03 January 2011


Zenobia: Empress of the East is four years old today.   

Look how she's grown:

2007        6,003 hits
2008      19,816 hits

2009      39,483 hits 
2010      50,867 hits

I'm feeling rather pleased for her.

Sometimes, like today, when I close my eyes, I dream that this is Zenobia's portrait (left), a beautiful funerary image carved in the 2nd half of 3rd century CE -- so, not long at all before the queen's death. 

Well, why not?
There are a few exceptional cases where we know that a woman must have had sculpted a 'death portrait' for herself before she actually died 

For example, there are two portrait busts of a woman named Alâ, daughter of Yarhai, both dated to the same year, 113/114 CE, surely the year of her death.*  They are not identical images so one was probably carved before the other.  Possibly, she wished to be commemorated in the tomb of her birth family as well as in that of her husband.  Another lady, Alîat, daughter of Zabdibôl appears in a banquet scene with her father, who presumably died before her, and again in an individual portrait, made, I would imagine, at the time of her own death.   

Queen Zenobia might very sensibly have had her image carved -- just in case she never returned -- before setting out with her army to face the Romans at Antioch.  So, theoretically, it is possible that this is Zenobia's portrait ... but, alas, almost certainly, it is not.  My 'Beautiful Lady' comes from the underground tomb (hypogaeum) of Salamallat, which may be the family tomb of Julius Aurelius Salamallat, chief merchant of the city, who was honoured with a statue in the Great Colonnade for leading a caravan safely back to Palmyra in 257/258 CE:
The Council and people to Julius Aurelius Salamallat, son of Male Abdai, the chief merchant, who escorted the caravan[s?] at his own expense.  
Julius Aurelius Salamallat was thus of high rank, and fittingly rich.  But not nearly so exalted, I think, as the father of Zenobia.  No, her father was much more likely to have been Julius Zabdilah (Greek: Zenobios), son of Malkho, son of Malkho, son of Nassum, ruler of Palmyra at the time that the Roman Emperor Severus Alexander came to the city.  And so we are reluctantly left with a queen and no portrait.  

And my 'Beautiful Lady' remains just that, a dream.

Anyway, it would soon hardly matter.  After Salamallat, only one more caravan, as far as we know, would ever arrive at Palmyra (260 CE or just a little later).  

The end was nigh.  

I wish us better in 2011.

Zenobia's vital statistics are culled from my Stat Counter account, a highly recommended and free service. 
* These and other examples, all female (and thus presumably to do with commitments prior to marriage) collected in Maura K. Heyn, The Funerary Art of Palmyra, AJA 114 (October 2010), 640. 


  1. Margôt Hover3/1/11 19:28

    My dear Zenobia blog


  2. Zenobia, congratulations with your birthday.
    Very interesting blog!

  3. From the Netherlands...happy birthday and a happy new year

  4. Happy belated blggiverary. :)


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