Ancient and modern caravan center of the Syrian Desert between Damascus (150 miles SW) or Homs (100 miles W) and Deir ez-Zor (130 miles E). "Palmyra" is apparently (Greek via Latin) from the Semitic "date palm" (Hebrew tāmār; Aramaic tamrā’; Arabic tamrun ); the modern name Tadmor may be a variant (or another Semitic root with common prefix t -); but it is scarcely solomon's Tadmor that is mentioned in 2 Chr8.4, where the reading should be Tamar (Thamar), a town in southern Juda (Ez 47.9; 48.28), as in 1 Kgs 9.18 [see J. Starcky, Dictionnaire de la Bible, suppl. ed. L. Pirot, 5:1068]. The only mention of a pre-Hellenistic Tadmor may be in Mari documents (c. 1750 b.c.) or in inscriptions of Tiglath-Pileser I (1116–1078 b.c.); see P. Dhorme, Revue biblique 53 (1924) 106.
The far-flung surviving ruins, cleared by T. Wiegand's German expedition, come from a period beginning c. 200 b.c.. In 44 a.d. the settlement was already "monumental" as known from the visit of Tiberius' nephew Germanicus and from a Bel temple inscription of 32 (Stoneman, p. 52), but still with a mostly unstable nomadic population (Browning, p. 28). But colonnaded Palmyra's magnificence is chiefly due to Hadrian's visit (a.d. 129)—especially the major temple of Bel (baal), distinct from a smaller temple of Belšamin (Baal-šamayim); see A. Collart, Annales archéologiques de Syrie 7 (1957) 67–94. Several hundred of the original 750 sandstone columns are still erect, stretching 1,240 yards from a monumental gateway (now partly reconstructed) past a theater (built c. a.d. 140) in the heart of the city—unlike most Roman-Syrian parallels; see E. Frezouls, Syria 36 (1959) 202.
Palmyra's most characteristic contribution to world culture is its funerary sculpture, showing the whole family of the deceased reunited around a festive banquet table, framed by rows of busts of near relatives that seal their respective burials [see Parlasca; E. Ruprechtsberger, Ausstellung Linz 1987 ; H. Ingholt, Studier (Copenhagen 1928)]. These sculptured burials were arranged either in several stories of a tower, of which a good number survive, notably those of Elahbel (a.d. 103) and Jamblichus (a.d. 80)—see E. Will, Syria 26 (1949) 87–116, 258–312; cf. 34 (1957) 262–277—or in underground chambers, most of which have been transferred to museums, especially Yarhai's (a.d. 108), reconstructed in Damascus [see R. Amy and H. Seyrig, Syria 17 (1936) 229; Annales archéologiques de Syrie 1 (1951) 32–40]. Some of the tombs contain inscriptions in the Palmyrene language (see bibliography), closely related to Nabataean and the Aramaic of the dead sea scrolls (see aramaic language, 1).
Rome built up Palmyra's strength to a maximum under the local ruler Odeinat; but after his death (a.d.268) his widow Zenobia declared her independence and successfully resisted sporadic attacks by the Roman legions until a strong army was sent against her. She was captured and made to grace Aurelian's triumph in Rome (thus earning him the bad name of "general who conquered a woman"), then comfortably ended her days in a villa at Tivoli.
The desert ruins of Palmyra are now dominated by a castle named for Ibn Ma‘an but really built by Fakhr-al-Dīn II al-Ma'nī (c. a.d. 1600).
See Also: arabia, 3
Bibliography: r. stoneman, Palmyra and Its Empire: Zenobia's Revolt against Rome (Ann Arbor 1992). i. browning, Palmyra (1979). m. gawlikowski, "Palmyra," Anchor Bible Dictionary 5 (1992) 136–137. p. parlasca, "Die palmyrenische Grabkunst," Mitteilungen der archäologischen Gesellschaft Steyermark 94 (1989–90) 112–136. m. colledge, The Art of Palmyra (1976). h. j. w. drijvers and m. versteegh, "Palmyra," Aufstieg und Niedergang der Römische Welt 2.8 (1977) 837–863; h. drijvers, The Religion of Palmyra (Leiden 1976). j. teixidor, The Pantheon of Palmyra (Leiden 1974). w. macdonald, Architecture of the Roman Empire (New Haven 1965). e. will, Les Palmyreniens (Paris 1992). j. starcky, Palmyre (Paris 1952); Dictionnaire de la Bible, suppl. ed. l. pirot, et al. (Paris 1928– ) 6:1066–1103. h. leclercq, Dictionnaire d'archéololgie chrétienne et de liturgie 13 (1957) 962. t. wiegand, ed., Palmyra: Ergebnisse der Expedition von 1902–1917, 2 v. (Berlin 1932). m. i. rostovtsev, Caravan Cities, tr. d. and t. talbot rice (Oxford 1932) 91–152. Palmyrene language. d. hillers, Zeitschrift für Althebraistik 8 (1995) 55–62. j. cantineau, Grammaire du palmyrénien épigraphique (Cairo 1935). f. rosenthal, Die Sprache der palmyrenischen Inschriften… (Leipzig 1936).
ancient city in an oasis of the northern syrian desert at the site of present-day tadmur.
The first mention of Tadmur (or Tamar, city of dates), Palmyra's ancient and modern name, goes back to the nineteenth century b.c.e. It was probably a Caananite town that later came under Aramaic influence. In the third century b.c.e., the city achieved international prominence when the Seleucids made it a transfer point of east-west trade. Through trade contacts, the city absorbed Hellenic culture and the Greek language, which was spoken alongside Aramaic, Arabic, Syriac, and other languages. From the time of the reign of Emperor Tiberius (14–37 c.e.), the city came under Roman control and was renamed Palmyra (city of palms). During the Pax Romana and with the benefit of paved Roman roads, the city's commercial fortunes expanded.
Palmyra's golden age was the third century c.e. Emperor Caracalla (211–217 c.e.) granted Palmyra the status of a Roman colony, exempting it from taxes. The city became the chief way station between Damascus and the Euphrates river. Goods came on caravans of camels from Rome, Egypt, India, the Persian Gulf, and from China along the silk route. Some Palmyran merchants owned ships that sailed the Indian Ocean. Palmyra's busy bazaars and ruling institutions were housed in fine Roman and Mesopotamian stone buildings with Corinthian colonnades, whose ruins remain in good condition today. Palmyra became the seat of the personal empire of Septimius Odaenathus, a member of a local Arab tribe, who gained the title Emperor of the East after saving the Roman Emperor Valerian in 260 from capture by the Sassanian king, Shahpur I.
From 267 to 272 c.e., the city was ruled by Queen Zenobia. Under her vigorous rule, Palmyra in 270 conquered Syria, Egypt, and Anatolia. Zenobia
then declared the empire of Palmyra independent of Rome, but two years later, Roman Emperor Aurelian reconquered all the territory and plundered the city of Palmyra. Zenobia tried to flee by camel toward the Euphrates, but was captured and taken to Rome, where she lived the rest of her days. Palmyra was reduced from a capital to a small frontier city after the destruction caused by Aurelian's reconquest in 273.
Ancient Palmyrenes worshiped the deity Bol (also Baal or Bel) who presided over the movements of the stars. Bol's chief sanctuary, shared with the sun and moon gods Yarhibol and Algibol, still stands. Greek and Roman deities were incorporated into the local belief system. In the second century, the worship of a single unnamed god became important, and by 325, a Palmyra bishop attended the Nicaean Council.
In 634, Khalid ibn al-Walid conquered Palmyra and assimilated it into the expanding Muslim caliphate. The city was destroyed by an earthquake in 1089 and reportedly had a mere two thousand inhabitants in the twelfth century. After the city was sacked by Tamerlane at the end of the fourteenth century, it fell into ruins. In the seventeenth century, Fakhr al-Din of Lebanon used Palmyra as a military training ground and erected a castle on a hill nearby.
The city was first excavated in 1929, and restorations have continued since then. Today, Tadmur is a city of thirty thousand inhabitants, the site of tourist facilities and a prison.
Starcky, J., and Gawlikowski, M. Palmyre, revised edition. Paris: Librairie d'Amérique et d'Orient, 1985.
Palmyra (ancient city, Syria)
Palmyra (pălmī´rə), ancient city of central Syria. A small modern village known as Tudmur is on the site. An oasis N of the Syrian Desert, 130 mi (209 km) NE of Damascus, Palmyra was important in Syrian-Babylonian trade by the 1st cent. BC Palmyra became of true importance only after Roman control was established (c.AD 30). Local tribes vied for control, which fell to the Septimii by the 3d cent. AD Septimius Odenathus built Palmyra into a strong autonomous state that practically embraced the Eastern Empire, including Syria, NW Mesopotamia, and W Armenia. After his death his widow, Zenobia, briefly expanded the territory, but her ambition brought on (AD 272) an attack by Aurelian, who was victorious and partly destroyed (273) the city. In decline, Palmyra was taken by the Arabs and sacked by Timur. It fell into ruins, and even the ruins were forgotten until the 17th cent. The great temple dedicated to Baal and other remains show the ancient splendor of Palmyra at its prime.
Palmyra (atoll, Pacific Ocean)
Palmyra, atoll (2 sq mi/5.2 sq km), central Pacific, one of the Line Islands, c.1,100 mi (1,770 km) SW of Honolulu. Palmyra has no permanent inhabitants. First visited by Americans in 1802, and later claimed by the Hawaiian kingdom (1862) and Great Britain (1889), it was annexed by the United States in 1898. Palmyra was under the jurisdiction of Honolulu until Hawaii was granted statehood in 1959. The atoll is now administered by the U.S. Dept. of the Interior. Since 2009 it has been part of the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument.