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Palmyra changed hands on a number of occasions between different empires before becoming a subject of the Roman Empire in the first century AD.The city grew wealthy from trade caravans; the Palmyrenes were renowned merchants who established colonies along the Silk Road and operated throughout the Roman Empire.Circumstantial evidence exist for confrontations with the Sasanians; probably in 269 Vaballathus took the title Persicus Maximus ("The great victor in Persia") and the title might be linked with an unrecorded battle against a Persian army trying to regain control of Northern Mesopotamia.

Toward the end of the second century, Palmyra began a steady transition from a traditional Greek city-state to a monarchy due to the increasing militarization of the city and the deteriorating economic situation; The weakness of the Roman empire and the constant Persian danger were probably the reasons behind the Palmyrene council's decision to elect a lord for the city in order for him to lead a strengthened army.Occasionally and rarely, members of the Palmyrene families took Greek names while ethnic Greeks were few; the majority of people with Greek names, who did not belong to one of the city's families, were freed slaves.Even the four tribes ceased to be important by the third century as only one inscription mentions a tribe after the year 212; instead, aristocrats played the decisive role in the city's social organization.During the Syrian Civil War in 2015, Palmyra came under the control of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), and subsequently changed hands several times between the militant group and the Syrian Army who retook the city on 2 March 2017.ISIL sabotaged many artifacts and destroyed a number of buildings, considerably damaging the ancient site.

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