Zenobia: Wikis


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Zenobia Antoninianus coin reporting her title, Augusta and showing her diademed and draped bust on a crescent with the obverse showing a standing figure of Ivno Regina, Juno, holding a patera in her right hand, a sceptre in her left, a peacock at her feet, and a brilliant star to the left

Zenobia (240–after 274) was a 3rd century Syrian queen of the Palmyrene Empire, who 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, Zenobia had expanded the 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.

Zenobia is said to have worn golden chains in Aurelian's military triumph parade in Rome. There are multiple alternative accounts of Zenobia's death -- including illness, hunger strike or beheading. Under the most upbeat version, Aurelian was so impressed by Zenobia that he freed her, granting her an elegant villa in Tibur (modern Tivoli, Italy) where she became a prominent philosopher, socialite and Roman matron.[1].


Family, ancestry and early life

Zenobia was born and raised in Palmyra, Syria. Her Roman name is Iulia (or Julia) Aurelia Zenobia, while her name in Arabic is al-Zabbā’ bint ‘Amr ibn al-Ẓarib ibn Ḥassān ibn Adhīnat ibn al-Samīda‘ (Arabic: الزباء بنت عمرو بن الظرب بن حسان ابن أذينة بن السميدع‎, al-Zabbā’, daughter of ‘Amr son of al-Ẓarib son of Ḥassān son of Adhīnah son of al-Samīda‘), most commonly referred to simply as al-Zabbā’. In Greek, she is known as Zēnobía (Greek: ἡ Ζηνοβία) or Septimia Zenobia, having added Septimia after marrying Septimius Odaenathus. Zenobia herself signed official documents Bat-Zabbai (daughter of al-Zabbā’). Zenobia and her mother were called al-Zabbā’, meaning 'the one with long lovely hair'.

Zenobia appears to have been of Arab ancestry, though her lineage may have included other influences, including Aramaean and ancient Egyptian. [2] While epigraphic and Western sources are largely silent regarding her immediate family origins, Arabic sources provide clearer indications.[3] 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.[3] 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.[3]

Her father's Roman name was Iulius (or Julius) Aurelius Zenobius, with the gentilicium Aurelius showing that his paternal ancestors received Roman citizenship under either Marcus Aurelius (reigned 161-180), or Commodus (reigned 180-192). Her father's Macedonian name was Antiochus, according to scriptures found in Palmyra. However, according to 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 Hims, 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, the King of Emesa Sampsiceramus and the Ptolemaic Macedonian Queen Cleopatra VII of Egypt. Though there is no concrete evidence for this, she did have knowledge of the ancient Egyptian language, showed a predisposition towards Egyptian culture, and it is thought that her mother may have been Egyptian.[2] According to Augustan History, an imperial declaration in 269 of hers 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 a ten-book history on Alexandria’s history to a "Cleopatra," who can only be Zenobia.

Zenobia is descended from the three above named figures 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 Drusilla married into that 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 to the General of Carthage, Hannibal (Lucan. Pharsalia 8.287). Hannibal’s family, the Barcids, claimed to be descended from Dido’s younger brother.

Both Classical and Arabic sources describe Zenobia as beautiful and intelligent with a dark complexion, pearly white teeth, and bright black eyes.[3] She was said to be even more beautiful than Cleopatra, differing though in her reputation for extreme chastity.[3] Sources also describe Zenobia as carrying herself like a man, riding, hunting and drinking on occasion with her officers.[3] Well educated and fluent in Arabic, 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.[3][4] Longinus composed his celebrated Treatise on the Sublime for her which incorporates fragments of poetry since lost, such as the love poems of Sappho of Lesbos, originally penned in the 6th century BCE.[5]

Inscription of Zenobia at Palmyra

Queen of Palmyra

Zenobia married King of Palmyra Septimius Odaenathus by 258 as his second wife. She had a stepson Hairan, a son from Odaenathus’ first marriage. As in 258, there is an inscription ‘the illustrious consul our lord’ at Palmyra, dedicated to Odaenathus who was chief of Palmyra, by Zenobia, who was a supporter of his.

Around 266, Zenobia and Odaenathus had a son, his second child, Lucius Iulius Aurelius Septimius Vaballathus Athenodorus. Her son Vaballathus (Latin from Arabic وهب اللات, Wahballāt "Gift of the Goddess") inherited the name of Odaenathus’ paternal grandfather.

In 267, Zenobia’s husband and stepson were assassinated. The titled heir, Vaballathus, was only a year old, so his mother succeeded her husband and ruled Palmyra. Zenobia bestowed upon herself and her son the honorific titles of Augusta and Augustus.

Zenobia conquered new territories and increased the Palmyrene Empire in the memory of her husband and as a legacy to her son. Her stated goal was to protect the Eastern Roman Empire from the Sassanid Empire, for the peace of Rome, however, her efforts significantly increased the power of her throne.


Invasions of Egypt and Anatolia

Empires of the Mediterranean in 271.
The Palmyrene Empire under Zenobia is shown in yellow

In 269, Zenobia, her army, and the Palmyrene General Zabdas violently conquered Egypt with help from their Egyptian ally, Timagenes, and his army. The Roman prefect of Egypt, Tenagino Probus and his forces, tried to expel them from Egypt, but Zenobia's forces captured and beheaded Probus. She then proclaimed herself Queen of Egypt.

After these initial forays, Zenobia became known as a "Warrior Queen". In leading her army, she displayed significant prowess: she was an able horse rider and would walk three or four miles with her foot soldiers.

Zenobia with her large army made expeditions and conquered Anatolia as far as Ancyra or Ankara and Chalcedon, then to Syria, Palestine, and Lebanon. In her short lived empire, Zenobia took the vital trade routes in these areas from the Romans. Roman Emperor Aurelian, who was at that time campaigning with his forces in the Gallic Empire, probably did recognise the authority of Zenobia and Vaballathus. However this relationship began to degenerate when Aurelian began a military campaign to reunite the Roman Empire in 272-273. Aurelian and his forces left the Gallic Empire and arrived in Syria. The forces of Aurelian and Zenobia met and fought near Antioch. After a crushing defeat, the remaining Palmyrenes briefly fled into Antioch and into Emesa.

Zenobia was unable to remove her treasury at Emesa before Aurelian successfully entered and besieged Emesa. Zenobia and her son escaped from Emesa on camel back with help from the Sassanids, but they were captured on the Euphrates River by Aurelian’s horsemen. Zenobia’s short lived Egyptian kingdom and the Palmyrene Empire had ended. The remaining Palmyrenes who refused to surrender were captured by Aurelian and were executed on Aurelian’s orders. Among those who were executed was Zenobia's chief counselor and Greek sophist, Cassius Longinus.

Rome and Death

Giovanni Battista Tiepolo, Triumph of Aurelian, 1717, Museo del Prado.

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.

There are multiple alternative accounts of Zenobia's death.[6] Depending on the source followed, she may have starved herself to death or been beheaded, or possibly have died of an unspecified illness.

Under the most upbeat version of the story, Emperor Aurelian, out of clemency, and impressed by her beauty and dignity, freed Zenobia and granted her an elegant villa in Tibur (modern Tivoli, Italy). She lived in luxury and she became a prominent philosopher, socialite and Roman matron. Zenobia is said to have married a Roman governor and senator whose name is unknown. They had several daughters, whose names are also unknown, but who are reported to have married into Roman noble families. She would have further descendants surviving in the 4th century and 5th century. The evidence of a descendant of Zenobia can reportedly be confirmed by an inscription found in Rome. The inscription Lucius Septimia Patavinia Balbilla Tyria Nepotilla Odaenathiania contains the names of her first son Septimius Odaenathus. He probably was named in the honor of Zenobia's first husband. (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.

Zenobia in the arts

Queen Zenobia's Last Look Upon Palmyra,
by Herbert Schmalz




Characters named for Zenobia

Zenobia has become a popular name for exotic or regal female characters in many other works, including Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Blithedale Romance, P.G. Wodehouse's Joy in the Morning, William Golding's Rites of Passage, Heinlein's Stranger in a Strange Land, Surrealist author Gellu Naum's Zenobia and in Robert E. Howard's Conan series, and Zenobia/Zeena in Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton.


  1. ^ Ball.
  2. ^ a b Sue M. Sefscik. "Zenobia". Women's History. http://womenshistory.about.com/library/bio/ucbio_zenobia.htm. Retrieved 2008-04-01. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g Ball, p. 78.
  4. ^ Choueiri, 2000, p. 35.
  5. ^ Wilden, 1987, p. 230.
  6. ^ Ball.


  • Ball, Warwick (2001), Rome in the East: the transformation of an empire (Illustrated, reprint ed.), Routledge, ISBN 0415243572, 9780415243575 
  • Choueiri, Youssef M. (2000), Arab nationalism - a history: nation and state in the Arab world (Illustrated ed.), Wiley-Blackwell, ISBN 0631217290, 9780631217299 
  • Wilden, Anthony (1987), Man and woman, war and peace: the strategist's companion (Illustrated ed.), Routledge, ISBN 0710098677, 9780710098672 

Additional reading

External links

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

ZENOBIA (Gr. Znvo(3c'a), queen of Palmyra, one of the heroines of antiquity. Her native name was Septimia Bathzabbai, a name also borne by one of her generals, Septimius Zabbai.' This remarkable woman, famed for her beauty, her masculine energy and unusual powers of mind, was well fitted to be the consort of Odainatti (see Odaenathus) in his proud position as Dux Orientis; during his lifetime she actively seconded his policy, and after his death in A.D. 266 -7 she not only succeeded to his position but determined to surpass it and make Palmyra mistress of the Roman Empire in the East. Wahab-allath or Athenodorus (as the name was Graecized), her son by Odainath, being still a boy, she took the reins of government into her own hands. Under her general-in-chief Zabda, the Palmyrenes occupied Egypt in A.D. 270, not without a struggle, under the pretext of restoring it to Rome; and Wahab-allath governed Egypt in the reign of Claudius as joint ruler with the title of 13aacAEVs (king), while Zenobia herself was styled Oao-tA(Q6an (queen). In Asia Minor Palmyrene garrisons were established as far west as Ancyra in Galatia and Chalcedon opposite Byzantium, and Zenobia still professed to be acting in the interests of the Roman rule. In his coins struck at Alexandria in A.D. 270 Wahab-allath is named along with Aurelian, but the title of Augustus is given only to the latter; a Greek inscription from Byblos, however, mentions Aurelian (or his predecessor Claudius) and Zenobia together as /03avrOs and ZE(3acrrl (i.e. Augustus and Augusta, C.I. G. 45 0 3 b). When Aurelian became emperor in 270 he quickly realized that the policy of the Palmyrene queen was endangering the unity of the empire. It was not long before all disguises were thrown off; in Egypt Wahab-allath began to issue coins without the head of Aurelian and bearing the imperial title, and Zenobia's coins bear the same. The assumption marked the rejection of all allegiance to Rome. Aurelian instantly took measures; Egypt was recovered for the Empire by Probus (close of 270), and the emperor himself prepared a great expedition into Asia Minor and Syria. Towards the end of 271 he marched through Asia Minor and, overthrowing the Palmyrene garrisons in Chalcedon, Ancyra and Tyana, he reached Antioch, where the main Palmyrene army under Zabda and Zabbai, with Zenobia herself, attempted to oppose his way. The attempt, however, proved unsuccessful, and after suffering considerable losses the Palmyrenes retired in the direction of Emesa (now Horns), whence the road lay open to their native city. The queen refused to yield to Aurelian's demand for surrender, and drew up her army at Emesa for the battle which was to decide her fate. In the end she was defeated, and there was nothing for it but to fall back upon Palmyra across the desert. Thither Aurelian followed her in spite of the difficulties of transport, and laid siege to the well-fortified and provisioned city. At the critical moment the queen's courage seems to have failed her; she and her son fled from the city to seek 1 See the Palmyrene inscriptions given in Vogue, Syrie centrale, Nos. 28, 29 =Cooke, North-Semitic Inscriptions, Nos. 230, 131. Zabbai, an abbreviation of some such form as Zabd-ila=dowry of God, was a common Palmyrene name; it occurs in the Old Testament, Ezr. x. 28; Neh. iii. 20.

help from the Persian king; 2 they were captured on the bank of the Euphrates, and the Palmyrenes, losing heart at this disaster, capitulated (A.D. 272). Aurelian seized the wealth of the city but spared the inhabitants; to Zenobia he granted life; while her officers and advisers, among whom was the celebrated scholar Longinus, were put to death. Zenobia figured in the conqueror's splendid triumph at Rome, and by the most probable account accepted her fall with dignity and closed her days at Tibur, where she lived with her sons the life of a Roman matron. A few months after the fall of Zenobia, Palmyra revolted again; Aurelian unexpectedly returned, destroyed the city, and this time showed no mercy to the population (spring, 273).

Among the traditions relating to Zenobia may be mentioned that of her discussions with the Archbishop Paul of Samosata on matters of religion. It is probable that she treated the Jews in Palmyra with favour; she is referred to in the Talmud, as protecting Jewish rabbis (Talm. Jer. Ter. viii. 46 b).

The well-known account of Zenobia by Gibbon (Decline and Fall, i. pp. 302-312 Bury's edition) is based upon the imperial biographers (Historia Augusta) and cannot be regarded as strictly historical in detail. An obscure and distorted tradition of Zenobia as an Arab queen survived in the Arabian story of Zabba, daughter of `Amr b. Zarib, whose name is associated with Tadmor and with a town on the right bank of the Euphrates, which is no doubt the Zenobia of which Procopius speaks as founded by the famous queen. See C. de Perceval, Essai sur l'hist. des Arabes, ii. 28 f., 197 f.; Tabari, i. 757 f. See further PALMYRA. (G. A. C.*)

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From Wikispecies


Classification System: APG II (down to family level)

Main Page
Cladus: Eukaryota
Regnum: Plantae
Cladus: Angiospermae
Cladus: Eudicots
Cladus: core eudicots
Cladus: Asterids
Ordo: Unassigned Asterids
Ordo: Ericales
Familia: Ericaceae
Subfamilia: Vaccinioideae
Tribus: Andromedeae
Genus: Zenobia
Species: Z. pulverulenta


Zenobia D. Don

Vernacular names

English: Honeycup
Русский: Зеновия


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