Bride of the desert
An oasis in the Syrian desert, Palmyra was one of the most important cultural centres of the ancient world.
From the 1st to the 2nd century AD, the art and architecture of Palmyra, standing at the crossroads of several civilisations, married Greek-Roman techniques with local traditions and Persian influences.
Palmyra prospered in ancient times as a caravan staging post, primarily because of its location on one of the main ancient routes from the Mediterranean Sea to the Euphrates and to markets further east, including those on the Silk Route.
Palmyra reached its zenith of prosperity (earning it the nickname ‘bride of the desert’) around the 2nd century AD, when it was under the mighty rule of Queen Zenobia, who challenged the powerful Roman Empire and nearly bringing the Romans to their knees.
Palmyra has many outstanding remnants of its past, including the following;
The 2nd century theatre which laid buried under sand until the 1950s has largely been excavated and restored back to its former glory. The magnificently adorned stage has a large central door known as the Royal Gate, which is flanked by two smaller ones. Facing the stage is the semi-circle orchestra; 20 metre is diameter and beyond it rises the cavea with its nine rows of seats.
The Monumental Arch which was erected in the early 3rd century AD under Septimius Severus in order to disguise the thirty degrees change of direction of the first and second sections of the Great Colonnade.
The Temple of Bel which is the most impressive remnant of Palmyra. Dedicated to Bel who is thought to be the supreme God of the Palmyrene pantheon, the Temple is an enormous complex and its major construction was performed over several stages from the Hellenistic through to the Roman periods.
Unfortunately, several of the ancient monuments that I photographed at Palmyra have been severely damaged or destroyed, one consequence of the devastating civil war.
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Palmyra, is, without question, one of the world’s great archaeological sites.
All images, text and content are copyright Steven Sklifas.