Palmyrene deities AglibŰl (Moon God), BeelshamÍn (Supreme God), MalakbÍl (Sun God)
on display at the Louvre Museum.

PALMYRAN
(260-273 AD) - DBA II/74

She equalled in beauty her ancestor Cleopatra and far surpassed that princess in chastity and valour. Zenobia was esteemed the most lovely as well as the most heroic of her sex. She was of dark complexion. Her teeth were of a pearly whiteness and her large black eyes sparkled with an uncommon fire, tempered by the most attractive sweetness. Her voice was strong and harmonious. Her manly understanding was strengthened and adorned by study. -- Edward Gibbon, The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire

> Army Notes > DBA Resources > Fanaticus

Palmyra (a.k.a. Tadmor) was a very ancient city, by tradition founded by King Solomon and referenced in Assyrian texts as early as the 19th century BC. It was located at the Efqa oasis in the Syrian desert. The availability of water made it an important way point for caravans, from which its importance was derived. The city was formally annexed by Rome in 217 AD, who gave it its famous name, Palmyra, "The City of Palms."

The Palmyran list runs from 260 AD to 273 AD, beginning in the middle of the reign of King Odaenathus during the period when Palmyra was a Roman client. In 260 AD, the Persians overran several of the Eastern Roman provinces and captured the emperor Valerian. His son and successor, Gallienus was distracted by troubles on the northern frontier and turned to his client King Odaenathus of Palmyra to defend Roman's interests in the east. Odaenathus was granted Roman consular status and may have been appointed Roman governor of Syria. Under his rule, Palmyra aggressively expanded its borders (and Roman influence) in Asia Minor at the expense of the Sassanids, including a humiliating defeat of the Persians in 266 AD in front of their capital at Ctesiphon along the banks of the Tigris river.


Xenobia

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.


Vaballathus

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.

Enemies

The Palmyrenes have three enemies:  II/23a Pre-Islamic Arab, II/64b Middle Imperial Romans (Eastern), and II/69 Sassanid Persian.

Army Composition

II/74a II/74b Description
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.
2x 4Kn 3x4Kn Cataphracts
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.

Tactics

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.

Camps and BUAs

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):


Source: http://www.galenfrysinger.com/palmyra_syria.htm

Miniatures

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.

Painting Tips

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.

Other Resources

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:


> Top of Page > Army Notes > DBA Resources > Fanaticus


Essay by Chris Brantley and Jim Doty.

Last Updated: 9 Dec. 2006

Comments and suggestions welcome.
Send them to Chris Brantley, IamFanaticus@gmail.com.