Kingdom of Palmyra was not destroyed by Rome

(ORDO NEWS) –In the second half of the 3rd century AD, one of the eastern Roman provinces declared its independence from the metropolis.

Now scientists suggest that the creation of the Palmyra kingdom could not be at all the result of the personal ambitions of its rulers, and its fall could not only be the result of the military victories of Rome.

In 66 BC, Gnaeus Pompey the Great, as a result of his victory in the Third Mithridadian War, made Syria in general and Palmyra in particular a Roman province.

Palmyra, founded, according to modern ideas, by the rulers of the ancient Mitanni Empire, was an important trade and military center.

On the one hand, the city was at the crossroads of trade routes, on the other hand, it was a frontier fortress holding back nomadic raids from the Arabian Peninsula.

almyra reached its maximum prosperity by the middle of the 3rd century AD. At this time, the Roman legions are stationed in it, which not only protect the city, but also make punitive expeditions to neighboring provinces if riots arise in them.

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Palmyra after the conquests of Zenobia

In general, the situation on the eastern borders of the Roman Empire at that time deteriorated greatly. The rulers of the New Persian kingdom (the state of the Sassanids), which replaced Parthia, considered themselves the heirs of the Achaemenids and claimed all the Middle Eastern possessions of Rome.

The situation was so serious that the emperor Valerian personally led the Roman troops, but lost to the Persians and was captured.

The Roman governor and de facto ruler of Palmyra, Odenathus II, who defeated the Persians in his area, therefore decided that it was time to declare independence – and appointed himself “King of Kings” in 263.

Four years later he was killed, and his widow, Zenobia (regent for her young son), became the ruler of the Palmyra kingdom.

We do not have reliable sources regarding the reign of Zenobia. Even the origin of this woman is unclear. But there is information about her conquests: she acted actively and rather quickly subjugated all of Syria, a significant part of Asia Minor and Egypt.

Everything ended predictably: the Roman emperor Aurelian led troops against Zenobia, defeated her army, and captured the queen herself. Palmyra again became Roman.

It seems that before us is a normal picture of ancient history: as soon as some province sensed that Rome had given up, it immediately declares independence and tries to build up its military strength.

The authors of which believe that the creation and fall of the Palmyra kingdom was not at all due to the personal ambitions of Odaenathus and Zenobia.

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The map shows Palmyra on the left, tombstones southeast of Palmyra on the top right, limestone mountains north of Palmyra on the bottom right

Scientists from Aarhus University (Denmark) and the University of Bergen (Norway) created a model with which they reconstructed the appearance of Palmyra in the second half of the 3rd century AD. They also took into account the possibilities of the surrounding farmers to produce food.

Near Palmyra, there were four groups of irrigated areas: three not too large oases and fields lying around the Harbak Dam (built by the Romans in the 1st-2nd centuries AD).

According to researchers, the food produced was enough for a comfortable life of 30,000 citizens. The maximum number of Palmyrenes who could feed themselves from these fields could not exceed 65-90 thousand. The last number is hunger.

Archaeological finds and fragments of information from Roman sources tell us that Palmyra at this time was sharply militarized (which is not surprising, given the proximity to the Sassanids and the conflict with Rome), the population of the city reached its maximum.

And paleoclimate data from the Dead Sea, Anatolia, and eastern Syria show that it is precisely during the reigns of Odaenathus and Zenobia that rainfall begins to drop sharply, down to 70 percent of today’s levels.

The authors of the work note that although there is no data on precipitation directly from the Palmyra region, it is highly likely that local drought also affected this region.

They add that the previous centuries were the time of the Roman Climatic Optimum, a period of humid and warm climate that lasted from about 200 BC to 150 AD (there is no consensus on dates in the scientific community, some believe that the Roman Optimum lasted until 400 AD).

Scientists come to the conclusion that the creation of an independent Kingdom of Palmyra by Odaenathus and the subsequent conquest of Zenobia is an attempt to ensure the food security of his city in the face of increasing drought.

Being a Roman province, Palmyra could not independently (without coordinating with the metropolis) wage wars of conquest. And without such wars, there would be nowhere to replenish the lack of resources.

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After the victory of Rome, only a small settlement remained on the site of the ancient city

They also believe that the very defeat of Zenobia may be explained by the same climatic factor: food shortages hardly allowed the short-lived Kingdom of Palmyra to supply and constantly keep a large army with a good level of training deployed.

Indirectly, this conclusion of scientists is confirmed by the further history of Palmyra. After the defeat of the Palmyra kingdom and the capture of its queen, the city never again played any important role in the East. Trade caravans bypassed it, and the legions did not guard the eastern borders there.

Perhaps this is due precisely to the fact that the arid area around Palmyra could no longer feed anyone, except for the inhabitants of a small Syrian village formed on the site of the ancient city.


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