Le magazine

Palmyra, eternal city

jeudi 26 janvier 2017

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From the top of a hill, having turned off the road leading from Damascus, Palmyra emerges amongst its verdant palm groves. It appears like a mirage after the long journey across the Syrian desert.

As a trading post and brilliant cultural melting pot, it joined the Roman province of Syria in the 1st century BCE. It became an important stop for trading silks from China, spices from India and incense from Arabia. At the crossroads of several ancient civilisations, it was the meeting point between Persia, India, China and the Roman Empire. The architecture and influences of Palmyra are essentially Greco-Roman. The principal road through the city is lined with hundreds of columns and perpendicular streets that linked the various civil monuments such as the Temple of Bel or other residential districts. The architectural decoration combines the forms of Greco-Roman art with indigenous elements and Persian influences in an original style. In addition to the ancient ruins, Palmyra offered travellers a gentle ambience at sunrise and sunset.

Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1980, the city of Palmyra is now on the list of “World Heritage in Danger”. Besieged by Islamic State in 2015, many iconic monuments have been destroyed, including the Temples of Bel and Baalshamin, the triumphal arch and the funerary towers.