Beshandlaya
بشندلايا

Beshandlaya (بشندلايا) is a noteworthy site for its large rock-cut Roman tomb which dates from the second century. In addition to the tomb, there are a number of Byzantine-era remains including olive presses, a large villa and other residential buildings. There does not appear to be any church in Beshandlaya (بشندلايا), but the remains are worth a quick look if visiting the other sites in Jebel al-Aala (جبل الأعلى).

The Roman tomb is currently utilized as a makeshift goat shelter by local inhabitants that live among the ruins. A detailed inscription supplied by their son indicates that Tiberius Claudius Sosandros and his wife were entombed here: “Tiberius Claudius Philocles to Tiberius Claudius Sosandros, his father, and to Claudia Kiparous, his mother; witness to his piety and remembrance; in the year 182, 27 Dystros [April 27th, 134 AD]. Sosandros, my father.”

The name has no historical associations, but the use of an Emperor’s name perhaps indicates descent from a slave freed in the reign of Tiberius Claudius. The surname Sosandros is of Greek origin, and it is possible that the family is that of a soldier who was settled in the area on release from military service. The facade is improbably elaborate, with festooned garlands barely suspended above the muddy courtyard that was the entrance to the underground tomb. If you can manage to make your way through the animals, in the dim light you can discern three burial niches but no decoration.

Perched above the descent to the hypogeium is a curious monolith column, square in shape. The Marquis de Vogüé, who visited in the mid-nineteenth century, describes on it a set of portrait figures but the carvings and inscriptions illustrated in his engraving cannot be distinguished these days.

 

Getting There: There is no regular public transportation into the region of Jebel al-Aala (جبل الأعلى), presenting a challenge for visitors. There are two main routes for getting into the area.

The most common route is via the town of Harem (حارم), to the northwest, which has regular microbus connections with Aleppo (حلب) and Idleb (إدلب)Harem (حارم) is approximately ten kilometers from Banabel (بنابل), the northernmost site in the region, and about fifteen kilometers from Qalb Lozeh (قلب لوزة), the region’s most important site. The road leading up to Jebel al-Aala (جبل الأعلى) begins about two kilometers to the east of Harem (حارم), on the road coming into town from Aleppo (حلب). From there, it should be possible to hitchhike the remaining eight kilometers south to Banabel (بنابل), but traffic is relatively light. The alternative would be to hire a private driver in Harem (حارم).

The less commonly traveled route, which is actually closer to the main site of Qalb Lozeh (قلب لوزة), is via the town of Qurqaniya (قورقنيا), to the east of Jebel al-Aala (جبل الأعلى)Qurqaniya (قورقنيا) has semi-frequent microbus connections with Aleppo (حلب) and Idleb (إدلب) and is about six kilometers southeast of Qalb Lozeh (قلب لوزة). The main road through Qurqaniya (قورقنيا) continues west, then northwest across a small valley. On the opposite end of the valley a steep road ascends to Jebel al-Aala (جبل الأعلى)Qalb Lozeh (قلب لوزة) is found to the left directly beyond this ascent. Traffic seems a bit more frequent on this route, so hitchhiking should be possible, or a private driver could be hired in Qurqaniya (قورقنيا).

Once in Jebel al-Aala (جبل الأعلى), there are approximately eight sites of interest. With an early arrival to the region, they can all be visited in a full day of exploration on foot. Qalb Lozeh (قلب لوزة) is the largest village in the area and the most well-known site, so it may be preferable to start there, especially if traveling the Qurqaniya (قورقنيا) route. If traveling from Harem (حارم), it may be preferable to start at the northernmost site of Banabel (بنابل) and continue south from there.

Beshandlaya (بشندلايا) is the southernmost site in the region, located about six kilometers southwest of Qalb Lozeh (قلب لوزة), and about two kilometers beyond the modern village of Kafr Kila (كفر كيلا). Take the sign-posted right turn about 500 meters south of Kafr Kila (كفر كيلا).

Coordinates: 36°08’37.80″N / 36°33’24.21″E

Transliteration Variants: Beshandlaye, Beshandlayeh, Beshindlaya, Beshindlaye, Beshindlayeh

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