Palmyra was an ancient Semitic city in present Homs Governorate, Syria. Archaeological finds date back to the Neolithic, and it was first documented in the early second millennium BC as a caravan stop for travellers crossing the Syrian Desert. The city was noted in the annals of the Assyrian kings, and may have been mentioned in the Hebrew Bible. Palmyra was a part of the Seleucid Empire and prospered after its incorporation into the Roman Empire in the first century.

The city’s wealth enabled the construction of monumental projects. By the third century AD the city was a prosperous metropolis and regional center. Before 273 it enjoyed autonomy for much of its existence. It was attached to the Roman province of Syria and its political organization was influenced by the Greek city-state model during the first two centuries AD. The city was governed by a senate, which was responsible for public works and the military. After becoming a colonia during the third century, Palmyra incorporated Roman governing institutions before adopting a monarchical system in 260. The city received its wealth from trade caravans; the Palmyrenes, renowned merchants, established colonies along the Silk Road and operated throughout the Roman Empire. The Palmyrenes were primarily a mix of Amorites, Arameans and Arabs, with a Jewish minority. The city’s social structure was tribal, and its inhabitants spoke Palmyrene (a dialect of Aramaic); Greek was used for commercial and diplomatic purposes. The culture of Palmyra, influenced by those of the Greco-Roman world and Persia, produced distinctive art and architecture. The city’s inhabitants worshiped local deities and Mesopotamian and Arab gods.

In 260 the Palmyrene king Odaenathus defeated the Persian emperor Shapur I. He fought several battles against the Persians before his assassination in 267. Odaenathus was succeeded by his two young sons under the regency of Queen Zenobia, who rebelled against Rome and began invading its eastern provinces in 270. The Palmyrene rulers adopted imperial titles in 271; the Roman emperor Aurelian defeated the city in 272, destroying it in 273 after a failed second rebellion.

Palmyra was a minor center under the Byzantines, Rashiduns, Ummayads, Abbasids, Mamluks and their vassals. The Palmyrenes converted to Christianity during the fourth century and to Islam in the second half of the first millennium, and the Palmyrene and Greek languages were replaced by Arabic. The city—destroyed by the Timurids in 1400—remained a small village under the Ottomans until 1918, followed by the Syrian kingdom and the French Mandate. In 1929, the French began moving villagers into the new village of Tadmur. The transfer was completed in 1932, with the site abandoned and available for excavations – Wikipedia


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