(Zenobia of Palmyra)

~ 267

Zenobia was one of the most celebrated women of the days of imperial Rome. She was Syrian born, but had an excellent education and spoke Greek, Syrian, and Latin. She was married to Odenathus, who ruled Palmyra in alliance with the emperors of Rome and was an active advisor in governing the realm. When her husband was assassinated in 266 A.D., she assumed the regency of Palmyra in the name of her young son, and with the aid of Longinus, a renowned Greek scholar and minister. Rome, under the leadership of Claudius II, resisted her move for independence, but when the Roman forces suffered serious defeats at the hands of the Palmyran forces, Claudius decided to allow Zenobia to continue to reign unmolested. She therefore spent several years consolidating power, and expanding her forces throughout Asia Minor and even Egypt, always nominally in alliance with Rome.

When Aurelian came to power in 270 A.D. he immediately recognized the threat and raised an army to march against Zenobia in Asia Minor. He gained victories and Antioch and then won a critical battle at Emesa, after which Zenobia and her advisors took refuge in the highly fortified city of Palmyra. Eventually she attempted to escape into Persia, but was caught and taken as a prisoner to Aurelian. She sacrificed the life of her advisor Longinus to save her own, and was taken to Rome. Unfortunately, the city of Palmyra, which had submitted to Rome when Zenobia was captured, rebelled, and was destroyed by the Romans, who massacred the inhabitants. Aurelian then returned to Rome in a grand triumph, with all the riches of the East on display. He granted Zenobia her freedom, and provided a villa outside Rome where she lived for the rest of her life.

Key events during the life of Zenobia of Palmyra:

Marries Odenathus, king of Palmyra.
Odenatus is assassinated, Zenobia assumes control of the kingdom for her young son.
Romans invade Syria but are repelled. Claudius II allows Zenobia to reign independently.
Palmyran force occupy Egypt, ostensibly on behalf of Rome.
Emperor Claudius II perishes. Aurelian rises to throne.
Aurelian raises army against Palmyra. Wins a battles at Antioch and Emesa.
After escaping from the siege of Palmyra, Zenobia is captured. Longinus is executed.
  Palmyra rebels against Rome; inhabitants are slaughtered and town is razed.
  Aurelian enjoys a great triumph. Zenobia lives remainder of her life at villa in Tivoli.

Other Resources

Story Links
Book Links
Zenobia of Palmyra  in  Historic Girls  by  E. S. Brooks
Zenobia, Queen of Palmyra  in  The Story of the Romans  by  H. A. Guerber
Zenobia and Longinus  in  Historical Tales: Greek  by  Charles Morris

Image Links

Ruins of Palyra
 in Historic Girls

Zenobia's defiance of the Roman tribune in the street
 in Historic Girls

Zenobia in the Triumph of Aurelian
 in Greatest Nations - Rome

Short Biography
Odenathus Husband of Zenobia, King of Palmyra, independent ally of Rome.
Longinus Learned philosopher, and minister of Zenobia.
Claudius II Emperor (258-270) when Odenathus was assassinated. Allowed Zenobia to reign in Palmyra.
Aurelian Emperor who reunited the empire during the Military anarchy. Led campaign in Palmyra against Zenobia.