Banias

Also at the Hermon Spring (Banias) Nature Reserve are the ruins of the Sanctuary of Pan, who was the Greek god of the wild. (If you read my last post about the Reserve, the archeological site is located on the Springs side.) Jonathan and I were both pleasantly surprised to come across these ruins; neither of us were aware that they were there.

But first: the Officers’ Pool. This pool was built by the Syrians at the point where the Ein Hilu Spring emerges; its water is allegedly warmer than the Banias Spring (which it connects to). According to our map, Syrian soldiers used this pool until the Six Day War in 1967. Now, it mostly has fish in it.

Ledge of the Officers' Pool with trees above and the spring below

Steps leading into the Officers' Pool; grate leading from the pool to the springs
^fish!

From here, we walked up to the Banias Springs. Just above the springs, against the face of the cliff, were the ruins.

View of Banias Spring with Pan's Grotto in the background

(Full disclosure: I was really excited to see these ruins because I’ve recently read the Percy Jackson series. If you’ve read them, you know that Pan plays a pretty significant role in that series…)

Courtyard with niches for Pan and other deities
The Court of Pan and the Nymphs. The large niche housed a statue of Pan while the two smaller niches held sculptures of Echo (Pan's consort, a mountain Nymph) and Hermes (Pan's father). I'm not sure about the third one - maybe a statue of Zeus?...
Detail of a niche at the Court of Pan & the Nymphs; faint Greek script is visible beneath the niche
If you look closely, you can just make out Greek script beneath the niche. Anyone care to translate?

The way this site integrated sacred architecture into the natural scenery is unique. It is the only example of such in the Middle East and might be the only example found throughout the entire Greco-Roman world.

The Grotto of the God Pan, cliff, murky stagnant water
The Grotto of the God Pan. Animal sacrifices were thrown into this grotto. If they disappeared, Pan had accepted the offering; if signs of blood appeared, Pan had rejected the offering. This grotto is believed to have been in use as early as the 3rd century BCE.
white and reddish checkerboard floor of the court
The Court of Nemesis. Against the cliff, there was a "great niche" for the statue of Nemesis, the goddess of vengeance and justice. This is the floor; I was excited that we were standing on the original floor. Built in 178 CE.
Rectangular niches along the floor, small niche in cliff behind
The Tomb Temple of the Sacred Goats. The bones of the ritual goats were buried in the rectangular niches seen here. Rituals were carried out in front of the niche above, on a roof that has since disappeared. Dates to 220 CE.
remnats of the Temple of Pan & the Dancing Goats, an arch laid out on the ground
The Temple of Pan & the Dancing Goats. This is what's left of it. It was here that musicians played flutes to three sacred dancing goats, which in turn assured the fertility of the herds. Dates to 220 CE.

The name of this site, Banias, is the Arabic pronunciation of the original Greek name “Panyas.” Herod’s son, Philippus, tried to rename the area Ceasarea Philippi when he established the seat of his rule here; as you can see, that was a futile attempt.

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