Herbert Gustave Schmalz: Zenobia's last look on Palmyra

Herbert Gustave Schmalz: Zenobia’s last look on Palmyra

Zenobia’s last look on Palmyra is an 1888 historical painting by English Pre-Raphaelite painter Herbert Gustave Schmalz. It is located in the is in the Art Gallery of South Australia in Adelaide, Australia.

Analysis of Schmalt’s Zenobia’s last look on Palmyra

Zenobia’s last look on Palmyra depicts Zenobia, the Queen of the Palmyrene Empire which was a breakaway state in modern-day Syria that temporarily gained independence from Rome. However, she was defeated by the Roman Emperor Aurelian and her ultimate fate is unknown.

This 1888 painting is a fanciful interpretation of Zenobia looking over Palmyra one last time before submitting it to Aurelian.

Queen Zenobia

Zenobia, also known as Queen Zenobia or Septimia Zenobia, was a historical figure who lived in the 3rd century AD. She was the queen of the Palmyrene Empire, a breakaway state from the Roman Empire. Zenobia was born around 240 AD in Palmyra, an ancient city located in modern-day Syria.

Zenobia rose to prominence after her husband, King Odaenathus, was assassinated in 267 AD. Following his death, she assumed regency on behalf of her young son, Vaballathus, and eventually declared herself queen. Under Zenobia’s rule, the Palmyrene Empire expanded its territory, encompassing parts of Syria, Egypt, and Anatolia.

Zenobia is often remembered for her ambition and her attempts to establish an independent Palmyrene Empire. She challenged the authority of the Roman Empire and sought to create a powerful rival state. Zenobia’s forces managed to conquer several Roman provinces, including Egypt, and she even claimed the title of Augusta, presenting herself as the rightful ruler of the East.

However, Zenobia’s ambitions were short-lived. Emperor Aurelian of the Roman Empire launched a military campaign against the Palmyrene Empire in 272 AD. Despite putting up a fierce resistance, Zenobia’s forces were eventually defeated, and she was captured. Zenobia was taken to Rome, where she faced a symbolic triumph before reportedly being granted a luxurious villa and allowed to live out her days in relative comfort.

Zenobia’s life and reign have captured the imagination of historians and writers over the centuries. She is often remembered as a symbol of female leadership and defiance against Roman dominance. Her story has been depicted in various works of literature, art, and theater, cementing her place as a notable figure in ancient history.


Palmyra was an ancient city located in present-day Syria, northeast of Damascus. It was an important cultural and economic center in the ancient world. The city was situated at an oasis in the Syrian Desert, making it a vital stop along trade routes that connected the Mediterranean with regions further east, such as Persia, India, and China.

Palmyra’s history dates back to the 2nd millennium BC, but it reached its height of prosperity and influence during the Roman period, particularly in the 1st and 2nd centuries AD. The city became a prosperous hub of commerce, known for its caravan trade and the wealth it derived from controlling key trade routes.

The architecture of Palmyra was a unique blend of Roman, Greek, and Persian influences, resulting in a distinctive style known as Palmyrene. The city boasted impressive structures such as the Temple of Bel, the Agora, and numerous tombs and tower tombs. These structures showcased the wealth and cultural sophistication of Palmyra.

Palmyra also had a multicultural population, with inhabitants of different ethnicities and backgrounds coexisting within the city. The people of Palmyra, known as Palmyrenes, spoke a dialect of Aramaic and worshiped a variety of deities, including local gods as well as Roman and Greek gods.

Unfortunately, Palmyra’s prosperity and prominence eventually drew the attention of rival powers. In the 3rd century AD, the city became the capital of the breakaway Palmyrene Empire under the rule of Queen Zenobia. However, the empire’s ambitions were crushed by the Roman Empire, and Palmyra was captured and largely destroyed by the Roman Emperor Aurelian in 273 AD.

1 thought on “Herbert Gustave Schmalz: Zenobia’s last look on Palmyra”

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *