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Zenobia
Augusta  AD 267 - 272

Septima Zenobia (ca. 241 - 272?):
Wife of Odaenathus;
Mother of Vabalatus.

AD 267 - 270 - Queen
AD 270 - 272 - Augusta

Zenobia was the queen-dowager of the ruling house of the city of Palmyra, located near the edge of the Syrian desert, between Roman Syria and Persian Babylonia, at an oasis watered by the Efqa spring. It prospered by organizing, guiding, and protecting caravan routes for trade across the desert, especially between Dura Europos and Emesa. The Palmyrenes were ethnically Semitic (Amorite, Aramaic and Arabic), but their business made it easy for them to adopt divers elements of Greco-Roman and Parthian or Persian culture too. Germanicus may have been the first Roman to begin a governmental relationship, in A.D. 18. In 75 Vespasian's governor of Syria, Traianus, tied Palmyra in with Rome's eastern road system and defenses. Hadrian visited Palmyra probably in 129/30, and gave it privileges as a ‘free state.’Under Septimius Severus or possibly Caracalla, at the end of the second century or the beginning of the third, Palmyra was raised to the status of a Roman colony. Their chief family became Romn citizens but ruled as local princes. After the Persians captured the senior emperor, Valerian, at Carrhae, Odaenathus, the then leader of the ruling house, attacked them as they withdrew from Roman territory in 260 and later celebrated his Persian victories by assuming the aggressively eastern-looking title ‘king of kings.’In 267, however, Odaenathus and his elder son were assassinated. His leadership over the Palmyrenes passed to his young son Vaballathusbut it was Vaballathus's mother, Odaenathus's widow Zenobia, as the true director of Palmyrene actions and policies put forward in Vaballathus's name. Initially, Zenobia's and Vaballathus's control seems to have picked up smoothly where Odaenathus's was terminated, but in 269/70 their armies set off through Bostra, invaded Egypt,and struck into Asia Minor. A proclamation issued in Vaballathus's name while the Egyptian campaigns were advancing reflects another interesting facet of the revolt, that the Palmyrenes expected to derive support from Zenobia's claim to be descended from the Ptolemies. In Arabia, later Arabic legendary history places a figure closely based on Zenobia in bitter conflict with a coalition of Arab tribes called the Tanukh and led by the sheikh Jadhimah. Zenobia, Vaballathus and their generals may well have expected their own advantage also to be welcomed by the Roman government. But in 271 Aurelian led his army east and after a couple of battles crushed the Palmyrene decisively on the plain before Emesa. After Palmyra was put under siege, Zenobia set forth on camel-back to seek aid from the Persians. Aurelian sent horsemen after her and they captured her at the Euphrates. The city surrendered. Zenobia appeared in Aurelian’s triumph, and there are reports that she even lived thereafter in an estate at Tibur, married to a senator. Vaballathus, unless he died on the route toward Rome, disappears from the sources.

Mints: Palmyra.

List all Zenobia coins in the Catalog.

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