Palmyrene Empire

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This article is about the political history of the Palmyrene empire between 270-273. For the general political, cultural and economic history of the city, see Palmyra. For other uses, see Palmyra (disambiguation).
Palmyrene Empire
Vexilloid of the Roman Empire
270–273 Vexilloid of the Roman Empire
The Palmyrene empire in AD 271.
Capital Palmyra
Languages
Government Monarchy
Monarch
 -  267/270–272 Vaballathus
 -  273–273 Antiochus
Historical era Late Antiquity
 -  Established 270
 -  Disestablished 273
Today part of  Syria
 Egypt
 Iraq
 Israel
 Jordan
 Lebanon
 Palestine
 Saudi Arabia
 Turkey

The Palmyrene Empire (270–273), was a splinter state centered at Palmyra, that broke away from the Roman Empire during the Crisis of the Third Century. It encompassed the Roman provinces of Syria Palaestina, Arabia Petraea, Egypt and large parts of Asia Minor.

The empire was ruled by Zenobia as a regent for her son Vaballathus, who became king in 267. In 270, Zenobia, aided by her generals, managed to conquer most of the Roman east in a relatively short period, and tried to maintain the relations with Rome. However, in 271 she claimed the imperial title for herself and her son and fought a short war with the Roman emperor Aurelian, who conquered Palmyra and arrested the Empress. A year later the Palmyrenes rebelled, which led Aurelian to destroy Palmyra. The Palmyrene empire is hailed highly in Syria and plays an important role as an icon in Syrian nationalism.

Background[edit]

Following the murder of Roman emperor Alexander Severus in 235,[2] general after general squabbled over control of the empire,[3] the frontiers were neglected and subjected to frequent raids by Carpians, Goths and Alamanni,[4][5] in addition to outright attacks from the aggressive Sassanids in the east.[6] Finally, Shapur I of Persia inflicted a disastrous defeat upon the Romans at the Battle of Edessa in 260,[7] capturing the Roman emperor Valerian and soon, Quietus and Macrianus rebelled against Valerian's son Gallienus and usurped the imperial power in Syria.[8]

The Palmyrene leader Odaenathus remained loyal to Gallienus and formed an army of Palmyrenes, peasants and what remained of the Roman soldiers in the region to attack Shapur.[7] In 260, Odaenathus won a decisive victory over Shapur in a battle near the Euphrates.[8] This was followed by reclaiming the Roman Mesopotamia from the Persians,[8] and besieging their capital Ctesiphon.[9] Odaenathus received the title Governor of the East,[8] and ruled Syria as the imperial representative,[10] and declared himself King of Kings.[note 1][11] Next, Odaenathus defeated the usurpers in 261,[8] and spent the remainder of his reign fighting the Persians.[12][13][14] Odaenathus was assassinated along with his son Hairan in 267,[8] and according to the Augustan History and John Zonaras, Odaenathus was killed by his cousin whose name in the Augustan History is Maeonius.[15] The Augustan History also claim that Maeonius was proclaimed emperor for a very brief period, before being put on trial and executed by Odaenathus' widow Zenobia.[15][16][17] However, no inscriptions or other evidence exist for Maeonius' reign, and he was probably killed immediately after assassinating Odaenathus.[18][19]

Odaenathus was succeeded by his minor sons with Zenobia; the ten-year-old Vaballathus,[20] and a younger son named Herodianus who died soon after his father.[21] Under the regency of Zenobia,[20] Vaballathus was kept in the shadow while his mother assumed actual rule and consolidated her power.[20] The queen was careful not to provoke Rome and took for herself and her son the titles that her husband had, while working on guaranteeing the safety of the borders with Persia, and pacifying the dangerous Tanukhids tribes in Hauran.[20]

Establishment[edit]

Vaballathus (right) as king on the obverse of an Antoninianus. To the left, Aurelian as Augustus on the reverse.

Aided by her generals Septimius Zabbai, a general of the army and Septimius Zabdas, the chief general of the army,[22] Zenobia started an expedition against the Tanukhids in the spring of 270, during the reign of emperor Claudius II.[23] Zabdas sacked Bosra, killed the Roman governor and marched south securing Roman Arabia.[23][24] According to the Persian geographer Ibn Khordadbeh, Zenobia herself attacked Dumat Al-Jandal but could not conquer its castle.[25] However, Ibn Khordadbeh is confusing Zenobia with al-Zabbā, a semi-legendary Arab queen whose story is often confused with Zenobia's story.[26][27][28][29]

In October of 270,[30] a Palmyrene army of 70,000 invaded Egypt,[31][32] and declared Zenobia queen of Egypt.[33] The Roman general Tenagino Probus was able to regain Alexandria in November, but was defeated and escaped to the fortress of Babylon, where he was besieged and killed by Zabdas, who continued his march south and secured Egypt.[34] Afterward, in 271, Zabbai started the operations in Asia Minor, and was joined by Zabdas in the spring of that year.[35] The Palmyrenes subdued Galatia,[35] and occupied Ankara, marking the greatest extent of the Palmyrene expansion.[36] However, the attempts to conquer Chalcedon were unsuccessful.[35]

The Palmyrene conquests were done under the mask of subordination to Rome,[37] Zenobia issued the coinage in the name of Claudius' successor Aurelian with Vaballathus depicted as king,[note 2] while the emperor allowed the Palmyrene coinage and conferred the Palmyrene royal titles.[38] However, toward the end of 271, Vaballathus took the title of Augustus (emperor) along with his mother.[37]

Reconquest by Rome[edit]

Vaballathus as Augustus, on the obverse of an Antoninianus.
Zenobia as Augusta, on the obverse of an Antoninianus.
Aurelian-Zenobia war.

In 272, Aurelian crossed the Bosphorus and advanced quickly through Anatolia.[39] According to one account, Marcus Aurelius Probus regained Egypt from Palmyra,[note 3][40] while the emperor continued his march and reached Tyana.[41] The fall of Tyana lent itself to a legend; Aurelian to that point had destroyed every city that resisted him, but he spared Tyana after having a vision of the great philosopher Apollonius of Tyana, whom he respected greatly, in a dream.[42] Apollonius implored him, stating: Aurelian, if you desire to rule, abstain from the blood of the innocent! Aurelian, if you will conquer, be merciful!.[43] Whatever the reason for his clemency, Aurelian sparing of Tyana paid off, many more cities submitted to him upon seeing that the emperor would not exact revenge upon them.[42]

Entering Issus and heading to Antioch, Aurelian defeated Zenobia in the Battle of Immae.[44] Zenobia retreated to Antioch then fled to Emesa while Aurelian advanced and took the former.[45] After regrouping, the Romans headed south to Apamea,[46] then continued to Emesa and defeated Zenobia again at the Battle of Emesa, forcing her to evacuate to the capital.[47] Aurelian marched through the desert and was harassed by Bedouins loyal to Palmyra; however, as soon as he arrived at the city gates, he negotiated with the Bedouins, who betrayed Palmyra and supplied the Roman army with water and food.[48] Aurelian besieged Palmyra in the summer of 272,[49] and tried to negotiate with Zenobia, on the condition that she surrender herself in person to him, to which she answered with refusal.[36] The Romans tried to breach the city defenses several times but were repelled,[50] however, as the situation deteriorated, Zenobia left the city and headed east to ask the Persians for help.[51] The Romans followed the empress, arrested her near the Euphrates and brought her back to the emperor. Soon after, the Palmyrene citizens asked for peace,[51] and the city capitulated.[52][53]

Aftermath[edit]

Aurelian, personification of Sol, defeats the Palmyrene Empire, and celebrates ORIENS AVG, the Augustus Rising Sun.

Aurelian spared the city and stationed a garrison of 600 archers led by a certain Sandarion, as a peacekeeping force.[54] The defenses were destroyed and most of the military equipments were confiscated.[55] Zenobia and her council were taken to Emesa and trialed, most of the Palmyrene high ranking officials were executed,[56] while Zenobia's and Vaballathus's fates are uncertain.[57]

In 273, Palmyra rebelled under the leadership of a citizen named Septimius Apsaios,[58] and contacted the Roman perfect of Mesopotamia Marcellinus offering him to usurp the imperial power.[58] Marcellinus delayed the negotiations and sent word to the Roman emperor,[58] while the rebels lost their patience and declared a relative of Zenobia named Antiochus as Augustus.[59] Aurelian marched against Palmyra and was helped by a Palmyrene faction from inside the city, headed by a man with a senatorial rank named Septimius Haddudan.[60][61]

Aurelian spared Antiochus,[61] but razed Palmyra to the ground.[62] The most valuable monuments were taken by the emperor to decorate his Temple of Sol,[52] while buildings were smashed, people were clubbed and cudgeled and Palmyra's holiest temple pillaged.[52]

Evaluation and legacy[edit]

Zenobia on the obverse of a 500 SYP.

According to Chase F. Robinson and Warwick Ball, the imperial status declaration was aimed toward Rome's throne instead of Palmyrene independence.[63][64] Vaballathus inscriptions indicate the style of a Roman Emperor and according to Ball, Zenobia and Vaballathus were another contenders for the Roman imperial throne, walking in the steps of Vespasian, who ascended the throne after building his power in Syria.[63][64] Fergus Millar, although leaning toward the view that it wasn't an independence movement, considers it premature to conclude the nature of Palmyra's revolt.[65]

Andrew M. Smith II considers the Palmyrene empire as both separatism and a bid for the Roman throne.[58] Palmyrene royalty used Eastern titles such as king of kings that had no relevance in the Roman politics, while the conquests were in the interest of Palmyrene commerce, and it was only in the last regnal year of Zenobia and Vaballathus, that the Roman imperial rank was claimed.[58] Ferdinand Lot agrees that it was a Palmyrene movement aimed toward independence,[66] which is an almost universal view amongst Arab and Syrian scholars such as Philip Khuri Hitti.[67][68]

The revolt of Palmyra is used as a theme in Syrian nationalism, where Palmyra is viewed as exclusively Syrian,[69] and treated as a fighter that threw off the imperial dominance and relieved the people from tyranny.[70] A Syrian TV show was produced based on Zenobia's life, and she was the subject of a biography written by Syria's former minister of defense Mustafa Tlass.[70]

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ The first decisive evidence for the use of this title is an inscription dated to 271, posthumously describing Odaenathus as king of kings.[71][72] However, Odaenathus inscriptions address him as king, and it is not certain that he used the king of kings title.[71]
  2. ^ Claudius died in August 270, shortly before Zenobia's invasion of Egypt.[30]
  3. ^ All other accounts indicate that a military action was not necessary, as it seems that Zenobia withdrawn her forces in order to defend Syria.[40]

References[edit]

Citations[edit]

  1. ^ a b Trevor Bryce (2014). Ancient Syria: A Three Thousand Year History. p. 280. 
  2. ^ Averil Cameron (1993). The Later Roman Empire, AD 284-430. p. 3. 
  3. ^ Averil Cameron (1993). The Later Roman Empire, AD 284-430. p. 4. 
  4. ^ Yann Le Bohec (2013). Imperial Roman Army. p. 196. 
  5. ^ Patrick J. Geary (2003). The Myth of Nations: The Medieval Origins of Europe. p. 81. 
  6. ^ Nic Fields (2008). The Walls of Rome. p. 12. 
  7. ^ a b Andrew M. Smith II (2013). Roman Palmyra: Identity, Community, and State Formation. p. 177. 
  8. ^ a b c d e f David L. Vagi (2000). Coinage and History of the Roman Empire, C. 82 B.C.--A.D. 480: History. p. 398. 
  9. ^ Trevor Bryce (2014). Ancient Syria: A Three Thousand Year History. p. 287. 
  10. ^ Nathanael J. Andrade (2013). Syrian Identity in the Greco-Roman World. p. 333. 
  11. ^ Maurice Sartre (2005). The Middle East Under Rome. p. 354. 
  12. ^ Edward Gibbon (2004). The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. p. 501. 
  13. ^ Clifford Ando (2012). Imperial Rome AD 193 to 284: The Critical Century. p. 237. 
  14. ^ Lukas De Blois (1976). The Policy of the Emperor Gallienus. p. 3. 
  15. ^ a b Pat Southern (2008). Empress Zenobia: Palmyra s Rebel Queen. p. 78. 
  16. ^ Trevor Bryce (2014). Ancient Syria: A Three Thousand Year History. p. 292. 
  17. ^ Richard Stoneman (1994). Palmyra and Its Empire: Zenobia's Revolt Against Rome. p. 108. 
  18. ^ Edward Gibbon, Thomas Bowdler (1826). History of the decline and fall of the Roman empire for the use of families and young persons: reprinted from the original text, with the careful omission of all passagers of an irreligious tendency, Volume 1. p. 321. 
  19. ^ George C. Brauer (1975). The Age of the Soldier Emperors: Imperial Rome, A.D. 244-284. p. 163. 
  20. ^ a b c d Trevor Bryce (2014). Ancient Syria: A Three Thousand Year History. p. 299. 
  21. ^ Richard Stoneman (1994). Palmyra and Its Empire: Zenobia's Revolt Against Rome. p. 114. 
  22. ^ Andrew M. Smith II (2013). Roman Palmyra: Identity, Community, and State Formation. p. 48. 
  23. ^ a b Trevor Bryce (2004). Ancient Syria: A Three Thousand Year History. p. 302. 
  24. ^ Alaric Watson (2004). Aurelian and the Third Century. p. 61. 
  25. ^ Khaleel Ibrahim Muaikel (1994). Dirasah li-āthār Mintaqat al-Jawf. p. 43. 
  26. ^ Fergus Millar (1993). The Roman Near East, 31 B.C.-A.D. 337. p. 433. 
  27. ^ Roxani Eleni Margariti, Adam Sabra, Petra Sijpesteijn (2010). Histories of the Middle East: Studies in Middle Eastern Society, Economy and Law in Honor of A.L. Udovitch. p. 148. 
  28. ^ Mohammad Rihan (2014). The Politics and Culture of an Umayyad Tribe: Conflict and Factionalism in the Early Islamic Period. p. 28. 
  29. ^ Trevor Bryce (2014). Ancient Syria: A Three Thousand Year History. p. 296. 
  30. ^ a b Alaric Watson (2014). Aurelian and the Third Century. p. 62. 
  31. ^ Pat Southern (2008). Empress Zenobia: Palmyra's Rebel Queen. p. 133. 
  32. ^ Trevor Bryce (2014). Ancient Syria: A Three Thousand Year History. p. 303. 
  33. ^ Trevor Bryce (2014). Ancient Syria: A Three Thousand Year History. p. 304. 
  34. ^ Alaric Watson (2014). Aurelian and the Third Century. p. 63. 
  35. ^ a b c Alaric Watson (2014). Aurelian and the Third Century. p. 64. 
  36. ^ a b Warwick Ball (2002). Rome in the East: The Transformation of an Empire. p. 80. 
  37. ^ a b Andrew M. Smith II (2013). Roman Palmyra: Identity, Community, and State Formation. p. 179. 
  38. ^ David L. Vagi (2000). Coinage and History of the Roman Empire, C. 82 B.C.--A.D. 480: History. p. 365. 
  39. ^ Trevor Bryce (2014). Ancient Syria: A Three Thousand Year History. p. 307. 
  40. ^ a b Trevor Bryce (2014). Ancient Syria: A Three Thousand Year History. p. 308. 
  41. ^ Alaric Watson (2004). Aurelian and the Third Century. p. 71. 
  42. ^ a b Alaric Watson (2004). Aurelian and the Third Century. p. 72. 
  43. ^ Richard Stoneman (1994). Palmyra and Its Empire: Zenobia's Revolt Against Rome. p. 167. 
  44. ^ Trevor Bryce (2014). Ancient Syria: A Three Thousand Year History. p. 309. 
  45. ^ Alaric Watson (2004). Aurelian and the Third Century. p. 74. 
  46. ^ Alaric Watson (2004). Aurelian and the Third Century. p. 75. 
  47. ^ Trevor Bryce (2014). Ancient Syria: A Three Thousand Year History. p. 310. 
  48. ^ Alaric Watson (2004). Aurelian and the Third Century. p. 76. 
  49. ^ Alan Bowman,Peter Garnsey,Averil Cameron (2005). The Cambridge Ancient History: Volume 12, The Crisis of Empire, AD 193-337. p. 52. 
  50. ^ Richard Stoneman (1994). Palmyra and Its Empire: Zenobia's Revolt Against Rome. p. 175. 
  51. ^ a b Alaric Watson (2004). Aurelian and the Third Century. p. 77. 
  52. ^ a b c Warwick Ball (2002). Rome in the East: The Transformation of an Empire. p. 81. 
  53. ^ Alan Bowman,Peter Garnsey,Averil Cameron (2005). The Cambridge Ancient History: Volume 12, The Crisis of Empire, AD 193-337. p. 52. 
  54. ^ Trevor Bryce (2014). Ancient Syria: A Three Thousand Year History. p. 313. 
  55. ^ Alaric Watson (2014). Aurelian and the Third Century. p. 78. 
  56. ^ William Ware (1846). Zenobia, Or, The Fall of Palmyra: A Historical Romance in Letters from L. Manlius Piso from Palmyra, to His Friend Marcus Curtius at Rome. p. 242. 
  57. ^ Warwick Ball (2002). Rome in the East: The Transformation of an Empire. p. 81. 
  58. ^ a b c d e Andrew M. Smith II (2013). Roman Palmyra: Identity, Community, and State Formation. p. 180. 
  59. ^ Andrew M. Smith II (2013). Roman Palmyra: Identity, Community, and State Formation. p. 181. 
  60. ^ Kevin Butcher (2003). Roman Syria and the Near East. p. 60. 
  61. ^ a b Alaric Watson (2004). Aurelian and the Third Century. p. 81. 
  62. ^ Alan Bowman,Peter Garnsey,Averil Cameron (2005). The Cambridge Ancient History: Volume 12, The Crisis of Empire, AD 193-337. p. 515. 
  63. ^ a b Warwick Ball (2002). Rome in the East: The Transformation of an Empire. p. 82. 
  64. ^ a b Chase F. Robinson (2010). The New Cambridge History of Islam: Volume 1, The Formation of the Islamic World, Sixth to Eleventh Centuries. p. 154. 
  65. ^ Fergus Millar (1993). The Roman Near East, 31 B.C.-A.D. 337. p. 334. 
  66. ^ Ferdinand Lot (2013). The End of the Ancient World. p. 11. 
  67. ^ Yāsamīn Zahrān (2003). Zenobia between reality and legend. p. 36. 
  68. ^ Philip K. Hitti (2002). History of The Arabs. p. 73. 
  69. ^ John Manley (2013). The Romans: All That Matters. p. 15. 
  70. ^ a b Christian Sahner (2014). Among the Ruins: Syria Past and Present. p. 153. 
  71. ^ a b Richard Stoneman (1994). Palmyra and Its Empire: Zenobia's Revolt Against Rome. p. 78. 
  72. ^ Andrew M. Smith II (2013). Roman Palmyra: Identity, Community, and State Formation. p. 177. 

Bibliography[edit]

Coordinates: 34°33′36″N 38°16′2″E / 34.56000°N 38.26722°E / 34.56000; 38.26722