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PALMYRA AND ZENOBIA. CHAPTER 15.

FRIEZE IN TEMPLE OF THE SUN.
FRIEZE IN TEMPLE OF THE SUN

CHAPTER XV.

In these straits Zenobia resolved that she would go to Persia, and return with a relieving army. She visited the entire defences of the city, and charged the defenders to hold out to the last. Then she held a council of war with her ministers and generals, and sallying forth on a dark night, with a few companions, the heroic young Queen passed the Roman lines, and made a desperate rush for freedom.

She was mounted on a she-camel known for its wonderful swiftness. The point of the Euphrates at which she wished to cross was distant five days' journey. Fear, as well as the eager desire to bring succour to the beloved Palmyra, lent wings to the fugitives. With a few short snatches of sleep on the bare sand, she pressed forward night and day.

At last the green streak of the Euphrates appeared in the distance. The dromedary increased its speed to reach the water. Already Zenobia felt safe; but during the [159] last half hour of the journey a little cloud of dust had been following her track, and seemed to be gaining upon her. After a time it became apparent that the cloud of dust was raised by a band of pursuing Romans. Many a time the desert has resounded to the yells of the pursuer and pursued, but never since or before in a crisis when so much depended on the result of the race. Swiftly and silently Zenobia's camel approached the great river. Zenobia slipped from her camel to the ground, and ran panting like a gazelle to a boat which was preparing to take her to the other side. She sprang into the boat. She is safe, and there is still hope for Palmyra ! But a slight delay occurred in the starting of the boat, whether by entanglement, or treachery, will never now be known. The delay was sufficient to turn the balance in favour of the West and to alter the destiny of the East. With foaming horses the Romans came thundering to the bank of the river. and seized the heroic Queen just as the boat was putting off.1

The weary and baffled Zenobia was hurried back to Palmyra by her captors, and ushered into the presence of her conqueror. It was a bitter moment for the proud, fallen Queen. Addressing his captive. Aurelian sternly demanded, ' flow, O Zenobia, hast thou dared to insult Roman emperors?"

She replied. "Thee I acknowledge to be emperor, since [160] thou hast conquered. I have not considered as chiefs ['pricipes'] Gallienus, Aureolus, and the rest."1

1Deyr, on the Euphrates, is believed to be the crossing at which Zenobia was captured.

Palmyra fell with the queen under whom it had reached its highest renown. :As soon as it was known in the city that she was a captive in the Roman camp, the Palmyrans sought the clemency of the conqueror. They thronged out of the city with presents and sacrifices. and the emperor, according to his enlightened policy, treated the people with generous kindness.

Very different treatment was reserved for Zenohia and her advisers. Leaving a small Roman garrison at Palmyra, the emperor returned to Emesa, leading with him the functionaries and officers whom he had marked for punishment. Vopiscus has left it on record that the soldiers clamoured for the queen's death, but Aurelian reserved her for his Roman triumph.

It is said that, owing to harsh treatment and intimidation, Zeuobia, crushed by the magnitude of her misfortunes, admitted in a moment of weakness that Longinus had dictated the defiant letter which had so enraged the emperor.

Mommsen sums up the testimony of the Roman historian thus:-

"Zeuobia, after she had for years borne rule with masculine energy, did not now disdain to invoke a woman's privileges and to throw the responsibility on her advisers, of whom, not a few, including the celebrated scholar, [161] Cassius Longinus, perished under the axe of the executioner."1

1Trebellius Pullio in Hist. August.

I have a strong conviction that this verdict of the historian is too sweeping. The brilliant Longinus was put to death at Emesa, his own city; but Aurelian, in such matters, did not found his decisions on the confessions of a crushed and helpless woman. The emperor, in his acts, was guided by state reasons. The name Cassius," as we have already pointed out, was associated with anti-imperial and even regicidal ideas, and I think these were reasons of sufficient weight with Aurelian for ridding the Roman world of "Cassius " Longinus, with-out placing the blame at the door of Zenobia.

Longinus took a leading part in the war against the imperial authority, and the cause which lie espoused having failed, he paid the penalty with his life. It was sad that the author of the great work on "The Sublime" should have perished so miserably, but Roman law had no exception in favour of philosophers who dabbled in treason.

Aurelian hurried home with Zenobia, and the spoils of war, to enjoy his triumph; but he had scarcely reached Europe, when a message from Palmyra caused him to retrace his steps. Possibly, in revenge for the slaughter of Palmyran chiefs, the people had revolted against Roman authority. and slaughtered the garrison.

Aurelian, in an incredibly short space of time, reached Palmyra. He entered the city without opposition, and [162] fell upon the citizens without mercy. The palaces and temples were sacked and despoiled, and the place became, as the word Tadmor signifies, a ruin.

1The Provinces of the Roman Empire, Vol. II. 110.

Nothing can so well describe the general havoc as a letter from Aurelian himself to Ceionius Bassus :-

"You must now sheathe the sword. The Palmyrans have been sufficiently slaughtered and cut to pieces. We have not spared women: we have slain children. We have strangled old men ; we have destroyed the husband-men. To whom, then. shall we leave the land'? To whom shall we leave the city? We must spare those that remain, for we think that the few who are now existing will take warning from the punishment of the many who have been destroyed.

"The Temple of the Sun at Palmyra, which the eagle-bearer of the third legion. with the standard and ensign bearers, and the trumpeters, and clarion-blowers, have despoiled, I wish restored to its former state. You have three hundred pounds of gold from the casket of Zenobia. You have eighteen hundred pounds of silver of the effects of the Palmyrans. You have the royal gems. From all these make a creditable temple. and you will do a very agreeable thing to me and to the immortal gods. I will write to the senate requesting them to send it high priest to consecrate the temple."1

Aurelian once more turned his hack on Palmyra, and set out in haste for Rome. The Syrian cities had experienced his clemency, but they learned from the fate of [163] Tadmor that he could be ruthless, and the Orientals did not need a second lesson. Palmyra having been destroyed. the Empire in the East was at peace.

1Flavius Vopiscus in Hist. August. p. 218.

Aurelian led in his train a number of Palmyra notables to grace his triumph; but in crossing the strait between Byzantium and Chalcedon all the captives were drowned, except Zenobia and her two sons.

The triumph of the conqueror on his return to Rome was the grandest ever enjoyed by a Roman emperor. Flavius Vopiscus has left us full details of the barbaric pageant.

Aurelian rode in a magnificent chariot, which he had taken from the king of the Goths; and the chariot was drawn by four stags, which the emperor, on his arrival at the capitol, sacrificed to Jupiter Capitolinus. Twenty elephants, two hundred wild animals, including tigers and elks, and eight hundred gladiators, marched before him, accompanied by the treasures of Zenobia and the spoils of Palmyra. There were also captives from the different peoples whom he had conquered, and ten Gothic women in complete armour. The carriage of Odainathus, over-laid with gold and silver and studded with precious gems, was there. and a splendid carriage, the gift of the king of Persia. But the object which gave to the procession its crowning interest was the captive Queen Zenobia. Every window, balcony, and roof was crowded by the maids and matrons of Rome, to catch a glimpse of the Oriental woman who had contended with Rome for supremacy.

Zenobia, in the days of her pride and power, had caused [164]

COLONNADE OF THE TEMPLE OF THE SUN.
COLONNADE OF THE TEMPLE OF THE SUN.

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a splendid chariot to be built, and it was said that she-had declared she would enter Rome, a conqueror, in that chariot. The Roman crowd saw the graceful and beauteous lady tottering through the streets on foot, in front of her own chariot, not in it, her hands bound with golden chains and a golden chain round her neck. Golden rings were round her ankles, and slaves supported her, as, laden with jewelry, she staggered wearily forward in front of her conqueror. Behind him the senate and the victorious army completed the show.

On that day Rome enjoyed her grandest triumphal procession and reached her deepest degradation. In all the annals of perverted patriotism and abused power there is no more brutal spectacle than the triumph of great and imperial Rome over that humbled and helpless Queen.

It is pleasant to reflect that Aurelian's swaggering triumph did not pass without protest, and that the conqueror's justification of himself is an abiding testimony to the greatness of the illustrious woman whom he had crushed, and sought to degrade.

In a letter to the senate he writes:-

"I hear, O conscript fathers, that it has been urged against me that I have not accomplished a manly1 task, in triumphing over Zenobia.

"My accusers would not know how to praise me enough, if they knew that woman, - if they knew her [167] prudence in council. her firmness in purpose, the dignity she preserves towards her army-, her munificence when necessity requires it, her severity when to be severe is just. I may say that the victory of Odainathus over the Persians, and his putting Sapor to flight and reaching Ctesiphou. were due to her. I can assert that such was the dread entertained of this woman. among the natives of the East and of Egypt, that she kept iii cheek the Arabians, the Saracens, and the Armenians."

1"Quod non virile mums impleverim Zenobiam triumphando." - Trebellius Pollio, Hist. August. pp. 196, 199.

We have no certain knowledge of Zenobia's career after the triumphal procession. There are two traditions regarding her. One, which is the more generally accepted, represents her as married to a Roman noble, and living on an estate given her by the emperor, at Conche on the Tiber, where, as the mother of a numerous progeny, she lived and died a much-respected Homan matron. This tradition seems to rest on the fact that some of her descendants, a century afterwards, were men of senatorial rank and of high standing at Home. But it must be remembered that Zenobias two sons accompanied her to Rome, and the descendants referred to may have been their offspring.

The other, and I believe more probable, account. is given by the Homan historian Zusimus, who declares that, mourning over the utter destruction of Palmyra and her ruined fortunes, Zenobia refused all food, languished. and died.

As we have already seen, many circumstances, personal, political, and local, contributed to the sudden rise [168] and brief glory of Palmyra, but the desert city had in itself no certain element of abiding stability-. To the Ronan connection it owed its wealth and splendour. The hand that made it for its uses extinguished it in a blaze of glory that lighted up a dark period, when it had ceased to be useful.

Other highways to the East, through Aleppo on the north and Bosra on the south, became safe for commerce under Roman sway, and the meteor-like glory of Tadmor became a thing of the past. The Roman hand, however, was not all at once withdrawn from the fallen city, and in accordance with the letter of Aurelian which we have quoted, the temple was patched up, but it fell far short of its former magnificence. Under the reign of Diocletian, the walls of the city were rebuilt round a smaller area ; but Palmyra's queen was degraded, its princes slain, its culture and public spirit strangled, and natural laws were at work which carried the golden tide of commerce past its gates.

A Roman governor and garrison occupied the restored city, but they could not save it from decay, when its merchants were slam and its industry blighted, and it sank by degrees, so that when Justinian repaired it about the year 400 , it had been for some time almost quite deserted. The Justinian walls are more circumscribed still than those of Diocletian, and it is by the area enclosed by the Justinian walls that modern travellers estimate its greatness.

At a later period it seems to have been a border town of [169] some importance, as it became the seat of a bishop, in the province of which Damascus was the metropolis.

After passing through many vicissitudes, Tadmor fell under the withering blight of Islam, and then its fate was sealed.

The finest structures were pulled clown to erect Saracenic fortifications, and amid the ruined splendours of the Temple of the Sun the entire population now herd in clay huts.

SCROLL AND CAPITAL OF PILASTER, TEMPLE OF TIIE SUN.
SCROLL AND CAPITAL OF PILASTER, TEMPLE OF TIIE SUN.

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