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Ancient Cities – Palmyra

By Yona Williams    9/13/11

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With an ancient and religious history, Palmyra is an old city located in central Syria. Once called the "Bride of the Desert,” the city was an important place because caravans crossing the Syrian desert would stop at Palmyra. In this article, you will learn about the historic and religious significance of the ancient city of Palmyra.

Mentioned in the Old Testament, Palmyra prospered during Roman times and is known as being fortified by Solomon. Tourists come to the city to see the temples dedicated to Aramean, Babylonian and Mesopotamian deities – making it one of the most popular places to visit in Syria. The ancient ruins have World Heritage Site status and represent a rich cultural past.

History of Palmyra

The Greeks gave the name Palmyra for the original Aramaic name of city, Tadmor. The name translated into ‘palm tree.’ Today, there is a small city called Tadmor that is home to around 36,000 people. Located next to the ruins, they thrive on the tourism that comes to Palmyra. The city has a history of being a destination for trade. An extensive network was established between Mesopotamia and northern Syria.

The city of Palmyra is mentioned in the Bible. It is referred to as a desert city fortified by Solomon in II Chronicles 8.4. Tadmor started to attract attention in the 3rd century BC when a road through the city gained the reputation as one of the main routes of the east-west trade. Travelers from the western world could connect with inhabitants of the Orient by following the road, which was constructed on an oasis situated halfway between the Mediterranean Sea in the west and the Euphrates River in the east.

In 323 BC, the Seleucids took over Syria. During that time, Palmyra remained autonomous – still prospering as a significant stop on the routes of caravans.  In 41 BC, Mark Antony attempted to occupy Palmyra, but was unsuccessful. The people had already been alerted to the advancing military and were able to flee to the other side of the Euphrates before Antony arrived. Because the Palmyrans were able to relocate on such short notice, anthropologists note that they lived in a nomadic lifestyle that permitted the quick transport of their valuables.

During the reign of Tiberius (14 to 37), Palmyra was turned into part of the Roman province of Syria. Its trade route became one of the most important in the coming years – providing access to Persia, India, China, and the Roman Empire. The city was starting to impress others. In 129, Hadrian paid a visit to the city and was quite impressed with what he saw. He proclaimed it a free city and renamed it Palmyra Hadriana.

To learn more about the historical ups and downs of Palmyra, continue reading the second installment of this article, which is titled, “Ancient Cities – Palmyra II.”

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