At the height of his triumphs, Odaenathus and his eldest son were assassinated in 267. His wife, the famous Queen Zenobia (right) of Palmyra, assumed control as regent for his young son Vaballathus. Under Zenobia's leadership, Palmyra launched aggressive campaigns that resulted in the annexation of Antioch, Galatia and Cappadocia in Asia Minor, and Palestine, along with the invasion of Roman Egypt. The encroachment on Egypt combined with her proclamation of Vaballathus as Roman emperor in 271 AD was the proverbial straw that broke the camel's back, prompting the new Roman emperor Aurelian to shift his attention from the Danube frontier to the east.
Aurelian lead a Roman army into Asia Minor, defeating the Palmyran army at Tyana, Immae, and Emesa, forcing it to retire until he was able to lay siege to Palmyra itself. Queen Zenobia was captured on the banks of the Euphrates as she fled south on camel to seek help from the Persians and the city fell soon after. A further abortive uprising against the Roman garrison in 273 AD was also quickly crushed. Queen Zenobia was led back to Rome in golden chains, although stories are told that she so impressed Aurelian that he allowed her to live out her days in a posh villa at Tibur (modern day Tivoli) in Italy.
The Palmyrenes have three enemies: II/23a Pre-Islamic Arab, II/64b Middle Imperial Romans (Eastern), and II/69 Sassanid Persian.
|1x 4Kn/Gen||1x4Kn/Gen||Palmyran general with cataphracts. These heavily armored lancers were related to the Parthian cataphracts and so would have been fully armored riders on fully armored horses.|
|1x 2Lh||2x2Lh||Regular or volunteer light cavalry or Roman auxiliary equites sagittarii indigenae|
|3x 4Bw||4x4Bw||Regular archers.|
|2x 3Bw or 2Ps||2x 3Bw or 2Ps||Irregular archers (2Ps) or Roman auxiliaries|
|1x 3Cv||Roman equites alares.|
|1x 4Bd||Roman legionaries and lanciarii|
|1x 4Ax||Roman auxiliaries.|
As a Dry, Aggression 1 army, the Palmyrans should control the terrain more often than note, but lack the camelry to take special advantage of dunes or oasis.
Against the Middle Imperial Romans, the Palmyrans can make quite an impression on the inferior Roman cavalry with their three or four elements of Knights and supporting Light Horse, but must somehow delay the heavy Roman foot to avoid being overmatched. Early list Palmyran players have a few tricks up their sleeves, such as Blades and/or Auxilia to help steady the infantry line. The Palmyran Light Horse can also pose a considerable threat to the Roman camp.
Against the Early Sassanians, the Palmyrans lose the advantage in mobility, so careful match-ups are the key. The Sassanian Knights are vulnerable to massed Palmyran bow fire and the Palmyran Knights can cause considerable havoc if matched against Sassanian Cavalry or Spear. The Palmyrans will need their Light Horse and/or must make use of their Auxilia option to effectively counter the Sassanian elephant.
Against the Pre-Islamic Arabs, careful matchups are again important, although the Palmyrians are somewhat advantaged in mobility. An Arab player who takes camelry is vulnerable to massed bowfire, while a player who chooses blades will be vulnerable to the Palmyrian knights. An astute Palmyran will have to figure out how to avoid the dunes an Arab player is likely to deploy as terrain. While the bow will have a difficult time moving in dunes, they will match up well against any Arab camelry attempting to use the dunes as a highway to your camp.
Arabic tents are a logical choice for a camp model. To evoke the spirit of Palmyra, you might consider a tent camp set in a small oasis ringed by palm trees. Also, a section of city wall would be appropriate, since the Palmyrans fought many of their battles against the Romans within sight of their conquered cities, which provided refuge if they were forced to retreat. One BUA could be the Temple of Bel (Baal):
Old Glory carries Palmyrans in 15mm along with a range if Imperial Romans to suit the Romans in Palmyran service.
Donnington has a range of Palmyrans that includes a personality figure of the warrior queen Zenobia mounted on a camel.
Irregular carries 15mm and three codes of 6mm Palmyrans (archers, light cavalry, and camelry) along with associated Roman figures.
Minifigs carries 15mm and 25mm Palmyran cavalry and camelry.
Standard Palmyran dress was a knee length tunic split at the sides with color bands around the neck, at the hem and cuffs, and typically running down either the center or the sides of the tunic. The tunic was worn over trousers, which could also be decorated with a color band(s).
As suggested in Phil Barker's The Armies and Enemies of Imperial Rome and based on tomb paintings, Palmyra's regular forces may have worn a fairly standard military uniform. Officers wore a maroon tunic with dark green-blue bands and green-blue trousers with maroon bands. Soldiers wore the same colors in reverse. Saddle cloths were the opposite color of the trousers. Leather (belts, scabbards, quivers, horse trappings) was dyed maroon. Less regular units wore similar style clothing primarily of white cloth decorated with bands in a wider array of colors. Caps were natural or dyed dark colors. Skin was medium (Syro-Greek) with dark brown or black hair. Hair was medium length and mustaches or beards were uncommon.
Osprey's Rome's Enemies: The Desert Frontier (Men-at-War 243/5) contains a brief history of the Roman-Palmyran conflict and a colored plate featuring Palmyrene soldiers.
For a general history, check out Palmyra and Its Empire: Zenobia's Revolt against Rome by Richard Stoneman (Univ. of Mich., 1995).
Related websites of interest include:
Essay by Chris Brantley and Jim Doty.
Last Updated: 9 Dec. 2006
Comments and suggestions welcome.
Send them to Chris Brantley, IamFanaticus@gmail.com.