This is not a funny post. I’m so goddamned angry* and sad, and so helpless to do anything it becomes a terrible, self-sustaining circle if I’m not careful. I recognize there is truly nothing I can do about this, and so I’m venting here because…well, because it’s a place I can vent I suppose.
CNN is reporting today that ISIS has entered the Syrian city Tadmur
; the modern overlay of the ancient city Palmyra. I got teary eyed reading it. Palmyra is one of my favorite historical sites. Yeah yeah, I know, most people have no idea what that means.On the heels of bulldozing Nimrud
into dust (which also made me tear up), ISIS is continuing their apparent goal of wiping all historically significant evidence of life before their own disgustingly evil culture off of the world.
I had goals, once upon a time, to visit those places “someday when I’m less likely to die there.” I wanted to see the great Assyrian ruins, to be surrounded by some of the oldest walls made by humans. As of this post, Archaeology magazine has confirmed that Palmyra has fallen. I imagine it won’t be long before bulldozers come out. I know, it’s a standard of war to destroy monuments. The Parthanon was used as target practice in WWII, after all. It just makes me terribly sad to watch the fall of some of my favorite historical sites from a world away.
I did a paper or two in college on Palmyra. I desperately wanted to visit the seat of the Palmyrene empire, the empire Queen Zenobia ruthlessly expanded into Roman territory in the late 200’s, conquering modern day Syria, Turkey, Palestine, Libya, and eventually ruling Egypt. In 271 she was defeated and taken captive by Roman Emperor Aurelian. She was a cool lady. A badass.
I think I’ve been fairly clear on this blog that I often root for the underdog, and I’m feminist in general…I’m a huge fan of Boudicca and the Iceni revolt against Nero in 69AD. She’s one of my favorite tragic historical figures. I’m a fan of Cleopatra, although for different reasons (I recognize her talent for working within the Roman political system, using all assets available to her to gain and maintain her power for as long as she had it). I think Queen Zenobia is greater than both Boudicca and Cleopatra in her resistance against (and conquest of) Rome barring one detail: she allowed herself to be captured and was paraded through the streets of Rome in chains (albeit golden chains, if legend is to be believed) in front of the populace.
The Queen of an empire encroaching upon Rome was publicly defeated and cowed. Some legends say she was so beautiful and proud the Emperor secretly moved her to a private villa away from the city where she eventually married a Senator and lived out her days as a wealthy Roman matron with successful descendants. It’s possible. It’s equally as possible that she rotted in a cell and was quietly forgotten so she couldn’t become a martyr to her people, the way Boudicca, Cleopatra, and Vercingetorix (people, you should be concerned that I can spell that correctly from memory) had become after their deaths.
Obscurity, after all, is the ultimate punishment, and in Zenobia’s case it worked to a large extent: if you ask someone on the street who Cleopatra was they’ll likely have heard the name, at least.
I wanted to see Palmyra someday. I still want to walk the canyon in Petra. I want to visit Jerusalem, and Babylon, see the pyramids, visit the Colosseum and Forum in Rome… all the ancient seats of civilization. I want to LEARN from our past as human beings.
I suppose I want a Zenobia or Vercingetorix to successfully rise against this force intent upon destroying everything in their path as “unholy” including women, knowledge, education, and history.
Because once they’re finished enslaving Syria people and blowing up history, ISIS will move on into Israel, or Egypt.
What happens when they try to bulldoze one of the Pyramids at Giza?
*I’m focused on historical destruction here, because ISIS’s systematic destruction and repression of women is something about which I cannot coherently blog, yet.