Zenobia And The Temple of Bel

Friday September 11th 2015
Zenobia's Last Look Upon Palmyra, Herbert Schmalz - Wikimedia Commons

Zenobia’s Last Look Upon Palmyra, Herbert Schmalz – Wikimedia Commons

The warrior queen Zenobia passed under that Zodiac dozens, maybe hundreds, of times.

By the start of her reign in the 3rd century BC, the Temple of Bel in Palmyra was already 200 years old. Its fabulous portico with the seven planets personified, surrounded by the signs of the Zodiac, would have been a familiar part of the sacred furniture of the the queen’s great desert city.

The Zodiac ceiling in the Temple of Bel, Palmyra, 42AD, from The Ruins of Palmyra (1753).

The Zodiac ceiling in the Temple of Bel, Palmyra, 42AD, from The Ruins of Palmyra (1753).

Subsequent generations of travellers to the Middle East crossed the desert to visit Zenobia’s city, inspired by the legend of the warrior queen and rumours of the romance of the ruins. Isobel Burton, writing in the 1870s, described camping in the moonlit ruins and an escort of Ottoman soldiers across the desert to reach the oasis.

Robert Adam, the most influential British designer of the 18th century, was inspired by the drawing above to create this ceiling for Osterley House outside London.

Robert Adam, the most influential British designer of the 18th century, was inspired by the drawing above to create this ceiling for Osterley House outside London. It was one of many inspired by Palmyra.

We won’t be able to see the famous Zodiac portico again though. ISIS blew it up on August 30.

 

It’s not the oldest known Zodiac by any means, but it was a special one, and it’s sad that it’s gone.

 

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  1. aqua says:

    I only have swear words for ISIS behaviour. Damn them to hell!