Z for Zenobia of Palmyra

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.

Herbert_Schmalz-Zenobia
Queen Zenobia’s Last Look on Palmyra, Herbert Schmalz [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
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*

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18 Comments Add yours

    1. Sukanya Ramanujan says:

      Thank you very much!

  1. Nirmala says:

    Very interesting. Congrats on finishing challenge! Great job

    1. Sukanya Ramanujan says:

      Thank you so much!

  2. Lav says:

    What a great finish! I enjoyed reading all of the posts. Brava!

    1. Sukanya Ramanujan says:

      Thanks so much!

  3. neihtn2012 says:

    Ending this series with Zenobia is an admirable feat. That slideshow of Palmyra then and now, after ISIS, is sobering, disheaetening.

    1. Sukanya Ramanujan says:

      It is very poignant! Thanks for visiting Hien!

  4. You made it to Z! Congrats! What a wonderful series.

    1. Sukanya Ramanujan says:

      Thank you so much! All the encouragement helped muchly!

  5. Anabel Marsh says:

    Well done – you made it!

  6. Congratulations on completing the challenge! Your posts were so beautiful and informative (as always). I think that Zenobia would have been beheaded. I cannot imagine such a woman sinking into obscurity.

  7. cassmob says:

    Congratulations you made it to the end and finished with a great Z post!

    1. Sukanya Ramanujan says:

      Thank you!

  8. cassmob says:

    I also meant to say what a tragedy that loss is to the world. What on earth does destruction like this achieve?!

    1. Sukanya Ramanujan says:

      I can’t understand that either. It is mindless!

  9. V del Casal says:

    Congrats on finishing and ending with a bang! 🙂

    1. Sukanya Ramanujan says:

      Thanks V!

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