A queen for all seasons : Zenobia of Palmyra

Breytenbach, M. M. (2005)

CITATION: Breytenbach, M. M. 2005. A queen for all seasons : Zenobia of Palmyra. Akroterion, 50:51-66, doi:10.7445/50-0-76.

The original publication is available at http://akroterion.journals.ac.za/pub


Throughout the centuries a number of truly remarkable women emerged to awe the world. One of these is a charismatic warrior queen of antiquity, Zenobia, last ruler of the once wealthy and exotic city-state of Palmyra in Syria, that flourished in the late Roman Empire of the third century AD. She rose to power upon the death of her husband Odenathus, a client-king of Rome, when she acted as regent for their son Vaballathus2 born in 260 AD. The queen was just and capable, a patron of artists and philosophers, learned, strong-willed and dynamic, and reputed to be one of the great beauties of history. She fought alongside her troops and astounded the ancient world by carving out a large territory beyond Palmyra, even subjugating Egypt, before being overthrown by the formidable Emperor Aurelian who came to power in 270 AD. At his triumph in Rome, Aurelian displayed the Palmyrene queen weighed down by gold chains and jewels, but so great was his respect for her that according to one tradition he settled her in Rome where she lived out the rest of her life.

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