Seleucid politics and royal succession. By the time of the Third Servile War, the Seleucid Empire consisted of Syria and what parts of Mesopotamia the Seleucids could hold against regular Parthian attack, an area roughly equal to the old Assyrian Empire. In 63 BCE, ten years after the beginning of the Third Servile War, Seleucid Syria, in the reign of King Antiochus XIII, would be conquered by the legions of the Imperator Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus. A certain Philip II Philoromaeus (friend of the Romans) was briefly the king of Syria, but he was shortly deposed, and the country would officially become a Roman province. Antioch, the former Seleucid capital, would also be favored as the capital under Roman rule, though it was given the status of a Civitas Libera (free city).
In Hellenistic and classical times, the land today known as Syria remained a locus of commerce and civilization. Syria retained its own language and culture, although it was no longer a center of great power by the time of the Third Servile War. Like the rest of the Hellenic states of the eastern Mediterranean ruled by the successors of Alexander, the ruling class identified with its Greco-Macedonian ancestors and the Greco-Macedonian culture, but the general population largely retained the culture and language of the area existing before Alexander the Great. Syrian culture at the time of the Third Servile War was therefore a mixture of old Aramaean and Assyrian customs mixed with the Greek culture of the ruling and merchant classes.
In The ShowEdit
In Spartacus, the Syrians have a reputation for being clever and involved in commerce, but also devious and untrustworthy. However, Syrian characters (such as Ashur and Nasir) often demonstrate great loyalty to their masters.
Despite the fact that the show frequently refers to several characters (such as Ashur and Dagan) as "Syrian", they can also be collectively referred to as "Assyrian". There is some controversy, even among modern peoples, whether "Syrian" or "Assyrian" is more accurate. The modern state of Syria has little in common with the Imperial province of Siria, that had in turn little in common with the Neo-Assyrian Empire. On another note, the word "Syria" is the Greek 1word for the Latin Word "Assyria".
Syrian characters on the show speak Aramaic, one of the languages of the Assyrian Empire. The Neo-Assyrian empire was bilingual, speaking both Akkadian -the ancient language inherited from the Akkadian Empire- and Aramaic.
- "Ashur" is an ancient Assyrian/Babylonian name, from the Assyrian Chief God; Ashur.
- Western civilization inherited its culture from the Greeks, who did not have the "sh" sound in their vocabulary. Greeks hence called the people of Ashur (Assyria in Greek) "Assyrians".
- The Assyrians were one of the most powerful nations in history; developing a great empire with a brutally efficient army and a centralized administration.
- The Assyrian Empire fell between 608-605 BC destroyed by a coalition of Babylonians and Medes. Its place was inherited by the Neo-Babylonian Empire and the Median state, both of which fell within a century to the Persians.
- A number of Roman emperors in the Principate/Imperial era were Syrians, such as, Caracalla (198-217 CE) on the maternal side of his family, Elagabalus (218-22 CE), Philip the Arab (244-49 CE), Alexander Severus (222-35 CE),
- During the time of the Roman Empire, Syrians had gained Roman citizenship and had settled in far-flung regions of the empire, including Britain, either as soldiers serving garrison duty on Hadrian's Wall or as merchants. One such individual was known as Barathes of Palmyra, a seller of flags according to his tombstone, who settled in what is now Corbridge in Northumberland, northern England, where his grave was found. He was for a time married to a British woman named Regina, a former slave of his who then married him before her death.