Coele Syria (Roman province)


Coele Syria (Greek: Κοίλη Συρία, Koílē Syría) was a Roman province which Septimius Severus created with Syria Phoenice in 198 by dividing the province of Syria.[1] Its metropolis was Antioch.

Provincia Coele Syria
Province of the Roman Empire
198–end of 4th century
Roman Empire with provinces in 210 AD.png
Roman Empire with provinces in 210 AD
• Established
• Disestablished
end of 4th century
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Syria (Roman province)
Syria Prima
Syria Secunda
Today part of


As related by Theodor Mommsen,

The governor of Syria retained the civil administration of the whole large province undiminished, and held for long alone in all Asia a command of the first rank. [...] It was only in the course of the second century that a diminution of his prerogatives occurred, when Hadrian took one of the four legions from the governor of Syria and handed it over to the governor of Palestine. It was Severus who at length withdrew the first place in the Roman military hierarchy from the Syrian governor. After having subdued the province—which had wished at that time to make Niger emperor, as it had formerly done with its governor Vespasian—amidst resistance from the capital Antioch in particular, he ordained its partition into a northern and a southern half, and gave to the governor of the former, which was called Coele-Syria, two legions, to the governor of the latter, the province of Syro-Phoenicia, one [legion].[2]

Coele Syria was further divided into Syria Prima and Syria Secunda around the end of the fourth century.[3]

It is widely accepted that the term Coele is a transcription of Aramaic kul, meaning "all, the entire", such that the term originally identified all of Syria.[4][5][6] The word "Coele", which literally means "hollow" in Koine Greek, is thought to have come about via a folk etymology referring to the "hollow" Beqaa Valley between Mount Lebanon and the Anti-Lebanon mountains.[6]


  1. ^ Essai sur la vie et le règne de Septime Sévère, p. 245.
  2. ^ Mommsen 1886, pp. 117–118.
  3. ^ Gatier, p. 94.
  4. ^ "La Syrie creuse n'existe pas", in G. L. Gatier, et al. Géographie historique au proche-orient (1988:15-40), reviving the explanation offered by A. Schalit (1954), is reported by Robin Lane Fox, Travelling Heroes in the Epic Age of Homer (2008, notes p378f): "the crux is solved".
  5. ^ The Hellenistic Settlements in Syria, the Red Sea Basin, and North Africa, Getzel M. Cohen, 2006 and pdf here Archived 2015-09-23 at the Wayback Machine
  6. ^ a b A History of the Jews and Judaism in the Second Temple Period, Volume 2, Lester L. Grabbe, p173 "Yet the suggestion is widely accepted that the name actually derives from Aramaic for "all Syria", which was then assimilated by the Greeks to a more usual pattern for place names"


  • Gueleneer, Adolphe de (1874). Essai sur la vie et le règne de Septime Sévère (in French).
  • Gatier, Pierre-Louis (2001). "« Grande » ou « petite Syrie Seconde » ? Pour une géographie historique de la Syrie intérieure protobyzantine". Conquête de la Steppe (in French). Vol. 36. pp. 91–109.
  • Mommsen, Theodor (1886). The History of Rome. R. Bentley.