While monastic landscapes in arid surroundings can be more easily defined, interpreting the imprint of monks on rural arable landscapes is more challenging. In the current study, I face this challenge by examining a late antique rural landscape, the fertile Vulcanic plains of southwest Syria, in the light of the document known as “the letter of the archimandrites of Arabia.” Analyzed by the distinguished orientalist Theodore Nöldeke in 1875, the letter is a declaration of faith, written in Syriac, dated to 570 and signed by 137 signatories, most of whom held the title of abbot (resh dira in Aramaic). Quite a few scholars have dealt with this letter and extracted valuable information out of its lines. In the following presentation, I will concisely review the various viewpoints from which they scrutinized the letter and offer an additional reading: a reading of a cultural landscape in which monasticism is a significant designer. Since archaeological records of monastic manifestations in this area are sparse and debated, I will use a comparative study of nearby rural landscapes that were surveyed during the last decades to facilitate a spatial interpretation of the monastic landscape encapsulated in and between the lines of the letter.

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