Zenobia, the Rebel Queen of Palmyra (from the 3rd Century CE) was truly the stuff that legends are made of. She was the wife of the King of Palmyra Odaenathus but after his death in 267 CE, she took over the reigns of the Palmyrene Empire, instead of retreating to a corner or acting as a regent for her son.
As queen, Zenobia invaded and annexed Egypt (which was by then part of the Roman Empire) to Palmyrene territory thereby directly challenging the authority in Rome. It was what she did next that made Zenobia truly legendary. Not content with her local victories she marched on Rome to claim the title of Roman Emperor for herself.
In his beautiful French book ‘Palmyre, L’irremplacable tresor’ (Palmyra, the irreplaceable treasure), the French historian Paul Veyne comments that at that time, when emperors were proclaimed by Roman armies on the field after victories and came from every corner of the empire, it would have been surprising if Zenobia had not taken that path of trying to claim the Roman empire for herself. (The book, by the way, is a treasure by itself. Written after the recent destruction of Palmyra’s heritage by terrorists, it is an ode to the city and its legacy).
Fate, however, had other plans. Zenobia and her army were defeated by the current reigning emperor Aurelian. Historical sources are not very clear about what happened to Zenobia and her son after her defeat. Worst case scenario was that she would have been paraded in Rome as part of Aurelian’s triumphal march and then beheaded. Some, however, have optimistically suggested that Zenobia married a Roman senator and faded into obscurity.
Zenobia was a strong influence on art and culture. She was one of the strongest women figures in the entire world at that point of time- a woman with intelligence to match her soaring ambitions. An ambition to rule a large portion of the known world at that time.
I wonder what Zenobia would think of the current events at Palmyra. Would she be saddened by the loss of a great part of a common heritage that not just belongs to the people of the region but to humanity as a whole? Or would she let the past be and focus on what lies ahead?
(Here is an interesting slideshow on Reuters which shows Palmyra before and after ISIS. It will always be one of the deepest regrets in my life that I did not get to see Palmyra before it was destroyed. I hope that this region will find its path to peace so people can rebuild their lives.)
And so ends the A to Z Challenge 2016!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! *throws confetti*