Palmyra’s Dark Secret

Middle East Voice

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As the Syrian Army consolidates its hold on the strategic city of Tadmur in the Syrian Desert, Western headlines are more concerned with its ancient neighbour, the oasis entrepôt of Palmyra, once a jewel of the Roman Empire and briefly – under the rule of its fierce queen Zenobia – its own independent state.

They have reason to be concerned. The dramatic and public destruction by ISIS of a number of monuments last year, from the Semitic temples of Bel and Baal-Shamin to the distinctive funerary towers in the valley of the tombs beyond the city walls, shocked the world. The iconoclastic zeal of the terrorist group extended even to secular structures – the triumphal arch at the end of the colonnaded thoroughfare being the most recognisable.

Yet while the status of the ruined city, once a magnet for tourists, occupies Western newspapers, the significance of the city’s recapture goes virtually…

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