The Site of Palmyra consists of the ruins of a caravan-oasis that further developed under Roman rule. After the Romans conquered Syria in the mid-first century AD, Palmyra flourished because of its location on a major trade route and became known as city of palm-trees.
Emperor Caracalla declared it a Roman colony, which made it a luxurious one: new constructions, streets, arches, temples and statues were built, making Palmyra one of the greatest cities of Roman empire.
Due to reports on its splendour by travellers in the 17th and 18th centuries, Palmyra also exerted a decisive influence on the evolution of neoclassical architecture.
Lonely Planet talks of Syria and Jordan’s “Unflattering media profile” as putting off tourists. I can’t see how that can apply to Jordan but it is certainly the case with Syria. In fact we found the country very pleasant to travel round in 1999 – hopefully more recent events in a neighbouring country won’t have altered this! The trip had many highlights some of which are described in my reviews of the 3 other WHS. (In fact Syria also has 15 Tentative List sites - many of which in my opinion fully justify inscription). I hesitate to state that the ruined desert city of Palmyra is the best, since the others are very good too, but it certainly merits a visit by anyone who enjoys atmospheric historical sites.
The journey to it across the desert sets the scene whether you come from East or West - its earlier name was Tadmor meaning “City of Dates” and both its old and new titles seem fully justified as you reach the oasis with its large palm groves.
The city was Roman in the sense that it reached its peak when the area was part of the Roman Empire. However the colony had a degree of independence as a buffer state between Rome and Persia and had its own monarch. One of these, a Queen Zenobia, rather unwisely declared independence and finished up being carted off to Rome in chains. She is the “romantic figure” which Palmyra plays heavily upon (with hotels, restaurants etc named after her!). I don’t know if Hollywood has portrayed her but one can imagine the result!
In fact the site doesn’t need any extra hype. A viewpoint from a hill fort a few miles away is well worth getting to both before (to show you what you are going to see!) and after (to remind you and put it all in context!) your visit – a large city is spread out beneath you with column lined roads still clearly visible. A number of major buildings remain in a reasonable state of preservation including a fine Temple of Bel (Baal). The city is well worth a half day wander (and wonder).
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Full name: Site of Palmyra
2013 - In DangerTogether with all 5 other Syrian WHS, due to Civil War
1980 - InscribedReasons for inscription
1979 - DeferredBureau - lack of documentation or Info
The site has 29 connections. Show all
- Hypogea Hypogeum of the 3 Brothers
- Necropolises Outside the ancient walls, to the west, the Palmyrenes constructed a series of large-scale funerary monuments which now form the so-called Valley of Tombs, a 1 km (0.62 mi) long necropolis. (wiki)
- Theatres Roman theatre
- Triumphal Arches
- Damaged in War since WWII Syrian Civil War "Imagery analysis has revealed how the site and its surrounding area - including its Roman theatre - have suffered from the effects of shelling, activity by snipers as well as the presence of rocket launchers and tanks. There are also persistent reports of looting." New roads can be seen across the northern area of the site as well excavated fortifications (pink arrows), providing cover for military vehicles (yellow arrows).
- Destroyed or damaged by Earthquake (1089, led to abandonment)
- Under control of ISIS On 21 May 2015, some artifacts were removed from the Palmyra museum by the Syrian curators and transported in 2 trucks to Damascus. ... The same day, ISIL forces entered the World Heritage Site (wiki) - On 27 March 2016 the site was recaptured by Syrian government troops.
- Kings Highway
- Multilingual inscriptions The Temple of Baal Shamin has a column from AD131 "In Greek and Palmyrene (Aramaic) that praises the Secretary of the city for his generosity during the visit of the "Divine Hadrian" and for footing the bill for the temple's construction" also "The inscriptions which remain are bilingual, in Aramaic and Greek; a few with Latin also survive but only from the later years of the city (As'ad and Delplace 2002)."
- Emperor Hadrian Visited in 129 AD
- Gertrude Bell Photo taken May 1900
- Johann Ludwig Burckhardt (Tadmor) July 1810
- King Solomon Its Aramaic name was "Tadmor". Various references assign its creation to Solomon. 2 biblical :- 2 Chronicles 8:4 "And Solomon built Tadmor in the wilderness, and all the store cities, which he built in Hamath." 1 Kings 9:17/18 "And Solomon built Gezer, and Bethhoron the nether, and Baalath, and Tadmor in the wilderness, in the land," And also the historian Flavius Josephus (1st century Jewish Roman citizen):- "When he had therefore built this city, and encompassed it with very strong walls, he gave it the name of Tadmor; and that is the name it is still called by at this day among the Syrians; but the Greeks name it Palmyra." (Josephus. Antiquities of the Jews. 8.6.153-154)
- Queens and Empresses Queen Zenobia (240 - c270) of Palmyra. There is an inscription, "the illustrious consul our lord" at Palmyra, dedicated to Odaenathus by Zenobia
Religion and Belief
- Built in the 1st century under Roman control in the mid-first century AD and grew in importance from then; The great temple of Ba'al is considered one of the most important religious buildings of the 1st century AD (AB ev)