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IntroductionTetrapylon, Palmira
Palmira or Tudmor lies at Homs state, 155 kilometres east of Homs city and 210 kilometres northeast of Damasco . Its in the heart of the Syrian Desert, and is often described as 'the bride of the desert'. is without doubt the most beautiful and magnificent of the Syrian historic sites on the old Silk Road. Its magnificent remains tell of a heroic history during the reign of Queen Zenobia.

Palmira appeared for the first time in the 2nd millennium BC. It was mentioned in one of the Assyrian tablets archives of Mari and in an Assyrian text. It was also mentioned in the Bible as a part of Solomon's territory.

The 'oasis', as it is sometimes called, is located near a hot-water spring called Afqa. Palmira was an ideal halt for the caravans moving between Iraq and al-Sham (present-day Siria, Lebanon and Jordan), trading in silk from China to the Mediterranean.

 This strategic location made Tudmor (Palmira) proper in a well-established kingdom from the 2nd century B.C However, Tudmor was located between two warring empires, Rome and Persia. Tudmor found that her interests lay more with Rome, since the Persian had ambitions to take over the mouths of the Euphrates and Tigris rivers which would endanger Palmira's trade. 

When Tudmor  was fully occupied by the Romans under Tiberius, Augustus' successor and was integrated into the Province of Siria between 14-37 AD, Tudmor became known as the city of palm trees, and flourished even more: it imposed high taxes on goods from the caravans, and its horsemen fought alongside the Roman armies.

When the Roman emperor Adrian visited Palmira, he declared her a 'free city'; in return, the people of Tudmor gratefully called their city 'Adriana Palmira'. When the Severus emperors, who were originally Syrian (Homs), came to rule Palmira, they treated her people extremely well. The Emperor Caracalla declared her a Roman colony (212 AD), something the Palmyrians had always hoped for, since it exempted them from paying taxes on luxury items such as perfumes, spices, ivory, glass and silk. This made the city a luxurious one: new constructions, street, arches, temples and statues were built, making Palmira one of the greatest cities of the Roman empire.

When the conflict between Persia and Rome reached its crisis, Rome resorted to the ruler of Palmira for help. The leader Septimus Odeinat (Odenathus) became quite favoured by Rome and in 256/7 was appointed by the Emperor Valerian as Consul and Governor of the province of Siria Phoenice which Palmira had been transferred to in 194. A few years later Valerian was captured and murdered by the Sassanian Persians, and in redemption Odeinat campaigned as far as the Sassanian capital Ctesiphon. 

Palmira's greatest days however were after the murder of Odeinat, when his wife Zenobia started ruling Palmira on behalf of her son Vaballath.  Zenobia, women renowned for her exceptionally strong character, took power. She ruled Palmira in a way that astonished both West and East. She was exceptionally intelligent and attractive. She was a gifted linguist, an eloquent speaker of Palmyrian, Greek and Egyptian.

Zenobia had a wide knowledge of politics, and in her court, she had many philosophers, scholars and theologians. Queen Zenobia was soon fired by the ambition of getting rid of Roman domination. In 268, during the reign of Emperor Aurelian, Zenobia with the help of her Prime Minister Longinus, she decided to conquer all of Rome's territories. Aurelian was then very much engaged in internal conflicts as well as external wars. This enabled Queen Zenobia to take over the whole of Siria, she headed for the north and attempted to take Antioch, conquer Egypt (269-270) and send her armies to Asia Minor, gaining control thereby of all the land and sea-ways to the Far East. She took the title of 'August', which was only used by the emperor of Rome, and she had money coined with her and her son's likeness upon it, without that of the emperor of Rome. However, the Emperor Aurelian took quick action in setting his internal disputes, and started to plan his revenge on Queen Zenobia. He formed a new army for this purpose, which proceeded through Turkey to conquer Zenobia's army in its first defensive position in Homs (Emesa). It besieged Palmira until it fell in 274. Queen Zenobia was defeated and taken captive to Rome, fettered in chain gold.

The destiny of the great kingdom of Palmira was no better than that of its queen; the city fell prey to looting and destruction. Archaeologists are still working on excavations there in order to uncover the queen's palace, which was destroyed by the Romans and replaced by a military camp. Queen Zenobia's ambitious dream is still embodied in the magnificent remains of what she built.

Later in the Byzantine period a few churches were built and added to the much ruined city. It was then taken by the Arabs under Khaled Ibn Al Walid who was leader of the Arab army under the Caliph Abu Bakr. It played a minor defensive role during the Islamic periods although the Umayyads built the two Qasr Al Heirs. Later Temple of Baal was fortified and the Arab Castle of Fakhredin Al Maany was built. Since then it has had no major roles and the ruins have fallen victim to natural erosion.  

Main attractions and historical building
 A tour among the ruins, which cover an area of 6 square kilometres, requires a full day in order to form an adequate idea of the beauty of the architecture, which has remained. Worth visiting are the Baal temple, the Arch of Triumph, the amphitheatre, the baths, the 'Straight Street', the Congress Council and the Cemeteries.

 Close to Palmira, on a nearby hill, stands the citadel of Fakhredin Al Maany(17th century). The museum of Palmira (The Tudmor museum) is rich in art of different periods, sculpture, mosaic, gold, bronze and pottery. It also exhibits the folklore of Palmira and the Syrian desert. The spring of Afqa in Palmira is the source of life of the famous oasis. Its sulphurous mineral water is said to aid in the treatment of skin diseases, chest and liver complaints and anemia. It also stimulates digestion and blood circulation.


Palmira Location (GoogleMap)
Theater At Palmira
Ruins Stand At Palmira
Ruins Stand
Palmira, Cardo Maximus
Palmira, Cardo Maximus
Triumphal Arch, Palmira
Triumphal Arch
Ruins of Ancient Forum, Palmira
Ruins of Ancient Forum

Main References: The Syrian, Britannica, Encarta and Columbia encyclopedias ....

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Last Update 2008/05/25