Palmyra was founded in the 3rd Millennium BC in modern day Syria. It was a very important trading post between the Euphrates and the Mediterranean Sea. The Greco-Roman tradition and the city’s location on the borders of Roman and Parthian territory created the conditions for a particular culture to develop there, with an interesting syncretism visible in its art. In the 3rd Century AD it became the capital of the short-lived splinter state of the Roman Empire, the Palmyrene Empire, ruled by the legendary queen Zenobia. In 270, Zenobia quickly conquered most of the Roman east, aiming to maintain relations with Rome as a legitimate power, but when she claimed the imperial title for both herself and her son, the Roman emperor Aurelian reacted by conquering Palmyra and capturing the self-proclaimed Empress. When a year later the Palmyrenes rebelled, Aurelian decided to destroy the city. Despite its brief existence, the Palmyrene Empire is remembered for having been ruled by one of the most ambitious and powerful women in late antiquity.
Ancient Roman Bronze Tessera
A rare Palmyrene bronze token or tessera decorated on both sides. The front features the depiction of a male bust, wearing a highly detailed kelathos headdress and holding a branch in his left hand. On the reverse, a depiction of a sharp pointed instrument between two sheathed knives, topped by a Samaritan inscription. The tokens known in Greek as σύμβολα, of Palmyra are tiles with various shapes, made almost exclusively of clay, comprising embossed designs on both sides. These objects held an important role in Palmyra’s religious festivals, since they were used to access ceremonial meals or in distributions following certain sacrifices. They provide important information on the deities of Palmyra and Semitic religious history in general.
Condition: Very fine, green patination all across with some earthen deposits.