Palmyra: Aramaic Wonder City of Thousand Pillars Awaiting Reconstruction

The city of Palmyra, which in native Syriac-Aramaic is called “Tadmor” or Wonder, has a very long history and rich cultural heritage. Its ancient ruins were one of the most famous and visited tourist attractions in Syria before the outbreak of the Syrian war. In 1980 Palmyra was added to the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

This comes as little surprise when you consider that Palmyra is a mosaic of the ancient world and one of the important cultural centers of its time. Having within its city borders the temples of Baal (or Bel) and Baal-Shamin, a Roman Theater and a Roman aqueduct, Tadmor brought together the Greco-Roman world and the Orient. Tadmor was representative of multi-ethnic and multi-cultural pre-war Syria.

It was this mosaic of civilizations, cultures and religions which the radical Islamists of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) loathed most. Terrorist ISIS took over large parts of Syria and Iraq from 2014 onwards. Everything before the time of Islam was considered idolatry and needed to be deleted from history – “a threat to ISISs’ true faith”.

Tadmor suffered very much under the ISIS Caliphate. It is one of the ancient archeological sites in Syria that, like many other historical and cultural sites in Syria and Iraq, was heavily damaged by ISIS. The terrorists even proudly recorded their malicious destructions, blowing up temples, tombs and taking down statues in front of the camera and they proudly showed it to the world public.

Terrorist ISIS and it’s Caliphate have now been taken down. Palmyra is now under the control of the armed forces of the Syrian Arab Republic and Russia.

In recapturing Palmyra from ISIS, artillery fire and air bombardments by the Syrian Arab Army and the Russian also damaged the city.

ISIS blowing up the Temple of Baal-Shamin

Aramaic World Heritage Site

Tadmor was a large city in the desert and the ruins of the ancient Aramaic city have waivered many empires in history. The first signs of human settlement in the famous oasis city date back thousands of years. The Aramaic city of Tadmor is mentioned in old Babylonian and Assyrian texts.

Funerary slab stone inscription. In the Palmyrene Aramaic dialect (Louvre)

The people of Tadmor spoke Aramaic. Inscriptions of the ancient language visible on the surface area of the pillars testify of its origins. Because of its Great Colonnade, Tadmor is also called “The city of thousand pillars”.

Queen Zenobia of Tadmor, features the history of the city as one of the greatest and most powerful women of ancient times. Zenobia, who was a very ambitious and famous leader, addressed her people in Aramaic wearing purple robes and a helmet.

The geographically and economically important oasis city belonged to the Roman Empire in the first century AD. For a time, the armies of Tadmor managed to control many of the Eastern provinces of the Roman Empire. In the third century, after Roman-Persian wars, the Persians overthrew the Roman Emperor Valerian and Tadmor’s rulers.

Inscription in Greek and Aramaic in honor of Julius Aurelius Zenobius, father of Zenobia.


Although Palmyra was recaptured from ISIS already two years ago, the lack of funds and resources combined with the still instable situation in Syria, made that, so far, nothing has been done to reconstruct the oasis city.

However, at the end of 2019, the Russian Hermitage museum and the Syrian Directorate General of Antiquities and Museums signed an agreement to train Syrian conservators, rebuild the National Museum of Palmyra and in a later stage restore Palmyra’s destroyed ancient monuments.

Mikhail Piotrowski, director of Hermitage, said that part of the agreement has already been implemented. Director of the Syrian Directorate General of Antiquities and Museums Mahmoud Hammoud emphasized that he sees the cooperation as an important step for the preservation of ancient culture in Syria.