Palmyra pălmī´rə [key], ancient city of central Syria. A small modern village known as Tudmor or Tadmor (the Syrian Arabic name of Palmyra) is nearby; residents were relocated from the ancient site in the early 1930s. 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. BC Palmyra became of true importance only after Roman control was established (c.AD 30). Local tribes vied for control, which fell to the Septimii by the 3d cent. AD 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 (AD 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. The ruins were forgotten until the 17th cent., but those of the great temple dedicated to Baal, or Bel, and other remains show the ancient splendor of Palmyra at its prime. The temple of Baalshamin, one of the better preserved remains; part of the temple of Baal; and other ruins were destroyed during the Syrian civil war by the Islamic State when they held (2015–16, 2016–17) the area.

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