All posts by Sukanya Ramanujan

Renaissance Soul, Polyglot, Wanderer

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.

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*

X for ………

Just as in scrabble, there are a few alphabets in the A to Z Challenge that come with little flags. You’re always apprehensive when you get the Q but actually Q can be your best friend and help you score tons of points if used wisely. Other alphabets such as Z and X though not so feared could trip you. So I cruised through my Qs, Us and Ws but I hadn’t planned for my X. So I thought I would do something different and just write a little about famous people from the ancient world whose names started with X.

X for Xerxes- I

Xerxes was a Persian ruler who reigned between 486 BCE and 465 BCE. He was known in history for his attempts to invade Greece. He had his engineers build him a bridge across the Hellespont to cross over into Greece but this was destroyed in a storm. He had all the engineers executed and had a second built bridge to do the crossing!

Xerxes- Image from his tomb 

Image Courtesy- By Flickr user dynamosquito [CC BY-SA 2.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons

X for Xenophon

Xenophon was a writer from ancient Greece. He wrote about th elast stages of the Peloponnesain War.

Xenophon- Courtesy Wikimedia Commons

X for Xanthippus of Carthage

Xanthippus of Carthage (for there were many of his name) was a general who helped defeat the Romans in the first Punic War.

Can you think of others?

W for War

I know a lot of us will find this strange- but we are possibly living through one of the most peaceful times that has ever been known in the history of humankind. True- today we have terrorism that hangs as a threat over world peace but in a majority of cases countries respect each others’ sovereignty. There is an understanding and acknowledgement of human rights. And although there are still people who live in peril, the majority of us lead comfortable and secure lives.

This was not the case in the ancient world where rulers kept competing with each other for territory and resources. A large proportion of the population would constantly be under threat  and could have their property and lives taken away from them within a very short time. Not surprising that wars and the ensuing victories/ defeats occupied a huge part of people’s consciousness.

Battle and Chakravyuh
Mythical Battle from Mahabaratha and Chakravyuh depicted at Haleibidu, Karnataka, India
Battle Scene at Bayon- Half Land Half Water
Battle Scene at Bayon, Cambodia- Half Land Half Water
Bas-Relief Carvings at Bayon
The full scale of the battle scene at Bayon temple, Cambodia
The original frieze at the Naples Museum
The original Alexander Mosaic showing the battle between Alexander the Great and Darius III of Persia at the Naples Museum
Statue of Vercingetorix at Place Jaude, Clermont Ferrand
Statue of Vercingetorix, a Gaulish chieftain,  at Place Jaude, Clermont Ferrand, France
No Two Parts Alike
Details of the Battle in Dacia, Trajan’s Column in Rome


V for Victory

Think about it, almost everything we do personally or professionally is done with a view to succeeding or achieving a certain measure of success. Whether it is something like war which is played out on a massive scale or whether it is something intensely personal such as mastering a new skill, success is what we all aim towards.

People in the ancient world were no different- whether it was a war general building a triumphal arch or an individual dedicating tokens to a deity he/ she worshiped for success in a mission, the key was always on Victory.

I guess nothing succeeds like success.

Carving of Nike
Victory- Rome