Palmyra has a long history of habitation dating back to the Neolithic. Located in an oasis in the center of the Syrian steppe (known as the Syrian desert - Badiat ash-Sham), it was a rest stop for caravans between Mesopotamia and Syria for at least four thousand years ( Adnan Bounni in Meyers et al, 1997). The city prospered in Hellenic and Roman times, suffered damage after the failed expansion of Queen Zenobia around 272 CE and housed a Roman Legion in the 4th century CE (Intagliata 2018:viii). Palmyra remained a major settlement until the end of the Umayyad caliphate in 750 CE (Intagliata 2018:viii).
Michalowski (1966:114-115) translated a fragmentary
inscription which may or may not refer to an earthquake in Palmyra in 233 CE. The inscription was written in Palmyrene and expresses gratitude to
an unknown deity for allowing two Palmyrenes to have survived what
Michalowski (1966:114-115) translated as a
shaking of (the earth). Due to the fragmentary nature of the inscription, the verb shaking is present but the object the earth is not.
Michalowski (1966:114-115) hypothesized that shaking of the earth
may have been present in the original complete inscription. 'DRGZ' is the Palmyrene word for shaking which
lists as meaning ‘to be unsteady/restless/agitated’.
The inscription is well dated - May (Iyyar) of 233 CE (Palmyrene year 545). If the inscription describes a real earthquake, May 233 CE is the terminus ante quem. Ambraseys (2009:136) found no other records for an earthquake in Palmyra for AD 233 and noted that civil unrest could also explain the inscription.
In the first half of the third century AD civil disorders were recorded after the end of the Antonine dynasty, during the rise of the Severi. Syria was subsequently divided into two, Palmyra being in the ‘Phoenician’ half. Even its garrison had to fight in the Roman campaign against the Parthians (Browning, 1979:44). Hence it is possible that the inscription might refer to the general fear of the people, ‘trembling’, on a particular occasion of disorder.
3 Cf. Object Catalogue, n° 31.
3 Cf. Catalogue des objets, n° 31.
Intagliata (2018:103) reported on seismic damage throughout Palmyra in the late 6th/early 7th century CE.
At the end of the 6th or the beginning of the following century, an earthquake wrought considerable damage to the city. Levels of destruction have been recorded in
must have been destroyed by an earthquake, as suggested by the way it was later rebuiltnoting that
Columns A and F must have fallen down as they were replaced by wallsand
drums were placed in the south-western corner of the peristyle and used as benches.Post earthquake rebuilding was dated to the late 6th/early 7th century as described by Kowalski (1994:57-58):
Shortly afterwards, the house was reconstructed. It might be dated by a coin found in the wall closing the rear court from the north (SU 183). The coins probably an Umayyad imitation of a Heraclius and Heraclius Constantine follis struck either in Antioch or in Antaradus. Those "Arab-Byzantine" coins are dated either to 640-670 by Cecile Morrisson (Morrłsson 1992: 312) or to the 680’s by Michael Bates (Bates 1992: 321). The coin does not mean however, that the whole building was restored at that time. No doubt, it dates the enclosure of the rear court. The house itself might have been restored a little earlier. I believe that the restored building had purely civilian character so it could be occupied only after the army had gone away. I do not think that any Roman military unit could be stationed in Palmyra while the whole of Syria was under Persian rule (A.D. 614-628). It seems, however, that the Romans returned for a short period during the reign of Heraclius, as coins of that emperor might date final abandonment of the horreum (oral communication by M. Gawlikowski). When the army had left the camp, probably squatters moved in. It was not a peaceful time, as in the neighborhood someone buried a treasure of gold coins and jewels (Michałowski 1962: 222)17.Intagliata (2018:36) also discussed seismic damage and rebuilding of the Praetorium.Footnote
17 The treasure containing 27 coins and 6 other gold pieces was found west of the groma and was dated by the latest coin to the rule of Constans II (A.D. 646-651).
After a disastrous earthquake the building was reconstructed. The renovation, or part of it, is dated by a coin that is probably an imitation of a follis minted at the time of Heraclius and Heraclius Constantine found in the partition wall closing the rear court of the structure. At that time, the second floor was abandoned and the inner arrangement of the building underwent significant transformations. These include the subdivisions of the courtyard into smaller units, the construction of a domed room blocking the secondary entrance, and the renovation of the main entrance. Further changes include the installation of tananTr (sing. tannar), pipes, and water basins, the reflooring of some rooms, and the blocking of passageways. Similar transformations occurred also later, before a further earthquake destroyed the house in the 11th century. Since then, the building remained abandoned until modern times, when two walls, probably garden fences, were constructed on top of its ruins (Kowalski 1994; 1995; 1999; for summary descriptions see, Sodini 1997, 486-7; Baldini Lippolis 2001, 245).Intagliata (2018:78) reports seismic damage in the Sanctuary of Allath/the Praetorium
Changes occurred in the plan of the compound at the end of the 4th—beginning of the 5th century, when a private residential building was installed in the southeast corner of the sanctuary (Kowalski 1994; 1995; 1999). The structure consists of a central peristyled courtyard and two wings of rooms to the west and south. To the south it has direct access to a 4th century barrack block (see, Chapter 3). A fragment of the cult statue of Athena was found included in the western wall of one of its rooms in the western wing. The connection with a nearby barrack block and the presence of a peristyled courtyard has inclined Kowalski to regard the building as the Praetorium, the residence of the commander of the Legio I Illyricorum (Kowalski 1994, 52-3). The building appears to have been destroyed by an earthquake at the end of the 6th or beginning of the 7th century, refurbished twice (in the 7th—8th and in the 9th centuries), and abandoned after an earthquake that occurred in the 11th century.
safely dated to the second half of the second century ADand remained in use
until the 9th century, when it was finally abandoned along with the whole area of downtown Palmyra, as the finds from Diocletian's Camp also suggest(Gawlikowski, 1992a:68). Gawlikowski (1992a:71) reported on archaeoseismic evidence as follows:
According to the evidence collected this year, the house survived in its more or less initial stage until the late 6th century, when an earthquake seriously damaged some walls, including the partition wall between the two main areas of the house and their twin entrance. As a result, both doors were blocked, the former guest entrance through loc. 17 became dependent on the other courtyard and, as both sets of stairs in the family wing were dismantled, the upper floor seems to have disappeared from use in this part of the building.
seems to have been abandoned in the 7th centuryand
its walls are believed to have collapsed two centuries later (Gawlikowski 1990a, 40–3; 1991a, 89–90; 1991b, 399–410; 1992a, 73–6; 1993, 155–6; 1994, 141–2; 1998, 209–10; 2001, 123–5; Duval 1992; Westphalen 2009, 160).
Another house, Building B, also known as 'Quartier Arabe' in the final report of the excavations, occupies the northern portico of the Grande Cour (Fig. 20). Like the others, it consists of a large open courtyard. To the west of it was a row of rooms, communicating with the open courtyard via a `vestibule'. The habitable surface of the building would have probably occupied also the rooms of the pre-existing Batiment Nord, located immediately to the south of the Hotel Zenobia.
Building B was believed by Collart [Collart and Vicari 1969] to have been built sometime between the 4th and the 6th century, to have been obliterated by an earthquake in the 10th century, and to have been restored in the 12th century. These conclusions, however, have never received general consensus by modern scholarship. A re-examination of the original documentation of the excavations has recently advanced the hypothesis that the building underwent destruction in the 6th century and was reconstructed in Umayyad time or slightly later. Numismatic evidence, pottery, and the epigraphic record seems to confirm this development. Although very little data remains to speculate on the chronology of Buildings A and C, it is plausible that these went through the same phases of constructions, destructions, and reconstructions (Intagliata 2017a).
Similar changes have been documented in the Peristyle Building in the southwest quarter (Fig. 24). Room B was paved with a red mortar floor. Rooms H and I, the largest compartments so far discovered, were subdivided in smaller units by means of partition walls.
Houses in the Via Praetoria of the Camp of Diocletian shows similar features: jars installed immediately below walking levels, large mortars made with reused drums or capitals of columns, wells within the habitations, all lead to the conclusion that these small-scale changes were not exceptional occurrences in the city.
Intagliata (2018:27) reports that water pipes
are believed to have been laid in Umayyad times, but were destroyed after a disastrous earthquake and
then replaced in the ʿAbbāsid era (al-Asʿad and Stępniowski 1989, 209–10;
Juchniewicz and Żuchowska 2012, 70).
Juchniewicz and Żuchowska (2012:70) report the following:
Excavation in the Camp of Diocletian, in the area of Water Gate revealed pipeline which is dated by Barański to the Abbasid Period ( Baranski, 1997, 9-10). This pipeline, as well as the earlier one dated to Omayyad Period, is clearly visible in the Great Colonnade, running along the Omayyad suq (al-Asʿad and Stępniowski 1989, 209–10). The Omayyad pipeline was replaced by the later one probably after earthquake. Some of the monumental architraves from the Great Colonnade fell down and destroyed the Omayyad conduits.Gawlikowski (1994:141) suggests that an earthquake struck the Basilica around 800 CE.
SOUNDINGS AROUND THE BASILICA
This important building, excavated in 1989 and later, has already become a tourist attraction, being the only major monument cleared between the Tetrapylon and the Funerary Temple. A church in its latest stage, it was abandoned about AD 600, before its walls finally collapsed some two centuries later, apparently toppled by an earthquake.
The house was abandoned, maybe just like most of that area in the ninth century (Gawlikowski 1992: 68). The main entrance was walled up. The house remained unoccupied until it was destroyed by an earthquake in 1042 AD (Ambraseys 1969-1971:95)20. The ruin was buried in the earth.Footnote
20 This earthquake is dated to the tenth century A.D. by M.A.R. Colledge (Colledge 1976: 22). It is also mentioned by Ibn Taghri birdi in his chronicle An-Nugum az-Zahira V, p. 35 and dated to the 434th year of the Hegira, i.e. A.D. 1042.
AD 1042 Tadmur
An earthquake caused great loss of life in Tadmur in Syria. It is said that Baalbek was also shaken. This information is given by a single source, which does not comment on the effects on Baalbek, or specify whether Baalbek was shaken by a different earthquake. It is likely that the Tadmur earthquake was felt only at Baalbek. Al-Suyuti (writing in the sixteenth century) records this event as happening in the same year as an earthquake in Tabriz. He does not comment on the effects on Baalbek, but, since the two cities are 250 km apart, if Baalbek was not shaken by a different earthquake, it is likely that the Tadmur earthquake was felt there only.
‘. . . in the year 434 [21 August 1042 to 9 August 1043], . . . an earthquake occurred at Tadmur and at Ba’albek: most of the population of Tadmur died under the ruins.’ (al-Suyuti Kashf 56/18).
Columns A and F must have fallen down as they were replaced by walls(Kowalski, 1994:57)
|Collapsed Walls||House F||House F is reported as having been destroyed which suggests collapsed walls||VIII+|
|Collapsed Walls||Basilica||The walls of the Basilica (build around 600 CE)
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