TADMOR (Heb. תַּדְמֹר; Palmyra ), an oasis city at the point of intersection of the caravan roads in the central Syrian desert and the steppe land between Lebanon and Jabel Bishri, halfway between the Euphrates and the Orontes River in the Mediterranean Sea area. In classical sources it is called Palmyra, a direct translation of its Semitic name Tadmor, which is obviously connected with the word tamar, "palm tree." Josephus calls it Ταδάμορα (Ant. 8:154). Its modern name is Tadmura.
Tadmor was situated on the crossroads between Syria-Canaan and Mesopotamia, on the one hand, and between these areas and Arabia on the other. Its resulting importance goes back to the Old Babylonian period. Without doubt the rich trade between the "West" and Mesopotamia, well known from the *Mari documents and other sources, flowed through Tadmor.
In periods of "law and order" during the Old and Middle Babylonian periods, Tadmor served as a well-protected central station for commercial caravans, diplomatic envoys, and royal tours, and as a crossroads for cultural influences. Because it was situated in the desert and steppe land, Tadmor was subject to sudden attacks of Western Semitic desert nomads, such as the Sutaeans, or movements of Western Semitic tribes (as can be deduced from the Mari archives and also, indirectly, from Hittite-Babylonian correspondence). During the Aramaic invasion at the end of the second millennium, Tadmor, being the key point of connection between east and west and north and south, was one of the chief sites of clashes between King Tiglath-Pileser i of Assyria and the nomadic Aḥlamû-Arameans: "On the territory which extends from the feet of the Lebanon mountain to the city of Tadmar (!) of the land of Amurru, [to] the [city of] Anat [on the Euphrates] of the land of Suḥi, and to the city of Rapiqu [on the Euphrates] of the land of Karduniaš [= Babylon] I defeated them decisively" (Annals, lines 31ff.; Weidner, in bibl.).
From this inscription it can be learned that Tadmor belonged to Amurru, which here means not simply the "West" but is connected in some way to the (by then dissolved) state of Amurru, founded by the dynasty of Abdasrita in the 14th century (see *El-Amarna Tablets and *Amorites). This territory was inherited by the Arameans.
The place of Tadmor in the history of pre-Exilic Israel is a direct continuation of the situation described above. i Kings 9:18 reads: "King Solomon rebuilt [fortified and reorganized]… Tamar [ kere Tadmor; cf. below] in the desert [ midbar ] in the land" (see below). In ii Chronicles 8:3–4 "Solomon went [in a military-political campaign] to Hamath-Zobah and took it, and he built [see above] Tadmor in the desert and all the store-cities which he built in Hamath." Even if one considers Tamar of i Kings as one of the fortification enterprises of Solomon in the south, in the Judean Desert on the Arabah route (that passed through Tamar, Ein Hasab, and Hasebah), it seems that from the point of view of defense and control it is part of the same plan as that reflected in the ii Chronicles passage. The northern enterprise in Syria was at first a political move but later was motivated by economic considerations. The difficulty in the mention of friendly Hamath-Zobah (lxx, Beth Zobah) can be overcome by supposing that Solomon took control over this city as a countermeasure against the renewed independence of Aram-Damascus (i Kings 11:23–25). Tadmor, as a center of routes in every direction including Arabia and Palestine, was all important for Solomon to hold, in order to maintain at least commercial control over the west up to the Euphrates. By holding and rebuilding Tadmor, he assumed control of the flow of commerce for some time, thus giving a new turn to the economic development of the whole "west" that persisted even after his period. Tadmor was no less important to Solomon than it had been to Tiglath-Pileser i; in fact it was even more so because it was a key point in his north-south control plan.
In the Hellenistic-Roman Period
A neutral city located on the borders of two large empires – the Roman and the Persian – it traded with both (Appian, Historia Romana, 5:37–38, 42), and levied duty on all entering and departing caravans for the use of its water and lodging facilities. During the rule of *Odenathus and Zenobia in the third century, Palmyra – as it was known at this period – became an important power for a short time after its armies conquered Palestine and Egypt. After Emperor Aurelian entered into battle against it and destroyed the city in 273, however, it lost its importance.
During the period of its efflorescence, Palmyra had a Jewish community, as is clear from various documents and inscriptions of the period. The mention of Miriam of Palmyra in the Mishnah (Naz. 6:11) as a contemporary of the first-century R. Eliezer indicates that a Jewish community may have existed there at an earlier date. In literal obedience to biblical command the Shema (Deut. 6:4–9) is carved on the stone lintel of a building in Palmyra which E.L. Sukenik believes to have been part of a synagogue (cij no. 821). Other house inscriptions have also been found; they contain the following biblical texts: (a) Deuteronomy 7:15 and 25:5; (b) ibid. 28:4b–5; (c) ibid. 7:14; and (d) Shema Yisrael in large letters (cij nos. 821–3).
All of them predate the third century c.e. A number of Jewish funerary inscriptions have also been found (cf. Cooke, bibl., and cij no. 820). They are dated second and third century c.e. From them it seems that the Palmyrene Jewish community was fairly large and conscious of its Judaism, although non-Jewish personal names became increasingly common (as in Egypt), e.g., Wahb'allāth ("the gift of [the goddess] Allāt").
In addition, graves of Palmyrene Jews are to be found in *Bet She'arim and Jerusalem although it is not known whether the bodies were brought to Jerusalem for reburial or whether a community of Palmyrene Jews had settled there. The cemetery of Bet She'arim has a large number of graves of Palmyrene Jews, including spacious, decorated burial chambers. This cemetery was in use for about 150 years, until its destruction by Gaulus in 352. Palmyra's brief rule over Palestine during that period may have made the transport of bodies for burial easier.
The Palmyrene pantheon was a syncretism of Canaanite, Greek, and Syrian deities. One of the latter was the moon god, ʿAglibol (i.e., "calf-ba'al"; Gr. ʾΑγλίβαλος; cf. Cooke, bibl., nos. 139, 140), who is identified with the Ugaritic god mentioned in the "Hymn to Rpu" called ʾgl-il ("calf god") connected with tr-il ("bull god"; cf. C.F.A. Schaeffer, Mission de Ras Shamra, 16 (1968), 551–5). ʿAglibol is thus connected with the ancient calf god which appeared in the Bible as the golden calf (Ex. 32:4). In Palmyra the month of Tammuz is called "Qnyn," just as Tammuz is lamented with kinah in Ezekiel (8:3, 14).
The Talmud (Yev. 16a; Nid. 56b; tj, Kid. 4:1, 65c, and Yev. 1:6, 3b) mentions Palmyrene converts to Judaism. Buechler suggests this is connected with the conversion of the Adiabene dynasty in the first century c.e. Many Palmyrenes also came into contact with Jews while accompanying commercial caravans to the Persian Gulf along a route which led through such large Jewish centers as *Pumbedita, *Nehardea, *Sura, and *Maḥoza. M. Lidzbarski (Ephemeris fuer semitische Epigraphik, 1 (1902), 247f., 2 (1908), 295, 298) points out that specifically Jewish phrases had crept into Palmyrene inscriptions. A number of them (Février, Religion, bibl., 120–7) are dedicated to an anonymous god with the words לבריך שמה לעלמא ("May his name be praised forever") which is generally assumed to be a Jewish influence on Palmyrenes against profaning the name of a god. The Talmud reports that the rabbis looked upon converts from Palmyra, who evidently retained customs of idol worship, with suspicion and viewed the city itself with animosity. "The future destruction of Palmyra will be a day of rejoicing for Israel" (Yev. 17a). Aggadic tradition holds that Palmyrenes participated in the destruction of the First and Second Temples. The brief ten-year rule of Palmyra over Palestine was not a peaceful or happy one, and R. Johanan said: "Blessed be he who will witness the downfall of Tarmod (Tadmor)" (tj, Ta'an. 4:8, 69b). The Babylonian rabbis also suffered from the Palmyrenes, who, during the reign of Odenathus, fought with Rome against Persia and destroyed Nehardea in the process. The Talmud refers to Odenathus as Ben Naẓer and also mentions Queen Zenobia, who was considered to be sympathetic to the Jews. (For a discussion on the alleged Judaism of Zenobia and of a number of inscriptionary Palmyrene names which are preceded by בת see Février, Religion, bibl., 220).
biblical: E.F. Weidner, in: afo, 18 (1957–58), 343–4; J.R. Kupper, Les nomads en Mésopotamie (1958), 47, no. 2, 89; Bright, Hist, 192, 193; A. Malamat (ed.), in: Bi-Ymei Bayit Rishon (1962), 31–33; A.L. Oppenheim, Ancient Mesopotamia (1964), 60–61, 167, 392; Du Mesnil du Buisson, in: Bibliotheca Orientalis, 24 (1967), 20ff.; H. Klengel, Geschichte Syriens, 2 (1969), s.v.Palmyra. post-biblical: C. Moss, in: pefqs (1928), 100–7; G.A. Cooke, A Text-Book of North-Semitic Inscriptions … (1903), 263–340; J.G. Février, La religion des Palmyréniens (1931); idem, Essai sur l'histoire politique et économique de Palmyre (1931); H.P. Chajes, in: ri (1904), 171–80; M.A. Levy, in: zdmg, 18 (1864), 65–117; A. Champdor, Palmyre (Fr., 1934); L. Berger, in: Memoires de la Société le Linguistique, 7 (1892), 65–72; Buechler, in: Festschrift Adolf Schwarz (1917), 150ff.; Pauly-Wissowa, 36, pt. 2 (1949), 262–770; J. Starcky, Palmyre (Fr., 1952). add. bibliography: A. Bounni, "Palmyra," in: The Oxford Encyclopedia of Archaeology in the Near East, vol. 4 (1997), 238–44.