The landscapes west and east of the middle Euphrates, Northern Syria and Northern Mesopotamia are perceived as a space for exchange and meeting which for centuries has been constitutive for the formation and development of religious and cultural identities. On the one hand the region appears to be a source of innovation, from the Neolithic revolution to the development of new religious ideas, on the other hand a border region where the East and the West meet, both in peaceful exchange and in a confrontational manner. Such a double interpretation has had an impact on western discourse to today, and the perception of the region as frontier to an imagined and hostile Orient is predominant.
This reception is in line with a long tradition of attributions, drawing up frontiers and constructions of identity and alterity. Their roots go back to antiquity. The time when Rome established itself as a global player in the eastern Mediterranean world was decisive; when a line of demarcation between the Roman and the Iranian/Parthian areas of influence was drawn in the first century before Christ. The river Euphrates was conceived as a political frontier between East and West for the first time, which then was also connoted culturally and religiously to an increasing degree. In contrast, hardly any research was done on how the interplay of politics, conflicts and acculturation in the region itself worked and which effects it had. How did local groups and local cults on both sides of the Euphrates react to the new political situation? Did the cults east of the Euphrates have a more oriental image that was dominated by Mesopotamian as well as Persian influences and the Western ones in contrast a more Greek-Roman character? Comprehensive epigraphic, numismatic and archaeological evidence allows local religions to materialise and thus makes it possible in this way to understand how local and regional religious structures are altered by transregional processes of exchange, assimilation and transformation, but also by confrontation and violence.