PALMYRA (/ˌpɑːlˈmaɪrə/ ; Palmyrene : _ Tadmor_;
تَدْمُر _Tadmur_) is an ancient Semitic city in
Homs Governorate ,
Syria . Archaeological finds date back
Neolithic period, and the city was first documented in the
early second millennium BC.
Palmyra changed hands on a number of
occasions between different empires before becoming a subject of the
Roman Empire in the first century AD.
The city grew wealthy from trade caravans; the Palmyrenes were
renowned merchants who established colonies along the
Silk Road and
operated throughout the Roman Empire. Palmyra's wealth enabled the
construction of monumental projects, such as the Great Colonnade , the
Temple of Bel
Temple of Bel , and the distinctive tower tombs. The Palmyrenes were a
Arameans , and
Arabs . The city's social structure
was tribal, and its inhabitants spoke Palmyrene (a dialect of Aramaic
); Greek was used for commercial and diplomatic purposes. The culture
Palmyra was influenced by
Greco-Roman culture and produced
distinctive art and architecture that combined eastern and western
traditions. The city's inhabitants worshiped local Semitic deities ,
Mesopotamian and Arab gods .
By the third century AD,
Palmyra was a prosperous regional center
reaching the apex of its power in the 260s, when Palmyrene King
Odaenathus defeated Persian Emperor
Shapur I . The king was succeeded
by regent Queen
Zenobia , who rebelled against Rome and established
Palmyrene Empire . In 273, Roman emperor
Aurelian destroyed the
city, which was later restored by
Diocletian at a reduced size. The
Palmyrenes converted to
Christianity during the fourth century and to
Islam in the centuries following the
Islamic conquests , after which
the Palmyrene and Greek languages were replaced by
Before AD 273,
Palmyra enjoyed autonomy and was attached to the Roman
Syria , having its political organization influenced by
the Greek city-state model during the first two centuries AD. The city
became a Roman colonia during the third century, leading to the
incorporation of Roman governing institutions, before becoming a
monarchy in 260. Following its destruction in 273,
Palmyra became a
minor center under the Byzantines and later empires. Its destruction
by the Timurids in 1400 reduced it to a small village. Under French
Mandatory rule in 1932, the inhabitants were moved into the new
Tadmur , and the ancient site became available for
Palmyra came under the control of the Islamic State of Iraq
Levant (ISIL), and subsequently changed hands several times
between the militant group and the
Syrian Army who retook the city on
2 March 2017. ISIL sabotaged many artifacts and destroyed a number of
buildings, considerably damaging the ancient site.
* 1 Etymology
* 2 Location and city layout
* 2.1 Layout
* 3 People, language and society
* 4 Culture
* 4.1 Art and architecture
* 5 Site
* 5.1 Cemeteries
* 5.2 Notable structures
* 5.2.1 Public buildings
* 5.2.2 Temples
* 5.2.3 Other buildings
* 5.3 Destruction by ISIL
* 5.3.1 Restoration
* 6 History
* 6.1 Early period
* 6.2 Hellenistic and Roman periods
* 6.2.1 Autonomous Palmyrene region
* 6.2.2 Palmyrene kingdom
* 18.104.22.168 Persian wars
* 22.214.171.124 Palmyrene empire
* 6.2.3 Later Roman and Byzantine periods
* 6.3 Arab caliphates
Umayyad and early Abbasid periods
* 6.3.2 Decentralization
* 6.4 Mamluk period
Al Fadl principality
* 6.5 Ottoman and later periods
Syrian Civil War
Syrian Civil War
* 7 Government
* 7.1 Military
* 7.1.1 Relations with Rome
* 8 Religion
Malakbel and the Roman
* 9 Economy
* 9.1 Commerce
* 10 Excavations
* 11 See also
* 12 Notes
* 13 References
* 13.1 Citations
* 13.2 Sources
* 14 External links
The name "Tadmor" is known from the early second millennium BC;
eighteenth century BC tablets from Mari written in cuneiform record
the name as "Ta-ad-mi-ir", while Assyrian inscriptions of the eleventh
century BC record it as Ta-ad-mar. Aramaic Palmyrene inscriptions
themselves showed two variants of the name; _TDMR_ (i.e. Tadmar) and
_TDMWR_ (i.e. Tadmor). The etymology of the name is unclear; the
standard interpretation, supported by
Albert Schultens , connects it
to the Semitic word for "date palm ", _tamar_ (תמר), thus
referring to the palm trees that surrounded the city.
The Greek name _Παλμύρα_ (Latinized _Palmyra_) is first
Pliny the Elder in the 1st century AD. It was used
Greco-Roman world. It is generally believed that
"Palmyra" derives from "Tadmor" and two possibilities have been
presented by linguists; one view holds that
Palmyra was an alteration
of Tadmor. According to the suggestion by Schultens, "Palmyra" could
have arisen as a corruption of "Tadmor", via an unattested form
"Talmura", changed to "Palmura" by influence of the
Latin word _palma_
(date "palm "), in reference to the city's palm trees, then the name
reached its final form "Palmyra". The second view, supported by some
philologists, such as
Jean Starcky , holds that
Palmyra is a
translation of "Tadmor" (assuming that it meant palm), which had
derived from the Greek word for palm, "_Palame_".
An alternative suggestion connects the name to the Syriac _tedmurtā_
(ܬܕܡܘܪܬܐ) "miracle", hence _tedmurtā_ "object of wonder", from
the root _dmr_ "to wonder"; this possibility was mentioned favourably
Franz Altheim and Ruth Altheim-Stiehl (1973), but rejected by Jean
Starcky (1960) and Michael Gawlikowski (1974). Michael Patrick
O\'Connor (1988) suggested that the names "Palmyra" and "Tadmor"
originated in the
Hurrian language . As evidence, he cited the
inexplicability of alterations to the theorized roots of both names
(represented in the addition of _-d-_ to _tamar_ and _-ra-_ to
_palame_). According to this theory, "Tadmor" derives from the
Hurrian word _tad_ ("to love") with the addition of the typical
Hurrian mid vowel rising (mVr) formant _mar_. Similarly, according to
this theory, "Palmyra" derives from the Hurrian word _pal_ ("to know")
using the same mVr formant (_mar_).
Palmyra shortly after
LOCATION AND CITY LAYOUT
The northern Palmyrene mountain belt Palmyra's landmarks
Palmyra is 215 km (134 mi) northeast of the Syrian capital, Damascus
, in an oasis surrounded by palms (of which twenty varieties have
been reported). Two mountain ranges overlook the city; the northern
Palmyrene mountain belt from the north and the southern Palmyrene
mountains from the southwest. In the south and the east
exposed to the Syrian Desert. A small wadi (al-Qubur ) crosses the
area, flowing from the western hills past the city before disappearing
in the eastern gardens of the oasis. South of the wadi is a spring,
Pliny the Elder described the town in the 70s AD as famous for
its desert location, the richness of its soil, and the springs
surrounding it, which made agriculture and herding possible.
Palmyra began as a small settlement near the Efqa spring on the
southern bank of
Wadi al-Qubur. The settlement, known as the
Hellenistic settlement, had residences expanding to the wadi's
northern bank during the first century. Although the city's walls
originally enclosed an extensive area on both banks of the wadi, the
walls rebuilt during Diocletian's reign surrounded only the
Most of the city's monumental projects were built on the wadi's
northern bank. Among them is the
Temple of Bel
Temple of Bel , on a tell which was
the site of an earlier temple (known as the Hellenistic temple).
However, excavation supports the theory that the tell was originally
located on the southern bank, and the wadi was diverted south of the
tell to incorporate the temple into Palmyra's late first and early
second century urban organization on the north bank.
Also north of the wadi was the Great Colonnade , Palmyra's
1.1-kilometre-long (0.68 mi) main street, which extended from the
Temple of Bel
Temple of Bel in the east, to the Funerary Temple no.86 in the city's
western part. It had a monumental arch in its eastern section, and
a tetrapylon stands in the center. The Baths of Diocletian, built on
the ruins of an earlier building which might have been the royal
palace, were on the left side of the colonnade. Nearby were
Temple of Baalshamin , and the Byzantine churches,
which include "Basilica IV", Palmyra's largest church. The church is
dated to the Justinian age , its columns are estimated to be 7 metres
(23 ft) high, and its base measured 27.5 by 47.5 metres (90 by 156
The Temple of
Nabu and the Roman theater were built on the
colonnade's southern side. Behind the theater were a small senate
building and the large Agora, with the remains of a _triclinium _
(banquet room) and the Tariff Court. A cross street at the western
end of the colonnade leads to the Camp of
Diocletian , built by
Sosianus Hierocles (the Roman governor of Syria). Nearby are the
Al-lāt and the
PEOPLE, LANGUAGE AND SOCIETY
Palmyrene dialect and
Palmyrene funerary portrait
At its height during the reign of Zenobia,
Palmyra had more than
200,000 residents. Its earliest known inhabitants were the Amorites
in the early second millennium BC, and by the end of the millennium
Arameans were mentioned as inhabiting the area.
Arabs arrived in the
city in the late first millennium BC. The soldiers of the sheikh
Zabdibel , who aided the
Seleucids in the battle of Raphia (217 BC),
were described as Arabs; Zabdibel and his men were not actually
identified as Palmyrenes in the texts, but the name "Zabdibel" is a
Palmyrene name leading to the conclusion that the sheikh hailed from
Palmyra. The Arab newcomers were assimilated by the earlier
inhabitants, used Palmyrene as a mother tongue, and formed a
significant segment of the aristocracy. The city also had a Jewish
community; inscriptions in Palmyrene from the necropolis of Beit
Lower Galilee confirm the burial of Palmyrene Jews.
Occasionally and rarely, members of the Palmyrene families took Greek
names while ethnic Greeks were few; the majority of people with Greek
names, who did not belong to one of the city's families, were freed
slaves. The Palmyrenes seem to have disliked the Greeks, considered
them foreigners, and restricted their settlement in the city.
Alphabetic inscription in
Until the late third century AD, Palmyrenes spoke a dialect of
Aramaic and used the
Palmyrene alphabet . The use of
minimal, but Greek was used by wealthier members of society for
commercial and diplomatic purposes, and it became the dominant
language during the Byzantine era. After the Arab conquest, Greek was
Arabic , from which a
Palmyrene dialect evolved.
Palmyra's society was a mixture of the different peoples inhabiting
the city, which is seen in Aramaic,
Arabic and Amorite clan names.
Palmyra was a tribal community but due to the lack of sources, an
understanding of the nature of Palmyrene tribal structure is not
possible. Thirty clans have been documented; five of which were
identified as tribes (
Phyle (φυλή) ) comprising several sub-clans.
By the time of
Palmyra had four tribes, each residing in an
area of the city bearing its name. Three of the tribes were the
Komare , Mattabol and Ma\'zin ; the fourth tribe is uncertain, but was
probably the Mita. In time, the four tribes became highly civic and
tribal lines blurred; by the second century clan identity lost its
importance, and it disappeared during the third century. Even the
four tribes ceased to be important by the third century as only one
inscription mentions a tribe after the year 212; instead, aristocrats
played the decisive role in the city's social organization. During
Palmyra was mainly inhabited by the Kalb tribe.
Benjamin of Tudela recorded the existence of 2,000 Jews in the city
during the twelfth century.
Palmyra declined after its destruction by
Timur in 1400, and was a village of 6,000 inhabitants at the
beginning of the 20th century; although surrounded by Bedouin, the
villagers preserved their dialect.
Palmyra maintained the life of a
small settlement until its relocation in 1932.
The scarce artifacts found in the city dating to the Bronze Age
reveal that, culturally,
Palmyra was most affiliated with western
Palmyra had a distinctive culture, based on a local
Semitic tradition, and influenced by Greece and Rome. To appear
better integrated into the Roman Empire, some Palmyrenes adopted
Greco-Roman names, either alone or in addition to a second native
name. The extent of Greek influence on Palmyra's culture is debated.
Scholars interpreted the Palmyrenes' Greek practices differently; many
see those characters as a superficial layer over a local essence.
Palmyra's senate was an example; although Palmyrene texts written in
Greek described it as a "boule " (a Greek institution), the senate was
a gathering of non-elected tribal elders (a Near-Eastern assembly
tradition). Others view Palmyra's culture as a fusion of local and
Greco-Roman traditions. Palmyrene loculi (burial chambers)
reassembled in İstanbul Archaeological Museum Palmyrene mummy
The culture of Persia influenced Palmyrene military tactics, dress
and court ceremonies.
Palmyra had no large libraries or publishing
facilities, and it lacked an intellectual movement characteristic of
other Eastern cities such as
Edessa or Antioch. Although Zenobia
opened her court to academics, the only notable scholar documented was
Cassius Longinus .
Palmyra had a large agora . However, unlike the Greek Agoras (public
gathering places shared with public buildings), Palmyra's agora
resembled an Eastern caravanserai more than a hub of public life.
The Palmyrenes buried their dead in elaborate family mausoleums, most
with interior walls forming rows of burial chambers (loculi ) in which
the dead, laying at full length, were placed. A relief of the person
interred formed part of the wall's decoration, acting as a headstone.
Sarcophagi appeared in the late second century and were used in some
of the tombs. Many burial monuments contained mummies embalmed in a
method similar to that used in Ancient Egypt .
ART AND ARCHITECTURE
Palmyrene funerary reliefs Interior of the
Tower of Elahbel , in 2010
Although Palmyrene art was related to that of Greece , it had a
distinctive style unique to the middle-
Euphrates region. Palmyrene
art is well represented by the bust reliefs which seal the openings of
its burial chambers. The reliefs emphasized clothing, jewelry and a
frontal representation of the person depicted, characteristics which
can be seen as a forerunner of
Byzantine art . According to Michael
Rostovtzeff , Palmyra's art was influenced by
Parthian art . However,
the origin of frontality that characterized Palmyrene and Parthian
arts is a controversial issue; while Parthian origin has been
Daniel Schlumberger ),
Michael Avi-Yonah contends that
it was a local Syrian tradition that influenced Parthian art. Little
painting, and none of the bronze statues of prominent citizens (which
stood on brackets on the main columns of the Great Colonnade), have
survived. A damaged frieze and other sculptures from the Temple of
Bel, many removed to museums in
Syria and abroad, suggest the city's
public monumental sculpture.
Many surviving funerary busts reached Western museums during the 19th
Palmyra provided the most convenient Eastern examples
bolstering an art-history controversy at the turn of the 20th century:
to what extent Eastern influence on
Roman art replaced idealized
classicism with frontal, hieratic and simplified figures (as believed
Josef Strzygowski and others). This transition is seen as a
response to cultural changes in the Western
Roman Empire , rather than
artistic influence from the East. Palmyrene bust reliefs, unlike
Roman sculptures, are rudimentary portraits; although many reflect
high quality individuality, the majority vary little across figures of
similar age and gender.
Like its art, Palmyra's architecture was influenced by the
Greco-Roman style, while preserving local elements (best seen in the
Temple of Bel). Enclosed by a massive wall flanked with traditional
Roman columns, Bel's sanctuary plan was primarily Semitic. Similar
Second Temple , the sanctuary consisted of a large courtyard
with the deity's main shrine off-center against its entrance (a plan
preserving elements of the temples of
Tower of Elahbel Valley of Tombs in 2010
The senate Baths of
Diocletian The statue of Al-lāt
(equated with Athena) found in its temple (destroyed in 2015) The
Funerary Temple no.86 Diocletian's walls
West of the ancient walls, the Palmyrenes built a number of
large-scale funerary monuments which now form the Valley of Tombs, a
1-kilometre-long (0.62 mi) necropolis . The more than 50 monuments
were primarily tower-shaped and up to four stories high. Towers were
replaced by funerary temples in the first half of the second century
AD, as the most recent tower is dated to AD 128. The city had other
cemeteries in the north, southwest and southeast, where the tombs are
primarily hypogea (underground).
Further information: Camp of
Roman Theatre at Palmyra
* THE SENATE building is largely ruined. It is a small building
that consists of a peristyle courtyard and a chamber that has an apse
at one end and rows of seats around it.
* Much of the BATHS OF DIOCLETIAN are ruined and do not survive
above the level of the foundations. The complex's entrance is marked
by four massive Egyptian granite columns each 1.3 metres (4 ft 3 in)
in diameter, 12.5 metres (41 ft) high and weigh 20 tonnes. Inside,
the outline of a bathing pool surrounded by a colonnade of Corinthian
columns is still visible in addition to an octagonal room that served
as a dressing room containing a drain in its center.
* The AGORA of
Palmyra is part of a complex that also includes the
tariff court and the triclinium, built in the second half of the first
century AD. The agora is a massive 71 by 84 metres (233 by 276 ft)
structure with 11 entrances. Inside the agora, 200 columnar bases
that used to hold statues of prominent citizens were found. The
inscriptions on the bases allowed an understanding of the order by
which the statues were grouped; the eastern side was reserved for
senators, the northern side for Palmyrene officials, the western side
for soldiers and the southern side for caravan chiefs.
* The TARIFF COURT is a large rectangular enclosure south of the
agora and sharing its northern wall with it. Originally, the entrance
of the court was a massive vestibule in its southwestern wall.
However, the entrance was blocked by the construction of a defensive
wall and the court was entered through three doors from the Agora.
The court gained its name by containing a 5 meters long stone slab
that had the Palmyrene tax law inscribed on it.
* The TRICLINIUM OF THE AGORA is located to the northwestern corner
Agora and can host up to 40 person. It is a small 12 by 15
metres (39 by 49 ft) hall decorated with Greek key motifs that run in
a continuous line halfway up the wall. The building was probably used
by the rulers of the city;
Henri Arnold Seyrig proposed that it was a
small temple before being turned into a triclinium or banqueting hall.
* The TEMPLE OF BEL was dedicated in AD 32; it consisted of a large
precinct lined by porticos ; it had a rectangular shape and was
oriented north-south. The exterior wall was 205-metre (673 ft) long
with a propylaea , and the cella stood on a podium in the middle of
* The TEMPLE OF BAALSHAMIN dates to the late 2nd century BC in its
earliest phases; its altar was built in AD 115, and it was
substantially rebuilt in AD 131. It consisted of a central cella and
two colonnaded courtyards north and south of the central structure. A
vestibule consisting of six columns preceded the cella which had its
side walls decorated with pilasters in Corinthian order.
* The TEMPLE OF NABU is largely ruined. The temple was Eastern in
its plan; the outer enclosure's propylaea led to a 20 by 9 metres (66
by 30 ft) podium through a portico of which the bases of the columns
survives. The peristyle cella opened onto an outdoor altar.
* The TEMPLE OF AL-LāT is largely ruined with only a podium, a few
columns and the door frame remaining. Inside the compound, a giant
lion relief (Lion of
Al-lāt ) was excavated and in its original form,
was a relief protruding from the temple compound's wall.
* The ruined TEMPLE OF BAAL-HAMON was located on the top of Jabal
al-Muntar hill which oversees the spring of Efqa. Constructed in AD
89, it consisted of a cella and a vestibule with two columns. The
temple had a defensive tower attached to it; a mosaic depicting the
sanctuary was excavated and it revealed that both the cella and the
vestibule were decorated with merlons .
* The GREAT COLONNADE was Palmyra's 1.1-kilometre-long (0.68 mi)
main street; most of the columns date to the second century AD and
each is 9.50 metres (31.2 ft) high.
* The FUNERARY TEMPLE NO.86 (also known as the House Tomb) is
located at the western end of the Great Colonnade. It was built in
the third century AD and has a portico of six columns and vine
patterns carvings. Inside the chamber, steps leads down to a vault
crypt. The shrine might have been connected to the royal family as it
is the only tomb inside the city's walls.
* The TETRAPYLON was erected during the renovations of
the end of the third century. It is a square platform and each corner
contains a grouping of four columns. Each column group supports a 150
tons cornice and contains a pedestal in its center that originally
carried a statue. Out of sixteen columns, only one is original while
the rest are from reconstruction work by the Syrian
Directorate-General of Antiquities in 1963, using concrete. The
original columns were brought from Egypt and carved out of pink
* The city's current WALLS were erected during the reign of
Diocletian whose fortification of the city enclosed about 80 hectares,
a much smaller area than the original pre-273 city. The Diocletianic
walls had protective towers and fortified gateways.
The pre-273 walls were narrow and while encircling the whole city,
they do not seem to have provided real protection against an invasion.
No signs of towers or fortified gates exist and it cannot be proven
that the walls enclosed the city as many gaps appears to have never
been defended. The earlier walls seem to have been designed to
protect the city against Bedouins and to provide a costume barrier.
DESTRUCTION BY ISIL
See also: Destruction of cultural heritage by ISIL §
Bel's temple entrance arch remains after the destruction of the cella
According to eyewitnesses, on 23 May 2015 the militants destroyed the
Al-lāt and other statues; this came days after the militants
gathered the citizens and promised not to destroy the city's
monuments. ISIL destroyed the
Temple of Baalshamin on 23 August 2015
according to Syria's antiquities chief Maamoun Abdulkarim and
activists. On 30 August 2015, ISIL destroyed the cella of the Temple
of Bel . On 31 August 2015, the United Nations confirmed the temple
was destroyed ; the temple's exterior walls and entrance arch remain.
It became known on 4 September 2015 that ISIL had destroyed three of
the best preserved tower tombs including the
Tower of Elahbel . On 5
October 2015, news media reported ISIL is destroying buildings with no
religious meaning, including the Arch of Triumph . On 20 January
2017, news emerged that the militants destroyed the tetrapylon and
part of the theater. Following the March 2017 capture of
the Syrian Army, Maamoun Abdulkarim, director of antiquities and
museums at the Syrian Ministry of Culture , stated that the damage to
ancient monuments may be lesser than earlier believed and preliminary
pictures showed almost no further damage than what was already known.
Antiquities official Wael Hafyan stated that the
Tetrapylon was badly
damaged while the damage to the facade of the Roman theatre was less
serious in relativity.
Digital reconstruction of the
Temple of Bel
Temple of Bel (New Palmyra
In response to the first destruction, on 21 October 2015, Creative
Commons started the New
Palmyra project, an online repository of
three-dimensional models representing the city's monuments; the models
were generated from images gathered, and released into the public
domain, by the Syrian internet advocate
Bassel Khartabil between 2005
and 2012. About the destruction during the second ISIL occupation,
Abdulkarim states “This time, they don’t seem to have damaged
Palmyra as badly as we feared.” and states that "approximately 80%
of Palmyra’s antiquities are in fairly good condition and 15% of
those more heavily damaged also can and will be restored."
Consultations with the UNESCO, UN specialized agencies, archaeological
associations and museums produced plans to restore Palmyra; the work
is postponed until the violence in
Syria ends as many international
partners fear for the safety of their teams as well as ensuring that
the restored artifacts will not be damaged again by further battles.
The general director of the Czech National Museum , Michal Lukeš,
signed an agreement in June 2017 committing the institution to help
Syria save, preserve and conserve much of its cultural and historical
heritage damaged by war, including the ancient site of Palmyra; he met
with Abdulkarim and discussed plans for the works that are said to
last until 2019.
Minor restorations have already begun; two Palmyrene funerary busts
of a deceased man and a woman, damaged and defaced by ISIL, were taken
from Palmyra, then to
Beirut to be sent off to Rome. Italian experts
restored the portraits using 3D technology to print resin prosthetics,
which were coated with a thick layer of stone dust to blend in with
the original stone; the prosthetics were attached to the damaged faces
of the busts using strong magnets. The restored pieces are now back
in Syria. Abdulkarim said the restoration of the busts "is the first
real, visible positive step that the international community has taken
to protect Syrian heritage". In July 2017, the discoverer of
Paolo Matthiae , speaking in the "Faces of Palmyra" ("I Volti de
Palmyra") exhibition in
Aquileia , said that: "The archaeological site
Palmyra is a vast field of ruins and only 20-30% of it is seriously
damaged. Unfortunately these included important parts, such as the
Temple of Bel, while the Arc of Triumph can be rebuilt." He added: "In
any case, by using both traditional methods and advanced technologies,
it might be possible to restore 98% of the site".
Efqa spring, which dried up in 1994
The site at
Palmyra provided evidence for a
Neolithic settlement near
Efqa, with stone tools dated to 7500 BC. Archaeological sounding in
the tell beneath the
Temple of Bel
Temple of Bel uncovered a mud-brick structure
built around 2500 BC, followed by structures built during the Middle
Bronze Age and Iron Age.
The city entered the historical record during the
Bronze Age around
2000 BC, when Puzur-Ishtar the Tadmorean (Palmyrene) agreed to a
contract at an Assyrian trading colony in
Kultepe . It was mentioned
next in the Mari tablets as a stop for trade caravans and nomadic
tribes, such as the
Suteans , and was annexed along with its region
Yahdun-Lim of Mari. King
Shamshi-Adad I of Assyria passed through
the area on his way to the Mediterranean at the beginning of the 18th
century BC; by then,
Palmyra was the easternmost point of the kingdom
Qatna , and it was attacked by the
Suteans who paralyzed the
traffic along the trade routes.
Palmyra was mentioned in a
13th-century BC tablet discovered at
Emar , which recorded the names
of two "Tadmorean" witnesses. At the beginning of the 11th century
Tiglath-Pileser I of Assyria recorded his defeat of the
Arameans " of "Tadmar"; according to the king,
Palmyra was part of
the land of Amurru . The city became the eastern border of
Damascus which was annexed by the
Neo-Assyrian Empire in 732 BC.
The Hebrew Bible (Second
Book of Chronicles 8:4) records a city by
the name "Tadmor" as a desert city built (or fortified) by King
Solomon of Israel ; Flavius
Josephus mentions the Greek name
"Palmyra", attributing its founding to
Book VIII of his
Antiquities of the Jews _. Later
Arabic traditions attribute the
city's founding to Solomon's
Jinn . The association of
Solomon is a conflation of "Tadmor" and a city built by
Judea and known as "Tamar" in the
Books of Kings (1 Kings 9:18). The
biblical description of "Tadmor" and its buildings does not fit
archaeological findings in Palmyra, which was a small settlement
during Solomon's reign in the 10th century BC.
HELLENISTIC AND ROMAN PERIODS
Temple of Baalshamin 's interior (destroyed in 2015)
Hellenistic period under the
Seleucids (between 312 and 64
Palmyra became a prosperous settlement owing allegiance to the
Seleucid king. In 217 BC, a Palmyrene force led by Zabdibel joined
the army of King
Antiochus III in the
Battle of Raphia which ended in
a Seleucid defeat by Ptolemaic Egypt . In the middle of the
Hellenistic era, Palmyra, formerly south of the al-Qubur wadi, began
to expand beyond its northern bank. By the late second century BC,
the tower tombs in the Palmyrene Valley of Tombs and the city temples
(most notably, the temples of
Al-lāt and the Hellenistic
temple) began to be built.
In 64 BC the
Roman Republic annexed the Seleucid kingdom, and the
Pompey established the province of
left independent, trading with Rome and Parthia but belonging to
neither. The earliest known Palmyrene inscription is dated to around
Palmyra was still a minor sheikhdom , offering water to
caravans which occasionally took the desert route on which it was
located. However, according to
Palmyra was wealthy enough for
Mark Antony to send a force to conquer it in 41 BC. The Palmyrenes
evacuated to Parthian lands beyond the eastern bank of the
which they prepared to defend.
Autonomous Palmyrene Region
Cella of the
Temple of Bel
Temple of Bel (destroyed in 2015) Palmyra's
theater (damaged in 2017) Arch of Triumph in the eastern
section of Palmyra's colonnade (destroyed in 2015)
Palmyra became part of the
Roman Empire when it was annexed and paid
tribute early in the reign of
Tiberius , around 14 AD. The Romans
Palmyra in the province of
Syria , and defined the region's
boundaries; a boundary marker laid by Roman governor Silanus was found
75 kilometres (47 mi) northwest of the city at Khirbet el-Bilaas . A
marker at the city's southwestern border was found at Qasr al-Hayr
al-Gharbi , and its eastern border extended to the
This region included numerous villages subordinate to the center such
as al-Qaryatayn (35 other settlements have been identified by 2012).
The Roman imperial period brought great prosperity to the city, which
enjoyed a privileged status under the empire—retaining much of its
internal autonomy, being ruled by a council, and incorporating many
Greek city-state (polis ) institutions into its government.
The earliest Palmyrene text attesting a Roman presence in the city
dates to 18 AD, when the Roman general
Germanicus tried to develop a
friendly relationship with Parthia; he sent the Palmyrene Alexandros
to Mesene , a Parthian vassal kingdom. This was followed by the
arrival of the Roman legion
Legio X Fretensis the following year.
Roman authority was minimal during the first century AD, although tax
collectors were resident, and a road connecting
Palmyra and Sura was
built in AD 75. The Romans used Palmyrene soldiers, but (unlike
typical Roman cities) no local magistrates or prefects are recorded in
Palmyra saw intensive construction during the first
century, including the city's first walled fortifications, and the
Temple of Bel
Temple of Bel (completed and dedicated in 32 AD). During the first
Palmyra developed from a minor desert caravan station into a
leading trading center, with Palmyrene merchants establishing
colonies in surrounding trade centers.
Palmyrene trade reached its apex during the second century, aided by
two factors; the first was a trade route built by Palmyrenes, and
protected by garrisons at major locations, including a garrison in
Dura-Europos manned in 117 AD. The second was the Roman annexation of
the Nabataean capital
Petra in 106, shifting control over southern
trade routes of the
Arabian Peninsula from the
Nabataeans to Palmyra.
Palmyra was visited by
Hadrian , who named it "Hadriane
Palmyra" and made it a free city .
Hadrian promoted Hellenism
throughout the empire, and Palmyra's urban expansion was modeled on
that of Greece. This led to new projects, including the theatre , the
colonnade and the Temple of
Nabu . Roman garrisons are first attested
Palmyra in 167, when the cavalry Ala I Thracum Herculiana was moved
to the city. By the end of the second century, urban development
diminished after the city's building projects peaked.
In the 190s,
Palmyra was assigned to the province of Phoenice , newly
created by the
Severan dynasty . Toward the end of the second
Palmyra began a steady transition from a traditional Greek
city-state to a monarchy due to the increasing militarization of the
city and the deteriorating economic situation; the Severan ascension
to the imperial throne in Rome played a major role in Palmyra's
* The Severan-led Roman–Parthian War , from 194 to 217, influenced
regional security and affected the city's trade. Bandits began
attacking caravans by 199, leading
Palmyra to strengthen its military
* The new dynasty favored the city, stationing the Cohors I Flavia
Chalcidenorum garrison there by 206.
Palmyra a colonia
between 213 and 216, replacing many Greek institutions with Roman
Severus Alexander , emperor from 222 to 235,
Palmyra in 229.
List of Palmyrene monarchs Bust, presumably of
Odenaethus; it depicts a man wearing a laurel wreath, which suggests a
The rise of the
Sasanian Empire in Persia considerably damaged
Palmyrene trade. The Sasanians disbanded Palmyrene colonies in their
lands, and began a war against the Roman empire. In an inscription
dated to 252
Odaenathus appears bearing the title of exarchos (lord)
of Palmyra. The weakness of the Roman empire and the constant Persian
danger were probably the reasons behind the Palmyrene council's
decision to elect a lord for the city in order for him to lead a
Shapur I of Persia to
request him to guarantee Palmyrene interests in Persia, but was
rebuffed. In 260 the Emperor Valerian fought Shapur at the Battle of
Edessa , but was defeated and captured. One of Valerian's officers,
Macrianus Major , his sons
Quietus and Macrianus , and the prefect
Balista rebelled against Valerian's son
Gallienus , usurping imperial
power in Syria.
Odaenathus formed an army of Palmyrenes and Syrian peasants against
Shapur. According to the _
Augustan History _,
himself king prior to the battle. The Palmyrene leader won a decisive
victory near the banks of the
Euphrates later in 260 forcing the
Persians to retreat. In 261
Odaenathus marched against the remaining
usurpers in Syria, defeating and killing
Quietus and Balista. As a
reward, he received the title _Imperator Totius Orientis_ ("Governor
of the East") from Gallienus, and ruled
Syria , Mesopotamia , Arabia
Anatolia 's eastern regions as the imperial representative.
Palmyra itself remained officially part of the empire but Palmyrene
inscriptions started to describe it as a "metrocolonia", indicating
that the city's status was higher than normal Roman colonias. In
Palmyra shifted from a provincial city to a de facto allied
Odaenathus launched a new campaign against Shapur, reclaiming
the rest of Roman Mesopotamia (most importantly, the cities of Nisibis
Carrhae ), sacking the Jewish city of
Nehardea , and besieging
the Persian capital
Ctesiphon . Following his victory, the Palmyrene
monarch assumed the title
King of Kings
King of Kings . Later,
Hairan I as co-
King of Kings
King of Kings near
Antioch in 263. Although he
did not take the Persian capital,
Odaenathus drove the Persians out of
all Roman lands conquered since the beginning of Shapur's wars in 252
. In a second campaign that took place in 266, the Palmyrene king
Ctesiphon again; however, he had to left the siege and move
north, accompanied by Hairan I, to repel Gothic attacks on Asia Minor
. The king and his son were assassinated during their return in 267;
according to the _Augustan History_ and
Joannes Zonaras , Odaenathus
was killed by a cousin (Zonaras says nephew) named in the _History_ as
Maeonius . The _Augustan History_ also says that
proclaimed emperor for a brief period before being killed by the
soldiers. However, no inscriptions or other evidence exist for
Zenobia as Augusta, on the obverse of an
Odaenathus was succeeded by his son; the ten-year-old
Zenobia , the mother of the new king, was the _de facto_ ruler and
Vaballathus remained in her shadow while she consolidated her power.
Gallienus dispatched his prefect Heraclian to command military
operations against the Persians, but he was marginalized by Zenobia
and returned to the West. The queen was careful not to provoke Rome,
claiming for herself and her son the titles held by her husband while
guaranteeing the safety of the borders with Persia and pacifying the
Hauran . To protect the borders with Persia, Zenobia
fortified different settlements on the
Euphrates including the
Zalabiye . Circumstantial evidence exist for
confrontations with the Sasanians; probably in 269
the title _Persicus Maximus_ ("The great victor in Persia") and the
title might be linked with an unrecorded battle against a Persian army
trying to regain control of Northern Mesopotamia.
Palmyrene Empire The Palmyrene empire in AD 271
Zenobia began her military career in the spring of 270, during the
Claudius Gothicus . Under the pretext of attacking the
Tanukhids, she annexed Roman Arabia . This was followed in October by
an invasion of Egypt , ending with a Palmyrene victory and Zenobia's
proclamation as queen of Egypt.
following year, reaching
Ankara and the pinnacle of its expansion.
The conquests were made behind a mask of subordination to Rome.
Zenobia issued coins in the name of Claudius' successor
Vaballathus depicted as king; since
Aurelian was occupied with
repelling insurgencies in Europe, he tolerated the Palmyrene coinage
and encroachments. In late 271,
Vaballathus and his mother assumed
the titles of Augustus (emperor) and Augusta .
The following year,
Aurelian crossed the
Bosphorus and advanced
quickly through Anatolia. According to one account, Roman general
Marcus Aurelius Probus regained Egypt from Palmyra;
Issus and headed to
Antioch , where he defeated
Zenobia in the Battle
of Immae .
Zenobia was defeated again at the
Battle of Emesa , taking
Homs before quickly returning to her capital. When the
Romans besieged Palmyra,
Zenobia refused their order to surrender in
person to the emperor. She escaped east to ask the Persians for help,
but was captured by the Romans; the city capitulated soon afterwards.
Later Roman And Byzantine Periods
Aurelian spared the city and stationed a garrison of 600 archers, led
by Sandarion , as a peacekeeping force. In 273
Palmyra rebelled under
the leadership of Septimius Apsaios , declaring Antiochus (a relative
of Zenobia) as Augustus.
Aurelian marched against Palmyra, razing it
to the ground and seizing the most valuable monuments to decorate his
Temple of Sol . Palmyrene buildings were smashed, residents
massacred and the
Temple of Bel
Temple of Bel pillaged.
Palmyra was reduced to a village and it largely disappeared from
historical records of that period.
Aurelian repaired the Temple of
Bel, and the Legio I Illyricorum was stationed in the city. Shortly
before 303 the Camp of
Diocletian , a _castra _ in the western part of
the city, was built. The 4-hectare (9.9-acre) camp was a base for the
Legio I Illyricorum, which guarded the trade routes around the city.
Palmyra became a Christian city in the decades following its
destruction by Aurelian. In late 527,
Justinian I ordered its
fortification and the restoration of its churches and public buildings
to protect the empire against raids by Lakhmid king Al-Mundhir III ibn
Palmyra was annexed by the
Rashidun Caliphate after its 634 capture
Khalid ibn al-Walid , who took the city on his
way to Damascus; an 18-day march by his army through the Syrian Desert
from Mesopotamia. By then
Palmyra was limited to the
After the conquest, the city became part of
Homs Province .
Umayyad And Early Abbasid Periods
Palmyra prospered as part of the
Umayyad Caliphate, and its
population grew. It was a key stop on the East-West trade route, with
a large _souq _ (market), built by the Umayyads, who also
commissioned part of the
Temple of Bel
Temple of Bel as a mosque . During this
Palmyra was a stronghold of the
Banu Kalb tribe. After being
Marwan II during a civil war in the caliphate , Umayyad
Sulayman ibn Hisham fled to the
Banu Kalb in Palmyra, but
eventually pledged allegiance to Marwan in 744;
Palmyra continued to
oppose Marwan until the surrender of the
Banu Kalb leader al-Abrash
al-Kalbi in 745. That year, Marwan ordered the city's walls
In 750 a revolt, led by Majza\'a ibn al-Kawthar and
Abu Muhammad al-Sufyani , against the new
Abbasid Caliphate swept
across Syria; the tribes in
Palmyra supported the rebels. After his
defeat Abu Muhammad took refuge in the city, which withstood an
Abbasid assault long enough to allow him to escape.
Fortifications at the
Temple of Bel
Temple of Bel
Abbasid power dwindled during the 10th century, when the empire
disintegrated and was divided among a number of vassals. Most of the
new rulers acknowledged the caliph as their nominal sovereign, a
situation which continued until the Mongol destruction of the Abbasid
Caliphate in 1258.
Sayf al-Dawla , the Hamdanid prince of
Aleppo , defeated the
nomads near the city, and built a kasbah (fortress) in response to
campaigns by the Byzantine emperors
Nikephoros II Phokas and John I
Tzimiskes . After the early-11th-century Hamdanid collapse, the
Homs was controlled by the successor
Mirdasid dynasty .
Palmyra in 1068 and 1089. In the 1070s Syria
was conquered by the
Seljuk Empire , and in 1082, the district of
Homs came under the control of Khalaf , the head of the Mala\'ib
tribe. The aforementioned was a brigand and was removed and
imprisoned in 1090 by the Seljuq sultan
Malik-Shah I . Khalaf's
lands were given to Malik-Shah's brother,
Tutush I , who gained his
independence after his brother's 1092 death and established a cadet
branch of the Seljuk dynasty in Syria. Fakhr-al-Din al-Maani
During the early 12th century
Palmyra was ruled by
Toghtekin , the
Burid atabeg of Damascus, who appointed his nephew governor.
Toghtekin's nephew was killed by rebels, and the atabeg retook the
city in 1126.
Palmyra was given to Toghtekin's grandson,
Shihab-ud-din Mahmud , who was replaced by governor Yusuf ibn Firuz
when Shihab-ud-din Mahmud returned to
Damascus after his father Taj
al-Muluk Buri succeeded Toghtekin. The Burids transformed the Temple
of Bel into a citadel in 1132, fortifying the city, and transferring
it to the Bin Qaraja family three years later in exchange for Homs.
During the mid-12th century,
Palmyra was ruled by the Zengid king Nur
ad-Din Mahmud . It became part of the district of Homs, which was
given as a fiefdom to the Ayyubid general
Shirkuh in 1168 and
confiscated after his death in 1169.
Homs region was annexed by the
Ayyubid sultanate in 1174; the following year,
Saladin gave Homs
(including Palmyra) to his cousin Nasir al-Din Muhammad as a fiefdom.
After Saladin's death, the Ayyubid realm was divided and
given to Nasir al-Din Muhammad's son
Shirkuh II (who built
the castle of
Palmyra known as
Fakhr-al-Din al-Maani Castle around
1230). Five years earlier, Syrian geographer Yaqut al-Hamawi
described Palmyra's residents as living in "a castle surrounded by a
Palmyra was used as a refuge by
Shirkuh II's grandson, al-Ashraf Musa
, who allied himself with the Mongol king
Hulagu Khan and fled after
the Mongol defeat in the 1260
Battle of Ain Jalut against the Mamluks
. Al-Ashraf Musa asked the Mamluk sultan
Qutuz for pardon and was
accepted as a vassal. Al-Ashraf Musa died in 1263 without an heir,
Homs district under direct Mamluk rule.
Al Fadl Principality
Al Fadl clan (a branch of the
Tayy tribe) were loyal to the
Mamluks, and in 1281, Prince Issa bin Muhanna of the
Al Fadl was
appointed lord of
Palmyra by sultan Qalawun . Issa was succeeded in
1284 by his son Muhanna bin Issa who was imprisoned by sultan
al-Ashraf Khalil in 1293, and restored two years later by sultan
al-Adil Kitbugha . Muhanna declared his loyalty to
Öljaitü of the
Ilkhanate in 1312 and was dismissed and replaced with his brother Fadl
by sultan an-Nasir Muhammad . Although Muhanna was forgiven by
an-Nasir and restored in 1317, he and his tribe were expelled in 1320
for his continued relations with the Ilkhanate, and he was replaced
by tribal chief Muhammad ibn Abi Bakr .
Muhanna was forgiven and restored by an-Nasir in 1330; he remained
loyal to the sultan until his death in 1335, when he was succeeded by
his son. Contemporary historian Ibn Fadlallah al-Omari described the
city as having "vast gardens, flourishing trades and bizarre
Al Fadl clan protected the trade routes and villages
Bedouin raids, raiding other cities and fighting among
themselves. The Mamluks intervened militarily several times,
dismissing, imprisoning or expelling its leaders. In 1400
Timur ; the Fadl prince Nu\'air escaped the battle and
later fought Jakam , the sultan of Aleppo. Nu'air was captured, taken
Aleppo and executed in 1406; this, according to Ibn Hajar
al-Asqalani , ended the
Al Fadl clan's power.
OTTOMAN AND LATER PERIODS
The village, within the Temple of Bel, during the early 20th
Syria became part of the
Ottoman Empire in 1516, and
Palmyra was a
center of an administrative district (sanjak ). During the Ottoman
Palmyra was a small village in the courtyard of the Temple of
Bel. After 1568 the Ottomans appointed the Lebanese prince Ali bin
Musa Harfush as governor of Palmyra's sanjak, dismissing him in 1584
Palmyra came under the authority of another Lebanese prince,
Fakhr-al-Din II , who renovated
Shirkuh II's castle (which became
Fakhr-al-Din al-Maani Castle ). The prince fell from grace
with the Ottomans in 1633 and lost control of the village, which
remained a separate sanjak until it was absorbed by Zor
1857. The village became home to an Ottoman garrison to control the
Bedouin in 1867.
In 1918, as
World War I
World War I was ending, the
Royal Air Force
Royal Air Force built an
airfield for two planes, and in November the Ottomans retreated from
Sanjak without a fight. The Syrian Emirate 's army entered Deir
ez-Zor on 4 December, and Zor
Sanjak became part of Syria. In 1919,
as the British and French argued over the borders of the planned
mandates , the British permanent military representative to the
Supreme War Council Henry Wilson suggested adding
Palmyra to the
British mandate . However, the British general Edmund Allenby
persuaded his government to abandon this plan.
Palmyra) became part of the French Mandate after Syria's defeat in the
Battle of Maysalun on 24 July 1920.
Palmyra gained importance to French efforts to pacify the Syrian
Desert , a base was constructed in the village near the Temple of Bel
in 1921. In 1929 the general director of antiquities in Syria, Henri
Arnold Seyrig , began excavating the ruins and convinced the villagers
to move to a new, French-built village next to the site. The
relocation was completed in 1932; ancient
Palmyra was ready for
excavation as its villagers settled into the new village of
World War II
World War II , the Mandate came under the authority of Vichy
France , who gave permission to
Nazi Germany to use the airfield at
Palmyra; forces of
Free France , backed by British forces, invaded
Syria in June 1941, and on 3 July 1941, the British took control over
the city in the aftermath of a battle .
Syrian Civil War
Palmyra offensive (May 2015) ,
(March 2016) ,
Palmyra offensive (December 2016) , and Palmyra
offensive (2017) The Lion of
Al-lāt (first century AD), which
stood at the entrance of the Temple of
Al-lāt (destroyed in 2015)
As a result of the
Syrian Civil War
Syrian Civil War ,
Palmyra experienced widespread
looting and damage by combatants. In 2013, the façade of the Temple
of Bel sustained a large hole from mortar fire, and colonnade columns
have been damaged by shrapnel . According to Maamoun Abdulkarim, the
Syrian Army positioned its troops in some archaeological-site areas,
Syrian opposition fighters positioned themselves in gardens
around the city.
On 13 May 2015, ISIL launched an attack on the modern town of Tadmur
, sparking fears that the iconoclastic group would destroy the
adjacent ancient site of Palmyra. On 21 May, some artifacts were
transported from the
Palmyra museum to
Damascus for safekeeping; a
Greco-Roman busts, jewelry, and other objects looted from
the museum have been found on the international market. ISIL forces
Palmyra the same day. Local residents reported that the
Syrian air force bombed the site on 13 June, damaging the northern
wall close to the
Temple of Baalshamin . Palmyra\'s theatre was used
as a place of public executions of ISIL opponents; videos were
released by ISIL showing the killing of Syrian prisoners in front of
crowds. On 18 August, Palmyra's retired antiquities chief Khaled
al-Asaad was beheaded by ISIL after being tortured for a month to
extract information about the city and its treasures; al-Asaad refused
to give any information to his captors.
Syrian government forces supported by Russian airstrikes recaptured
Palmyra on 27 March 2016 after intense fighting against ISIL fighters.
According to initial reports, the damage to the archaeological site
was less extensive than anticipated, with numerous structures still
standing. Following the recapture of the city, Russian de-mining
teams began clearing mines planted by ISIL prior to their retreat.
Following heavy fighting, ISIL reportedly reoccupied the city on 11
December 2016, prompting an offensive by the
Syrian Army which retook
the city on 2 March 2017.
_ Inscription in Greek and Aramaic honoring the strategos _
Julius Aurelius Zenobius
From the beginning of its history to the first century AD
a petty sheikhdom , and by the first century BC a Palmyrene identity
began to develop. During the first half of the first century AD,
Palmyra incorporated some of the institutions of a Greek city (polis
); the concept of citizenship (demos ) appears in an inscription,
dated to AD 10, describing the Palmyrenes as a community. In AD 74,
an inscription mentions the city's boule (senate). The tribal role in
Palmyra is debated; during the first century, four treasurers
representing the four tribes seems to have partially controlled the
administration but their role became ceremonial by the second century
and power rested in the hands of the council.
The Palmyrene council consisted of about six hundred members of the
local elite (such as the elders or heads of wealthy families or
clans), representing the city's four-quarters. The council, headed
by a president, managed civic responsibilities; it supervised public
works (including the construction of public buildings), approved
expenditures, collected taxes, and appointed two archons (lords) each
year. Palmyra's military was led by _strategoi _ (generals)
appointed by the council. Roman provincial authority set and
approved Palmyra's tariff structure, but the provincial interference
in local government was kept minimal as the empire sought to ensure
the continuous success of Palmyrene trade most beneficial to Rome. An
imposition of direct provincial administration would have jeopardized
Palmyra's ability to conduct its trading activities in the East,
especially in Parthia.
With the elevation of
Palmyra to a colonia around 213–216, the city
ceased being subject to Roman provincial governors and taxes. Palmyra
incorporated Roman institutions into its system while keeping many of
its former ones. The council remained, and the _strategos_ designated
one of two annually-elected magistrates . This _duumviri _
implemented the new colonial constitution, replacing the archons.
Palmyra's political scene changed with the rise of
Odaenathus and his
family; an inscription dated to 251 describes Odaenathus' son Hairan I
as "Ras" (lord) of
Palmyra (exarch in the Greek section of the
inscription) and another inscription dated to 252 describes Odaenathus
with the same title.
Odaenathus was probably elected by the council
as exarch, which was an unusual title in the Roman empire and was not
part of the traditional Palmyrene governance institutions. Whether
Odaenathus' title indicated a military or a priestly position is
unknown, but the military role is more likely. By 257
known as a _consularis _, possibly the _legatus _ of the province of
Phoenice . In 258
Odaenathus began extending his political influence,
taking advantage of regional instability caused by Sasanian
aggression; this culminated in the Battle of Edessa, Odaenathus'
royal elevation and mobilization of troops, which made
The monarchy continued most civic institutions, but the duumviri
and the council were no longer attested after 264; Odaenathus
appointed a governor for the city. In the absence of the monarch, the
city was administered by a viceroy . Although governors of the
eastern Roman provinces under Odaenathus' control were still appointed
by Rome, the king had overall authority. During Zenobia's rebellion,
governors were appointed by the queen. Not all Palmyrenes accepted
the dominion of the royal family; a senator, Septimius Haddudan,
appears in a later Palmyrene inscription as aiding Aurelian's armies
during the 273 rebellion. After the Roman destruction of the city,
Palmyra was ruled directly by Rome, and then by a succession of other
rulers, including the Burids and Ayyubids, and subordinate Bedouin
chiefs—primarily the Fadl family, who governed for the Mamluks.
Relief in the
Temple of Bel
Temple of Bel depicting Palmyrene war gods
Due to its military character and efficiency in battle,
Irfan Shahîd as the "
Sparta among the cities of the
Orient, Arab and other, and even its gods were represented dressed in
military uniforms." Palmyra's army protected the city and its
economy, helping extend Palmyrene authority beyond the city walls and
protecting the countryside's desert trade routes. The city had a
substantial military; Zabdibel commanded a force of 10,000 in the
third century BC, and
Zenobia led an army of 70,000 in the Battle of
Emesa . Soldiers were recruited from the city and its territories,
spanning several thousand square kilometers from the outskirts of Homs
Euphrates valley. Non-Palmyrene soldiers were also recruited;
a Nabatean cavalryman is recorded in 132 as serving in a Palmyrene
unit stationed at
Anah . Palmyra's recruiting system is unknown; the
city might have selected and equipped the troops and the _strategoi_
led, trained and disciplined them.
The _strategoi_ were appointed by the council with the approval of
Rome. The royal army in the mid 3rd century AD was under the
leadership of the monarch aided by generals, and was modeled on the
Sasanians in arms and tactics. The Palmyrenes were noted archers.
They used infantry while a heavily armored cavalry (clibanarii )
constituted the main attacking force. Palmyra's infantry was armed
with swords, lances and small round shields; the clibanarii were
fully armored (including their horses), and used heavy spears (kontos
) 3.65 metres (12.0 ft) long without shields.
Relations With Rome
Citing the Palmyrenes' combat skills in large, sparsely populated
areas, the Romans formed a Palmyrene auxilia to serve in the Imperial
Roman army .
Vespasian reportedly had 8,000 Palmyrene archers in
Judea , and Trajan established the first Palmyrene
Auxilia in 116 (a
camel cavalry unit, Ala I Ulpia dromedariorum Palmyrenorum).
Palmyrene units were deployed throughout the Roman Empire, serving in
Dacia late in Hadrian's reign, and at
El Kantara in
Antoninus Pius . During the late second century Rome
Cohors XX Palmyrenorum , which was stationed in
Right to left: Bel, Yarhibol,
Aglibol (left) and
Malakbel (right) An
Altar found in
Trastevere dedicated to
Malakbel bearing the epithet
Palmyra's gods were primarily part of the northwestern Semitic
pantheon , with the addition of gods from the Mesopotamian and Arab
pantheons. The city's chief pre-Hellenistic deity was called Bol, an
Baal (a northwestern Semitic honorific). The
Babylonian cult of
Bel-Marduk influenced the Palmyrene religion and by
217 BC the chief deity's name was changed to Bel . This did not
indicate the replacing of the northwestern Semitic Bol with a
Mesopotamian deity, but was a mere change in the name.
Second in importance after the supreme deity, were over sixty
ancestral gods of the Palmyrene clans.
Palmyra had unique deities,
such as the god of justice and Efqa's guardian
Yarhibol , the sun
Malakbel , and the moon god
Aglibol . Palmyrenes worshiped
regional deities, including the greater Levantine gods
Atargatis ; the Babylonian gods
Nergal , and the Arab
Arsu , Šams and
The deities worshiped in the countryside were depicted as camel or
horse riders and bore Arab names. The nature of those deities is
uncertain as only names are known, most importantly Abgal . The
Palmyrene pantheon included ginnaye (some were given the designation
"Gad "), a group of lesser deities popular in the countryside, who
were similar to the Arab jinn and the Roman genius . Ginnaye were
believed to have the appearance and behavior of humans, similar to
Arab jinn. Unlike jinn, however, the ginnaye could not possess or
injure humans. Their role was similar to the Roman genius: tutelary
deities who guarded individuals and their caravans, cattle and
Although the Palmyrenes worshiped their deities as individuals, some
were associated with other gods. Bel had Astarte-Belti as his
consort, and formed a triple deity with
became a sun god in his association with Bel).
Malakbel was part of
many associations, pairing with Gad Taimi and Aglibol, and forming
a triple deity with
Baalshamin and Aglibol.
Palmyra hosted an Akitu
(spring festival) each
Nisan . Each of the city's four-quarters had a
sanctuary for a deity considered ancestral to the resident tribe;
Malakbel and Aglibol's sanctuary was in the Komare quarter. The
Baalshamin sanctuary was in the Ma'zin quarter, the
Arsu sanctuary in
the Mattabol quarter, and the
Atargatis sanctuary in the fourth
The priests of
Palmyra were selected from the city's leading
families, and are recognized in busts through their headdresses which
have the shape of a polos adorned with laurel wreath or other tree
made of bronze among other elements. The high priest of Bel's temple
was the highest religious authority and headed the clergy of priests
who were organized into collegia each headed by a higher priest. The
personals of Efqa spring's sanctuary dedicated to
Yarhibol belonged to
a special class of priests as they were oracles. Palmyra's paganism
was replaced with
Christianity as the religion spread across the Roman
Empire, and a bishop was reported in the city by 325. Although most
temples became churches, the Temple of
Al-lāt was destroyed in 385 at
the order of
Maternus Cynegius (the eastern praetorian prefect ).
Muslim conquest in 634
Islam gradually replaced
Christianity, and the last known bishop of
Palmyra was consecrated in
MALAKBEL AND THE ROMAN SOL INVICTUS
In 274, following his victory over Palmyra,
Aurelian dedicated a
large temple of
Sol Invictus in Rome; most scholars consider
Sol Invictus to be of Syrian origin, either a
continuation of emperor
Elagabalus cult of
Malakbel of Palmyra. The Palmyrene deity was commonly identified
with the Roman god Sol and he had a temple dedicated for him on the
right bank of the
Tiber since the second century. Also, he bore the
epithet Invictus and was known with the name Sol "Sanctissimus", the
latter was an epithet
Aurelian bore on an inscription from
The position of the Palmyrene deity as Aurelian's
Sol Invictus is
inferred from a passage by
Zosimus reading: "and the magnificent
temple of the sun he (i.e. Aurelian) embellished with votive gifts
from Palmyra, setting up statues of
Helios and Bel". Three deities
Palmyra exemplified solar features: Malakbel,
Shamash , hence the identification of the Palmyrene
in Zosimus' work with Malakbel. Some scholars criticize the notion of
Malakbel's identification with Sol Invictus; according to Gaston
Halsberghe , the cult of
Malakbel was too local for it to become an
imperial Roman god and Aurelian's restoration of Bel's temple and
sacrifices dedicated to
Malakbel were a sign of his attachment to the
sun god in general and his respect to the many ways in which the deity
was worshiped. Richard Stoneman suggested another approach in which
Aurelian simply borrowed the imagery of
Malakbel to enhance his own
solar deity. The relation between
Sol Invictus can not
be confirmed and will probably remain unresolved.
See also: Canalizations of
Zenobia Palmyra's Agora; the two
front entrances lead to the interior, the city's marketplace
Palmyra's economy before and at the beginning of the Roman period was
based on agriculture, pastoralism, trade, and serving as a rest
station for the caravans which sporadically crossed the desert. By
the end of the first century BC, the city had a mixed economy based on
agriculture, pastoralism, taxation, and, most importantly, the
caravan trade. Taxation was an important source of revenue for the
Palmyrene government. Caravaneers paid taxes in the building known as
the Tariff Court, where a tax law dating to AD 137 was exhibited.
The law regulated the tariffs paid by the merchants for goods sold at
the internal market or exported from the city.
Classlcist Andrew M. Smith II suggests most land in
Palmyra was owned
by the city, which collected grazing taxes. The oasis had about 1,000
hectares (2,500 acres) of irrigable land, which surrounded the city.
The Palmyrenes constructed an extensive irrigation system in the
northern mountains that consisted of reservoirs and channels to
capture and store the occasional rainfall. The most notable
irrigation work is
Harbaqa Dam which was constructed in the late first
century AD; it is located 48 km (30 mi) southwest of the city and can
collect 140,000 cubic metres (4,900,000 cu ft) of water. The
countryside was intensively planted with olive, fig , pistachio and
barley . However, agriculture could not support the population and
food was imported.
After Palmyra's destruction in 273, it became a market for villagers
and nomads from the surrounding area. The city regained some of its
prosperity during the
Umayyad era, indicated by the discovery of a
Umayyad _souq_ in the colonnaded street.
Palmyra was a minor
trading center until its destruction in 1400; according to Sharaf
ad-Din Ali Yazdi , Timur's men took 200,000 sheep, and the city was
reduced into a settlement on the desert border whose inhabitants
herded and cultivated small plots for vegetables and corn.
During the first centuries AD, Palmyra's main trade route ran east to
Euphrates where it connected at the city of
Hīt . The route then
ran south along the river toward the port of
Charax Spasinu on the
Persian Gulf , where Palmyrene ships traveled back and forth to India.
Goods were imported from India, China and
Transoxiana , and exported
west to Emesa (or Antioch) then the Mediterranean ports, from which
they were distributed throughout the Roman Empire. In addition to the
usual route some Palmyrene merchants used the Red Sea , probably as a
result of the
Roman–Parthian Wars . Goods were carried overland
from the seaports to a
Nile port, and then taken to the Egyptian
Mediterranean ports for export. Inscriptions attesting a Palmyrene
presence in Egypt date to the reign of Hadrian.
Palmyra was not on the main trading route (which followed the
Euphrates), the Palmyrenes secured the desert route passing their
city. They connected it to the
Euphrates valley, providing water and
shelter. The Palmyrene route connected the
Silk Road with the
Mediterranean, and was used almost exclusively by the city's
merchants, who maintained a presence in many cities, including
Dura-Europos in 33 BC,
Babylon by AD 19,
Seleucia by AD 24, Dendera
, Coptos , Bahrain, the
Indus River Delta ,
Merv and Rome.
The caravan trade depended on patrons and merchants. Patrons owned
the land on which the caravan animals were raised, providing animals
and guards for the merchants. The lands were located in the numerous
villages of the Palmyrene countryside. Although merchants used the
patrons to conduct business, their roles often overlapped and a patron
would sometimes lead a caravan. Commerce made
Palmyra and its
merchants among the wealthiest in the region. Some caravans were
financed by a single merchant, such as Male' Agrippa (who financed
Hadrian's visit in 129 and the 139 rebuilding of the Temple of Bel).
The primary income-generating trade good was silk, which was exported
from the East to the West. Other exported goods included jade,
muslin, spices, ebony, ivory and precious stones. For its domestic
Palmyra imported variety of goods including slaves,
prostitutes, olive oil, dyed goods, myrrh and perfume.
Excavations at Palmyra, 1962, Polish archaeologist Kazimierz
Michałowski The Colonnade The
Tetrapylon (destroyed in
Palmyra was visited by travelers such as
Pietro Della Valle (between
1616 and 1625),
Jean-Baptiste Tavernier (in 1638) and many Swedish and
German explorers. In 1678 a group of English merchants visited the
city, and its first scholarly description appeared in a 1696 book by
Abednego Seller . In 1751, an expedition led by Robert Wood and James
Dawkins studied Palmyra's architecture. French artist and architect
Louis-François Cassas conducted an extensive survey of the city’s
monuments in 1785, publishing over a hundred drawings of Palmyra’s
civic buildings and tombs. Visits by travelers and antiquarians
continued, including one made by
Lady Hester Stanhope in 1813, and
Lady Strangford in 1862. Palmrya was photographed for the
first time in 1864 by Louis Vignes.
In 1882, the "Palmyrene Tariff", an inscribed stone slab from AD 137
in Greek and Palmyrene detailing import and export taxation, was
discovered by prince
Abamelek-Lazarev in the Tariff Court. It has
been described by historian John F. Matthews as "one of the most
important single items of evidence for the economic life of any part
of the Roman Empire". In 1901, the slab was gifted by the Ottoman
Abdul Hamid II to the Russian Tsar and is now in the Hermitage
Saint Petersburg .
Palmyra's first excavations were conducted in 1902 by Otto Puchstein
and in 1917 by
Theodor Wiegand . In 1929, French general director of
Syria and Lebanon
Henri Arnold Seyrig began large-scale
excavation of the site; interrupted by
World War II
World War II , it resumed soon
after the war's end. Seyrig started with the
Temple of Bel
Temple of Bel in 1929
and between 1939 and 1940 he excavated the Agora. Daniel Schlumberger
conducted excavations in the Palmyrene northwest countryside in 1934
and 1935 where he studied different local sanctuaries in the Palmyrene
villages. From 1954 to 1956, a Swiss expedition organized by UNESCO
excavated the Temple of Baalshamin. Since 1958, the site has been
excavated by the Syrian Directorate-General of Antiquities, and
Polish expeditions led by many archaeologists including Kazimierz
Michałowski (until 1980) and Michael Gawlikowski (until 2011). The
stratigraphic sounding beneath the
Temple of Bel
Temple of Bel was conducted in 1967
Robert du Mesnil du Buisson , who also discovered the Temple of
Baal-hamon in the 1970s.
The Polish expedition concentrated its work in the Camp of Diocletian
while the Syrian Directorate-General of Antiquities excavated the
Temple of Nabu. Most of the hypogea were excavated jointly by the
Polish expedition and the Syrian Directorate, while the area of Efqa
was excavated by
Jean Starcky and Jafar al-Hassani . The Palmyrene
irrigation system was discovered in 2008 by Jørgen Christian Meyer
who researched the Palmyrene countryside through ground inspections
and satellite images. Most of
Palmyra still remains unexplored
especially the residential quarters in the north and south while the
necropolis has been thoroughly excavated by the Directorate and the
Polish expedition. Excavation expeditions left
Palmyra in 2011 due to
the Syrian Civil War.
In 1980, the historic site including the necropolis outside the walls
was declared a
World Heritage Site
World Heritage Site by the UNESCO. In November 2010
the Austrian media manager Helmut Thoma admitted looting a Palmyrene
grave in 1980, stealing architectural pieces for his home; German and
Austrian archaeologists protested against the theft.
* Ancient Near East portal
Aureliano in Palmira
Crisis of the Third Century
Palmyrene (Unicode block)
Thirty Tyrants (Roman)
* ^ The Semitic word T.M.R is the common root for the words that
designate palm dates in
Arabic , Hebrew , Ge\'ez and other Semitic
Schultens argued that in the Bible (1 Kings 9:18), the name is
written "Tamor" in the text and "Tadmor" in the margin. Schultens
considered "Tamor" to be the original name and derived from "Tamar".
However, the inclusion of a -_d_- in "Tamar" cannot be explained. *
^ Pliny mentioned that
Palmyra was independent, but by AD 70, Palmyra
was part of the Roman empire and Pliny's account over Palmyra's
political situation is dismissed by modern scholars, as it is
considered to rely on older accounts, dating to the period of Octavian
Palmyra was independent.
* ^ The last inscription written in Palmyrene is dated to 279/280.
* ^ E.g for Aramaic: Gaddibol and Yedi'bel.
E.g for Arab: Bene Ma'zin.
E.g for Amorite: Zmr' and Kohen-Nadu. * ^ The
Phyle are the Bene
Mita, Komare, Mattabol, Ma'zin and Claudia.
* ^ In general, a civic tribe (Phyle) is a collection of people
chosen from the collective population and ascribed a deity as a tribal
ancestor, then assigned a territory for them to reside in. The Phyles
were united by their citizenship instead of origin.
* ^ The clans might have gathered under the name of the four tribes
causing them to disappear.
* ^ E.g. by the second century AD, Palmyrene goddess
portrayed in the style of the Greek goddess
Athena , and named
Athena-Al-lāt. However, this assimilation of
not extend beyond iconography.
* ^ In the Hellenistic tradition, the agora was the center of
athletic, artistic, spiritual and political life of the city.
* ^ There are hints of Greek training; the names of three Greeks
who worked on the construction of the
Temple of Bel
Temple of Bel are known through
inscriptions, including a probably Greek architect named Alexandras
(Αλεξάνδρας). However, some Palmyrenes adopted Greco-Roman
names and native citizens with the name Alexander are attested in the
* ^ The attribution of
Palmyra annexation to
Tiberius was supported
by Seyrig and became the most influential. However, other dates have
been suggested ranging from as early as
Pompey 's era to as late as
Vespasian 's reign.
* ^ The exact year for when
Palmyra first made use of some Greek
institutions is not known; the evidence that specifically identify
Palmyra as a polis is not extensive, and the earliest known reference
is an inscription dated to AD 51, written in Palmyrene and Greek,
mentioning the "City of the Palmyrenes" in its Greek section.
* ^ Despite his Greek name, Alexandros was probably a native
There is no evidence that
Germanicus visited Palmyra. * ^ The
legion was part of Germanicus' eastern campaign and was not stationed
in the city as a garrison.
* ^ Commissioned by Traianus .
* ^ The transformation already began in the first century BC.
* ^ Although
Palmyra benefiting from the annexation of
Petra is a
mainstream view, it should be noted that Palmyra's trade was mostly
with the East, while Petra's trade counted on southern Arabia. In
addition to the fact that
Petra traded in different
articles, hence the annexation of
Petra might have not had a real
effect on Palmyra's trade.
* ^ The Ala I Thracum Herculiana was a _milliaria_. Generally, a
_milliaria_ consisted of a thousand horsemen.
* ^ No evidence exist for Roman units serving in the ranks of
Odaenathus; whether Roman soldiers fought under
Odaenathus or not is a
matter of speculation.
* ^ The Mesopotamian Jewish population was regarded by the
Palmyrenes as loyal to the Persians.
* ^ The first decisive evidence for the use of this title for
Odaenathus is an inscription dated to 271, posthumously describing
Odaenathus as "King of Kings". Known inscriptions dating to his
reign address him as king. However, Odaenathus' son Hairan I, is
directly attested as "King of Kings" during his lifetime.
Hairan I was
proclaimed by his father as co-ruler and was assassinated during the
same assassination incident that took the life of
Odaenathus and it is
Odaenathus was simply a king while his son held the King
of Kings title.
* ^ Claudius died in August 270, shortly before Zenobia's invasion
* ^ Scholarly is divided whether this was an act of independence
declaration, or a usurpation of the Roman throne.
* ^ All other accounts indicate that a military action was not
necessary, as it seems that
Zenobia withdrawn her forces in order to
* ^ Named in Ottoman system "Salyane Sanjak", which is a Sanjak
that had an annual allowance from the government, in contrast to the
Khas Sanjaks, which yielded a land revenue.
* ^ The British did not occupy the area and the local Bedouins
agreed to protect the field.
* ^ Neither the British, French or Arab armies attacked the Sanjak.
* ^ The number of 600 is hypothetical.
Hairan I was described as "Ras" in 251 indicating that
Odaenathus was promoted at that time as well.
* ^ The Palmyrene army that invaded Egypt was mainly composed of
clibanarii supported by archers.
* ^ A Palmyrene monument was discovered near Newcastle in England,
it was set by a Palmyrene named _Baratas_, who was either a soldier or
a camp follower.
* ^ The fourth tribe's name is not certain but most likely the
* ^ Richard Stoneman proposes that the law regulated taxes imposed
on goods destined for the internal market and did not cover the
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