48 Facts About Palmyra


Palmyra changed hands on a number of occasions between different empires before becoming a subject of the Roman Empire in the first century AD.

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Palmyra's wealth enabled the construction of monumental projects, such as the Great Colonnade, the Temple of Bel, and the distinctive tower tombs.

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Greco-Roman culture influenced the culture of Palmyra, which produced distinctive art and architecture that combined eastern and western traditions.

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The second view, supported by some philologists, such as Jean Starcky, holds that Palmyra is a translation of "Tadmor", which had derived from the Greek word for palm, "palame".

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Similarly, according to this theory, "Palmyra" derives from the Hurrian word pal using the same mVr formant (mar).

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Palmyra'sikh Zabdibel, who aided the Seleucids in the battle of Raphia, was mentioned as the commander of "the arabs and neighbouring tribes to the number of ten thousands"; 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.

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Palmyra declined after its destruction by Timur in 1400, and was a village of 6, 000 inhabitants at the beginning of the 20th century.

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Palmyra's population was a mixture of the different peoples inhabiting the city, which is seen in Aramaic, Arabic and Amorite names of Palmyrene clans, but the ethnicity of Palmyra is a matter of debate.

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In practice, according to several scholars such as Udo Hartmann and Michael Sommer, the citizenry of Palmyra were mainly the result of Arab and Aramaean tribes merging into a unity with a corresponding consciousness; they thought and acted as Palmyrenes.

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Classical Palmyra was a tribal community, but due to the lack of sources, an understanding of the nature of Palmyrene tribal structure is not possible.

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Classical Palmyra had a distinctive culture, based on a local Semitic tradition, and influenced by Greece and Rome.

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Palmyra's senate was an example; although Palmyrene texts written in Greek described it as a "boule", the senate was a gathering of non-elected tribal elders (a Near-Eastern assembly tradition).

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Palmyra had no large libraries or publishing facilities, and it lacked an intellectual movement characteristic of other Eastern cities such as Edessa or Antioch.

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However, unlike the Greek Agoras, Palmyra's agora resembled an Eastern caravanserai more than a hub of public life.

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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.

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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 of Qatna, and it was attacked by the Suteans who paralyzed the traffic along the trade routes.

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The association of Palmyra with Solomon is a conflation of "Tadmor" and a city built by Solomon in Judea and known as "Tamar" in the Books of Kings.

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Palmyra was left independent, trading with Rome and Parthia but belonging to neither.

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However, according to Appian Palmyra was wealthy enough for Mark Antony to send a force to conquer it in 41 BC.

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Palmyra saw intensive construction during the first century, including the city's first walled fortifications, and the Temple of Bel.

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In 129 Palmyra was visited by Hadrian, who named it "Hadriane Palmyra" and made it a free city.

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Toward the end of the second century, 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 transition:.

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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.

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In practice, Palmyra shifted from a provincial city to a de facto allied kingdom.

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Palmyra invaded Anatolia the following year, reaching Ankara and the pinnacle of its expansion.

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Palmyra's escaped east to ask the Persians for help, but was captured by the Romans; the city capitulated soon afterwards.

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Palmyra was reduced to a village and it largely disappeared from historical records of that period.

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Palmyra became a Christian city in the decades following its destruction by Aurelian.

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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.

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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.

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In 1400 Palmyra was attacked by Timur; the Fadl prince Nu'air escaped the battle and later fought Jakam, the sultan of Aleppo.

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In 1630 Palmyra came under the tax authority of another Lebanese emir, Fakhr-al-Din II, who renovated Shirkuh II's castle.

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The relocation was completed in 1932; ancient Palmyra was ready for excavation as its villagers settled into the new village of Tadmur.

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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.

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Palmyra's military was led by strategoi appointed by the council.

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Palmyra incorporated Roman institutions into its system while keeping many of its former ones.

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Palmyra's recruiting system is unknown; the city might have selected and equipped the troops and the strategoi led, trained and disciplined them.

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Palmyra's infantry was armed with swords, lances and small round shields; the clibanarii were fully armored, and used heavy spears (kontos) 3.

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Palmyra's gods were primarily part of the northwestern Semitic pantheon, with the addition of gods from the Mesopotamian and Arab pantheons.

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Palmyra had unique deities, such as the god of justice and Efqa's guardian Yarhibol, the sun god Malakbel, and the moon god Aglibol.

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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.

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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.

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In 274, following his victory over Palmyra, Aurelian dedicated a large temple of Sol Invictus in Rome; most scholars consider Aurelian's Sol Invictus to be of Syrian origin, either a continuation of emperor Elagabalus cult of Sol Invictus Elagabalus, or Malakbel of Palmyra.

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Three deities from Palmyra exemplified solar features: Malakbel, Yarhibol and Sams, hence the identification of the Palmyrene Helios appearing in Zosimus' work with Malakbel.

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Classicist Andrew M Smith II suggested that most land in Palmyra was owned by the city, which collected grazing taxes.

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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.

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Since Palmyra was not on the main trading route, the Palmyrenes secured the desert route passing their city.

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For its domestic market Palmyra imported a variety of goods including slaves, prostitutes, olive oil, dyed goods, myrrh and perfume.

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