Heliopolitan Capitolia: From Greek Games to Christian Pilgrimage
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This article offers a comprehensive study of the Capitoline games celebrated at Heliopolis in Roman Syria. As a prelude, documents referring to competitions held at Alexandria and Berytus shall be removed from relevant sources dealing with this contest. Coins and late antique accounts suggest that Heliopolis had its own games only after Septimius Severus separated it from Berytus to make it an independent colony. The Heliopolitan Capitolia were modelled on the Roman Capitolia, and linked to local cults, particularly to the triad composed of Jupiter, Venus, and Mercury. In spite of its ecumenical status, the festival does not seem to have had great success, but it had a role in inter-city rivalries as well as in the making of a site of Christian pilgrimage near Heliopolis. The games, which had once been a strong factor of political and religious integration of the Severan colony in the Roman world, eventually contributed to shape the enduring image of the city as a haven of diehard pagans in Late Antiquity.