Historical Figures

Zenobia, Conquering Empress

Septimia Bathzabbai or Zenobia (240 – 274 AD), Queen of Palmyra, took control of the empire on the death of her husband and led a famous revolt against the Roman Empire.

From the line of Cleopatra?

Zenobia was born and raised in Palmyra, Syria. A Roman citizen, "Zenobia" is the Roman version of her name. His father, whose Roman name was Julius Aurelius Zenobius, was governor of Palmyra. Zenobia claims to be from the line of Cleopatra VII; there is no evidence to confirm this, but Zenobia has a great knowledge of Egypt and Egyptian.

Sources describe Zenobia as beautiful, educated, and intelligent. She is also said to behave "like a man", riding, hunting and drinking with her officers. Known for hosting literary salons, it surrounds itself with poets and philosophers.

Queen of Egypt

In 258, Zenobia married Odénat, king of Palmyra, with whom she had a son, Vaballath. In 267, Odénat was assassinated. Their son was then only one year old and Zenobia succeeded her husband to reign over Palmyra. She then granted herself the title of Augusta – empress of Rome – and gave that of Augustus to her son. She then undertook a series of conquests to expand her empire, conquering Syria, Egypt and Asia Minor. She proclaims herself Queen of Egypt and becomes known as the "Fighting Queen". She accompanies her armies, on horseback or sometimes on foot for miles.

During this period, the real Roman emperor, Aurélien, was campaigning in Gaulle. He becomes aware of the influence of Zenobia and refuses her offer of alliance with her son Vaballath. In 272-273, he launched a campaign to unify the Roman Empire and won several successes over the troops of Zenobia in Asia Minor. Aurelian finally besieges Emesa, in Syria, where the queen has taken refuge with what remains of her armies.

Zenobia is captured; his supporters who refuse to surrender are executed. Aurelian takes Zenobia and Vaballath to Rome; the child probably dies on the way. The fate of the conquering queen, exiled or remarried to a Roman, is not certain.