Skip to Content


Palmyra , (; ; ; ), was an ancient Semitic city of disputed etymology, located in Homs Governorate, Syria. Dating back to the Neolithic, Palmyra was first attested in the early second millennium BC, as an oasis and a caravan stop for travelers crossing the Syrian desert. The city is mentioned in the Hebrew Bible and in the annals of the Assyrian kings of the first millennium BC, then it was incorporated into the Seleucid Empire, followed by the Roman Empire which brought a great prosperity to the city. By the second century AD, Palmyra became an important city and was engaged in the protection of the Roman east. Palmyra’s wealth allowed the construction of many monumental projects that reshaped the image of the city. By the third century, Palmyra was turned into a prosperous metropolis, with a strong army able of defeating the Sassanid empire in 260. Following the victory, Palmyra’s chief Odaenathus was proclaimed king and appointed by the Romans as the governor of the east. Odaenathus was assassinated in 267 and succeeded by his minor son under the regency of his wife Zenobia, who led a rebellion against the Romans and expanded her kingdom to include most of the Roman’s eastern provinces. Roman emperor Aurelian destroyed Palmyra in 273 causing it to lose its importance. The following eras saw Palmyra becoming a minor city in the desert under the rule of the Byzantines, Rashiduns, Ummayads, Abbassids, Mamluks and their vassals. Palmyra was devastated by earthquakes in the 11th century, and destroyed by the Timurids in 1400, remaining as a small village under the rule of the Ottomans until 1918, when it came under the rule of the Syrian kingdom followed by the French mandate. In 1929 the French started to evacuate the villagers into a newly built Village. The evacuation was completed in 1932 and the site became abandoned and available for excavations. The Palmyrenes were a mix of different peoples, mainly the Amorites, Arameans and Arabs, in addition to a Jewish minority. The society was tribal and the inhabitants spoke their own dialect of Aramaic, in addition to Greek. Both of the languages were replaced by Arabic following the Arab conquest in 634. Palmyra’s local culture was influenced by the Greco-Roman and Persian cultures, which produced a distinctive art and architecture. The city’s inhabitants worshiped local deities, in addition to Mesopotamian and Arab gods. They later converted to Christianity in the fourth century, followed by Islam in the second half of the first millennium. The Palmyrene political organization was based on the Greek city-state model, it was governed by a senate responsible for the public works and the military. After gaining the status of a Colonia in the third century, Palmyra’s incorporated Roman institutions to its system before adopting a monarchical system in 260. Palmyra gained its wealth from caravan trade. The Palmyrenes were renowned merchants who established colonies along the Silk Road, and conducted their operations all around the Roman empire.