Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Zenobia, Warrior Queen of Palmyra

Zenobia was born Around 240 CE in the Palmyrene Empire, which was known as Roman Syria. She was thought to be of Arab descent and claimed to be related to Queen Cleopatra and Queen Dido of Carthage. She became wife to Septimius, the King of Palmyra, in 258 CE. Septimius had a son from his first wife when he married Zenobia, and then he and her had a son of their own, Vaballathus. This name is said to have come from an Aramaic term meaning "The Gift of the Goddess". The city of Palmyra was built around an oasis in the desert situated in the middle of the Roman and Persian Empires. It was a city filled with trade and culture from the Greeks, Romans, and Mesopotamians.

Septimius, Zenobias husband, and his son end up being mysteriously murdered and Zenobia assumes the throne, with an infant son. It is said that she gave herself the title Augusta and her son the title Augutus. Zenobia was known to be a real Warrior Queen to her people. She would ride out to battle, in the lead, and fight alongside her fellow warriors. Around 270 C.E. Zenobia conquered Egypt which at the time was under Roman rule. When her forces approached Egypt, the Roman Perfect, Probus, and his men tried to fight off the army of Zenobia. Until some of her men captured Probus, and beheaded them. She then claimed Egypt for her own, and Alexandria as being "her ancestral city", encouraging her Egyptian descent.

She then went on with her army, conquering other lands such as, areas of Anatolia, Syria, Palestine and Lebanon. She was creating her own empire, sick of being ruled by the Roman Empire for so long, she took it upon herself to create a domain of her own. And very successfully so. It is said that she then declared her empire independent to that of Rome. Queen Zenobia's strength and warrior power, reminds me of someone like Queen Boudicca. Ready to fight with her army, and ready to revolt against those who restrained her and her culture. It takes true courage and total confidence to try and take over those who currently rule your country. Zenobia was also known to be very beautiful, she was said to have long dark black hair and beautiful dark eyes. As well perfect skin and a "harmonious" voice. Much like her claimed ancestress, Cleopatra.

It was around 273 C.E that the Roman Emperor Aurelian, after fighting the Gauls, decided that it was time to take back his empire from Zenobia. He and his large army met Zenobia with her warriors at Antioch, an area of modern day Turkey, to fight. Zenobia was there with her army, proud and confident and ready for war. Unfortunately, the Romans end up defeating the Palmyrenes, and Zenobia with the rest of her remaining warriors fled to Emesa. Aurelian and his army flee after them, finally catch up with them, and hold the soldiers by force. It is said that Zenobia fled from her army back to Palmyra, where Aurelian eventually caught, and captured her. She and her son Vaballathus were then taken as hostages of Rome. It is said that on the journey back to Rome, Zenobia's son died, the cause seems to be somewhat unknown. It could have been something as simple as heat exhaustion or lack of water. When they finally reach Rome, they flaunted their captor, Zenobia, shackled with golden chains for the military victory parade through the streets of Rome.

After this, her life becomes somewhat of a mystery. There are several stories about what happened to Zenobia. Some say she committed suicide, to emulate her favorite declared ancestress, Cleopatra. Others say, that she was married off to a Roman Senator, lived with him in Tivoli, and even had children. It is said that evidence of this story can be confirmed by an inscription found in Rome, naming a descendant of hers.

I love learning about stories of warrior women and warrior Queens in history. Women certainly had their place in history, and its nice to learn their stories and gain some encouragement and confidence from them. A woman like Zenobia was not afraid to fight for what she believed in, and she did so victoriously.

I hope you liked learning about another famous Warrior Queen in history!

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia: Herbert Schmalz


  1. How very interesting, I had not heard of Zenobia until now. She certainly had a rich history.

  2. Oh, a new goddess! I'd never heard of her. Thank you - off to do some more reading about this fascinating woman.

  3. Thank you very much for this very interesting article. Heard her name before, but now I am curious to read more about this fascinating woman.
    Is it possible to write something about queen Artemisia of Karia, the one who Herodotos mentions a couple of times? She has been my absolute favourite since my youth.

  4. Interesting info. I've never heard of her till now either. But she sounds like my kind of gal. :) Thanks for sharing.


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