442 PICTURESQUE PALESTINE.
ruins of the city there is not a wall or stone which can be identified as belonging to the era of
the Hebrew monarch, the only approximation being the hill of Balkis, Queen of Sheba, south
of the sulphur fountain.
Palmyra is not alluded to in the history of the younger Cyrus or the campaigns of
Alexander the Great. The decline of Tyre and Jerusalem, however, opened the way for the
revival of the ancient city. Pliny says it was the first care of Parthia and Rome, when at war,
to engage Palmyra in their interest. Mark Antony, during the triumvirate in 38 b.c,
attempted to plunder Palmyra, on the ground of its having violated the neutrality between the
Romans and Parthians. During the successive wars between these two great empires it
increased rapidly in commercial and military importance, and became a wealthy and
magnificent city. In 130 a.d. it submitted to Adrian, and, though nominally subject to Rome,
had a senate and popular assembly of its own, as is seen from the inscriptions found among its
ruins. Adrian adorned the city with many of its grandest temples and colonnades, gave it his
own name, Adrianopolis, and conferred upon it the dignity and rank of a Roman colony.
More than a century later, a.d. 260, when Odenathus, a noble of Palmyra, by his valour
and military prowess had avenged the ignoble captivity of the Roman emperor Valerian, by
expelling Sapor, the Persian monarch, from Syria and.Mesopotamia, he was rewarded by being
associated with Gallienus in the imperial rule, 264 a.d. After a brief reign of three years
Odenathus was assassinated in Hums, and his brilliant and heroic widow Zenobia assumed the
reins of government in 267 a.d. By her heroism, self-denial, and wisdom, this remarkable and
gifted woman ruled the East for five years with justice and clemency. She mastered not only
the Arabic and Syriac, but the Greek and Latin languages, and called to her counsels the
philosopher Longinus, who was not only her counsellor in matters of state, but her teacher in
the poetry of Homer and the wisdom of Plato. Zenobia appointed him one of her counsellors,
and in this capacity, and cherishing doubtless the traditional antipathies of the Greek toward
the Roman, he persuaded her to shake off the Roman yoke, and dictated, it is said, a defiant
letter to the Emperor Aurelian.
The letter of Zenobia to Aurelian, who had assumed the purple in 270 a.d., declaring her
independence, provoked his hostility, and in 271 he marched through Asia Minor into Syria,
defeated the army of Zenobia under her general, Zabdas, the conqueror of Egypt, in two great
battles near Antioch and Hums. The Queen was present in both engagements, but after the
. Hums defeat could no longer rally her army, and retreated within the walls of her capital,
Palmyra. The Emperor followed through the sandy desert, perpetually harassed by the
Bedawin Arabs, and began the siege of Palmyra.
Still he offered her favourable terms of capitulation—for herself a splendid retreat, for the
citizens their ancient privileges. The offer was indignantly rejected ; but on the arrival of
Probus from Egypt with heavy reinforcements, Zenobia resolved to fly. She mounted
the fleetest of her dromedaries, and had already reached the Euphrates, sixty miles from
Palmyra, when Aurelian's light horse seized her, and brought her a captive to the feet of the