Palmyra, an ancient city in an oasis in the Syrian desert, about 120 m. N. E. of Damascus. It is supposed to be the Tadmor founded or (according to Josephus) enlarged by Solomon, and its Hebrew name, like its Greek and Latin one, signifies " the city of palms." It was autonomous and early became an important emporium, but is seldom mentioned by the more ancient historians. Pliny refers to it as a city of merchants, carrying on the traffic between the Romans and Parthians. In the reign of Hadrian it formed an alliance with Rome. Its ruler Odenathus received the title of Augustus from the emperor Gallienus for his services against the Persians in A. D. 260.

Ruins of Palmyra.

Ruins of Palmyra.

He was assassinated in 266, and was succeeded by his widow Zenobia, under whom it reached its greatest prosperity. She extended her sway over considerable portions of Mesopotamia and Syria, and assumed the title of queen of the East. As she refused to acknowledge the supremacy of Rome, Aurelian defeated her at Antioch and Emesa, and besieged her capital in 273. Zenobia fled, but was captured, and Palmyra surrendered. Subsequently the people revolted and slew the garrison of 600 men, and Aurelian destroyed the city. Justinian restored it in 527; it was captured by the Saracens in 633, pillaged by them in 744, and taken by Tamerlane in 1400. The place now has a small population of Syrians and a Turkish garrison. The ruins are remarkable, and. comprise countless Corinthian columns of white marble extending a mile and a half, numerous tomb towers with separate compartments for the dead, and the remains of a grand temple of the sun, the surrounding columns of which are Ionic. The tombs appear to be of a date preceding the Roman conquest, most of them containing inscriptions in the Palmyrene character and language, a branch of the Syriac. The ruins were visited by some English merchants in 1691, and an account was published in the "Transactions" of the royal society.

They were explored in 1751 by Wood and Dawkins, who published an elaborate account with plates (fol., London, 1758); by Irby and Mangles in 1817-18; and since then have been visited by many travellers, including Burton (1870) and Myers (1871-'2). Much information in respect to recently discovered remains is given in Vogue's Syrie centrale (Paris, 1869).