Septimia Zenobia, queen of Palmyra. She was the daughter of an Arab chief, and had by her. first husband a son named Athenodorus Vaballathus, whom she is said to have invested with the purple when she attained to power. Her second husband was Septimius Odenathus, prince of Palmyra, who after the surrender of the emperor Valerian to Sapor, king of Persia, pursued and twice defeated the latter, was afterward associated by Gallienus in the government of the empire with the title of Augustus, and was assassinated in A. D. 266 by his nephew Maeonius. Zenobia put the assassin to death, and assumed the vacant Palmyrene throne. For five years she governed Palmyra, Syria, and adjoining parts of the East with vigor and judgment, independent of the Roman power, and compelled one of the Roman generals sent against her to retreat with loss into' Europe. She assumed the title of queen of the East, and exacted from her subjects the same adoration that was paid to the Persian monarchs. She maintained her power through the reigns of Gallienus and Claudius, but in 272 Aurelian defeated her in two pitched battles, one at Antioch, the other at Emesa, when she shut herself up in Palmyra, and prepared for a vigorous defence.

To an advantageous capitulation offered by Aurelian she returned an insulting refusal, confiding in her eastern allies, and in the famine which she trusted would assail the Romans. Disappointed in both, she prepared to fly, but was captured after reaching the Euphrates, 60 miles from Palmyra (273). To the demand of Aurelian why she had taken up arms against the emperors, she replied: " Because I disdained to consider as Roman emperors an Aureolus or a Gallienus; you alone I acknowledge as my conqueror and my sovereign." She sacrificed her ministers, one of whom was the celebrated Longinus, to the resentment of Aurelian. She adorned the triumph of the emperor, but was presented by him with an elegant villa at Tibur, where she passed the rest of her life. Her daughters married into noble Roman families, and her descendants were still living in the 5th century. Zenobia was exceedingly beautiful, dark in complexion, with large, black, fiery eyes. She spoke Latin, Greek, Syriac, and Egyptian, and wrote for her own use an epitome of oriental history. She was a passionate hunter, and thoroughly inured to fatigue, sometimes walking on foot at the head of her troops.

The emperor gave her son Vaballathus a small principality in Armenia.