Aurelian had started a campaign to reconquer the secessionist Palmyrene Empire, led by Vaballathus and his mother Queen Zenobia. He had come to the East willing to show his mercy to the Roman peoples of the area, and had defeated Zenobia at the Battle of Immae, near Antioch. Zenobia and her general Zabdas fled to Emesa.
Roman and Palmyrene forces clashed in the plain in front of the city. As at Immae, the Palmyrene heavy cavalry (the clibanarii) was superior to the Roman equivalent. However, the clibanarii dispersed in the pursuit of the Roman cavalry, and were massacred by the Roman infantry. According to Zosimus, the Judean units, with their clubs, slaughtered the armoured Palmyrene horsemen.
Zenobia retreated into Emesa, but later escaped to Palmyra, having failed to recover the treasure from Emesa. While Aurelian attacked and conquered Palmyra, Zenobia fled to Persia, but was captured when she had reached the Euphrates. Aurelian showed her mercy, and Zenobia was not executed.