Syria/Turkey (1,709 m) – Sacred Pagan Site
Mount Aqraa on the Mediterranean coast was an incredibly important site in ancient times. Standing at one of the primary terminus points of the Silk Road, it was a landmark for both caravans and maritime travelers. But it was most famous a religious center, and was the site of many temples and shrines from the time of the Canaanites to the Romans, and later Christians.
Before the arrival of the Israelites, Aqraa was the center of worship of the Canaanite deity Baal. A shrine to Baal stood on the peak since antiquity, and was later adopted by conquering Hittites, Persians and Greeks. Under the Greeks and Romans the mountain was reconsecrated to Zeus, and the temple on its peak became an important site of pilgrimage until the arrival of Christianity. The last pagan emperor to worship at Aqraa was Justin in 363 AD. The famous ascethic Simeon the Stylite made the mountain his home in the 6th century. The mountain’s religious importance waned with the arrival of Islam in the 7th century.
Mount Aqraa towers over the Mediterranean Sea where Syria meets Turkey. Although the peak is on the Turkish side, the closest town is Kasab in Syria two miles away. Due to the ongoing conflict in Syria, the area around the mountain is packed with refugees and is a critical station for relief supplies. Because of this archaeological research at the mountain’s peak is currently suspended. Although hiking to the peak is a popular pastime, the area is difficult if not dangerous to visit at the present time.
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