Palmira Syria

pictures of the World: Syria: Palmyra

Palmira, Tadmor

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Palmyra

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Palmyra (Tadmor) was an ancient city in Syria. In the age of antiquity, it was an important city of central Syria, located in an oasis 215 km northeast of Damascus.

The earliest documented reference to the city by its Semitic name Tadmor, Tadmur or Tudmur, which means "the town that repels" in Amorite and "the indomitable town" in Aramaicis recorded in Babylonian tablets found in Mari. It is still known as Tadmor in Arabic, and there is a newer town next to the ruins of the same name. The Palmyrenes constructed a series of large-scale monuments containing funerary art such as limestone slabs with human busts representing the deceased.

The exact etymology of the name "Palmyra" is unknown, although some scholars believe it was related to the palm trees in the area. Others, however, believe it may have come out of an incorrect translation of the name "Tadmor". The city was first mentioned in the archives of Mari in the second millennium BC. It was another trading city in the extensive trade network that linked Mesopotamia and northern Syria. Tadmor is mentioned in the Hebrew Bible as a desert city built by the King Solomon of Judea.

There had been a temple at Palmyra for 2000 years before the Romans ever saw it. Its form, a large stone-walled chamber with columns outside, is much closer to the sort of thing attributed to Solomon than to anything Roman. It is mentioned in the Bible as part of Solomon's Kingdom. In fact, it says he built it.

Flavius Josephus also attributes the founding of Tadmor to Solomon in his Antiquities of the Jews, along with the Greek name of Palmyra, although this must be a confusion with biblical 'Tamara'. Several citations in the tractates of the Talmud and of the Midrash also refer to the city in the Syrian desert (sometimes interchanging the letters "d" and "t" - "Tatmor" instead of "Tadmor").

When the Seleucids took control of Syria in 323 BC, the city was left to itself and it became independent. The city flourished as a caravan halt in the 1st century BC. In 41 BCE, Mark Antony sent a raiding party to Palmyra but the Palmyrans had received intelligence of their approach and escaped to the other side of the Euphrates, demonstrating that at that time Palmyra was still a nomadic settlement and its valuables could be removed at short notice.[7]

In the mid 1st century AD, Palmyra, a wealthy and elegant city located along the caravan routes linking Persia with the Mediterranean ports of Roman Syria and Phoenicia, came under Roman control. During the following period of great prosperity. Jones and Erieira note that Palmyran merchants owned ships in Italian waters and controlled the Indian silk trade. Palmyra became one of the richest cities of the Near East. The Palmyrans had really pulled off a great trick, they were the only people who managed to live alongside Rome without being Romanized. They simply pretended to be Romans.

Palmyra was made part of the Roman province of Syria during the reign of Tiberius (14 –37 AD). It steadily grew in importance as a trade route linking Persia, India, China, and the Roman empire. In 129, Hadrian visited the city and was so enthralled by it that he proclaimed it a free city and renamed it Palmyra Hadriana.

Beginning in 212, Palmyra's trade diminished as the Sassanids occupied the mouth of the Tigris and the Euphrates.

Zenobia rebelled against Roman authority with the help of Cassius Longinus and took over Bosra and lands as far to the west as Egypt, establishing the short-lived Palmyrene Empire. Next, she took Antioch and large sections of Asia Minor to the north. In 272, the Roman Emperor Aurelian finally restored Roman control and Palmyra was besieged and sacked, never to recover her former glory.

The city was captured by the Muslim Arabs under Khalid ibn Walid in 634. Palmyra was kept intact. After the year 800 and the civil wars which followed the fall of the Umayyad caliphs, people started abandoning the city.

In 1132 the Burids had the Temple of Ba'al turned into a fortress.

In 1401, it was sacked by Tamerlan (Timurlan, Amir), but it recovered quickly, so that in the 15th century it was described as boasting "vast gardens, flourishing trades and bizarre monuments" by Ibn Fadlallah al-Omari.

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Palmyra, Syria

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In the 16th century, Qala'at ibn Maan castle was built on top of a mountain, overlooking the oasis, by Fakhr ad-Din al-Maan II, a Lebanese prince who tried to control the Syrian Desert. The castle was surrounded by a moat, with access only available through a drawbridge. It is possible that earlier fortifications existed on the hill well before then.

The villagers who had settled in the Temple of Ba'al were dislodged in 1929 by the French authority.

The Temple of Ba'al-Shamin

The most striking building in Palmyra is the huge temple of Ba'al considered "the most important religious building of the first century AD in the Middle East". It originated as a Hellenistic temple, of which only fragments of stones survive. The temple measures 205 x 210 m.

The second most noteworthy remain in Palmyra is the theater, today having nine rows of seating, dated to the early 1st century AD. Behind the theater were a small Senate, where the local nobility discussed laws and political decisions, and the so-called "Tariff Court", which an inscription led to think to be a custom for caravans' payments.

Nearby are the Temple of the Syrian goddess Allat (2nd century AD), the Damascus Gate and the Temple of Ba'al-Shamin, erected in AD 17 and later expanded under the reign of Odenathus.

Outside the ancient walls, the Palmyrenes constructed a series of large-scale funerary monuments, which now form the so-called Valley of the Tombs, a 1 km long necropolis, with a series of large structures with rich decorations. These reliefs represented the "personality" or "soul" of the person.

In May 2005, a Polish team excavating at the Lat temple discovered a highly-detailed stone statue of the winged goddess of victory Nike.

Recently, archaeologists in central Syria have unearthed the remnants of a 1,200-year-old church believed to be the largest ever discovered in Syria.

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Palmyra

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created 28 April 2011

on Google site since 18 December 2012

updated 18 December 2012