South of Damascus and just north of Bosra, Qanawat – from the Arabic word for canals – has more archaeological ruins than any other site in the region except Bosra. Once a city of the Roman Decapolis and a stopping point along the route to the nearby pagan cult center at Sia, Qanawat, classically known as Canatha, has played a significant role in the fertile Hauran region for millennia.
The first verifiable reference to Qanawat is from the first century BCE when it was the location of a clash between the forces of Herod the Great and of Nabataean powers. Herod, acting under pressure from Roman politician Marc Antony, was attempting to reclaim the region as a part of Cleopatra’s realm. He was defeated by the Nabataeans, however, and forced to withdraw. The city remained a point of contention between the two powers for some time.
Archaeologists have surveyed a number of significant sites in Qanawat that reveal bits of the city’s history. Among these are two basilicas, both of which were originally temples to Roman deities before being transformed into Christian religious buildings later. Texts suggest that, at some point in the fourth century CE, Qanawat became a Christian pilgrimage center somehow associated with the biblical character Job.
Also in Qanawat are ruins of a temple to Zeus and of another temple to the local god Rabbos (though historians traditionally assumed this temple was dedicated to the Greek sun god Helios until the discovery of an explanatory inscription in 2002).