Palmyra (pălmĪˈrə) [key], ancient city of central Syria. A small modern village known as Tudmur is on the site. An oasis N of the Syrian Desert, 130 mi (209 km) NE of Damascus, Palmyra was important in Syrian-Babylonian trade by the 1st cent. B.C. Palmyra became of true importance only after Roman control was established (c.A.D. 30). Local tribes vied for control, which fell to the Septimii by the 3d cent. A.D. Septimius Odenathus built Palmyra into a strong autonomous state that practically embraced the Eastern Empire, including Syria, NW Mesopotamia, and W Armenia. After his death his widow, Zenobia, briefly expanded the territory, but her ambition brought on (A.D. 272) an attack by Aurelian, who was victorious and partly destroyed (273) the city. In decline, Palmyra was taken by the Arabs and sacked by Timur. It fell into ruins, and even the ruins were forgotten until the 17th cent. The great temple dedicated to Baal and other remains show the ancient splendor of Palmyra at its prime.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

See more Encyclopedia articles on: Ancient History, Middle East