Along with many other historical sites in the region, the ancient site of Palmyra is reported to have been heavily damaged in the current conflicts. This page remains as it was originally created in 2011 and will stand as a live-archived article until it is again possible to assess the state of the Palmyra ruins.
Palmyra was a thriving city of the ancient world whose impressive, UNESCO-listed ruins are located in Syria. Originally known by the Semitic name of Tadmor – which is now the name of the neighbouring modern town – Palmyra was once a commercial hub along a busy trade route.
References to Palmyra appear in the Bible as well as in other historical writings, some dating as far back as the second millennium BC. However, it was from the first century BC that affluent caravan owners stopped there along the old Silk Road, contributing to its wealth.
In addition to helping the city flourish, Palmyra’s central location also made it a target for invaders including the Assyrians, the Persians and then the Seleucids. It was under Rome however that Palmyra experienced its peak. As the Roman Empire expanded in the first and second centuries BC, Palmyra became one of its provinces. The relationship between the city and Rome developed over time, with Palmyra managing to retain a high level of independence.
The city’s most infamous figure was Queen Zenobia. Following the assassination of her husband, King Odainat, Zenobia claimed control of the region on behalf of the couple’s young son, Vabalathus. After a mighty attempt to claim independence from Rome, in 272 AD, Zenobia’s rule ended when she was taken to Rome. Not long after this, Palmyra’s fortunes began to decline, especially after its people were massacred for rising up against Rome, resulting in the destruction of much of the city.
Successive emperors, such as Diocletian and Justinian, fortified its remains, turning Palmyra into a military outpost and Palmyra was later taken over by Muslim forces, but it never regained its original glory.
Ruins of Palmyra
Most of the extensive ruins of Palmyra today date back to its time under Roman rule, particularly the second and third centuries.
One of the most imposing and important ruins of Palmyra is the Temple of Bel, a stunningly well-preserved temple to a revered Babylonian deity. Other important sites at Palmyra include the Colonnade of the Decumanus, the Baths of Diocletian, the Tetrapylon, the theatre, the arched gates, the agora, the Senate House and its many funereal monuments and burial sites, some pre-Roman.