Zenobia 240 – c. 275, was a 3rd-century Queen of the Palmyrene Empire in Roman Syria.

    Zenobia was born and raised in Palmyra, Syria. Latin and Greek writers referred to her as Zenobia. Her Roman name was Julia Aurelia Zenobia and in Greek, she is known as Zēnobía or Septimia Zenobia, having added Septimia after marrying Septimius Odaenathus. The Aramaic form of her name was Bat-Zabbai and this is how she signed her name. To Arabic writers she is known as al-Zabbā’

Classical and Arabic sources describe Zenobia as beautiful and intelligent with a dark complexion, pearly white teeth, and bright black eyes. She was said to be even more beautiful than Cleopatra, differing though in her reputation for extreme chastity. Sources also describe Zenobia as carrying herself like a man, riding, hunting and drinking on occasion with her officers. Well educated and fluent in Greek, Aramaic, and Egyptian, with working knowledge of Latin, tradition accords her renown for hosting literary salons and surrounding herself with philosophers and poets, the most famous of these being Cassius Longinus.

She led a famous revolt against the Roman Empire. The second wife of King Septimius Odaenathus, Zenobia became queen of the Palmyrene Empire following Odaenathus’ death in 267. By 269, she could to expanded its empire, conquering Egypt and expelling the Roman prefect, Tenagino Probus, who was beheaded after he led an attempt to recapture the territory. She ruled over Egypt until 274, when she was defeated and taken as a hostage to Rome by Emperor Aurelian.

She belonged to a family with Aramaic names. She herself claimed to be of the Seleucid line of the Cleopatras and the Ptolemies.Athanasius of Alexandria reported her being “a Jewess follower of Paul of Samosata”, which explains her strained relationship with the rabbis. Later doubtful Arabic sources provide indications of her Arab descent. Al-Tabari, for example, writes that she belonged to the same tribe as her future husband, the ‘Amlaqi, which was probably one of the four original tribes of Palmyra.According to him, Zenobia’s father, ‘Amr ibn al-Ẓarib, was the sheikh of the ‘Amlaqi. After he was killed by members of the rival Tanukh tribal confederation, Zenobia became the head of the ‘Amlaqis, leading them in their nomadic lifestyle to summer and winter pastures.

Her father’s Roman name was Julius Aurelius Zenobius, with the gentilicium Aurelius showing that his paternal ancestors received Roman ZANIBIA1citizenship under either Antoninus Pius (reigned 138–161), Marcus Aurelius (reigned 161–180) or Commodus (reigned 180–192). Zenobius was Governor of Palmyra in 229. Her father’s Greek name was Antiochus, according to scriptures found in Palmyra. However, according to the Augustan History (Aurel. 31.2), his name was Achilleus and his usurper was named Antiochus (Zos. 1.60.2). Traceable up to six generations, her father’s paternal ancestry includes Sampsiceramus, a Syrian chieftain who founded the Royal family of Emesa (modern Homs, Syria) and Gaius Julius Bassianus, a high priest from Emesa and father of Roman Empress Julia Domna.

Zenobia claimed to be a descendant of Dido, Queen of Carthage; Sampson Ceramus us, the King of Emesa; and the Ptolemaic Greek Queen Cleopatra VII of Egypt. Though there is no concrete evidence of this, she did have knowledge of the ancient Egyptian language, showed a predisposition towards Egyptian culture, and may have been part Egyptian through her mother. According to the Augustan History, an imperial declaration of hers in 269 was sent to the citizens of Alexandria, Egypt, describing the city as “my ancestral city”. This declaration only fits Vaballathus, the son of Zenobia. Historian Callinicus Dedicated ted dedicated a ten-book history of Alexandria to a “Cleopatra”, who can only be Zenobia.

Zenobia is thought to have descended from Sampsiceramus, Dido, and Cleopatra VII through Drusilla of Mauretania. Drusilla was a daughter of King Ptolemy of Mauretania and Queen Julia Urania of Mauretania. Drusilla’s mother most probably came from the Royal family of Emesa and married into the Mauretanian royal family. Drusilla’s paternal grandmother, the Queen of Mauretania Cleopatra Selene II, was a daughter of the Ptolemaic Greek Queen Cleopatra VII of Egypt and Roman triumvir Mark Antony. Drusilla’s paternal grandfather, the African King Juba II of Mauretania, claimed to be a descendant of the sister of the General of Carthage, Hannibal (Lucan. Pharsalia 8.287). Hannibal’s family, the Barcids, claimed to be descended from Dido’s younger brother.

Queen of Palmyra

Zenobia had married Septimius Odaenathus, the King of Palmyra, by 258; she was his second wife. She had a stepson, Hairan, a son from Odaenathus’ first marriage. There is an inscription, ‘the illustrious consul our lord’ at Palmyra, dedicated to Odaenathus by Zenobia. Around 266, Zenobia and Odaenathus had a son, his second child, Lucius Julius Aurelius Septimius Vaballathus Athenodorus. Her son Vaballathus inherited the name of Odaenathus’ paternal grandfather.

In 267, Zenobia’s husband tried to dismiss his country from Rome, but he showed his loyalty to caesar …in the same time caesar suspected him and make from his nephew a spy on him. when the caesar of Rome knew the intention of Odaenathus, he decided to kill him… on night his nephew of Odaenathus invited him and his stepson and had drunk wine, no soon he ordered his men to kill both of them and were assassinated. The titled heir, Vaballathus, was only one year old, so his mother Zenobia succeeded to take the rule of Palmyra. Zenobia bestowed upon herself and her son the honorific titles of Augusta and Augustus. Zenobia insist to revenge for her husband and killed his nephew. then she started to develop her country and get it more stronger to invade other rome region as she could to invade Egypt and rule it Palmyra_Julius_Aurelius_Zenobius_inscription


Zenobia and Vaballathus were taken as hostages to Rome by Aurelian. Vaballathus is presumed to have died on his way to Rome. In 274, Zenobia reportedly appeared in golden chains in Aurelian’s military triumph parade in Rome, in the presence of the senator Marcellus Petrus Nutenus. There are competing accounts of Zenobia’s own fate: some versions suggest that she died relatively soon after her arrival in Rome, whether through illness, hunger strike, orbeheading. The happiest narrative, though, relates that Aurelian, impressed by her beauty and dignity and out of a desire for clemency, freed Zenobia and granted her an elegant villa in Tibur (modern Tivoli, Italy). She supposedly lived in luxury and became a prominent philosopher, socialite and Roman matron. Zenobia is said to have married a Roman governor and senator whose name is unknown, though there is reason to think it may have been Marcellus Petrus Nutenus. They reportedly had several daughters, whose names are also unknown, but who are reported to have married into Roman noble families. She is said to have had further descendants surviving into the 4th and 5th centuries. Evidence in support of there being descendants of Zenobia is offered by a name in an inscription found in Rome:[citation needed] the name of L. Septimia Patavinia Balbilla Tyria Nepotilla Odaenathiania incorporates the names of Zenobia’s first husband and son and may be suggestive of a possible family relationship (after the deaths of Odaenathus and his sons, Odaenathus had no descendants). Another possible descendant of Zenobia is Saint Zenobius of Florence, a Christian bishop who lived in the 5th century.

Source : Wikipedia

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