Palmyra: A History examines Palmyra, the city in the Syrian oasis of Tadmur, from its beginnings in the Bronze Age, through the classical period and its discovery and excavation, to the present day. It aims at reconstructing Palmyra’s past from literary accounts – classical and post-classical – as well as material evidence of all kinds: inscriptions, coins, art and of course the remains of Palmyra’s monumental architecture.
After exploring the earliest inhabitation of Tadmur, the volume moves through the Persian and Hellenistic periods, to the city’s zenith. Under the Romans, Palmyra was unique among the cities of the empire because it became a political factor in its own right in the third century AD, when the Roman military was overpowered by Sassanian invaders and Palmyrene troops stepped in. Sommer’s assessment of Palmyra under Rome therefore considers how Palmyra achieved such an exceptional role in the Roman Near East, before its demise under the Umayyad Empire. The volume also examines the century-long history of archaeological and historical research at Palmyra, from its beginnings under Ottoman rule and the French mandate in the 1920s to the recent satellite based prospection carried out by German archaeologists. A closing chapter examines the occupation of the site by ISIS during the Syrian conflict, and the implications of the destruction there on the ruins, the archaeological finds and future investigations, and heritage in Syria more broadly.
Palmyra offers academics, students and the interested reader alike the first full treatment in English of this fascinating site, providing a comprehensive account of the city’s origins, rise and fall.
Table of Contents
Chapter 1: Avenues to Palmyra
Chapter 2: Palmyra before the Palmyrenes
Chapter 3: From Akkad to Antioch: Syria, the Great Powers and the Rise of a World-System
Chapter 4: Privata sorte inter duo imperia: Palmyra between Rome and Parthia
Chapter 5: In the Wake of the Empire
Chapter 6: Palmyra’s War and Peace
Chapter 7: Claiming the Empire
Chapter 8: Palmyra: Aspects – Perspectives
Chapter 9: Palmyra after the Palmyrenes
Chapter 10: The End of Civilization: Palmyra’s Second Downfall in the Syrian Civil War
Michael Sommer is Professor of Ancient History at the Carl von Ossietzky University of Oldenburg, Germany.
“Sommer has written an account of Palmyra that is firmly rooted in a geographical setting and placed in a wider historical context. His panoramic overview of the various facets of Palmyra’s great civilization – tribes, temples, long-distance trade – is interspersed with important research questions. Attention is paid also to the lesser-known periods before and after the well-documented rise of the oasis, including written records from the second millennium BC referring to Tadmur, and the later Christian and then Muslim town. The final chapter discusses the tragic demolition which the ruins suffered during the ongoing civil war in Syria. This highly readable history of the famous caravan city in the centre of the Syrian steppe will serve to keep Palmyra’s memory alive in an age of destruction by introducing a wide readership to the town’s successes and tribulations throughout the centuries.”
Ted Kaizer, Durham University, UK