Syria, Palmyra, March 14, 2011
Palmyra was an ancient city in central Syria. In antiquity, it was an important city located in an oasis 215 km northeast of Damascus and 180 km southwest of the Euphrates at Deir ez-Zor. It had long been a vital caravan stop for travellers crossing the Syrian desert and was known as the Bride of the Desert. The earliest documented reference to the city by its Semitic name Tadmor.
The city was first mentioned in the archives of Mari in the second millennium BC. It was a trading city in the extensive trade network that linked Mesopotamia and northern Syria. When the Seleucids took control of Syria in 323 BC, the city was left to itself and it became independent, flourishing 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. 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. A period of great prosperity followed.
Palmyra was made part of the Roman province of Syria during the reign of Tiberius. Beginning in 212, Palmyra's trade diminished as the Sassanids occupied the mouth of the Tigris and the Euphrates. Septimius Odaenathus, a Prince of Palmyra, was appointed by Valerian as the governor of the province of Syria. After Valerian was captured by the Sassanids and died in captivity in Bishapur, Odaenathus campaigned as far as Ctesiphon (near modern-day Baghdad) for revenge, invading the city twice. When Odaenathus was assassinated by his nephew Maconius, his wife Septimia Zenobia took power, ruling Palmyra on the behalf of her son, Vabalathus.
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 Muslim Arabs under Khalid ibn al-Walid in 634 but left intact. After the year 800 and the civil wars that followed the fall of the Umayyad caliphs, people started abandoning the city.
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.
On a trip with
Canon 5D Mark II, Tamron 17-35, ISO 200, f/11, 1/125 sec, 2 shots