Palmyra 400
Palmyra, Syria
Photo by: loufi , Creative Commons

The ancient ruins of Palmyra are situated in an oasis in the Syrian Desert. During its halcyon days, it was a necessary stop for caravans crossing the desert as well as an important cultural center and residence for many high-profile individuals. The ancient city fell into disuse after the 1500’s, but its name was adopted by a newer town right next to the ruins. Although much of the ancient Palmyra lies in ruins, some magnificent structures have managed to survive through the centuries and are presently attracting tourists in droves. The most famous Palmyrene monument is the Temple of Ba’al-Shamin, which was considered the most important religious building in the Middle East during the first century AD. It was originally a Hellenistic temple, of which only a few fragments survive. The temple features a central shrine and a magnificent double-colonnaded Corynthian portico dating back to the early 1st century AD. Its entrance and the west portico were added in the 2nd century.

When exploring the temple, visitors should make sure to take a closer look at the temple’s lintels as they are beautifully decorated with delicate carvings. From the temple, one can walk along the Grand Colonnade which was originally about a mile long and was made up of approximately 1,500 Corinthian columns. At one end of the colonnade, visitors can see Palmyra’s richly-decorated monumental arch. Along the Grand Colonnade is a double portico decorated with three nymphaea. The agora, the theater, and the Senate House stand on the southern end of the colonnade. Visitors can also feast their eyes upon the podium of a temple that was dedicated to Nabu and the baths of Diocletian. Other must-see sights include Diocletian’s Camp which features the remains of a hall that housed the legions’ standards. Visitors should also stop by the museum which houses various objects and statues that have been excavated from Palmyra. Tourists may also want to explore the Valley of the Tombs, which is a series of large-scale funerary monuments and tombs (that are sealed with limestone slabs with human busts to represent the dead) constructed by the ancient Palmyrenes.

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